OUR AMAZING LORD AND SAVIOR AND COMING KING JESUS INVITES ALL PEOPLE -- OF ALL NATIONALITIES AND FAITHS -- TO ABANDON THEIR CHURCHES AND TAKE A WILD AND JOYOUS WALK OF FAITH WITH LORD JESUS WHO LOVES AND ADORES EVERY CHILD OF GOD ON THIS PLANET
OUR AMAZING LORD AND SAVIOR AND COMING KING JESUS INVITES ALL PEOPLE -- OF ALL NATIONALITIES AND FAITHS -- TO ABANDON THEIR CHURCHES AND TAKE A WILD AND JOYOUS WALK OF FAITH WITH LORD JESUS WHO LOVES AND ADORES EVERY CHILD OF GOD ON THIS PLANET

THE ELCA -- EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AMERICA -- TASK FORCE ON WOMEN & JUSTICE HAS JUST RELEASED A STATEMENT THAT SPEAKS TO THE BIG PICTURE OF SEXISM AND PATRIARCHICAL CHURCHES

http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Social_Statement_DRAFT_on_Women_and_Justice.pdf?_ga=2.132843531.466921916.1510777081-187084925.1498147438

Draft of a Social Statement on Women and Justice

Basic Statement

Our Common Foundation

We believe God is the creator of all. We in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are, therefore, one with humankind made in the image of God, and one with the whole creation.

We believe God is the Word embodied in Jesus Christ who unites us through baptism with all Christians in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. As Lutherans, we are united in our confession that we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and liberated to serve God’s whole creation, seeking peace and justice.

We believe that God the Holy Spirit is always at work, transforming and inspiring new ways of living in this world toward God’s promised, beloved, eternal community.

Grounded in this understanding of the Triune God, we believe God’s intention for humanity is abundant life for all. This calls us to equity and justice for all with respect to issues of gender and sex. We confess that the world is broken
by sin. Relying on God’s promise in the Gospel, we are bold to declare that patriarchy and sexism are both sinful and found within our own faith tradition and our society.

We believe that we are called by the Holy Spirit to raise a faithful prophetic voice that distinguishes the central witness of the Scriptures from the misuses of the Scriptures found within the Christian tradition. We will resist patriarchy and sexism within church and society by relying on God’s gifts of knowledge, reason, and scientific inquiry as we work together with all people of good will.

*Note: Underlined words indicate a glossary reference.

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31 Grounded in this unity of faith, in this statement we commit ourselves to

32 the continual work of prayer, learning, reflection, discernment, and action to

33 resist patriarchy and sexism as we live together in community into the promised

34 abundant life God intends for all.

35
36 I. Core Convictions 37

38 1) We believe God’s intention revealed through the Scriptures is that all people

39 flourish and have life abundantly.

40

41 2) We believe all people are created equally in the image of God. Every individual

42 is dependent upon God and all share in the God-given vocation to joyfully

43 contribute their gifts to help all of creation flourish. As members of this society,

44 we also affirm that all people are created equal and are endowed with certain

45 inalienable rights.

46

47 3) We affirm that God’s creation is wonderful in its variety. We believe God

48 creates humanity in diversity, encompassing a wide variety of experiences,

49 identities, and expressions, including sex and gender.

50

51 4) While we affirm that God’s intention is equity and fullness of life for

52 everyone, we confess that the sins of patriarchy and sexism, like all human

53 sin, disrupt God’s intention. We recognize that the struggle to achieve sex

54 and gender equity is shaped and complicated by factors of race and ethnicity,

55 nationality and immigration status, sexuality, gender identity, economic means,

56 age, abilities, and education.

57

58 5) We confess that, as God’s people, forgiven in Jesus Christ, we are at the same

59 time liberated and sinful. We are broken, and yet we are made new by grace

60 through faith. This good news is true even as we participate in cultures and

61 societies that are broadly patriarchal and sexist.

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62 6) We confess that we are justified by God’s grace through faith. This promise

63 frees us from trying to earn God’s love or justify ourselves, so that we can

64 do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God and our neighbors. A

65 commitment to neighbor justice is key to our understanding of the ministry of

66 Jesus Christ and to our reading of the Scriptures. God’s act of redeeming love

67 evokes love in us for others who need justice in all areas of their lives. This call

68 to justice specifically means that we seek equity and justice for women and girls

69 and others who experience oppression due to sexism and patriarchy.

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71 7) We believe that, redeemed and made new, the Church is called to live as the

72 Body of Christ in the world even while we struggle with the realities of patriarchy

73 and sexism. As Lutherans, we recognize that acting justly within the home, the

74 church, society, and civic life for the good of all is one of the vocations to which

75 God calls all people.

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77 II. Analysis of Patriarchy and Sexism 78

79 8) We recognize patriarchy and sexism are “a mix of power, privilege, and

80 prejudice.”1 They prevent all human beings from living into the abundant life

81 for which God created them. Patriarchy is a social system dominated by men,

82 identified with men, and centered on men’s actions, voices, and authority. In

83 patriarchal systems, men are typically viewed as better than women, given more

84 power than women, and have more authority than women. This patriarchal

85 worldview harms women and girls. Sexism is the reinforcement of male privilege.

86 It promotes silencing, controlling, and devaluing women, girls, and gender non-

87 conforming people. Everyone intentionally and unintentionally participates in a

88 patriarchal system, and it affects individuals in different ways.

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90 9) We recognize that when society and church have spoken about women and

91 girls, the hidden assumption often has been that they are white and heterosexual.

1 Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture (Chicago: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA], 1993), 4.

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92 However, this statement’s references to women and girls are inclusive of all

93 women—women of color and white women, lesbians, transgender women, women

94 with disabilities, and immigrant women.

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96 10) We believe that many individuals who suffer under the weight of patriarchy

97 and sexism also experience intersecting burdens. In addition to sex or gender

98 discrimination, they may also be treated in oppressive ways according to

99 their race, ethnicity, economic status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity,

100 immigration status, or ability, or because of the language they speak.

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102 11) We reject patriarchy and sexism as sinful because they deny the truth that

103 all people are created equally in God’s image. Too often behaviors and decisions

104 rooted in patriarchy and sexism cause overt harm, inequities, and degradations.

105 Examples include gender-based violence (including physical and emotional violence

106 and coercion), pay inequality, human trafficking, restricted access to health care

107 and economic resources, inadequate research on health issues affecting women,

108 denial of educational opportunities, objectifying portrayals of women in media, and

109 failure to value and support elderly women, mothers, and children.2

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111 12) We recognize that the problems experienced by women and girls are vast.

112 However, patriarchal structures that reinforce and perpetuate rigid sex and

113 gender expectations also harm men and boys, including gay and transgender

114 men. Men and boys are harmed when they are forced to conform to narrow

115 gender stereotypes, such as those that tell men and boys not to have traits or

116 roles that are like those associated with women and girls. People of all genders

117 who do not conform to gender-based roles and stereotypes can be made invisible

118 and oppressed.

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120 13) We celebrate that humans are relational beings and that we live in social

121 systems. The dynamics and powers in these systems are greater than any one

2 See ELCA social teaching documents that address many of these topics: ELCA.org/socialstatements and ELCA.org/socialmessages.

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122 individual, government, culture, or religious community, even though personal

123 responsibility is involved. Most instances of patriarchal harm flow from and into

124 commonly held beliefs and customs and can be found in specific laws, policies,

125 and practices within secular and church institutions. Our church’s commitment to

126 neighbor justice compels us to expose how patriarchy and sexism are woven into

127 all aspects of individual, social, and religious life, causing harm to all of humanity.

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129 III. Resources for Resisting Patriarchy and Sexism 130

131 14) The Scriptures show us a rich texture of justice that is central to God’s

132 intention for human flourishing.3 This church has identified sufficiency,

133 sustainability, solidarity, and participation as the key principles of justice.4 Social

134 structures and institutions, including the ELCA as a human institution, must be

135 assessed and guided by these principles.

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137 15) In faith, this church is empowered to confess that Christianity, in certain

138 beliefs, practices, and aspects of its history, is complicit in the sins of patriarchy

139 and sexism. At the same time, we believe God provides resources within the

140 Christian faith and the Lutheran tradition and is at work in human community

141 to bring forth new ways of living that challenge the harmful beliefs and effects of

142 patriarchy and sexism.

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144 16) While God’s Word of Law and Gospel speaks through the Scriptures, there

145 are words and images, social patterns, and moral beliefs in them that reflect the

146 patriarchal values of the cultures and societies in which they arose. Their continued

147 misuse contributes to maintaining hierarchies and patterns of inequity and harm.

3 See, e.g., Psalm 33:4-5; Proverbs 28:5; Luke 18:1-8; Galatians 6:1-10; I John 3:11-24.

4 See ELCA social statements Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice (Chicago: ELCA, 1993); Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All (Chicago: ELCA, 1999); and Genetics: Faith and Responsibility (Chicago: ELCA, 2011).

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148 17) The Christian theological tradition also bears this dual character. In particular,

149 some doctrines affect our understanding about humanity and God more than

150 others. These teachings affect our use of language. The teachings about the

151 image of God, the Body of Christ, and the Trinity have sometimes been misused

152 to support patriarchal beliefs, attitudes, church practices, behaviors, and

153 structures. At the same time, these doctrines also provide liberating resources

154 for healing the effects of the sins of patriarchy and sexism.

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156 18) The central Lutheran belief that we are justified by grace through faith

157 empowers this church to challenge the structures of patriarchy and sexism that

158 ascribe value based on human standards.

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160 19) We recognize that significant progress has been made in society against

161 patriarchy and sexism; however, evidence demonstrates that more attention

162 is needed. Cultural and religious beliefs, practices, policies, and laws continue

163 to promote inequality and inequity and continue to degrade, lessen, and harm

164 people. We believe that Christians, together with many other partners, are able to

165 understand and advance equity. This happens through beliefs and ideas that are

166 gender-just and through laws and policies that support an equitable common good.

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168 IV. Response to God’s Work:

169 Call to Action and New Commitments in Society

170

171 20) This church teaches that the God who justifies expects all people to seek

172 justice in earthly structures and systems. Human reason and knowledge are

173 necessary here, and this church does not presume to have quick or easy

174 solutions for the deeply rooted and complex problems of patriarchy and sexism

175 that have permeated these structures. Our commitments, however, express this

176 church’s firm hope that social relations can be ordered in better ways so that all

177 people may experience greater equity and justice.

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178 The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commits to: 179

180 21) Seek, support, and advocate that diverse, gendered bodies be respected,

181 rather than objectified, abused, denigrated, or marginalized. First steps toward

182 this goal are laws that do not deprive anyone of their human and civil rights.

183

184 22) Seek, support, and advocate for the eradication of gender-based violence,

185 including rape and sexual assault, by acknowledging both personal responsibility

186 and the systemic aspects of such violence. (See the ELCA’s social messages

187 “Gender-based Violence” and “Commercial Sexual Exploitation.”)

188

189 23) Seek, support, and advocate for portrayals of people in entertainment, media,

190 and advertising that do not objectify or stereotype but rather show all people as

191 capable of the wide variety of human characteristics and roles.

192

193 24) Seek, support, and advocate for medical research, health care delivery, and

194 access to health care services, including reproductive health care, that recognize

195 how bodies differ and that eliminate discrimination due to gender or sexuality.

196 (See ELCA social statement Health: Our Common Endeavor.)

197

198 25) Seek, support, and advocate for economic policies, regulations, and practices

199 that enhance equity and equality for women and girls, with special concern for

200 raising up women who experience intersecting forms of oppression. (See the

201 ELCA’s social statement Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All.)

202

203 26) Seek, support, and advocate for services and legal reforms that attend

204 to the particular needs of women, girls, and boys who are physically and

205 economically vulnerable due to migration and immigration. (See the ELCA’s

206 social message “Immigration.”)

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207 27) Seek, support, and advocate for multi-faceted understandings of social and

208 economic roles so that our human traits (such as courage or care) or callings

209 (such as business leader or stay-at-home parent) are not prescribed by gender

210 or sex. Encourage and empower all people to use their gifts for the sake of the

211 social good, whether in the home, at work, or in the public sphere.

212

213 28) Seek, support, and advocate for resources for families and communities that

214 empower parents, whether single or coupled, to nurture, protect, and provide

215 for their household in ways that do not reinforce gender-based stereotypes. In

216 particular, advocate for men to participate in all family roles associated with the

217 home, caregiving, parenting, and nurturing.

218

219 29) Seek, support, and advocate for an increase in women’s participation in

220 local, state, and national politics, with special attention to raising up women who

221 experience intersecting forms of oppression.

222

223 V. Response to God’s Work:

224 Call to Action and New Commitments Regarding the Church

225

226 30) This church recognizes that the Body of Christ is called to honor and support

227 women, girls, and people with diverse gender identities in ways more consistent

228 with life-giving theology and faith practices. Therefore, as a church, we commit

229 ourselves to celebrating and affirming the gifts and insights that women and girls

230 bring to congregations, institutions, and the church as a whole.

231
232 The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commits to: 233

234 31) Promote scriptural translation and interpretation that support gender justice,

235 acknowledge the patriarchal context in which the Scriptures were written, and reject

236 the misuse of Scripture to support sexist attitudes and patriarchal structures.

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237 32) Promote theological reflection that is attentive to the gender-based needs of

238 the neighbor. Theologians need to be honest about how church teachings have

239 been misused to support patriarchy and sexism. All teachers of the faith should

240 express God’s desire that all persons may thrive.

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242 33) Use inclusive language for humankind and inclusive and expansive language

243 for God. Encourage the use of language for God that expands rather than limits

244 our understanding of God’s goodness and mystery. In particular, we support

245 developing liturgies, hymns, prayers, and educational materials that broaden our

246 language beyond primarily male images. This practice follows the Scriptures’

247 witness that God is wholly other and transcends human categories of sex and

248 gender. Therefore, metaphors and images for God should be drawn from the lives

249 of women and men, from nature, and from humanity in all its diversity to speak

250 of the fullness and beauty of God.

251

252 34) Develop and support more extensive policies and practices within the ELCA

253 that promote the authority and leadership of all women within this church in all

254 its expressions.

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256 35) Promote changes that are economically just, including equal pay, for women

257 in all ELCA institutions and organizations, with special attention to the situations

258 of people affected by intersecting forms of discrimination.

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260 36) Seek and encourage faithful discernment and, where possible, joint action

261 with other members of the Body of Christ and inter-religious and secular

262 partners on issues of patriarchy and sexism. This includes the affirmation of the

263 Lutheran World Federation’s Gender Justice Policy and continued dialogue with

264 national and global ecumenical and inter-faith partners.

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Hope for Justice

We of the ELCA share these convictions and commitments with thanks to the Triune God whose love intends an abundant life for every person. We recognize as God’s gifts the society and the church of which we are part, even while an analysis describes how patriarchy and sexism pervade our lives within them.
We give thanks for God’s gracious promises to break the bonds of sin and to empower our lives of hope to seek neighbor justice.

We rejoice that God is always at work to transform and inspire new ways
of living in human society, ways that lean more fully toward God’s intention. We are grateful that strides have been made in this society against patriarchy and sexism, and we hear the summons to seek even fuller measures of justice and equity for all. We do not presume to have quick, perfect or easy solutions as we work together with all people of good will. We simply recognize that we have both the freedom and the obligation for the neighbor to do much more, as guided by these commitments.

We know that the Church of Christ in every age is beset by change, but as Spirit led, is called to test and claim its heritage.5 We celebrate the Holy Spirit’s work in this church to urge ongoing reformation toward equity and equality for all. Most of all, we live in hope because through Jesus Christ we trust that God’s promises will not fail.

5 See “The Church of Christ in Every Age” by Fred Pratt Green in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005), #729.

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Fuller Explanation I. Core Convictions

1) We believe God’s intention revealed through the Scriptures is that all people flourish and have life abundantly.

“God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31a).

The Scriptures reveal God’s intention of abundant and sustainable life for creation, including for human beings. Creation stories tell of the goodness, flourishing, and majestic diversity that flow from God’s creative and sustaining power (e.g., Genesis 1 and 2, Psalms 8 and 104, and Job 38).

Israel’s exodus from Egypt shows God’s persistent action to free people who are shackled by slavery’s bondage of body, mind, and spirit. God’s gift of the Ten Commandments establishes a covenant that expresses how Israel’s new community can thrive.

The judges, like Deborah, and the prophets trumpet God’s demand for justice when communities are threatened or oppressed, and they proclaim hope when all seems lost. God lifts up individuals like Esther who risk everything so that community may thrive.

The Gospels underscore God’s desire for abundant life. Jesus Christ, the
Word made flesh, embodies and proclaims God’s desire. In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). Through association with social outcasts (Mark 2:15), advocacy for the disadvantaged, marginalized and unjustly treated (Matthew 25:35-40), compassion for and healing of the sick (Matthew 14:14), and criticism of those who neglect justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23), Jesus Christ witnessed to and lived out God’s desire for the well-being of all in the here and now and not only in the promised, future life. The Scriptures teach that the Spirit of God is the source of life (Psalm 104:30) and pours out power for new, fruitful ways of being in the world (Joel 2:28). The Book of Revelation speaks of the healing of the nations and closes with

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318 a vision of a new heaven and earth as the ultimate outcome of God’s intention.6

319 This church believes the Triune God intends creation to flourish and is ever at

320 work so that all people may thrive.

321

322 2) We believe all people are created equally in the image of God. Every

323 individual is dependent upon God, and all share in the God-given vocation

324 to joyfully contribute their gifts to help all of creation flourish. As members

325 of this society, we also affirm that all people are created equal and are

326 endowed with certain inalienable rights.

327

328 We believe humans are created equal by God, are equally dependent upon

329 God, and are equally loved by God. We believe humans are called to be co-creative

330 creatures with God, caring for the world and serving other humans and the entire

331 creation as God does. As the Scriptures witness, all of creation originates in God,

332 who sustains creation and will ultimately bring creation to its fullness.

333 In Genesis 1, God speaks creation into existence; by a word, humans are

334 created in the image of God. In Genesis 2, God makes humans by forming them

335 from the soil (humus). Humans did not live until God breathed into the first

336 human’s nostrils. We are dependent upon God, the very one who gave us breath.

337 In both creation stories, the first human is neither male nor female but simply

338 human. A translation of the Hebrew text helps to explain this:7

339 “then Yahweh God formed the earth creature [hā- ‘ā dām]

340 dust from the earth [hā- ‘ā dām]

341 and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life,

342 and the earth creature [hā- ‘ā dām] became a living being (nephesh)”

343 (Genesis 2:7).8

6 “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).

7 In Genesis 1, God creates “humankind.” In Genesis 2, the original Hebrew states “then Yahweh God formed the earth creature [hā-‘ā dām].” See Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), 78. English translations state that “Adam” is formed first and is referred to as a male.

8 Translation from Ibid. The interpretation offered here in general is common in current Lutheran theological teaching.

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344 In Hebrew, Adam is not a proper name. This is not a text about a man being

345 created first.

346 We believe all people are created in the image of God (imago Dei). We

347 are made in the image of God, who calls us to use our creativity, freedom,

348 responsibility, and diversity for the fulfillment of creation. God uses wisdom,

349 understanding, and knowledge to create and nourish (Proverbs 3:19-29); humans

350 are to use these same means to serve all of creation. Like God’s action in

351 creation, human use of power is meant to be good for all (Genesis 1:4-25). This

352 careful reading of Genesis 1-3 reminds us that while we are created in the image

353 of God, we are not God. No human is.

354 Human dignity flows from the reality that all humans are made in the image

355 of God. We honor the image of God in others when we do everything in our

356 collective and personal power to meet others’ needs and to empower others

357 to flourish. God calls us to live in creative, life-giving relationships with all of

358 creation. In creation, no human is granted domination over another human.

359 Rather, all humankind is given the responsibility to care for creation (Genesis

360 1:26-31 and Genesis 2:15).9

361 Many Christians, in the past and still today, interpret the Genesis creation

362 stories to support the belief that females are secondary to males and more sinful

363 than males. One respected teacher of the faith (St. Augustine, 354-430) defined

364 women as malformed men. For centuries women were said to be so intellectually

365 and physically inferior that they should not serve as leaders in the faith. Our

366 reading of the biblical texts, however, shows that such patriarchal interpretations

367 of Genesis 1-3 are faulty. The differentiation of humankind into male and female,

368 expressed in Genesis 2, communicates the joy found in humans having true

369 partners, true peers: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”

370 (Genesis 2:23a). God creates community and family, not a hierarchy based on

371 race and ethnicity, ability, social or economic status, or sex (what our bodies look

372 like biologically) or gender (how people express themselves).

9 Care for creation includes the responsibility to address the effects of sin. See Kristen E. Kvam on Luther’s reading of Genesis in “God’s Heart Revealed in Eden: Luther on the Character of God and the Vocation of Humanity” in Transformative Lutheran Theologies, ed. Mary J. Streufert (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), 57-67.

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373 As Lutherans, we also understand that God intends cultures and governments

374 to develop in ways that support cooperative sharing that enable all people to

375 flourish. Given our understanding of God’s desire for human flourishing, together

376 with other members of society, we assert that all people are created equal and

377 are endowed with certain inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of

378 happiness. We also hold the belief that all people have the responsibility to

379 safeguard these rights for others, as well as for themselves. Insofar as these

380 assertions are necessary so that everyone may flourish, the ELCA joins others,

381 both religious and non-religious, to advance a universal vision of the full and

382 equitable participation of all people in an equitable society.10

383

384 3) We affirm that God’s creation is wonderful in its variety. We believe God

385 creates humanity in diversity, encompassing a wide variety of experiences,

386 identities, and expressions, including sex and gender.

387

388 The Scriptures reveal the diversity and interconnectedness of creation. God

389 creates a teeming universe, filled with plants and animals, the fish of the sea and

390 the birds of the air. Likewise, humans are remarkably diverse. Contemporary

391 science also finds diversity within creation and among humans. Human genes

392 are a given; you are born with what you are born with. However, genetic activity

393 is influenced by what we do, what we think, what we learn, and how we live.

394 Neurological research has shown that humans are not born with brains that are

395 either “girl” or “boy” brains. Instead, humans learn to act, think, and speak in

396 certain ways; people are not “hardwired” to be exclusive opposites based on sex.

397 Studies of human bodies also reveal diversity, showing that they do not neatly

398 fall into two categories of “opposite” differences. In short, people have genetic

399 and physical variety; individual humans are not automatically placed on one end

400 or the other of a physical or psychological spectrum.11

10 The ELCA acknowledges that sin has interfered with the expression of God’s will through human culture and governments and affirms the role of the church to criticize injustice in them. See The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective (Chicago: ELCA, 1991).

11 See Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010), 176-177; 235-239.

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401 4) While we affirm that God’s intention is equity and fullness of life for

402 everyone, we confess that the sins of patriarchy and sexism, like all human

403 sin, disrupt God’s intention. We recognize that the struggle to achieve

404 sex and gender equity is shaped and complicated by factors of race and

405 ethnicity, nationality and immigration status, sexuality, gender identity,

406 economic means, age, abilities, and education.

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408 We believe that God creates human beings not just in marvelous diversity but

409 also with the intention of equity, including gender equity. Equity is fairness or

410 justice in the way people are treated according to their needs. For example, an

411 elderly woman with few economic resources who lives with a chronic illness has

412 different needs than a young woman with wealth who is expecting her first child;

413 therefore, they require different laws, policies, and social support to flourish.

414 Within human history, as well as within the Christian tradition, humans have

415 often created hierarchies where one group has power over another because of

416 their differences. The church has often taught there are only two types of people,

417 male and female, dominant and subordinate. Strong and pervasive views remain

418 among Christian communities in this country and around the world that people

419 are naturally opposites with attributes characterized by sex and gender, for

420 example that females are inherently caring and that males are inherently logical.

421 Many Christians continue to teach this sex and gender complementarity; they

422 believe that a person’s identity, self-understanding, vocation, and social roles are

423 fixed at birth--willed by God.

424 These gendered views are further complicated by intersections with other

425 forms of systemic oppression, such as racism, classism, ableism, ageism,

426 heterosexism, and nationalism.

427 Stereotypes about human characteristics, such as skin color and ability, cause

428 harm because they shape our understandings of ourselves and others from a

429 very early age. These stereotypes and biases then shape how we act. Boys learn

430 not to cry in public, and girls learn that they must dress and act a certain way to

431 be accepted. These learned behaviors then reinforce existing stereotypes.

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432 Expectations and stereotypes for men and boys usually socialize them to step

433 into roles with power, means, and visibility. They benefit from male privilege.

434 Expectations and stereotypes for women and girls often socialize them for roles

435 that give them less access to power, agency, and visibility. People who do not

436 comply with these or other stereotypes often become powerless and invisible.

437 Many live on the margins of society and even fear for their lives.

438 Sexist beliefs and patriarchal systems often portray bodies in ways that,

439 intended or not, objectify, regulate, devalue, marginalize, politicize, and dominate

440 some bodies more than others. The Christian Church as an institution,

441 including the Lutheran tradition, has been complicit in these sins. In particular,

442 this church confesses its long complicity in the acceptance of the so-called

443 “natural inferiority” of people who are not of European descent. For example,

444 this devaluing of people is evident in the ELCA’s own failure to encourage and

445 support people of color to pursue ordination. The first woman of color was only

446 ordained in a predecessor church of the ELCA in 1980, 10 years after the first

447 white woman. Society reflects this same sin. In the United States, many women

448 and girls were sterilized against their will because they were considered less

449 valuable than white or able-bodied women.12

450 Social roles and policies are essential for living together in society, but fixed

451 gender roles and the power attached to them are inequitable. Limiting certain

452 roles to people according to gender or other characteristics interferes with the

453 expression of their full humanity and thus limits social communities, as well.

454 The bodies of all people, in their diversity, are gifts of the Creator and are

455 held by God in equal value; indeed, all bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (I

456 Corinthians 6:19). Paul confirmed this when he described how our particularities

457 are, in Christ, no longer a source of division: “There is no longer Jew or Greek,

458 there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of

459 you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Humans are wondrously diverse in

460 character, experiences, joys, sorrows, passions, and vocations and God intends

12 Lisa Ko, “Unwanted Sterilization and Eugenics Programs in the United States,” Public Broadcasting System, January 29, 2016, pbs.org/independentlens/blog/unwanted-sterilization-and-eugenics-programs-in- the-united-states/ (accessed September 5, 2017).

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461 equity in that diversity. Therefore, people of faith are called to support civil laws

462 and church policies that treat all people equitably.

463

464 5) We confess that, as God’s people, forgiven in Jesus Christ, we are

465 simultaneously liberated and yet we sin. We are broken, and yet we are

466 made new by grace through faith. This good news is true even as we

467 participate in cultures and societies that are broadly patriarchal and sexist.

468

469 The Lutheran Confessions explain sin fundamentally as the self-centered

470 failure to fear and trust God.13 As a result of this broken trust in God, human

471 relationships also become broken and distorted. Because God’s law was

472 given to guide human relationships, anything that breaks and distorts human

473 relationships is sinful and unjust.

474 Sexism and patriarchy are sinful because they foster attitudes and actions

475 that distort relationships, violate God’s law, and result in injustice. When we do

476 not ensure the physical and sexual safety of women, girls, and others oppressed

477 by patriarchy, whether in relationships, homes, churches, or anywhere in public,

478 then we sin. When we use derogatory names, we do psychological harm and

479 perpetuate injustice. When we participate in sinful systems of patriarchy and

480 sexism that harm our neighbor, knowingly or unknowingly, we sin.

481 Sin is not just individual acts. Sin is also found and expressed in organizations

482 and institutions. It is a sin that women are not paid an equal wage for the same

483 work or must pay more for health care. It is an injustice to women and girls to

484 demand physical perfection and to portray women and girls as sexual objects,

485 and it is a sin to profit from such expectations. Sexism and patriarchy in church

486 and society prevent women and girls from affirming, celebrating, and expressing

487 their individuality as God’s good creatures.

13 “Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article II” in Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 112.

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488 6) We confess that we are justified by God’s grace through faith. This

489 promise frees us from trying to earn God’s love or justify ourselves,

490 so that we can do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our

491 neighbors. A commitment to neighbor justice is key to our understanding

492 of the ministry of Jesus Christ and to our reading of the Scriptures. God’s

493 act of redeeming love evokes love in us for others who need justice in

494 all areas of their lives. This call to justice specifically means that we

495 seek equity and justice for women and girls and others who experience

496 oppression due to sexism and patriarchy.

497

498 We believe that we do not have to do anything for God to be gracious to us. The

499 gift of salvation is a divine work, not a human work. God’s justification of us upends

500 both our own attempts to justify ourselves and our own injustice.14 “For we hold that

501 a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law” (Romans 3:28).

502 Although we have been called into the freedom of the Gospel, we remain

503 sinners. We are freed in Christ to love and serve others, but our efforts to live

504 out the righteousness we have received are always imperfect. Nevertheless, we

505 continue to respond to the divine call to love God, self, and neighbor and to the

506 struggle for justice.

507 Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s mercy covers God’s people and

508 serves to renew our weary souls. (See Psalm 103.) God calls us to grant mercies

509 to others: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness

510 and mercy to one another” (Zechariah 7:9). And God’s faithful people hope to

511 be judged by God’s merciful justice. (See Psalm 119.)

512 The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-33) teaches us that our

513 neighbors are not just those who are like us. The call to love the neighbor

514 extends to everyone, even those we might think of as enemies, as Jews in Jesus’

515 time regarded Samaritans. Commenting on this parable, Martin Luther defined

516 the neighbor this way: “Now our neighbor is any human being, especially one

14 See e.g., Ted Peters, God – The World’s Future: Systematic Theology for a New Era, 3rd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015), 433.

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517 who needs our help.”15

518 The parable of the good Samaritan also teaches us that love of neighbor

519 requires concrete action on the neighbor’s behalf. Depending on the neighbor’s

520 needs, this may require not only direct service in response to an immediate

521 situation, but also working more broadly for justice.

522 When we read the Scriptures through the lens of neighbor justice, we are

523 empowered to hear and respond to cries for justice, no matter for whom or

524 from where. A neighbor-justice reading of both the biblical text and of our

525 contemporary context compels us to ask: Who is the neighbor? And what does

526 justice look like for the neighbor? Because we are called to love our neighbor

527 as ourselves, we can also ask, who can help me find justice in my life, work,

528 family, and community? A neighbor-justice approach also helps us ask questions

529 about justice not only for individuals, but also for congregations, institutions,

530 governments, and societies.

531 God’s faithfulness, love, and justice are evident when we read the Bible with

532 a neighbor-justice approach. A neighbor-justice reading helps us challenge

533 and uproot sexism and patriarchy. Striving for justice for the neighbor and for

534 ourselves encourages Christians to live, worship, and work in ways that empower

535 all people to live lives of dignity, responsibility, equity, and justice. God in Christ,

536 through the power of the Holy Spirit, frees the Church.

537

538 7) We believe that, redeemed and made new, the Church is called to live as

539 the Body of Christ in the world even while we struggle with the realities of

540 patriarchy and sexism. As Lutherans, we recognize that acting justly within

541 the home, the church, society, and civic life for the good of all is one of the

542 vocations to which God calls all people.

543

544 As Christians, we confess that Jesus Christ is the true image of God. Through

545 our baptism, all Christians are unified in Christ and equal members of the

546 Body of Christ. The apostle Paul compared the early Christian community to

15 Martin Luther, “Letters to Galatians, 1535,” Luther’s Works (LW) (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955-1986), 27:58.

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547 the human body. He wrote that Christians are united in the Body of Christ, that

548 this body has many diverse parts, and that the members of the body need one

549 another. (See Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-18.)

550 In the face of ever-present sexism and patriarchy in the church and the

551 world, we look to God’s Word to affirm the goodness of our own bodies, minds,

552 and spirits and those of our neighbors. The Gospels testify to the full, embodied

553 humanity of Jesus, who was born, walked, ate, slept, and wept. Indeed, the

554 Hebrew Bible, the Gospels, and the New Testament letters teach that human

555 bodies are a good gift of God.

556 Because we are equal members of the Body of Christ, we should not objectify

557 others, diminish their worth, or define them by sex or gender stereotypes. As

558 this church seeks to value the bodies of all people and recognize that we depend

559 upon one another, we will not dominate or politicize other people but respect

560 them, promote their health and well-being, and suffer and rejoice together as we

561 strive for justice for all bodies.

562 As Lutheran Christians, our work to stop the harm that sexism and

563 patriarchy cause to bodies also springs from our understanding of Baptism and

564 Holy Communion. Our heritage teaches that when the water, bread, and wine are

565 combined with God’s word, God is really present: “Baptism is not simply plain

566 water. Instead it is water enclosed in God’s command and connected with God’s

567 Word.”16 When we feel the baptismal water and when we taste the bread and

568 drink the wine, God is present in our diverse individual bodies and in the unity

569 of the Church that is the Body of Christ. Luther taught that the Lord’s Supper

570 unites us together into one body: “[S]o that by this sacrament ... and through this

571 mutual love there is one bread, one drink, one body, one community.”17

572 We must continue the task of embracing our unity and diversity so we

573 welcome and uplift people of every sex and gender—indeed, every body—in our

574 work together as the Body of Christ in the world. God’s love feeds the Body of

575 Christ so that it might live in love.

16 “Small Catechism” in Book of Concord, 359.
17 Martin Luther, “A Treatise Concerning the Blessed Sacrament and Concerning the Brotherhoods,” cited in

A Compendium of Luther’s Theology, ed. Hugh Kerr (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1943), 176.

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II. Analysis of Patriarchy and Sexism

8) We recognize patriarchy and sexism are “a mix of power, privilege, and prejudice;”18 they prevent all human beings from living into the abundant life for which God created them. Patriarchy is a social system dominated by men, identified with men, and centered on men’s actions, voices, and authority.
In patriarchal systems, men are typically viewed as better than women,
given more power than women, and have more authority than women. This patriarchal worldview harms women and girls. Sexism is the reinforcement of male privilege. It promotes silencing, controlling, and devaluing women, girls, and gender non-conforming people. Everyone intentionally and unintentionally participates in a patriarchal system, and it affects individuals in different ways.

Looking clearly at women’s and girls’ experiences leads to an analysis of patriarchy and sexism because we believe we need to get to the roots of the problems. An honest assessment of patriarchy can be hard to hear, and it can feel as if people are too easily assigning blame to individuals for what is a complex social reality. Patriarchy does not mean that males are bad and females are good, or that only males support this unfair system. Harm and injustice do not result simply from some individual choices or as the result of a few biased policies and laws. Although the acts of a single individual or group can harm others, injustice is often the result of policies, laws, attitudes, customs, habits, religious beliefs and practices, words, and images that inform and sanction individual and group actions.

As a society, we have fostered patriarchal values that have permeated
and impaired our social organization, the distribution of goods and services,
the application of justice, and the division of labor. The sin of sexism affects understandings of gender, employment, economics, immigration policies, and gender- based violence. It results in human trafficking, the politicization of the female body and health care, including reproductive health care.

18 See the definition of racism in Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture (Chicago: ELCA, 1993), 4.

21

606 Everyone participates in a patriarchal social system in some measure,

607 sometimes in obvious and intentional ways and sometimes in subtle and

608 unconscious ways. In the language of faith, we have all “fallen short of the glory

609 of God.” Only by naming sin are we boldly able to confess it and, through the

610 grace and strength of God, seek understanding and take wise action.

611

612 9) We recognize that when society and church have spoken about women

613 and girls, the hidden assumption often has been that they are white and

614 heterosexual. However, this statement’s references to women and girls

615 are inclusive of all women—women of color and white women, lesbians,

616 transgender women, women with disabilities, and immigrant women.

617

618 The word “women” has generally been used to refer to white women. The

619 life stories, challenges, hopes and gifts of women of color, lesbian women,

620 transgender women, women with disabilities, and immigrant women have

621 been ignored—and sometimes maligned—by government agencies, political

622 organizations, Christian communities, and even by women’s groups.

623 This statement acknowledges both the usefulness and the complexity of the

624 phrase “women and girls.” On one hand, the term “women” can be useful. It

625 names the way that social, cultural, economic, and political groups use the term

626 “women” to describe women’s experiences that differ from the experiences of

627 many men. For example, almost two-thirds of women are considered low-wage

628 earners. Using the category “women” helps name the reality that they are paid

629 less for their work, and it empowers women to demand economic justice.

630 On the other hand, “women and girls” should not be used in ways that

631 ignore the particular experiences and gifts of women of color, lesbian women,

632 transgender women, women with disabilities, elderly women, and immigrant

633 women. For example, the fact that women of different races and ethnicities are

634 often paid differently must not be lost when we refer to women being paid less

635 than men. In this statement, the term “women” is used to help women and girls

636 obtain justice, and it is not assumed that all women have the same experiences,

637 life stories, challenges, hopes and gifts.

22

638 10) We believe that many individuals who suffer under the weight of

639 patriarchy and sexism also experience intersecting burdens. In addition to

640 sex or gender discrimination, they may also be treated in oppressive ways

641 according to their race, ethnicity, economic status, age, sexual orientation,

642 gender identity, immigration status, or ability, or because of the language

643 they speak.

644

645 We recognize that each person is uniquely created in God’s image and that

646 every person’s identity is made up of different elements. One individual might be

647 a mother, middle class, an employee, a Christian, able-bodied, a college-graduate,

648 heterosexual, Spanish-speaking, and Latina. Some identities are seen or treated

649 in the dominant culture as ideal (white, able-bodied, and heterosexual). Other

650 identities often carry burdens (person of color, elderly, or lesbian).

651 This statement uses the term intersectionality19 to name the way certain

652 elements of a person’s identity combine and overlap, often causing greater

653 discrimination and burden. The concept of intersectionality helps express the

654 multiple discriminations many women face daily because of the combination of

655 identities they carry.

656 For example, many women face sexism in the workplace, but a woman of

657 color’s experience in the workplace is compounded by racism. If she is also

658 transgender, data show staggering levels of discrimination and violence.20 Such

659 experiences of multiple oppressions are widespread for many women. In one

660 individual, multiple negative experiences can intersect, even if in varied ways.

661 It is important to note that patriarchy and sexism affect women and men

662 within marginalized communities differently. Men within a similar community

663 benefit from male privilege and often fare better than women in the same

664 community. Intersectionality affects people differently.

19 Crenshaw, Kimberlé, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” The University of Chicago Legal Forum 140 (1989): 139-167.

20 See Sandy E. James, Jody L. Herman, Susan Rankin, Mara Keisling, Lisa Mottet, and Ma’ayan Anafi, The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (Washington, D.C.: National Center for Transgender Equality, 2016).

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665 11) We reject patriarchy and sexism as sinful because they deny the truth

666 that all people are created equally in God’s image. Too often behaviors and

667 decisions rooted in patriarchy and sexism cause overt harm, inequities, and

668 degradations. Examples include gender-based violence (including physical

669 and emotional violence and coercion), pay inequality, human trafficking,

670 restricted access to health care and economic resources, inadequate

671 research on health issues affecting women, denial of educational

672 opportunities, objectifying portrayals of women in media, and failure to

673 value and support elderly women, mothers, and children.21

674

675 The effects of patriarchy and sexism diminish, damage, and often destroy

676 people. Some obvious examples are gender-based violence, economic inequality,

677 and inequitable access to leadership, health care, and education.

678 As a society, we often blame women for what happens to them because

679 of gender-based oppression, and we often excuse their oppressors. A prime

680 example lies in sexual violence and this society’s culture of rape. Rape culture is

681 evident in our society in the media we consume, the games we play, the male role

682 models we idolize, the jokes we tell, our perceptions of sexuality, the prominence

683 of dehumanizing stereotypes, and the hyper-masculinity we tolerate among men

684 and boys. It is further evident in low conviction and penalty rates in rape cases

685 and the high number of untested rape kits across this country.

686 Dominant social and religious beliefs, ideas, and attitudes reinforce a

687 patriarchal reality and are themselves reinforced through laws, policies, and

688 rules. Male-oriented language in religion and in society more broadly promotes

689 bias against females and protects male privilege. As a result, people not

690 only suffer the direct effects of patriarchy and sexism but may suffer from

691 internalized self-hatred fostered by patriarchal and sexist views, particularly in

692 the entertainment industry, the beauty industry, and the media.

21 Various ELCA social teaching documents address many of these topics: ELCA.org/socialstatements and ELCA.org/socialmessages.

24

693 12) We recognize that the problems experienced by women and girls are

694 vast. However, patriarchal structures that reinforce and perpetuate rigid

695 sex and gender expectations also harm men and boys, including gay and

696 transgender men. Men and boys are harmed when they are forced to

697 conform to narrow gender stereotypes, such as those that tell men and

698 boys not to have traits or roles that are like those associated with women

699 and girls. People of all genders who do not conform to gender-based roles

700 and stereotypes can be made invisible and oppressed.

701

702 Men and boys suffer when swept up in this tide of dehumanization that

703 sexism and patriarchy foster. They live in the falsehood of superiority when

704 they participate, and they are often punished when they try to resist. If they

705 do not match the ideal model of masculinity, they can be targets of hatred,

706 harassment, bullying, and violence. Cut off from emotions, activities, and

707 careers stereotyped as “feminine,” men and boys are also unable to experience

708 the fullness of life that is a gift from God.

709

710 13) We celebrate that humans are relational beings and that we live in

711 social systems. The dynamics and powers in these systems are greater

712 than any one individual, government, culture, or religious community,

713 even though personal responsibility is involved. Most instances of

714 patriarchal harm flow from and into commonly held beliefs and customs

715 and can be found in specific laws, policies, and practices within secular

716 and church institutions. Our church’s commitment to neighbor justice

717 compels us to expose how patriarchy and sexism are woven into all

718 aspects of individual, social, and religious life, causing harm to all

719 of humanity.

720

721 Social systems are necessary because we are relational beings. When

722 social systems are detrimental to well-being, the Scriptures refer to them as

723 evil “powers.” (See Ephesians 6:12 and Romans 8:38.) These powers are forces

724 greater than any one individual, community, government, or culture, and they

25

725 distort human flourishing. In our liturgy, we name this systemic reality in the

726 confession: “We are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.”

727 Every instance of harm, violation,

728 coercion, or cruelty, by groups

729 or individuals, is supported by

730 commonly held beliefs and customs

731 and plays out according to laws,

732 policies, and practices.

733 Scriptural references to sin

734 illuminate how the power of a

735 patriarchal social system can be largely

736 invisible. It is so invisible that everyone

737 contributes in some measure. We may

738 even hold attitudes and beliefs, and

739 we may support laws, policies, and

740 practices that harm ourselves. This is

741 how powerful sin is.

742 This church recognizes the systemic

743 character of patriarchy as linking social

744 ideas and attitudes, religious beliefs,

745 laws, policies, and practices that lead to the injustice individuals and groups of

746 people experience. (The connections are depicted in the adjacent graphic and

747 explained in greater detail in the sidebar.)

748 The underlying theme is that many social ideas and religious beliefs share

749 the basic view that men and boys are the intellectual, emotional, and physical

750 opposites of women and girls and are “ordered” higher.22 Current laws, policies,

751 and practices continue to reflect this view insofar as women and girls do not

752 experience sustainability, sufficiency, solidarity, and participation equitably with

753 men and boys. (See Thesis 14)

22 This view is an ancient problem rooted in philosophical ideas and in some religious teachings. On this point, see David Balch, Let Wives Be Submissive: The Domestic Codes in 1 Peter (Chico, California: Scholars Press, 1981).

HARM

POLICIES: LEGAL AND ECONOMIC

SOCIAL ATTITUDES

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

Starting at the top, right, the first arrow represents social attitudes about sex and gender.

The second arrow represents religious beliefs about sex and gender.

The third arrow illustrates the policies, laws, and practices that reflect and support sexist social and religious attitudes and beliefs.

Finally, the fourth arrow shows the discrimination and violence some people experience when social attitudes and religious beliefs and laws, policies, and practices work together to hurt people because of sex or gender.

26

754 A graphic cannot fully depict the complexities of sexism and patriarchy,

755 but it offers a basis for discerning the actual interconnections that contribute

756 to harm and injustice. Many factors weave together into a patriarchal system,

757 creating the problems affecting women, girls, and people who do not conform to

758 the expectations of the familiar gender binary of masculine and feminine. Our

759 church’s faith and a commitment to justice require that the discussion about

760 and explanation of patriarchy and sexism address each element of this circle

761 in order that we might understand the problems and seek renewed, life-giving

762 partnerships and approaches to an equitable society.

763
764 III. Resources for Resisting Patriarchy and Sexism 765

766 14) The Scriptures show us a rich texture of justice that is central to God’s

767 intention for human flourishing.23 This church has identified sufficiency,

768 sustainability, solidarity, and participation as the key principles of justice.

769 Social structures and institutions, including the ELCA as a human

770 institution, must be assessed and guided by these principles.

771

772 While we recognize that perfect worldly justice is not possible, this church

773 holds that efforts toward justice should be focused through the principles of

774 sufficiency, sustainability, solidarity, and participation.24 These principles guide

775 the movement from injustices against women and girls, to justice for all those

776 affected by patriarchy.

777 Sufficiency The principle of sufficiency addresses the basic needs (physical,

778 emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual) of women, girls, and those hurt

779 by sexism. Sufficiency as a principle of justice means the basic needs of all

780 women and those who depend on them should be met. It means society must

781 work to ensure, for example, safety from gender-based violence and equitable

782 opportunities in education and employment. The principle of sufficiency

23 See, e.g., Psalm 33:4-5; Proverbs 28:5; Luke 18:1-8; Galatians 6:1-10; I John 3:11-24.
24 These principles are present throughout ELCA social teaching and policy. Examples include Caring for

Creation, Economic Life, and Genetics, but are found in others as well.

27

783 supports not only passive respect, but also advocacy in matters of health care,

784 immigration, violence, sexuality, human trafficking, and the workplace.

785 Sustainability The principle of sustainability compels society to provide an

786 acceptable quality of life for all generations of women. This principle applies to

787 both the emotional and material aspects of life. Both church and society should

788 evaluate how their structures ensure—or do not ensure—that livelihood and the

789 means for well-being actually sustain all people.

790 Solidarity Solidarity is a commitment with others and a way of seeing, being,

791 and acting. Solidarity means seeing and experiencing one’s own well-being

792 as connected to the well-being of others and the communities to which they

793 belong. It often involves people aligning themselves with others who do not have

794 the same experiences. The principle of solidarity compels respect for the lived

795 experience of women and girls and encourages people to share not only in their

796 suffering but also to participate in their liberation.25

797 Participation This principle endorses the idea that communities should be

798 structured so that women participate equitably in the decisions that affect their

799 lives in the personal, local, and governmental spheres. All people need to be

800 involved in what affects their lives. The range of decisions to which anyone has

801 access should not be limited by gender.

802

803 15) In faith, this church is empowered to confess that Christianity in

804 certain beliefs, practices, and aspects of its history is complicit in the

805 sins of patriarchy and sexism. At the same time, we believe God provides

806 resources within the Christian faith and the Lutheran tradition and is at

807 work in human community to bring forth new ways of living that challenge

808 the harmful beliefs and effects of patriarchy and sexism.

809

810 In our corporate confession, we recognize that we sin individually and

811 collectively, in word and in deed, by what we have done and by what we have

25 Martin Luther in “An Open Letter on the Harsh Book Against the Peasants, 1525,” LW 46:78 writes
“[Y]ou must share the community’s burdens, dangers, and injuries, even though not you, but your neighbor has caused them. You must do this in the same way that you enjoy the peace, profit ... and security of the community, even though you have not won them or brought them into being.”

28

812 left undone. We do not always live and act as God intends. The recognition of

813 our sin leads us to confession. When we confess, we give up trying to justify

814 ourselves and our actions. By grace, God forgives us and frees us from the sin

815 that alienates us from God, neighbors, and ourselves.

816 Patriarchy and sexism in the Christian Church have a long history. Although

817 women were followers of Jesus and leaders both in Jesus’ lifetime and in the very

818 early church, women were excluded and vilified as Christianity grew in status

819 and wealth. Early church theologians were often misogynistic; they repeated

820 the idea that women were “the devil’s gateway” and rebuked women as “a feeble

821 race, untrustworthy and of mediocre intelligence.”26 Throughout much of the

822 history of the Christian Church, women were therefore excluded from Christian

823 leadership, including ordained leadership; taught to be submissive in marriage,

824 church, and society; and coerced to endure violence.

825 Similar interpretation and teaching continues within global Christianity.

826 Many Christian churches continue to support the subservience and obedience

827 of women and girls to men. And Christian leaders and members worldwide

828 continue to use ill-gotten power and authority to violate women and girls and to

829 suppress their cries for justice.

830 The traditions of this church have also incarnated the sin of patriarchy and

831 sexism into the Body of Christ. For example, although there have been women

832 in ordained Lutheran ministry in the United States since 1970, there remains

833 a deep-seated assumption that leadership and the organization of the church

834 should be male-oriented.27

835 We confess that our actions often reflect Christian theology and faith that

836 portray women as subservient and inferior to men. As a church, we confess our

837 complicity in the exclusion, exploitation, and oppression of those who are not

838 male. We confess not only overt complicity, but also the complicity of silence and

839 passive acceptance of patriarchal and sexist beliefs and practices.

26 Tertullian, De Cultu Feminarum, Book 1, Chapter 1, and Epiphanius, Panarion, sect 79.1, respectively.

27 For up-to-date information in recurring church studies on these issues, see the website for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. To date, reports exist from the 25th, 35th, and 45th anniversaries of the ordination of women.

29

840 16) While God’s Word of Law and Gospel speaks through the Scriptures,

841 there are words and images, social patterns, and moral beliefs in them that

842 reflect the patriarchal values of the cultures and societies in which they

843 arose. Their continued misuse contributes to maintaining hierarchies and

844 patterns of inequity and harm.

845

846 Within the ELCA, we read the Bible in ways that are grounded in our

847 heritage and that can reform sexist uses of the Scriptures. The Word of God is

848 first and foremost Jesus Christ, God incarnate. Secondarily, we encounter the

849 Word as Law and Gospel in preaching and teaching. The Canonical Scriptures

850 are the written Word of God, which proclaims God’s grace and sustains faith in

851 Jesus Christ.28

852 The Word of God is living and active, and we take the written form of the

853 Word of God as the authoritative source and norm for faith. In its use as Law, it

854 provides guidance and reveals human brokenness. In its use as Gospel, it reveals

855 God’s love and promise. Christians treasure the Scriptures because in them we

856 hear the message of God’s wondrous, saving acts—especially the liberation of

857 God’s people from slavery in Egypt and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—

858 and God’s promise of new creation in Christ.

859 We recognize that many biblical texts originated in patriarchal cultures and

860 say things about women and girls that are problematic. In Genesis 3:16, God

861 is pictured as telling Eve: “[A]nd he shall rule over you.” Other Old Testament

862 texts illustrate chilling actions such as a host offering his unmarried daughter

863 to a mob of men who wanted to rape a Levite (Judges 19). Many Christian

864 communities struggle with how to interpret such texts.29

865 The New Testament also reflects a thorough-going patriarchal culture

866 through its rules and ideals about women. “[Women] will be saved through

867 bearing children, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with

868 modesty” (1 Timothy 2:15). (See also 1 Corinthians 11:6.)

28 The Constitution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2.02.

29 See Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (Overtures to Biblical Theology) by Phyllis Trible, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984).

30

869 We recognize that the Scriptures have been interpreted within our own

870 tradition in ways that accept such legalistic limits on women and girls and

871 sanction relationships of power and domination. Likewise, these interpretations

872 grant men roles that afford them agency, decision-making power, leadership, and

873 prominence in communities and societies while denying such roles to women.

874 Our tradition’s complicity in patriarchy and sexism is connected to such

875 biblical interpretation and to the nature and focus of some of the Lutheran

876 theological tradition. We confess that there are problems within the Scriptures

877 themselves and that our theological tradition has led to a theological

878 understanding of humankind that is overly male-identified. These problems even

879 become idolatrous as deeply rooted but false beliefs.

880 Today this misuse of the Scriptures continues to deny equity among people

881 based on gender, as well as race and sexuality, and subverts the abundant life

882 God intends. In this sense, Christian complicity in patriarchy and sexism has

883 unhealthy roots in the misuse of the Scriptures.

884 For instance, even today some interpret it to be scripturally authoritative and

885 “natural” to deny positions of leadership in the church or in society to women.

886 They appeal to the Scriptures: “[W]omen should be silent in the churches. For

887 they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate ... . For it is shameful

888 for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

889 However, we believe God calls Christians into a different vision of unity. Jesus

890 Christ has fulfilled God’s Law for us and called us to a new kind of freedom in

891 service to God and neighbor. This is not a revision of the Lutheran tradition

892 but a reaffirmation of its core emphasis. Out of the Gospel promise, we in this

893 church interpret Scripture.30 This emphasis on the Gospel as God’s promise and

894 the recognition of the importance of context distinguish a Lutheran reading of

895 Scripture from a literal, legalistic view that insists all passages in the Bible apply

896 to all people in all times and places.

897 When scriptural passages are unclear or even in conflict, this Lutheran

898 reading suggests that Christ, as God’s gift of forgiveness, reconciliation, and new

30 “The Gospel itself is our guide and instructor in the Scriptures.” Martin Luther, “A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels, 1522,” LW 35:123.

31

899 life, is the lens through which such passages are to be read. Our church, for

900 instance, places more weight on Galatians 3:28 (“[T]here is no longer male and

901 female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”) than on 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I permit

902 no woman to teach or to have authority over a man.”)

903 We recognize that some passages were given to God’s faithful people in

904 specific historical contexts that are quite different from our own.31 This is why,

905 for example, Christians no longer feel bound by certain Old Testament laws,

906 such as kosher dietary principles, or by New Testament instructions concerning

907 women’s hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing (1Timothy 2:9). The fact that many

908 passages in the Scriptures reflect the patriarchal structures and values of their

909 time does not mean that God has prescribed patriarchal structures and values,

910 and has done so for all time.

911 We seek to read the written Word guided by Christ the living Word speaking

912 today. We do so for the sake of proclaiming a life-giving word for all people. This

913 approach interprets the Scriptures with an emphasis on what the Word does and

914 frees us to read them in such a way that God’s Word can be known as genuinely

915 “good news.”

916

917 17) The Christian theological tradition also bears this dual character. In

918 particular, some doctrines affect our understanding about humanity and God

919 more than others. These teachings affect our use of language. The teachings

920 about the image of God, the Body of Christ, and the Trinity have sometimes

921 been misused to support patriarchal beliefs, attitudes, church practices,

922 behaviors, and structures. At the same time, these doctrines also provide

923 liberating resources for healing the effects of the sins of patriarchy and sexism.

924

925 We confess that God is infinite mystery beyond human comprehension.

926 To insist on male language can make an idol of maleness. It restricts words

927 about God, who is beyond gender, to one human category. This insistence may

928 be rooted in a false understanding of human beings as existing in a hierarchy

31 See “How Christians Should Regard Moses, 1525,” LW 35:170-172.

32

929 of gender opposites. This church commends all Christians to retrieve and

930 reform theological language, images, and themes so that they support faithful

931 proclamations of God’s grace in Jesus Christ that are inclusive of all persons.

932 Theological images and themes are used in multiple ways. The same concept

933 can be understood and applied in ways that either reinforce a patriarchal status

934 quo or in ways that support gender justice.

935 The concept of “the image of God” has often been used problematically.

936 Sometimes it has been used to describe males as a “fuller” image of God and

937 women as a “lesser” image of God. Understandings like this have led to and still

938 reinforce actions that devalue women.

939 It is more fruitful to read the creation stories as focusing on relationality.

940 God says, “Let us make humanity in our own image.” There is relationality

941 within God’s own self, there is relationality between the first humans God

942 creates, and there is relationality between God and the humans. This provides

943 a more generous and more fluid image that is not limited by either binary or

944 hierarchical views of gender.32

945 The maleness of Jesus has also been used as a warrant for sexism, particularly

946 in the church. Many Christian traditions have claimed that women cannot be

947 ministers because ministers represent Jesus, and Jesus was male. Sometimes the

948 description of the church as the bride of Christ has contributed to this line of

949 thinking: Since the church is imaged as female, gender complementarity reinforces

950 the idea that those representing Christ must be male.

951 We must reject the idea that the maleness of Jesus is somehow related to

952 redemption. In the original Greek, the Nicene Creed makes clear that God the

953 Son became human (anthropos), not male (aner), “for us and for our salvation.”

954 The long-time “generic” use of the word “man” in English translations has

955 obscured the original meaning of the Nicene Creed and has fed patriarchal biases

956 and assumptions stemming from Jesus’ maleness.

957 This church’s understanding of the Body of Christ goes beyond the literal,

958 physical body of Jesus. As Galatians 3:28 reminds us, the Body of Christ is

32 See Thesis 2 for more discussion on the meaning of Genesis.

33

959 inclusive; identity markers that we have regarded as opposites, in Christ no

960 longer hold meanings that divide us. Just as “Jew or Greek” are not the only ethnic

961 identities joined to and in Christ, so “male and female” do not limit the gender

962 identity of those joined to and in Christ. Understanding the unity in Christ of

963 persons of various identities frees us from an idolatry of the maleness of Christ.

964 Maleness has also been wrongly assigned to the persons of the Triune God.

965 While the Scriptures often refer to God as Father, and while Jesus was historically

966 male, God as such is beyond gender. When Christians rely almost exclusively

967 on male images and language for God, the images and language become literal

968 understandings of God. This is poor theology because God always exceeds

969 human understanding. Taking male images of God literally can also lead to

970 idolatry, meaning we idolize or hold onto only the male images. Our impressions

971 of God are thus limited by patriarchal ideas, for God in the Scriptures is also a

972 woman searching for a coin and a mother in labor, while also a rock, a hen, and a

973 bear.33 Yet God is not literally any of these, either.

974 The use of almost exclusively male-identified language and images is not

975 only theologically problematic but also pastorally harmful. Taking God literally

976 as male cultivates the unwarranted idea that maleness has more in common

977 with God than femaleness and that women and girls are farther away from God

978 than men and boys are. And where does this leave people who are not male or

979 female? This is poor theology about humans.

980 Using predominantly male images of God also affects how we live together in

981 human community. If God is male, and women are less than men, then patriarchy

982 and sexism must be God’s will. But Scripture tells of something entirely different.

983 Although most Christian liturgy uses predominantly androcentric language

984 and imagery, expansive language and imagery are both scripturally rooted and

985 theologically faithful. The paradoxes and multiplicity of language and images

986 about God communicate the mystery and intimacy of the Triune God.

987 Just as we read the Scriptures within their historical contexts, we also need

988 to read Luther and the Lutheran Confessions within their historical contexts.

33 See, e.g., Luke 15:8-10, Isaiah 42:14, Psalm 89:26, Matthew 23:37, and Hosea 13:8.

34

989 Some of Luther’s writings, as well as his personal interactions with women, were

990 more progressive than his peers, but he remains a product of his 16th-century

991 hierarchical context. Just as our fidelity to the Scriptures does not require us to

992 conform to the social practices of the ancient Near East, being faithful Lutherans

993 does not require us to imitate 16th-century social practices.

994

995 18) The central Lutheran belief that we are justified by grace through faith

996 empowers this church to challenge the structures of patriarchy and sexism

997 that ascribe value based on human standards.

998

999 A robust understanding of justification by grace enriches a Christian

1000 commitment to gender justice. We remember that justification motivates us

1001 toward justice.34 Faith, active in the form of love of neighbor, is not our own doing

1002 but God’s gift. We respond to and exercise God’s gift by loving others. Responsive

1003 love in the world means we listen to neighbors. In society, this responsive love

1004 takes the form of justice for the neighbor in an unjust world.35 Justice, then, is

1005 bound to faith because it flows from justification and is itself an expression of

1006 love of neighbor in society. This love includes gender justice.36

1007 There are three aspects of a Lutheran expression of the doctrine of

1008 justification that underscore gender justice as a concern of faith.

1009 First, justification is wholly God’s work through Christ. No particular group of

1010 humans is superior. Justification as God’s act challenges the self-centeredness of

1011 self-justification, including self-justifying notions of male privilege. No particular

1012 group of humans is superior.

1013 Second, justification frees us from bondage. Being freed in Christ involves

1014 being freed from all that tries to replace Jesus Christ as Lord in our lives,

1015 including systems of patriarchy. Instead, we are freed to recognize God’s work

1016 in creation through human variation, human imagination, and human expression

34 See ELCA Church in Society (Chicago: ELCA, 1991), 2.
35 Ted Peters, Sin Boldly! Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress),

404. See Carl Braaten, Principles of Lutheran Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 132-133.
36 See also The Lutheran World Federation Gender Justice Policy (Geneva: The Lutheran World Federation,

2013), which expresses a Lutheran global faith-based commitment to gender justice.

35

1017 through gender. We are enabled to see that humans are not simply gender-based

1018 opposites and that we are not created in a hierarchy.

1019 Third, justification reminds Christians of our collective human brokenness

1020 and that God’s righteousness comes to us from outside ourselves. Before God, we

1021 are all imperfect, yet God’s love covers us. Remembering that this is how we are

1022 with God can affect how we see ourselves and others. We can hear and see what

1023 others need. We can be more concerned with seeing each other in all our variety

1024 and less concerned with following gender-based rules. Justification helps us to

1025 see gender justice from the perspective of faith.

1026

1027 19) We recognize that significant progress has been made in society

1028 against patriarchy and sexism; however, evidence demonstrates that more

1029 attention is needed. Cultural and religious beliefs, practices, policies, and

1030 laws continue to promote inequality and inequity and continue to degrade,

1031 lessen, and harm people. We believe that Christians, together with many

1032 other partners, are able to understand and advance equity. This happens

1033 through beliefs and ideas that are gender just and through laws and

1034 policies that support an equitable common good.

1035

1036 Significant progress has been made in U.S. society despite the continuing

1037 prevalence of patriarchy and sexism. Changes in laws have positively affected

1038 social and religious views. Contrary to cultural and Christian beliefs that women

1039 are intellectually weak and need to follow male leadership, during the 20th

1040 century, women increasingly gained rights as citizens.

1041 History also shows that positive social and religious views about gender

1042 influence laws. For example, the women’s movement argued that women should

1043 not be raped within marriage. Finally, in 1993, it was illegal in all states for a

1044 spouse to rape a spouse.

1045 This country and this church have seen and supported many positive changes

1046 in attitudes and laws that have helped women and girls to thrive, but there is still

1047 more work to be done to support neighbor justice.

36

1048 The circle of attitudes, beliefs,

1049 and policies indicates that change is

1050 possible and offers a strategy for this

1051 church’s commitments to and actions

1052 toward justice. Working together, we

1053 can begin to transform the circle of

1054 injustice into a circle of justice.

1055 Individuals and groups can

1056 challenge harmful social assumptions

1057 and practices, reject sexist religious

1058 beliefs, and work to change laws and

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