Church In Society

Areas of Responsibility

Listening to and speaking to society on behalf of the synod
Monitoring of the Church's social statements
Peace, justice, hunger,and unemployment concerns, both domestic and global
Social ministry advocacy, mainly with agencies and institutions
Inclusiveness and diversity
Appalachian ministries and Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania

Advocacy Update

For up-to-date ELCA Advocacy Alerts, Resources, and the "Advocacy Blog," visit:

"Doctrine of Discovery"

What is the "Doctrine of Discovery"?  From the attached materials, presented during a workshop at the 2017 Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod Assembly, the Doctrine of Discovery is: "A philosophical and legal framework first dating from the 15th century by which governments of nominally Christian nations sought to legitimize the invasion and domination of Indigenous People and seizure of their lands, codified through Papal Bulls, royal charters, and even U.S. Supreme Court cases."  

For copies of the PowerPoint presentation about repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery that was presented during the synod assembly workshop, and/or a Word document containing the same information, see below.

"Doctrine of Discovery" PowerPoint "Doctrine of Discovery" PowerPoint (1876 KB)

"Doctrine of Discovery" Word document "Doctrine of Discovery" Word document (79 KB)

"Walk to Wittenberg" materials and information:

What is "Walk to Wittenberg"?  Congregations will sponsor teams that will together over the course of this year walk 4,203 miles (the distance from Pittsburgh to Wittenberg).  Devotions, FAQs, and other helpful materials are available for download, below:

Walk to Wittenberg Devotions June 2018 Walk to Wittenberg Devotions June 2018 (15 KB)

Walk to Wittenberg Devotions May 2018 Walk to Wittenberg Devotions May 2018 (132 KB)


W2W FAQ W2W FAQ (1574 KB)

W2W Personal Log W2W Personal Log (1551 KB)

W2W Pledge Sheet W2W Pledge Sheet (1537 KB)

Also, see the ELCA's "Team ELCA" Walk to Wittenberg fundraising page for resources and information on starting your own team!

Report to the 2018 Synod Assembly

The Church in Society Committee is concerned with the Church’s response to issues in our world, such as hunger and poverty, political engagement and advocacy, care of creation, immigration and refugees, race and diversity, and LGBTQ and differently-abled inclusion. The Hunger Task Force, Immigration Task Force, and Inclusiveness and Diversity Task Force are groups that come under the umbrella of our committee. 

At the 2017 Synod Assembly, we provided a workshop regarding the Doctrine of Discovery and caring for our Native American neighbors. Information from this presentation can be found on the SWPA Synod website.

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) hired Lynn Fry as their new Associate Director in 2017. Lutheran Day in Harrisburg is a valuable annual event organized by LAMPa each spring, and this committee encourages attendance. 

The Hunger Task Force kicked off the Walk to Wittenberg initiative at the 2017 Synod Assembly, and this effort will continue until the 2018 Synod Assembly.
The Immigration Task Force continues to be involved in advocating for just and welcoming immigration practices, and in sharing information on being a “Sanctuary” congregation. 
The local chapter of Reconciling Works continues to be involved in the annual Pride Fest in Pittsburgh, and in offering opportunities for education and engagement.
We continue to share information on the Facebook page for our committee: search SWPA Synod ELCA – Church in Society Committee and “Like” us! Information can also be found on the SWPA Synod website, under the committee heading.

I would like to thank my fellow committee members and resource persons for their hard work: Rev. Peter Asplin, Rev. Ross Carmichael, Bob Errett, Janet Flecken, Linda Neumann, Rev. Sarah Rossing, Diane Santoriello, Kelly Spanninger, Rev. Linda Theophilus, and Kathie Westman.

Respectfully submitted,
Rev. Jocelyn Johnston

Committee Members

Chairperson: Pastor Sarah Rossing
Secretary:  (vacancy)
Synod Council Representative: Pastor Ross Carmichael
Clergy:  Pastor Ryan Pusch
Laypersons:  Robert Errett; Linda Neumann; Kelly Spanninger; Kathie Westman

Resource Person:  Diane Santoriello

Staff:  The Rev. Peter D. Asplin, Assistant to the Bishop