Wednesday Words

September 4, 2019

Pastor Paul Cannon

ELCA Churchwide Assembly Reports

Pastor Cathy and Pr. Paul will be dedicating the next few weeks to inform you on some of the decisions made at the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.  To read previous Churchwide updates, click here

  • The assembly declared a declaration of apology to our siblings of African descent.
  • The assembly voted to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance, in honor and remembrance of the martyrdom of the Emanuel Nine.

On June 17th, 2015 a man walked into a prayer service at Emmanuel AME congregation in Charleston, SC with a loaded gun and proceeded to kill nine people at this historically black congregation. Over the past few decades, there have been many mass shootings in our country (too many to count), but this one was felt more deeply within the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), because the shooter was a former ELCA member. 

How could this happen?  A former acolyte at one of our churches, found himself so full of hatred and racism that he took the lives of nine people, gathered for prayer.  Where did we go wrong?

At churchwide, the assembly declared an apology to our siblings of African descent for the role it has played in the historic racism in our country, through its complicity and silence in racist ideas and structures. 

It’s not that the ELCA promotes racist ideologies, but that at times we have been too silent when our brothers and sisters suffer at the hands of those ideologies. Or when we have spoken out, that sometimes our actions haven’t matched our rhetoric.  As Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Perhaps the Emanuel nine wouldn’t have happened, if we as a church had proclaimed racism for what it is: sin.  Perhaps our silence has allowed other sins to persist.

Both the apology we made, and the commemoration of the AME 9, are mere words.  If those words don’t lead us to deeper action, then what good are they?  We are called as God’s people to do as Jesus would,

In the end, all fall short of the glory of God.  We all have a lot of work to do, and a lot of soul-searching to stem racism in our communities and in ourselves.  But with God’s grace, we know that all things are possible.