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ELCA News

"I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3 NRSV).

Dear church,

Like many of you, I have been praying for the Reformed Church in America (RCA) as it met in General Synod, Oct. 14-19, in Tucson, Ariz. For nearly a quarter century, we have grown in full communion with the RCA, sharing in mutual ministry and mission. We have come to know each other through our common witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In recent years, we have accompanied the RCA as it has wrestled with differences in theology and practice with regard to human sexuality. After being postponed due to the pandemic, the final Vision 2020 Report was presented to the General Synod in Tucson. This report offered recommendations for the future of the denomination with regard to staying together, radical restructure and grace-filled separation.

The synod said yes to all three by affirming the central place of global mission in the RCA, forming a restructuring team, and adopting regulations to provide an unobstructed pathway for those local churches that will depart the denomination. On the whole, these actions reflect the RCA's commitment to walking together, respecting differences, and affirming common mission and ministry. Importantly, the spirit of the synod was conciliatory and hope-filled, as delegates shared their disagreements in the bond of peace. We give thanks to God that the RCA, and our full communion partnership, will continue. 

This is not the first time that we have accompanied an ecumenical partner in this way, nor will it be the last. We also have benefited greatly from the accompaniment of others as we traveled this same road. Our presence with our ecumenical partners is an opportunity to offer solidarity, to encourage unity, and to give witness to the good gifts from God received through the full inclusion of all people in the church and in ministry. We affirm that it is possible, by the grace of God, to be a church that makes an active choice to live with the disagreement among us, and "to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, pastoral care, and mutual respect" (Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, 2009). This is the same spirit in which we approach our ecumenical partnerships.

As the apostle Paul reminds us, we are to bear with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity that is already ours in Jesus Christ. We pray that God will continue to strengthen the bond of peace within the RCA and the body of Christ, and to reveal new ways for us to be in service to God's liberating love for all people and creation. This is a life worthy of our calling together.

In Christ,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


For more information, see General Synod 2021 News Summary | Reformed Church in America (rca.org)

 

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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 nearly 3.3 million members in more than 8,900 worshiping communities 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.

For information contact:
Jocelyn Fuller
Sr. Director, Strategic Communications
773-380-2547
Jocelyn.fuller@elca.org 

​CHICAGO (Oct. 11, 2021) – As the United States pauses to honor and celebrate the Indigenous people who first settled on the land thousands of years ago, the Evangelical Church in America (ELCA) has released "A Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to American Indian and Alaska Native People." The declaration is a direct result of the social policy resolution "Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery," which was passed by the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

In the declaration, the ELCA acknowledges the theological and Christian foundation of the Doctrine of Discovery, which has codified colonialism and religious intolerance as societal norms for more than 500 years.

"The Doctrine of Discovery created a theological framework that supported racism, colonialism, and the annihilation of Indigenous people," the declaration states. "Today it continues to support these evils and injustices found in our church, U.S. law, and legal interpretation. The Doctrine of Discovery has been pervasive throughout the world and has benefited the Church and ELCA Lutherans in every way."

Included in the statement is a confession to American Indian and Alaskan Native communities in the ELCA and in the United States. To those in the ELCA, the church declares, "We have devalued Indigenous religions and lifeways and have not challenged the invisibility of Indigenous people in American society." Among other things, it confesses to treating these communities as a minority group rather than as sovereign nations and failing to do more to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery after the formal repudiation was passed in 2016.

To American Indian and Alaska Native communities in the church and in the United States, the church confesses its role in diminishing the importance of the land and acknowledges the complicity of the ELCA and its predecessors in accepting the benefits of the land stolen through numerous colonial measures and broken treaties. It further confesses to its failures in combating white supremacy and in treating Native peoples as equals, listing the many ways in which the church needs to learn more about its harmful roles.

To the non-Indigenous communities of the ELCA, the church confesses that it has benefited from, and not acted against, the Doctrine of Discovery and has failed to proactively support the church's American Indian and Alaska Native Lutheran Association.

The declaration concludes with a pledge to all three groups — Indigenous ELCA communities, Indigenous communities in the U.S., and non-Indigenous ELCA communities. Each pledge focuses on doing more to understand the doctrine, the church's role in perpetuating it and how to partner with Native organizations to end the harmful effects of the doctrine and become stronger advocates for Indigenous communities throughout the U.S. The declaration ends with an understanding that accomplishing its goal to actively and fully repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery will take more than words; it will take tangible action to undo the damage created since the late-15th century.

To read the full text of "A Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to American Indian and Alaska Native People," click here.

 

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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 nearly 3.3 million members in more than 8,900 worshiping communities 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.

For information contact:
Jocelyn Fuller
Sr. Director, Strategic Communications
773-380-2547
Jocelyn.fuller@elca.org 

"When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien" (Leviticus 19:33).

In a matter of weeks, the number of migrants arriving at the Del Rio, Texas, sector of the U.S.-Mexico border has reached unforeseen levels. The majority are Haitians seeking a better life after having fled multiple crises in their native land. There are also Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan nationals. U.S. treatment of these Black migrants and others at Del Rio has been deeply problematic. As a matter of humane treatment, I urge that the administration vigorously pursue actions to grant them protection and ensure that responsible actors are held accountable through a serious investigation into allegations of abuse.

For many Haitians, Del Rio is only their latest destination—many have lived and traveled throughout Central and South America as far back as 2010. They have converged now at the international bridge between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, after sweeping pressures pushed them to make the harrowing migrant journey anew. Upon their arrival, they endured harsh conditions and even harsher treatment, including limited access to essentials such as food and shelter. Reports show that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responded by increasing personnel, closing the Del Rio Port of Entry and accelerating removals back to Haiti. This has been done utilizing a controversial policy, known as Title 42, that avoids due process. Some migrants, mostly families, have been allowed to pursue their asylum claims in the United States, but hundreds, including families with young children, have been expelled.

Forcibly returning Haitians disregards the human consequences of their return and the human rights of individuals and families. Haiti is contending with the aftermath of back-to-back crises: a 7.2 magnitude earthquake occurred on Aug. 14, Tropical Storm Grace made landfall soon afterward and multiple landslides have devastated a country already reeling from political and economic turmoil. Recognizing these pervasive issues, the secretary of DHS recently granted Haiti Temporary Protected Status (TPS), thus allowing certain Haitians present in the United States since at least July 29, 2021, to remain and work in the U.S. for a period of 18 months. This recognition conflicts with the sometimes-violent response we've seen over the past few days.

Our church teaches that, as a matter of dignity for all people, the U.S. has an international and moral responsibility to honor the human rights and dignity of migrants, and to not be silent in the face of racial injustice against people of African descent ("Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent," 2019). Migrants should have access to humanitarian protection, including asylum; this can be accomplished by applying the public health recommendations of experts, lifting Title 42 and seeking civil society partners for a compassionate whole-of-society, whole-of-government response. This rapid expulsion of Haitians, back to Haiti and to other countries, is not a responsible or humane migration-management strategy.

As Christians, some of us see our own stories reflected in the faces of these newcomers. Immigration has always been a contentious issue, but new challenges, such as climate change, call for renewed attention to just and humane migration policies. People must be able to migrate—to escape violence, reunite their families and seek work—in a way that is safe and acknowledges national borders and security. The ELCA recommits itself to seeking just, wise and compassionate immigration reform. Remembering the ELCA's "Churchwide Blueprint for Action on Central America and the Caribbean Concerns," we reaffirm our commitment to promote mutually supporting relationships with the peoples of this region and to work for justice and peace.

Our church has resources for this purpose, and I invite you to engage in deeper discernment on the plight of migrants by visiting elca.org/ammparo. There you can learn more about how the church accompanies migrant children and families across the Americas through a strategy that includes 54 synods and 202 welcoming and sanctuary congregations.

Together in solidarity,

Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA

"As Christ on the cross did not lose his dignity, but in fact revealed himself fully in vulnerability, every human who is being mistreated retains the image of God that confers dignity. A society should not deny a person's dignity for any reason."

—ELCA social message "Human Rights," p. 4


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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 nearly 3.3 million members in more than 8,900 worshiping communities 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.

For information contact:
Jayne Shimko
Director, Content Strategy
773-380-2675
Jayne.shimko@elca.org  

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