WINDHOEK, Namibia, 10 May 2017 - Freedom from violence and the full participation of women in church and society were the key themes of the message from the Women’s Pre-Assembly of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
“We celebrate that through our baptism, we are liberated by God’s grace,” the women shared in their message, drawing on the theme of the Assembly. They also noted that their “experience of being liberated by God’s grace is hampered.
Women delegates to the Twelfth Assembly of the LWF, members of the LWF Women in Church and Society (WICAS) network and local women’s working groups gathered in Namibia’s capital Windhoek, for the Women’s Pre-Assembly, 6-9 May. They delivered their message to delegates of the LWF Assembly on 10 May.
Gender justice matters
The need for gender justice was emphasized, and member churches were called on “to confront critical issues no matter how controversial.” Specific mention was made to gender sensitive readings of Scripture and the use of biblical hermeneutics tied to power.
Lifting up one of the three sub-themes of the Assembly, Human Beings- not for sale, delegates were urged to address gender-based injustices such as inheritance laws, early marriage, female genital mutilation, gender-based homicide, rape, and dowry practices.
The Women’s Pre-Assembly also celebrated and commended the LWF Gender Justice Policy, a process initiated by the Eleventh LWF Assembly 2010 in Stuttgart and approved by the LWF Council in 2013. It called on the LWF Council, “to amend the LWF Constitution to hold a commitment to gender justice and specifically to the Gender Justice Policy.”
Women in Leadership
While the past five Assemblies of the LWF have all affirmed women in leadership and the LWF has ensured this goal is met, the message encourages member churches to take the necessary steps to guarantee the full participation of women in leadership.
“We want to see leadership in the communion reflect women as well as men,” the women stated in their message. They called for women to have the freedom to study, act and lead for structural changes for women’s leadership.
Currently 82 percent of LWF member churches ordain women. The Women’s message celebrated this milestone, “applauding the women and men who continued to work towards the full presence of women in the ordained ministry.”
Partnership and dialogue were encouraged for member churches that were not ordaining women with those that have recently decided to ordain women. The LWF Communion Office was called upon to provide a platform for such discussion.
Against gender-based violence
The serious problems of violence, both within social contexts and within churches, were given specific attention in the message. Noting that the church should be a safe place, each church was asked to consider the development and use of a code of conduct.
The Message of the Women’s Pre-assembly was received by the Assembly and referred to the Policy and Reference Committee.