ELCA to join AME Church Sept. 6 for prayer, commitment to end racism

8/25/2015 5:00:00 PM

            CHICAGO (ELCA) – In response to a statement and call to action from the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has pledged the 3.8 million-member ELCA to participate Sept. 6 in "Confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism Sunday."

            The AME Church, together with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, are calling "every church, temple, mosque and faith communion" to "confess and repent from the sin of racism" Sept. 6 during their respective worship. Faith leaders worldwide are being asked to preach about racism and engage as "people of faith to end racism."
            "We received the AME Bishops statement and call to action," wrote Eaton in a letter to AME Church leaders. "I pledge to you that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will participate, and I will invite our bishops, pastors, and leaders to reach out to ecumenical and inter-religious partners to encourage them to do so as well, and to consider possible ways of joining together," she wrote.
            ELCA worship resources for Sept. 6 are available at www.ELCA.org/resources/worship and resources from the AME at www.ame-church.com/liberty-and-justice-for-all. To encourage participation and continued conversation about racism, Eaton shared these resources in an Aug. 25 email to ELCA rostered leaders.
            "As churches, we must confront the sin of racism in our society and in our shared life together. As we look with you toward the Bicentennial of the AME Church, we renew our calling to speak and act against racism and injustice. This is our commitment, in partnership with you, with the ecumenical family, and with all others who seek to build the beloved community," wrote Eaton in her letter to AME Church leaders.
            In that letter, the ELCA presiding bishop also thanked AME Church leaders for their "gracious hospitality" at the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was among nine people killed June 17 at a historic African American church in Charleston, S.C. Local authorities called the killings racially motivated.
            "I was humbled by the way in which you received me and included me in the (funeral) procession," wrote Eaton, "I have experienced the powerful Christian witness that is the living legacy of the African Methodist Episcopal Church."
            In an interview with the ELCA, Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who serves as chair of the AME's Social Action Commission and presides over the AME Office of Ecumenical Affairs, said: "It is imperative that the faith community again be the conscience of the nation. The problem of race and racism is one in which this nation is in denial. And as a result, the nation is seeing unfortunate consequences. To overcome this denial, the faith community must move the nation to face reality. The tragedy in Charleston, S.C., serves as a painful reminder that hate and racism are still prevalent in the nation, and you cannot fix the problem unless you face it. This is what the faith community is called and seeks to do."
            "The AME, like many of the historical black church traditions, was birthed because of the divisions and sin of racism within the church," said Judith Roberts, program director for ELCA Racial Justice Ministries. "Black Americans were treated as less than and relegated to a second-class status within the dominant white church experience. The attitudes and actions within the church reflected the wider society," she said.
            "Bishop Eaton has called (the ELCA) to confront the many ways racism manifests within both church and society, in the ways culture, attitudes, actions, policies and powers continue to marginalize people and communities of color," said Roberts.
            In an effort to continue understanding the complexity and implications of racism, Eaton and William B. Horne II, a member of the ELCA Church Council from Clearwater, Fla., invited ELCA members to participate in a live webcast Aug. 6. A recording of the webcast along with a list of ELCA resources about this church's ongoing racial justice work is available at www.ELCA.org/webcast. Eaton's public statements are available at www.ELCA.org/Resources/Presiding-Bishop-Messages.
            "The act of repentance is a turning away from former actions that lead to death, division and destruction and called into a new relationship that breaths and gives life. I hope this call for action leads us to see the injustices, disadvantages and absence of relationships across race in both congregational life and society," said Roberts.
            "It is important not to confuse Christian unity with uniformity. Our diversity – whether theological, racial or otherwise – is a God-given gift," said Kathryn Lohre, assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop and executive for ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.
            "As we seek to accompany our sisters and brothers in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, especially in the wake of the tragedy at Mother Emanuel AME Church, we are called to first confess and repent for our complicity in racial injustice, and then to recommit ourselves to overcoming racism in church and society. We cannot underestimate the importance of journeying with our ecumenical and inter-religious partners as we seek to respond to this call," said Lohre.
            Lohre said the ELCA also has been invited to participate in the launch of the "Liberty and Justice for All" movement Sept. 1-2 in Washington, D.C. Information about the movement is available at www.ame-church.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Invitation-With-Liberty-and-Justice-For-All.pdf.
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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 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 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.

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Melissa Ramirez Cooper
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773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
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