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Wednesday Words, Sept. 18, 2019

Wednesday Words

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

I have this very vivid memory from high school of walking along the lake with my good friend Scott Leannah. He was getting ready to attend Marquette in Milwaukee and after he graduated to attend seminary to become a priest. We were in high school youth group together at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Sheboygan, WI. On that particular day walking along the lake, we were pondering the questions, “Which do you think might happen first, priests getting married or women becoming priests?”

We came to the conclusion that we didn’t think either would happen in our lifetime. Scott and I lost contact with each after that, but 22 years later we met up again unexpectedly. I was on internship, practicing becoming a pastor and I came across Scott’s name on a preaching schedule at a nursing home nearby.

Scott was no longer a priest for the Roman Catholic Church, but a priest for the Episcopal Church. I gave him a call and met him for lunch where I discovered that Scott was married and had a daughter. He learned that I was studying to become a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). On that day, we smiled and had a different answer to our question from 22 years ago. The new answer was “Yes, priests can become married, and women can become priests, just not in the Roman Catholic Church.”

I am grateful for the pioneers in our church that have worked hard to pave the way for women like me to become pastors. At the Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, they celebrated the milestones of 50 years of women’s ordination and 40 years since the first woman of color was ordained. Our church continues to take seriously and challenge itself in being open to the many different people that God calls to our church and into ordained ministry.

My Uncle Ralph, who passed away a few years ago from cancer,  joined an ELCA church in Denver around the time I was studying to become a pastor. He was gay. When he came out after my grandparents died, he decided to look for a congregation that would accept him. He was not interested in a church that had all gay members. He wanted to be in a church that was full of all kinds of people: gay and straight, intergenerational, and racially diverse. He decided to try out an ELCA church. I will never forget the conversation I had with Ralph about the ELCA church that he had discovered. He was so excited. He went on and on about the message they taught about grace and he said, “I can be gay and work with youth and no one judges me. They see me as a valuable leader in the church!”

Ralph’s pastor also happened to be openly gay. At the Churchwide Assembly, they celebrated 10 years of full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ clergy. A statement that has profoundly impacted people in positive ways as we impower new leaders.

My hope and prayer is that our church continues to work at being a safe, comfortable, and welcome place for all people: white, black, and brown, conservative and liberal, women and men, straight and gay, married and single, and young and old. May we continue to develop a place where all people truly feel welcome at our church and that we provide open and affirming spaces for those who are called to lead. Amen.

Wednesday Words, Sept. 11, 2019

Wednesday Words

September 11, 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 reports, scroll through the previous two Wednesday Words.

· Approved a resolution declaring the ELCA is a “sanctuary church body,” encouraging participation in ELCA AMMPARO initiative for migrant children, discernment of care for our immigrant neighbors in our context, and the promise of forthcoming resources for this work.

· Approved memorials: affirming but not ‘endorsing’ the Poor People’s Campaign, care for immigrants and refugees, and other statements.

One of the least well understood actions of the 2019 Churchwide Assembly, was the vote for the ELCA to become a “sanctuary church body.” There has been much discussion and misinformation about what this means, and what it doesn’t mean for individuals, synods and congregations.

On the most fundamental level, becoming a sanctuary denomination means that the ELCA is publicly declaring that walking alongside immigrant and refugee children, and their families, is a matter of faith. However, the churchwide office has made clear that being a sanctuary denomination does NOT call for any person, congregation or synod to engage in any illegal actions.

Being a sanctuary denomination will look different in different contexts; each church can decide what that means for themselves. For some, it might mean discerning how to help immigrants in their own communities, and for others it might mean helping to fight the conditions in other countries that cause people to flee their homes. The ELCA is not mandating or directing individual churches to respond in specific ways.

As a matter of faith, we look to the Bible for our guidance on this issue. Stories of immigration in the Bible are particularly strong in Exodus, when God led his people out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land. It was not an easy journey for God’s people, and they were not always welcomed with open arms. The Bible encourages us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The action by the assembly was a call for prayerful attention and conversation to be given to this issue. And to that extent, the resolution has already served its purpose, though we continue in our discernment about what it might mean.

Wednesday Words, Sept. 3, 2019

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. 

Wednesday Words, Aug. 28, 2019

Wednesday Word

Pr. Cathy Daharsh

For the next six weeks, Pastor Paul and I will take time to share information in our Wednesday Words about important key decisions that were made at the 2019 Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly to further the mission and ministry of the church. The gathering consisted of over 900 voting members that included lay leaders, bishops, pastors, and deacons. Pastor Paul was one of the voting members that attended the assembly from our synod, Northern Illinois Synod. The theme for the gathering was “We are Church.” The assembly met August 5 – 10 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee.

Two important elections happened during the assembly for presiding bishop and secretary. Below you will read about who was elected and what their duties and responsibilities involve.

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton was reelected on the first ballot. Bishop Eaton is the fourth Presiding Bishop and the first woman to become Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. She is elected to another six-year term. Before her election to Presiding Bishop, she served as Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod.

The duties and responsibilities of the presiding bishop, as specified in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions are as follows:

·         The presiding bishop shall be an ordained minister of this church who, as its pastor, shall be a teacher of the faith of this church and shall provide leadership for the life and witness of this church.

·         Be the president and chief executive officer of the corporation, overseeing the work of the churchwide organization.

·         Be the chief ecumenical officer of this church and its primary representative in the national and international interchurch agencies in which this church holds membership.

·         Provide for the preparation of the agenda for the Churchwide Assembly, Church Council, Executive Committee, and Conference of Bishops, and preside at the Churchwide Assembly.

·         Provide leadership and care for the bishops of the synods.

·         Supervise the work of the other officers.

·         Provide for the preparation of the budget for the churchwide organization.

·         Nominate and direct the work of the executive for administration.

·         Coordinate and supervise the work of executives of churchwide units.

·         Appoint members of all churchwide committees for which election procedures are not provided.

·         Be responsible for the chaplaincies of this church in federal agencies, institutions, and armed forces and provide for the pastoral care of those called to these ministries.

·         Recommend legal counsel to the Church Council.

·         Serve as an advisory member, with voice but not vote, on all committees of this church and all boards or committees of churchwide units or designate a person to serve as the presiding bishop’s representative.

Deacon Sue Rothmeyer was elected to a six-year term as ELCA Secretary and she is the first woman to be elected to this position. Deacon Rothmeyer is currently serving as executive for administration with the Office of the Secretary. She was installed at the closing worship of the Churchwide Assembly on August 10 and will begin her term on November 1.

The duties and responsibilities of the Office of the Secretary as specified in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions are as follows:

·         The Office of the Secretary provides administrative services and tools for ELCA leaders who are serving this church in their congregations, synods and the churchwide organization, especially those given responsibility for governance of the ELCA.

·         The secretary interprets the constitutions and other governing documents of this church and is responsible for maintaining its rosters, the ELCA archives, and the minutes and records of certain meetings.

·         The Office of the Secretary receives the annual report of the congregations

·         The Office of the Secretary provides travel and physical arrangements for meetings of the churchwide organization

·         The Office of the Secretary compiles information for the online ELCA Directory

·         The Office of the Secretary staffs the nominating processes of this church and coordinates the use of legal counsel.

We hope that sharing information about important votes and actions at the chuchwide assembly will help you to become connected and engaged in new ways to our denomination, ELCA.

Wednesday Words, Aug. 21, 2019

Wednesday Words – Finger Pointing
August 21, 2019
Pastor Paul Cannon

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

-Isaiah 59:9b-10

This upcoming Confirmation year we will be teaching our 6th-8th grade students about Luther’s Small Catechism. Even though this book was originally published in 1529, I can’t help but think that maybe it was written for 2019, because when I read it, it still feels as relevant as ever – and in some ways maybe more so.

It’s Luther’s explanation of the 8th Commandment (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor …. in case you didn’t have it memorized!) that is ringing in my ears this morning. It says we are not to tell lies, betray, slander or destroy the reputations of our neighbors.

But more than that, Luther says we ought to “come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” I can’t say that I always do that. Come to think of it, I fail at this standard daily

When framed in that way, the 8th Commandment is pretty convicting isn’t it? We live in a finger-pointing society – a practice Isaiah cautions against – and it’s rare to hear an admission of guilt or honest self-reflection anymore. But as God’s people, we are always be called to point the finger inward, which is something we did at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee this year.

A little over two weeks ago, I found myself headed up to Milwaukee for the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly (think of it like the Bethany annual meeting, multiplied by a thousand). Together, the assembly conducted the business of the church: we re-elected the Bishop and elected a new secretary, we passed resolutions and memorials, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women and 10th year of the ordination of LGBTQI+ people.

After reflecting on the week, what I’m most proud of, is our church’s willingness to point the finger at itself, confess its own sins, and seek reconciliation moving forward. As a church, we issued an apology to people of African descent for the church’s role in slavery and racism. We created a commemoration day for the Emmanuel AME shootings four years ago, where an ELCA Lutheran killed nine members of a historically black church. We declared the church to be a sanctuary body, meaning that we will strive to find ways to walk with our immigrant neighbors. We issued statements on sexism and inter-religious commitment.

We didn’t just say we were against something and we didn’t point fingers (unless it was at ourselves). We didn’t blame a political party or ideology for the ills of society. We committed to taking action and doing something about it.

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