Born out of discussion of the ELCA’s “Draft Social Statement on Women and Justice,” this four-week study explored Scripture as it relates to social justice for women. As the draft social statement was discussed, it became clear that members of the congregation had the vocabulary to talk about women’s justice as a social issue but that most struggled to articulate a theological or scriptural understanding of it. The first session included an introduction to Lutheran interpretation of Scripture and methods of study. The following three sessions each engaged a passage of Scripture. Readings from Ruth, Luke and 1 Timothy were selected to represent the variety of voices found in the biblical cannon. Together, we wrestled with how to interpret and address scripture that excludes and silences women. Together, we celebrated the places where the Bible points to inclusion and empowerment. This communal study and discussion equipped participants to incorporate Scripture and faith into their daily lives and gave them a better grasp of the breadth of the scriptural witness.
Melissa Woeppel presented “Scripture, Women, and Justice: A Survey” at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on October 18, 2018, as part of the Hein-Fry Book of Faith Challenge (HFBFC), a project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). At the time, Woeppel was a student at United Lutheran Seminary; she conducted her project on internship at Peace Church, Charlottesville, Va.
Each year, as part of the HFBFC, one student from each seminary of the ELCA is challenged to create an innovative project that invites people to open Scripture and join the conversation. The 2018 challenge, focused on fostering a learning community that is an open table, brought together those steeped in biblical texts, themes and images as well as those unfamiliar with them. The students collaborate with pastors, leaders and congregation members to learn together, and then present their learnings at a culminating event. A panel of theologians, denominational leaders and pastors—as well as the audience—responds to each presentation.