What is a social message?

Social messages are relatively brief documents adopted by the ELCA Church Council that draw attention to a particular, timely, pressing matter of social concern to the church. For instance, the most recent messages have been on mental illness and disabilities. Messages are intended primarily to encourage further discussion, discernment and action on specific current social issues. They are not new policy positions, but build upon other teaching, even while expanding attention to the topic. For instance, this message will draw upon existing ELCA social statements on sexuality and race, ethnicity and culture, as well as on the existing message on commercial sexual exploitation. (Visit social statements to learn more and view these documents.)

How are social messages used?

Messages address pressing contemporary situations in light of the prophetic and compassionate traditions of Scripture.  They are used to point out human suffering and grave injustice in order to encourage discussion, deliberation and action.  They signal priority concerns that arise from the church’s mission in the world and provide guidance in Christian callings and the church’s witness in society.  In addition to individual consideration, the use of social messages is encouraged in congregational forums as well as other appropriate public, congregational and synodical contexts.

What is gender-based violence and why was this topic chosen?

"Gender-based violence" signifies occasions when harm is intentionally inflicted on another person primarily on the basis of gender through any number of forms of violence.  It includes, but is not limited to, rape, sexual abuse, physical and sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, stalking and sexual harassment.  The ELCA Church Council authorized this work after a request from the ELCA Task Force on Women and Justice, which had heard repeated and compelling concerns from throughout the church regarding the growing level of such violence. (Visit www.elca.org/womenandjustice to learn more about the task force’s work.)

Who authorizes and carries out this work?

This message on gender-based violence was authorized by the ELCA Church Council in November 2013.  Church Council and the Conference of Bishops will receive reports about the ongoing work during 2014 and also will review the proposed message before it is considered for adoption by the Church Council in April of 2015.  Adoption requires a majority vote. Staff members of the Theological Discernment Team in the Office of the Presiding Bishop are responsible for developing social messages and work with a team of expert consultants throughout the process. 

What is the timeline of work?


Feb. 26 -- Consultation team met
March -- Consultation report prepared; Outline drafted and reviewed by consultants
April & May -- Report to Church Council; Text drafted
Sept. 25 -- Draft of Social Message finished; posted for public comment
Sept. 25-Nov. 26 -- Public online comment period
Nov. 26 -- Comment period closed; revision work started by staff and consultants


Feb. - Mar. -- Proposed Social Message on Gender-based Violence sent for review by Conference of Bishops and Church Council
April 10-12 -- Proposed Message considered by Church Council for adoption
April -- Final text posted online
Summer -- Social message printed; Spanish translation done and posted

How can I be involved, communicate with staff or learn more?

The primary way to participate in this project is online during the public comment period from mid-September through November 26 at https://www.elca.org/en/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Current-Social-Writing-Projects/Gender-Violence.

It is possible to provide comment or share concerns at any time, of course. Emails can be addressed to womenandjustice@elca.org and regular mail to "Gender-Based Violence Writing Team" c/o Office of the Presiding Bishop, 8765 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago, IL 60631. All communications will be kept, read and considered. The most up-to-date information about this project is posted online at https://www.elca.org/en/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Current-Social-Writing-Projects/Gender-Violence.