“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?” —Jeremiah 8:22
Our hearts grieve for those who have been killed and our souls cry out against more lives lost to the hatred birthed by racism. As we mourn those lives lost as a result of the racially motivated killings in Buffalo, we ask God to ease the continued suffering and trauma of our Black siblings throughout the nation and in our church. We are one body in Christ, so when one part suffers, we all suffer.
We of the ELCA acknowledge our complicity in the ongoing cycle of violence that grows out of white supremacy. “Through colonization and slavery, the United States of America helped to create and embrace a system of valuing and devaluing people based on skin color and ethnic identity,” the National Council of Churches declared in 2020. “The name for this system is white supremacy.” As a predominantly white church, we benefit from this system, and we must double our efforts to dismantle it.
In 2019 the ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted the social policy resolution “Condemnation of White Supremacy and Racist Rhetoric.” Through this action we committed to pushing back and speaking out against racist ideas that divide God’s children and perpetuate white supremacy in our church and society. At the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Martin Luther reminded us that “a theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.” Calling a thing what it actually is can be a first step toward healing the wounds of God’s people, but not the last. We must take real and lasting action now—through education, relationship-building with Historic Black Churches, ongoing anti-racism education, advocacy, and self-reflection. Churches have a foundational role in eradicating racism and white supremacy in society.
The ELCA’s European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice (a network of white leaders committed to anti-racism in our church) calls upon all ELCA members, especially white congregations and leaders, to join their communities and other congregations in prayer, study and actions utilizing many churchwide and ecumenical resources. The association will host a drop-in Zoom call on Tuesday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. Advance registration is required at bit.ly/DropInGathering.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.3 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.