by Kathye Hamm
By the Women and Justice Working Group of the Sierra Pacific Synod
At the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, voting members approved the initiative to draft a new social statement on Women and Justice. In 2016, a study document was issued to all congregations inviting members to comment on material proposed for this social statement. In 2017, the “Draft Social Statement on Women and Justice” was released for study and response.
In March 2018 a group of concerned ELCA women in the South Bay area began meeting for the purpose of reading and studying this draft word by word. Our hope was to discover not only to what conclusions the ELCA had come, but also (and most importantly) what concrete actions might come about as a result of this document.
Our consensus is that this is a monumental work of theology and Biblical scholarship. We were particularly moved by the ELCA’s naming of patriarchy and sexism as sins and by the public confession of having been complicit in these sins. We experienced a profound new connection between our human experiences and our church.
Our group responded to the Draft with excitement and praise. But we also had 2 primary concerns:
- the need for many more Biblical stories of women
- the need for very concrete calls to action.
We then expanded the discussion to include the women attending the Synod Women’s retreat prior to the Professional Leaders Conference in October and the women’s gathering during that conference. Based on the stories shared at these gatherings and by members of other churches, our observation is that nearly every woman has experienced some form of sexual harassment or abuse, ranging from offensive comments to rape. This occurs even within the confines of our churches. (Watch this enlightening video from the North Carolina Synod: Youtube: “Seriously” Women in ministry video)
We felt called to begin a formal response within our synod to the implementation of this document, and shared this with our Conference during our November gathering with the Bishop.
Now we are ready for action! And we are inviting others to join us. The Secretary of the ELCA has advised us that there are a variety of ways we can impact the Social Statement as it becomes ready for a Churchwide Assembly vote in August 2019.
- The Churchwide committee will be preparing “implementing resolutions” to be voted on by the assembly after the Social Statement is approved. These resolutions will include specific ways this statement will be put into action. We have been invited to send in our suggestions.We will need to do this before the end of this year.
- We could draft a “memorial resolution” for approval by our synod assembly in May. It would then be passed on to the Churchwide Resolutions committee. This will need to be presented to the synod council at their January meeting for it to be part of the Assembly agenda in May.
- We could develop our own resolution that could be “carried” by one of our voting members to the 2019 Churchwide assembly and submitted to the Churchwide resolutions committee for consideration to submit to the assembly for a vote. This would have to be done after our synod assembly in May.
- Finally, and less formal or structured, we could offer our Bishop some suggestions that he could carry to the next Conference of Bishops, where they will be reviewing the proposed social statement.
Here’s how you can participate:
- We are forming a Women & Justice Google group where we can formulate our ideas for concrete ways to make this document come alive. To join, please email Pastor Cristina Beauchemin .
- You can send your suggestions for content for a resolution to Pastor Anne Carlson or text at 408-406-8749.
- For any women who would like to participate in person, our next meeting is Thursday December 13 from 10:00-12:00 at New Creation Lutheran, 7275 Santa Teresa Blvd. in San Jose. We want to include as many who would like to join us as are interested, so we have homes ready to host if you need overnight accommodations. We will also be meeting early in January to continue our work.
- If there are other ways you can think of for us to be connected with each other, please let us know at either of the above emails.
Our team will certainly provide opportunity for all in the synod to participate and support the initiative of this document. Feel free to contact us.
May 14, 2019