Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Women's Social Justice and the Lutheran Church

The ELCA, the mainstream Lutheran Church (remember Martin Luther and his 95 theses), is in the process of developing a social justice statement on women.  The national U.S. church, now headed by its first woman bishop, Elizabeth Eaton (from my neck of the woods) is a directing a study addressing sexism in the church, geared towards action on the issues of domestic violence, human sex trafficking, and women clergy.  A committee report is due out in the next few months for 
consideration by the individual churches. For now, it has created a study for people to work through.  Its part heavy feminist theology and part conscious raising.  Geared to individual reflection and corporate action

The first study begins with a focus on power.  It reframes interpretations of biblical text used to justify subordination. (Following in the footsteps of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her first feminist interpretation of biblical passages in The Woman's Bible.).  Mark 9:34 states that people must deny themselves and take up cross. This passage has and is used to justy women's subordination, for example counseling women to stay in marriages despite abuse and violence. The feminist study distinguishes human suffering from religious persecution. Human suffering is not a mandate, and instead all are called to heal and help end the suffering of others.  The passage has to be placed in the context of its time, when self did not mean our contemporary notion of individualism but rather the connection of the patriarchal kinship group.  Thus, and here's the big takeaway, the passage is instead a radical call to subvert basic social patterns by renouncing accepted social patterns, such as inequality in marriage or subordination workplace.

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