What does the ELCA say about… Faith, Sexism, and Justice? You can read the entire social statement on the ELCA Webpage.
You might be surprised that the social statement on Faith, Sexism, and Justice was not adopted in the ELCA until 2019! The ELCA and its predecessor bodies have been ordaining women (arguably an office that indicates equality of women in the church and the world) for over 50 years. However, in both the church and wider society there is still a need for greater gender equality.
The ELCA teaches that all humans are in God’s image. While tradition often has us using male terms for God (Father, Him, etc.) this reflects our own limitations of understanding God rather than any particular male-ness to God. While Jesus was embodied as a male human, his maleness is not what is important – it is the fact that he is human.
The ELCA teaches that patriarchy (where men are seen as absolute authority over women) and sexism are both sins that limit God’s work in the world.
The ELCA also recognizes that in order to experience a world of greater equality, we must recognize that sexism is influenced and tied to other oppressive frameworks – such as racism, classism, discrimination based on sexuality and gender expression, etc. In order to effectively address issues tied to gender equality and sexism, we must also address issues tied to race, class, etc.
The ELCA also recognizes that sexism includes discrimination based on sex (male or female) and gender (masculine and feminine). What is meant by this? One example is that in the United States, professions that are often seen as “female” work (elementary education, nursing home care, childcare workers, etc) are devalued whether they are performed by men or women. They often are lower paid, or seen as somehow “less than.” It is important for us to work toward valuing professions that have previously been seen as “women’s work” or “female” careers if we want a world of greater justice.
It is not only women and girls who are harmed by sexism – boys and men are also harmed. For example, men and boys are sometimes expected to be masculine to the point where they are not permitted to show natural human emotions or weaknesses. This is harmful and can even lead to violence toward one’s self or others, alcohol and substance abuse, depression, and even suicide.
Beyond the impact of sexism in the United States, there are challenges on a global scale. While we should do our best to understand how different cultures may experience life differently than us, as the people of God, we should always advocate for a world that reflects the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians: There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Before God, we are all equally loved, equally welcomed, and called into service to Christ. Amen!
In Christian Love,