Statement from ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton on Standing Rock
When we come together for worship, we often begin with confession and forgiveness using these words: "We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves." Lutherans acknowledge that this is a broken world and, as part of it, even our best wisdom and efforts fall short. Very often we face issues of extraordinary complexity in which all sides make reasoned arguments for their reality. The current situation at Standing Rock in North Dakota is just such a case.
The route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) runs through contested land, which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sees as their homeland and sacred places, including burial grounds. Proponents of the DAPL sees it as a combination of public and private property. The pipeline will run under Lake Oahe, the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. What we see is the tension between two peoples trying to share one land. We can also see the tension between our dependence on fossil fuels and the commitment this church has made to care for creation.
This past August, the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery. In it we pledged "to practice accompaniment with Native peoples." The doctrine declared that indigenous land was "unoccupied" as long as Christians were not present. Land deemed "unoccupied" was, therefore, "discovered," as if it had been previously unknown to humankind. This doctrine was used as justification for European monarchies, and later the U.S. government, to take land from Native people. Many of us in this church who are immigrants have benefitted from the injustices done to the original inhabitants of this land where we now live and worship. Our church also includes American Indian and Alaskan Native people, who have been on the receiving end of the injustices done. When we repudiated the doctrine of discovery, we Lutherans pledged to do better together in the future than we have in the past.
Acknowledging the complexity of this issue and the limitations sin places on human decisions, I believe that we are called as a church to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: to stand with the Tribe as they seek justice, to encourage our congregations to pray for them and to offer material support, and to examine the racism inherent in our system that contributes to the current crisis. As promised in our resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery, we will listen to tribal leaders and respect their wisdom.
We will lend our presence when invited, our advocacy when requested, the resources of our people when asked, and our prayers, friendship and repentance at all times.
Your sister in Christ,
Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
[ACNS] Delegations of Shia and Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican / Episcopal leaders are gathering in the Iranian capital Tehran for the fourth Christian-Muslim Summit of Religious Leaders. The interfaith dialogue brings together international leaders to reflect and share ideas around the theme of Respect for human dignity: the foundation for peace and security. “Given the rise of violence throughout the world by those who claim to be acting in the name of religion, this theme is particularly important,” a member of the Anglican delegation said.
The summits began in 2007 when former Iranian President Muhammad Khatami spoke at Washington National Cathedral in the US. He called for a gathering of religious and cultural leaders from eastern and western perspectives. The first summit took place at Washington National Cathedral in 2010 and subsequent summits were held in Beirut in 2012 and in Rome in 2014.
At this final summit, delegates will create a call to action around the theme of respect for human dignity and will also consider how the rich dialogue that has been the centrepiece of these summits can be continued.
The Anglican / Episcopal delegation is led by the former Bishop of Washington, John Chane, who now serves as the senior advisor for interreligious dialogue for Washington National Cathedral. Other members of the delegation include the Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion; Archbishop Paul Kwong, the Primate of Hong Kong and chair of the Anglican Consultative Council; the Revd Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Centre of New York; and Ms Ruth Frey, the senior program officer for Justice and Reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York.
The Revd Canon John Peterson, director of the Centre for Global Justice and Reconciliation at Washington National Cathedral, serves as co-coordinator for the Christian-Muslim Summits.
This week’s summit, which began yesterday (Sunday) will conclude on Wednesday (9 November). Afterwards, delegates will visit the pilgrimage cities of Qom and Isfahan.
From Jim: Politics in the Sanctuary
The media loves conflict and the religious right has faithfully delivered it to them for many years. As we rapidly approach election day, the question of which religious right figures will stick with Donald Trump or reluctantly disavow him consumes whatever media attention is focused on the faith community.
For decades, some prominent religious right figures have been waging a "culture war" in our nation and have named it as such. They lament the demise of a Protestant white, male-dominated culture in which people of color, sexual minorities, and women were silenced and oppressed. Donald Trump is, for now, their standard bearer. Racism, misogyny, and hatred of immigrants and Muslims mark his campaign.
Many of the Christians who are part of the denominational traditions represented in the National Council of Churches, by contrast, are engaged in a biblically-based countercultural ministry. We are feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those who are in prison, and freeing the oppressed. We seek a society that welcomes the stranger, assists those in need, cares for the earth, and re-orients national priorities away from war, violence, and racism.
It is not particularly unusual for social concerns to be addressed in congregations associated with the NCC whether from the pulpit or in Sunday School or other forums. The political and theological views of our church members, while labeled by some as liberal, are actually very diverse, and that diversity is deeply valued.
Few, if any, NCC denominational leaders or clergy have publicly endorsed one of the presidential candidates. In fact, quite often clergy and laity are under the mistaken impression that it is illegal to invite candidates to speak in local churches. A large number of congregations avoid any talk of political matters. After all, there is usually plenty of politicking already taking place over matters such as the color of the new carpet in the sanctuary.
This presidential election season, the wildest in recent times, requires careful study. Rather than tell our members how to vote, the NCC and some of its member communions provide voting principles, and study guides to help them make informed decisions.
As a Christian, I want to believe the direction of our nation, with fits and starts, is toward one of more inclusiveness, acceptance, and justice. But what if I'm wrong? When the dominant culture or race becomes fearful, as is the case at this time, problems result. Perhaps we will choose a more negative direction. Britain has exited the European Union, Colombia has voted to reject a peace agreement, Israel has constructed a wall to keep out Palestinians, Hungary has built a fence to keep out immigrants. There's no certainty love, grace, and mercy will triumph.
I hope I'm mistaken in my hunch that most our congregations are avoiding discussion of the choice ahead of us next month in order to avoid conflict. I pray our clergy and laity are praying and calmly analyzing the issues and the candidates and preparing to vote so that they can answer this question: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God? (Micah 6:8, NRSV)"
Yours in Christ,
President and General Secretary
Words From the Bishop Jessica Crist - Deepen Faith and Witness: Social Statement on the Death Penalty
"Social statements of our church do not intend to end such diversity by 'binding' members to a particular position. Social statements acknowledge diversity and address members in their Christian freedom."
In 1991, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly approved a social statement on The Death Penalty, amidst significant discussion. In 1972 the US Supreme Court put a moratorium on capital punishment, saying that the state laws regarding the death penalty were inconsistent and potentially discriminatory. Over the years a number of states re-instated the death penalty with laws that were consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling. In 1991, 36 states had the death penalty. In 2016, 31 states have the death penalty in some form or other. Both Montana and Wyoming have the death penalty.
While acknowledging that other opinions exist among our people, the statement strongly opposes the death penalty. The statement lists 3 broad reasons that the church opposed the death penalty.
1 " It is because of this church's ministry with and to people affected by violent crime that we oppose the death penalty." In this section of the statement, it is pointed out that executions focus on the convicted felon, not on the families of victims or anyone else touched by the crime. "Capital punishment focuses on retribution, sometimes reflecting a spirit of vengeance. Executions do not restore broken society and can actually work to counter restoration." The statement goes on to suggest that the death penalty by its very nature perpetuates cycles of violence.
2 "It is because of this church's commitment to justice that we oppose the death penalty."Using language from a predecessor church body's statement, the statement calls for "an assault of the root causes of violent crime," (There is some internal inconsistency here, using violent language to oppose violence.) The statement notes that many nations across the globe have abolished capital punishment, and that we would do well to join them. The statement points out that innocent people have been executed and that the death penalty, once implemented, is irreversible. It also states that race, gender, mental capacity, age and affluence of the accused have a significant role in whether the death penalty is imposed.
3 "It is because of this church's concern regarding the actual use of the death penalty that we oppose its imposition." The statement says: " The practice of the death penalty undermines any possible moral message we might want to 'send.' It is not fair and fails to make society better or safer. The message conveyed by an execution, reflected in the attention it receives from the public, is one of brutality and violence."
The statement ends with some commitments of the ELCA: "As a community gathered in faith, as a community dispersed in daily life, as a community of moral deliberation, and as a church body organized for mission, this church directs its attention to violent crime and the people whose lives have been touched by it." The statement goes on to elaborate each part of that sentence, suggesting action for individuals, congregations and the wider church.
Since this statement was adopted in 1991, the church adopted another social statement on Criminal Justice. You can find all of the social statements at www.elca.org/socialstatements.
In recent years both the Wyoming Association of Churches and the Montana Association of Christians have worked for abolition of the death penalty in our respective states.
If you are interested in having further conversation about this statement on the death penalty, perhaps in preparation for an adult forum, youth conversation or council study, the following colleagues have offered to make themselves available for consultation:
Pastor Peter Erickson, Pastor of Our Savior's, Columbia Falls and former MAC President
Pastor Julie Long, Pastor of Our Savior's, Broadus and former Crime Lab employee
Pastor Rob Nedbalek, Pastor of Freedom in Christ at the Montana State Prison
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Bishop Crist, Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Words From the Bishop - Good is stronger than Evil, Love is Stronger than Hate.
Will the ELCA Bishops make a statement on the Orlando massacre? Yes. We already have. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre several years ago, the bishops adopted a statement abhorring violence. In the years since then we have experienced more and more mass shootings--in a theater, in a community center, in a church, on campuses. A year ago we watched with horror the race-related Mother Emmanuel shootings. And now Orlando, motivated by hatred of LGBTQ people. We are a society of laws, designed to protect people. We welcome diverse opinions. But we do not tolerate mass murder. As Christians we reject violence and hatred. Please read the words of the ELCA Bishops below:
A Pastoral Letter on Violence adopted by the ELCA
Conference of Bishops, March 4, 2013
"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
Jeremiah 31.15 and Matthew 2: 18
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
Every faithful caregiver who sits with victims of violence knows what we know - as God's
church, we are called to reduce violence and should, in most cases, restrain ourselves from using violence. Whether or not statistics show that overall violence has declined in recent years, every person wounded or killed is a precious child of God.
As bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we lament the tragedy of gun violence in our country. We are grieved by the way violence threatens and destroys life. We affirm the current soul searching and shared striving to find a way to a better future.
While the church grapples with this call to reduce violence and make our communities safer, we recognize that before God we are neither more righteous because we have guns nor are we more righteous when we favor significant restrictions. Brokenness and sin are not somehow outside of us. Even the best of us are capable of great evil. As people of God we begin by confessing our own brokenness - revealed in both our actions and our failure to act. We trust that God will set us free and renew us in our life's work to love our neighbors.
In this time of public attention to gun violence, local communities of faith have a unique opportunity to engage this work. As bishops, we were thankful to recognize the many resources our church has already developed (see below). We begin by listening: listening to God, to Scripture, and to each other. Providing a safe place for people to share their own stories, together we discern courses of action. Together we act. And together we return to listening - to assess the effectiveness of our efforts to reduce violence.
Letters & Publications from Faith Leaders Across the State & Region that coincide with MAC's Mission & Work.