"Everybody who sees you, Bishop Patricia, takes notice." These were the words that Bishop-elect [...]
We are living in a time of poignant waiting and watching. Recent events remind us that old ways are passing away and new times are beginning. Whether we cheer the changes that are unfolding or fear the consequences they may foreshadow, all of us are aware of the strains and tensions, the joys and yearnings that mark these days.
Whatever boxes we marked on our November 8th ballot, we awoke on November 9th to news that Donald Trump was our president-elect. Across the counties of this synod there were other elections of incumbents and newcomers to local, state and national office. As Christians, it is our practice to pray for our elected leaders and I trust that those prayers for God’s guidance began the following Sunday.
What we did not do on Election Day was choose different values to guide us as a synod. Let me state some of those unwavering commitments here. As part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America we continue to welcome LGBTQ folks to serve as rostered ministers and active participants in the life of our church. We pledge to work for the safety and wellbeing of immigrants – with and without documentation, remembering the time when many Lutherans were the new folks in town. We stand with our Muslim neighbors, being mindful of the current fears within that community. Our resolve to address racism within our churches and our communities remains as strong as ever. And without question, we respect women and girls as full members and leaders in church and in public life. As people of faith in this synod we are prepared to speak out for those who are most vulnerable in our midst. I will continue to do so as your bishop. I ask each of you to do the same.
From late summer on, members of our synod have been actively engaged in learning about and supporting those who stand in prayer with the American Indian community near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. The prayers and concern of this synod are also with those in law enforcement and property owners at this nexus of concerns about the rights of Native Americans to safeguard their sacred places, the due process of justice in complex environmental debates and the safety of all concerned.
As a synod we adopted a memorial addressing the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and its impact on the American Indian community and tribal lands last May. This memorial was then adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in August. We will dedicate time at our 2017 Synod Assembly to exploring in greater depth what this means for us as Lutherans today. I urge all congregations to seek out opportunities for learning, discussion and prayer this winter so that our failure to regard the full humanity and civil rights of the American Indian community in the past does not go unchecked today.
And then on November 16th, formal charges were brought against Officer Jeronimo Yanez of the St. Anthony police in the shooting death of Philando Castile this past July. Many have waited and watched, wondering if this would happen. Whatever verdict is reached in a subsequent trial, over these weeks we have learned that the experience of African Americans is not the same experience of those who are white. Addressing racism and racist practices is a matter of justice and a matter of faith in Jesus Christ.
This is a sober time for reflection about who we are as a nation and a church. It is a time to pray for God to guide us to live as neighbors with those with whom we disagree. It is a time for us to reach beyond our past answers and to engage people, whose lives seem so unlike our own. It is a time for us to discover new ways to build communities that are defined less by being with people just like ourselves and more as places of trust and work for the common good.
In ancient times, Advent was a season for repentance as well as joyful anticipation. I invite us as a synod to make this season one in which we pray and work not for the world as we like it to be but for the world as God calls it to be.
I am grateful for the steps – small and large – that many of you as individuals and congregations are taking to let a light of hope and reconciliation shine through you.
Yours in God’s service –
Bishop Patricia Lull