by Linda Post Bushkofsky
These words are for all who participate in Women of the ELCA. I’m specifically writing to white women like myself who are the overwhelming majority of this organization, but it’s important for the women of color in Women of the ELCA to read this too. These words are my commitment to them, and I pray they will be your commitment too.
When our organization began in 1988, our elected leaders said we needed to address racism, and the work began. In 1993 the executive board adopted a comprehensive policy that called us to create an inclusive sisterhood where white women and women of color worked together for justice and peace in our church and our society.
Over the past 27 years, we’ve been living into that policy, making progress in our flawed, human way, seeking God’s guidance and asking for forgiveness when we’ve failed. We put staff in place, developed training programs, published stories about our efforts, committed to further training, developed a network of anti-racism educators.
In 2002, at the Fifth Triennial Convention, we took a significant step forward by amending Article III of our churchwide constitution to add:
This community of women shall claim and practice an anti-racist identity and actively seek full participation and shared power in determining its mission, structure, constituency, policies, and practices.
Author and activist Blair Imani reminds us that “sometimes privilege looks like being able to ignore a crisis that others are dying from.” Despite our past anti-racist efforts and acknowledgment of our white privilege, we can no longer ignore the crisis that is killing our Black and Brown sisters and brothers. This is a time of racial reckoning unlike any before. When George Floyd was begging for his life, he wasn’t just calling for his mama; he was calling for each one of us.
Martin Luther said that “to love is not to wish one another well, but to carry one another’s burdens—that is, things that are grievous to us, and that we would not willingly bear. Therefore, Christians must have strong shoulders and mighty bones.”
My white sisters, if we are going to live out our mission and purpose as Women of the ELCA, we must be willing to carry the burdens of racism and white supremacy on our strong shoulders and in our mighty bones. We must be willing to work to overcome racism and end white supremacy.
It won’t be easy to dismantle the structural racism embedded within our institutions. Our government, educational systems and economy are all built on racist notions that run deep, going back 400 years to when enslaved Africans were first brought to our shores. But working together as women do, we will claim and practice an anti-racist identity.
Start by going to welca.org and clicking on “Ministry and Action.” Then go to the “Justice” page for resources, books and presentations. Join the Racial Justice Advocacy Network and participate in the network’s Facebook group. The Women of the ELCA purpose statement calls us to work for “healing and wholeness in the church, the society and the world.”
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.