Bishop Eaton Calls ELCA to Repentance and Action on Racism

It has been a long season of disquiet in our country.
From Ferguson to Baltimore, simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this … the fatal shooting of nine
African Americans in a church is a stark, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism. The church was desecrated. The people of that congregation were desecrated. The aspiration voiced in the Pledge of Allegiance that we are “ one nation under God” was desecrated. Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as was the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor at Mother Emanuel. The suspected shooter is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own.
We might say that this was an isolated act by a deeply disturbed man. But we know that is not the whole truth. It is not an isolated event. And even if the shooter was unstable, the framework upon which he built his vision of race is not. Racism is a fact in American culture. Denial and avoidance of this fact are deadly. The Rev. Mr. Pinckney leaves a wife and children.
The other eight victims leave grieving families. The family of the suspected killer and two congregations are broken. When will this end?
The nine dead in Charleston are not the first innocent victims killed by violence. Our only hope rests in the innocent One, who was violently executed on Good Friday. Emmanuel, God with us, carried our grief and sorrow – the grief and sorrow of Mother Emanuel AME church –and he was wounded for our transgressions – the deadly sin of racism.
I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against
inequity. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for forgiveness, for courage.
Kyrie Eleison.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Recent Comments

  • 06.28.15

    By: Mike Goins

    Had a pastor share about Racism today (echoing what is taught about it in Seminary), and sharing the Denominational Bishop’s letter on the matter. I see issues not addressed in Seminary (or in her letter, for that matter): (1) it addresses (White People) treating minorities as inferior (I reject the term “people of color” as racist in nature, since it excludes White People), but the sermon overlooked entirely the destructive self-image of minorities, the poor, and the disadvantaged; (2) full-blown, the teaching put forward in Seminary is that all White People are racist — not some, but all — as all are beneficiaries of White Privilege. This teaching is (in my opinion) destructive, not constructive. While it can be a great “eye opener” to stop and consider what benefits you have by virtue of being White, that does not make you Racist. Holding White People today accountable for (pre-Civil War) slavery in America not constructive, either — it keeps us mired in the Past and blames people who weren’t even there. And, (3) the letter preys upon White guilt (“I’m White, and therefore must hate my brother/sister without even knowing it”). It is a denial of hope, of the ability of us as a People to change, or come together. It states that we cannot love (or even trust) one another because of our skin tone. Toxic teaching must end. Perpetrators of Hate Crimes must be held accountable. Those directly responsible for mentoring or encouraging the perpetrator must be held accountable as accessories: “directly” does NOT mean every White Person in America, or our Flag, or our Constitution, or Christianity, or our way of life for that matter. Race baiters will take advantage of every opportunity to turn us against one another, to separate and segregate White and Black. It takes more courage to love than to hate. It will take faith, hope, love, and strength to put down the hatred on all sides. Will we manage it? Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy).

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