The day I was asked to write this I stepped on my bus to head home after work and said, “Hello,” to the bus driver—just as I always do to every bus driver. “Hello, pretty lady,” he replied.
For some, ELCA Social Teaching Documents appear to be little booklets that gather dust on a shelf, but this exchange on the bus demonstrates how the issues in these documents aren’t hypothetical or philosophical. These documents are used in advocacy offices across the U.S. when talking with government leaders about social policy. These documents talk about real issues that happen in people’s lives every day. They aim to raise these issues to the forefronts of our minds so that we can discuss “Where does God fit into all this?” and “What do we do now?”
During our conversations on the ELCA draft social statement on Women and Justice, I was struck by the diversity of experiences in the room. Many of the women—only women came to our sessions, but all experiences are valued and welcome for feedback on this draft—grew up in faith backgrounds other than Lutheranism. We compared what were “women’s roles” growing up? What have we seen change for women in church settings? What still needs growth? Where are we finding hope in our path towards abundant life for all?
It was freeing for us to talk about our experiences as women, both the uplifting and the troubling, in church and society. We had space to discuss how patriarchy and sexism intersect with the various parts of our identities, and how we see it at work in our world around us in our families, friends, partners, and workplaces. We talked about the tensions we feel pulling at us to fulfill all the roles women are asked to play and the juggling women do to try balance it all; we talked about how we both willingly and unwillingly participate in a patriarchal system; and we talked about the Bible with its stories that uplift women and the texts that are used to keep women in boxes.
The question facing us all is, “What now?” What are the steps we as a community of faith need to take to create positive change for gender justice? What are the actions we hope to take in our church, our community, and our world?
One small step we can take is to read the social statement draft on Women and Justice, submit feedback, and encourage others—of all genders—to do so. What language works? What sentences should be changed? Submit your feedback to tell the ELCA what you think is important.
These actions can lead us forward to have conversations about gender, patriarchy, and sexism and to devise steps on how we move forward. We do this work because all people are created in God’s image, and, as the draft says, “We believe God’s intention revealed through the Scriptures is that all people flourish and have life abundantly.” Life abundantly. Amen!