Editor’s Introduction

[1] Gender is at least one of the major theological, philosophical, and ethical issues of our age. On one hand, the issue’s complexity means that conversation and study is often difficult. Some congregations and individuals have simply chosen not to discuss questions that pertain to gender identity, expression, and sexuality out of fear that such discussion might lead to anger, pain, and division. On the other hand, the issue’s complexity is one that requires open, honest dialogue and study as we move forward culturally and medically with new definitions of terms and new understandings of ourselves. Such open, honest dialogue is absolutely necessary if we wish to offer hospitality and pastoral care to all our neighbors.


[2] This issue of JLE is dedicated to presenting readers some tools for study and dialogue on this complex topic. The hope being that the more we understand the stories of our neighbors and the issues from the theological perspectives garnered from the Lutheran tradition and Scriptures the more we can grow to deeper understanding and truer welcoming and loving of ourselves and our neighbors.


[3] In this issue, we have five essays. The first, written by Rev. Nicole Garcia, gives a first person narrative of a trans woman of color alongside of her theology and her call to readers to action in order to support our neighbors who are trans or non-binary.


[4] The second, written by Dr. Mary Lowe, gives a thorough account of a Lutheran understanding of vocation as it might apply to queer Christians. Importantly, relying on a Lutheran existentialist understanding of the self, Lowe articulately explains how this theology of vocation applies not only to specific individuals who might identify as LGBTIQ+ but broadly to all persons who see their beings as relational parts of an on-going creation guided by the Spirit. This is helpful whether or not they feel particularly constrained by rigid essentialist understandings of gender identity.


[5] The third essay, written by Dr. Christine Helmer, speaks specifically about the lived experiences of those academic scholars who feel consistently diminished in their work due to the conditions they suffer under patriarchy. She notes of women academics, “The disciplining of their minds begins when their gendered bodies are noticed.” Her paper, like Garcia’s includes personal narrative, theological perspective, and ideas for opportunities for more constructive action.


[6] Noting the difficulties of a dialogue that moves the church forward to more welcoming and constructive action while holding the participants in that dialogue with pastoral care, the fourth essay, by Dr. James Childs provides the history behind the Social Statement on Sexuality. The essay provides information on how this social statement and the relevant study guides were developed while offering hope for the possibility of continued study and discussion.


[7] Finally, Dr. Caryn Riswold’s essay begins a conversation about gender identity after the Supreme Court ruling to repeal the Roe decision. She notes how Roe affected the lives of women in the micro-generation Roe and calls readers to consider how the reversal of Roe will affect the opportunities and experiences of women.


[8] Please note that the February/March 2023 Issue of JLE will continue this discussion. We hope to attract a diversity of authors and opinions. If you would like to submit a paper for consideration in this issue, please submit an abstract by November 1, 2022.


[9] As your consider this call for papers and your own reactions to the SCOTUS decision, I offer you some important words from Dr. Mary J. Streufert, Director for ELCA Gender Justice and Women’s Empowerment, on the ELCA’s position from its Social Statement on Abortion. https://www.elca.org/faith/faith-and-society/social-statements/abortion

*   *   *   *

[10] “The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was ahead of its time in 1991 when it affirmed a social statement on abortion that holds a complex perspective. You will see that this church’s social teaching and policy on abortion does not take one exclusive position over another, either “pro” or “against” abortion itself. Instead, this church teaches a few important elements to notice in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, which had served to protect legal, safe, and accessible services to abortion.


[11] “ The social statement holds both the developing life and the pregnant person with esteem. Neither has a right exclusively over the other. To that end, the social statement makes clear that this church considers abortion an option of last resort. This church wants to see as few abortions as possible and encourages the use of contraceptives to manage family planning and supports adoption as an important option for persons with unintended pregnancies.


[12] “At the same time, the social statement makes clear that this church considers pregnant persons to have moral agency; they are the ones in relationship with others (partners, medical caregivers, family, etc.) to make the decision whether or not to have an abortion.


[13] “This church supports legal, safe, and accessible services to abortion, even while the social statement outlines the importance of abortion regulation. You are encouraged to read this social statement carefully for yourself to notice the complex approach of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which does not hold a purely “either/or” approach to abortion services.”


Mary J. Streufert, Ph.D.

Director for ELCA Gender Justice and Women’s Empowerment

Director for the ELCA Quality of Call for Women in Ministry Initiative

Jennifer Hockenbery

Jennifer Hockenbery serves as Editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics .  She is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Humanities at St Norbert College. She attends Grace Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.