Sexism and Patriarchy
"I stood up and said, "You cannot use language like that in the church. You are welcome to your opinions, but your language is unacceptable. You'll need to leave if you cannot keep your comments appropriate."
He told me, "You need to sit down, little lady. I can say whatever I want."
No one in the room came to my defense.
I sat down because there was nothing else I could do."
- Our Voices, Our Stories
The words “sexism” and “patriarchy” can make people feel uncomfortable. Yet words are important in naming what is wrong and in working towards change. As a theologian, Martin Luther spoke directly about calling things what they really are and the theological importance of doing so: theologians shaped by the God incarnate who died on a cross call evil what it really is when they proclaim the gospel of God’s grace. Read more.
Bible study series
The following adult Bible study series are designed to help men and women talk together Biblically and theological about sexism and patriarchy. Printed copies also available.
Series 1: Speaking of Sexism: Called to Trust and Risk
In the three sessions of the first series, participants study parts of the story of the Israelites in the wilderness and the gospel of Mark in order to talk about resistance and readiness for change and power and privilege.
Series 2: Humanity in God’s Image
Now Available! The second series explores the ways we are all loved, known, chosen, forgiven, and bidden by God through the stories of the Samaritan woman, the angel's visit to Mary and Mary's visit to Elizabeth, the woman who anoints Jesus' feet, and Jesus' named female disciples.
Our Voices, Our Stories
Rooted in the gospel, truth-telling is a part of all social change, no less so when confronting patriarchy and sexism. This booklet of true stories, written by a variety of people across the ELCA, serves to encourage listening and dialogue about tough realities surrounding gender.
Use this resource to share your own stories!
Vocabulary for Understanding Patriarchy and Sexism
A vocabulary sheet explaining key terms in the study of sexism and patriarchy.
Study guide to The Gender Knot
This study guide to the book The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy by Allan G. Johnson offers readers reflections on the text and includes some theological references.
“Dismantling Sexism: A Faith Response by Women and Men Together” brochure
This Justice for Women program produced brochure lays out the theological foundation for our work in dismantling sexism and shows how that connects to our work in issues and theology.
Allan Johnson’s Web site
Johnson’s Web site contains more information about The Gender Knot as well as additional books.
Joyce, Kathryn. Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Boston: Beacon Press, 2009.
As an analytical reporter, Kathryn Joyce shares her investigation of and research on a multi-faceted Christian movement that supports social and religious hierarchy and inequality between the sexes. Appearing among some evangelicals, fundamentalists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Lutherans, the leaders of this movement quote scripture, John Calvin and Martin Luther to argue for male headship in church and society.
More about Sexism and Patriarchy
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s work to end patriarchy — a social system that affects all of us and in which we all participate — primarily is grounded in baptism. The baptismal proclamation in Galatians 3:28 leads to rethinking our relationships with each other in the body of Christ. This is no small task.
Knowing that we are one in Christ and that we are to build up the body of Christ in speaking the truth (see Romans 12 and Ephesians 4,) this church is called to address sexism, that which promotes and sustains male privilege in the church and in society.
Two central themes in the Lutheran theological tradition empower our mutual responsibility to address the causes and effects of sexism in church and in society. First, Martin Luther extolled Christians to be “theologians of the cross.” Part of the task of such theologians is to “call a thing what it is.” This contrasts with theologians of glory, who “call evil good” (Heidelberg Disputation). For this reason the Justice for Women program encourages language that names patriarchy and sexism for what they are.
Second, Luther placed justification by grace through faith back in the center of Christian theology. He urged the church to move away from any form of works righteousness — the idea that good human action earns us redemption with God. To be justified by grace for Christ’s sake through faith means that all who are baptized into Christ are set free to work for the well-being of others by seeking justice.