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 2017 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 inclusion for LGBTQ and differently-abled. We have provided resources regarding the Doctrine of Discovery and caring for our Native American neighbors and will continue that work in the coming year. The Hunger Task Force, Immigration Task Force, and Inclusiveness and Diversity Task Force are groups that come under the umbrella of our Committee.

In the election year, we shared resources form the ELCA Votes initiative. Tracey DePasquale moved from Associate Director to Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa), and is leading the search for a new Associate Director. Lutheran Day in Harrisburg is a valuable annual event organized by LAMPa each spring, and this Committee encourages attendance.

The Hunger Task Force was very active in 2016, lifting up the Always Being Made New Campaign’s focus on ELCA World Hunger. In February, there was an educational event held at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in Duquesne. At Synod Assembly, the Hustle for Hunger 5k and 1 mile walk was held to raise awareness and funds for ELCA World Hunger. And in October, we organized the Feed My Sheep event, with workshops and displays by several local organizations and congregations, and Mikka McCracken from ELCA World Hunger as keynote speaker.

The Immigration Task Force has been involved in advocating for just and welcoming immigration practices, and in sharing information on being a “Sanctuary” congregation.
A group of ministers has been meeting for discussion regarding issues of racism and sharing of resources, and will continue to meet and work on education.
We recently created a Facebook Page for our Committee: search SWPA Synod ELCA – Church in Society Committee and “Like” us! This is our method for sharing current articles, events, and other information.

I would like to thank my fellow Committee members for their hard work: Rev. Ed Sheehan, Rev. Linda Theophilus, Rev. Ross Carmichael, Diane Santoriello, and Kelly Spanninger.

Respectfully submitted,
Rev. Jocelyn Johnston

Committee Members

Chairperson: Pastor Jocelyn Johnston
Secretary:  Pastor Linda O. Theophilus
Synod Council Representative: Kelly Spanninger
Clergy:  Pastor Ross Carmichael
Laypersons:  Diane Santoriello
Staff:  The Rev. Peter D. Asplin, Assistant to the Bishop for Congregational Vitality