ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/ELCA leaders welcome renewal of diplomatic relations between U.S., Cubahttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7714http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7714<div class="ExternalClassB260F79CC6F440B6A5B185D20E87313F"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">&#160;&#160;</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">&#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160;&#160;CHICAGO (ELCA) – The White House announcement that the United States will renew diplomatic relations with Cuba, as well as take steps toward the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, came as welcome news for some members and leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).</span></p><p> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; A Dec. 18, 2014, statement from the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission, said the announcement may allow for &quot;the reunification of families and for the two nations. For more than 25 years our church has supported steps such as these toward normalization of relations with Cuba and urged our members to support interdependent efforts and relationships among the churches and peoples in the Caribbean region.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;In that spirit,&quot; Malpica Padilla wrote, &quot;the ELCA has had ongoing contacts with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Lutheran Confession in Cuba, the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, and the Ecumenical Council of Cuba to promote dialogue and exchange with the churches in Cuba, as well as provide humanitarian assistance.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Malpica Padilla noted that earlier this year ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton joined 15 other faith leaders in a letter to President Obama that urged him to open a high-level dialogue between the United States and Cuba, permit people-to-people travel more generally, remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and provide opportunities for U.S. citizens to support emerging small businesses and cooperatives in Cuba.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The full text of the statement is available at <a href="http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Charting_A_Course_For_Cuba_121814.pdf">http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Charting_A_Course_For_Cuba_121814.pdf</a>.<br> - - -<br> <strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America</strong>&#58;<br> 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 &quot;God's work. Our hands,&quot; 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.</p><p>For information contact&#58;<br> Melissa Ramirez Cooper, Manager, Public Relations<br> 773-380-2956 or email <a href="mailto&#58;Melissa.RamirezCooper@elca.org">Melissa.RamirezCooper@elca.org</a><br> ELCA News&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">www.ELCA.org/news</a><br> Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a><br> Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">www.livinglutheran.com</a></p></div>12/18/2014ELCA offers prayers for victims of Pennsylvania shootingshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7713http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7713<div class="ExternalClassED03A8B91D64481A992AEDE4BA820781"><p>​&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Rev. Claire Burkat, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, offered a pastoral message in response to the Dec. 15 shootings that left six people dead and one person severely injured. The suspected gunman was found dead Dec. 16.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “Like you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic series of murders that transpired across Montgomery County yesterday. A family has suffered unspeakable loss, and that loss ripples through the relatives, friends and neighbors who are grieving,” said Burkat in her statement.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “Sadly we see stories like this play out in our media on a regular basis. But it is different when violence strikes close to home,” the statement continued. “It brings up a deeper fear, but it also allows us to respond in compassion and prayer to those near us who have been devastated by tragedy. I urge you, in your personal devotions and in your congregation's worship, to hold all who have been affected by these tragedies in God's mercy and compassion.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The Rev. Thomas E. Kadel, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Kulpsville, Pa., organized a prayer vigil for members of the community who needed a place “for prayer and reflection.” Many of those who attended the service lived in the apartment building where one of the victims also lived. Kadel said the vigil was a “ministry of presence rather than a ministry of words.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “In communities such as these people are, sadly, growing accustomed to reading about gun violence but are surprised and dazed when that violence comes close to home,” said Kadel, who also serves as a disaster chaplain through Lutheran Disaster Response in eastern Pennsylvania.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “We all carry deep within us what has been called a sacred story – an understanding of how life operates and how we operate within it,” said Kadel. “That sacred story is largely unconscious to us. However, when unexpected tragedy strikes, that sacred story may be damaged or worse. Immediately after a tragedy, it is important for people to hear their worries and confusions and those of others, and with helpful guidance, can begin to forge that new story. All of this, of course, for us Christians has deep faith implications and can be cast in images and language that draw directly from our faith.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Phelps Ollikainen, executive director for Lutheran Congregational Services, a ministry of Liberty Lutheran in Allentown, Pa., said her role during these situations is to make sure churches are responding to the needs of the community. The ministry is an affiliate of Lutheran Disaster Response.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “In the end, we hope this starts a conversation about who we are as a community and how we can help each other,” said Ollikainen.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “Many will ask, ‘Where was God?’ said Burkat in her statement. “The promise of the incarnation of Christ, which we celebrate next week, is that God is right here with us in the midst of tragedy and suffering of all kinds. And we know that God works through us, and our concern and compassion for those who suffer in any way. As our region continues to comprehend and process these horrific events, I call each of us to prayer and to reach out, where we can, to comfort the grieving and frightened and provide safe spaces for people to try to make sense of these tragedies.”</p><p>---<br><strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America&#58;</strong><br>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.<br>For information contact&#58;<br>Candice Hill Buchbinder<br><span class="baec5a81-e4d6-4674-97f3-e9220f0136c1" style="white-space&#58;nowrap;">773-380-2877<a title="Call&#58; 773-380-2877" href="#" style="margin&#58;0px;border&#58;currentcolor;left&#58;0px;top&#58;0px;width&#58;16px;height&#58;16px;right&#58;0px;bottom&#58;0px;overflow&#58;hidden;vertical-align&#58;middle;float&#58;none;display&#58;inline;white-space&#58;nowrap;position&#58;static !important;"></a></span> or <a href="mailto&#58;Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org">Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org</a><br><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">http&#58;//www.ELCA.org/news</a> <br>Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a> <br>Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com</a></p></div>12/16/2014John I. William Jr. to become president of ELCA’s Muhlenberg Collegehttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7712http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7712<div class="ExternalClassB488B7F9FD6546F191D34FFE02F91E26"><p> <span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">&#160;</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;"> &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160;&#160;CHICAGO (ELCA) – John I. Williams Jr. will become the 12th president of Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., effective July 1, 2015. Muhlenberg is one of 26 colleges and universities of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).</span></p><p> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Muhlenberg's Board of Trustees, advised by a search committee, voted unanimously to appoint Williams at the conclusion of a national search that began in February 2014. Randy Helm will conclude his 12-year tenure as president of the college June 30, 2015.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Williams is the first African American ELCA college and university president, according to the Rev. Mark N. Wilhelm, director for schools, colleges and universities, ELCA Congregational and Synodical Mission. &quot;I am delighted to welcome John Williams into our ELCA higher education community, and I look forward to working with him to continue and enhance the mission of Muhlenberg College,&quot; he said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In a statement to the search committee, Williams wrote&#58; &quot;I am drawn to the opportunity to lead Muhlenberg first by my deep passion for the liberal arts, the performing arts, pre-professional programs and the power of transformational learning more broadly.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;Alumni of liberal arts colleges number disproportionately among the nation and the world's leaders. The quality of mind nurtured at Muhlenberg and other fine, liberal arts colleges – promoting close collaboration between students and faculty in a residential setting – is more likely to confront future challenges in a nuanced and conceptually-integrated manner that will lead to wiser decisions. Our nation and our world have never needed graduates of liberal arts colleges more than now,&quot; he wrote.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In 1975, Williams earned a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude from Amherst College in Amherst, Mass. In 1979, he earned a law degree at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., and master's degree in business administration at Harvard Business School.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Williams joined Bain and Company in Boston, and he was the first person of color hired by the firm. Five years later, Williams left Bain to co-launch Softbridge Microsystems. He also served as vice president of strategic planning at American Express in New York, where he led the U.S. Platinum Card business and the U.S. Consumer Travel Network.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In 1996, Williams left American Express to become the chief executive officer of Biztravel.com, and since 2000, he has led a number of entrepreneurial ventures and has engaged in strategy consulting in non profit and higher education sectors. He led the consulting unit of Eduventures and served as a partner in the higher education practice at The Bridgespan Group. During this time, Williams worked with a number of colleges, universities and other educational institutions. He also served for the past four years as an expert-in-residence at Harvard's Innovation Lab.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Williams and his wife, Diane Pierce-Williams, have three adult children and one grandchild. Diane is a former member of the faculty of the Loyola University New Orleans' College of Law and a former trustee of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., and Goucher College in Towson, Md.<br> - - -<br> <strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America</strong>&#58;<br> 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 &quot;God's work. Our hands,&quot; 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.</p><p>For information contact&#58;<br>​Melissa Ramirez Cooper, Manager, Public Relations<br> 773-380-2956 or <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/tools/secure_emailer?a=TWVsaXNzYS5SYW1pcmV6Q29vcGVyQGVsY2Eub3Jn&amp;b=TmV3cw==&amp;subject=News&amp;body="> email </a><br> ELCA News&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">www.ELCA.org/news</a><br> Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a><br> Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">www.livinglutheran.com</a> <br> </p></div>12/08/2014ELCA presiding bishop delivers video message on racial justice http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7711http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7711<div class="ExternalClass698510C2F20240AF9E6C4E2F46136782"><p>​&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; CHICAGO (ELCA) – In a Dec. 5 video message on racial justice, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton said, “Our nation and our church have been and remain deeply besieged by racism. Following the decisions by grand juries in Ferguson and New York, it has become clear that we have different experiences of life in this country. We continue to struggle. We continue to struggle in our conversation about race in our congregations, communities and places of business, even at our kitchen table.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Eaton’s video message is available at <span style="color&#58;black;font-family&#58;&quot;tahoma&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;font-size&#58;10pt;"><a href="http&#58;//bit.ly/1rXtlN1"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">http&#58;//bit.ly/1rXtlN1</span></a>. </span>&#160;<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Also today, staff of the ELCA churchwide organization here gathered for a peaceful demonstration, prayer and conversation.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “We gathered in response to feelings of anger and frustration regarding the deaths of Black men and women and children in our communities of color and the sin that is racial injustice,” said Natalie Young, ELCA Youth Gathering administrative assistant. “We wanted to remember those lives that were lost, and we want to begin the conversations around what we as individuals and as a church and as a community can do to stop racial injustice.” <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Young, who helped organize the event, said that after a moment of prayer, a group of staff members walked outside together, and “We laid down for several moments. We read aloud the names of some men, women and children that have died at the hands of not only police but neighbors (and others) for which their only crime was being a person of color.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “We gathered here today (representing) a church that has been called into the world together, committed to making the world a more just and peaceful place to live,” said Dr. Ulysses Burley, ELCA HIV and AIDS strategy coordinator. “And because we are a faith of action, we act by protesting in solidarity, standing with those who have died at the hands of injustice that is sweeping this country.” <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Judith Roberts, ELCA program director for racial justice ministries, emphasized the importance for the church to have “difficult conversations” around issues such as racial justice.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “The ELCA social statement, ‘The Church and Criminal Justice&#58; Hearing the Cries,’ is relevant now more than ever. As a church moved by the cries of racial injustice – we are called to respond,” she said. “The decisions in both Ferguson and Staten Island have placed racism at the forefront of the evening news once again. We must have the difficult conversations that lead to systemic change. Today colleagues took visible public action followed by conversations that led us to think about what we can do in our daily lives within our own communities.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The ELCA's social statement “Freed in Christ&#58; Race, Ethnicity, and Culture,” is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Race-Ethnicity-and-Culture">www.ELCA.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Race-Ethnicity-and-Culture</a>.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The ELCA’s social statement “The Church and Criminal Justice&#58; Hearing the Cries,” is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Criminal-Justice">www.ELCA.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Criminal-Justice</a>.<br>---<br><strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America&#58;</strong><br>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.</p><p>For information contact&#58;<br>Candice Hill Buchbinder<br><span class="baec5a81-e4d6-4674-97f3-e9220f0136c1" style="white-space&#58;nowrap;">773-380-2877<a title="Call&#58; 773-380-2877" href="#" style="margin&#58;0px;border&#58;currentcolor;left&#58;0px;top&#58;0px;width&#58;16px;height&#58;16px;right&#58;0px;bottom&#58;0px;overflow&#58;hidden;vertical-align&#58;middle;float&#58;none;display&#58;inline;white-space&#58;nowrap;position&#58;static !important;"></a></span> or <a href="mailto&#58;Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org">Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org</a><br><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">http&#58;//www.ELCA.org/news</a> <br>Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a> <br>Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com</a></p><p>&#160;<br></p><p>&#160;<br></p></div>12/05/2014ELCA and The Episcopal Church commit to ending AIDS pandemichttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7710http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7710<div class="ExternalClass380F69F8E3764CF8807762655B8354E1"><p>​&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; CHICAGO (ELCA) – The presiding bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church commemorate World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, “as a time to remember those whose lives were forever changed because of HIV and AIDS.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In a joint statement, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the ELCA, and the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, said the observance also presents “an opportunity to recommit ourselves to building God’s Kingdom by working to bring the AIDS pandemic to an end.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “This year, World AIDS Day falls on the second day of Advent, a time of hope and anticipation of the new life Jesus’ birth brings. As does Advent, World AIDS Day invites us to live with the joy that is to come by continuing to lift up the vision of a new life free of HIV and AIDS,” they wrote.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In their statement, the leaders emphasized the churches’ continued commitment to addressing the root causes that contribute to the spread of HIV. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “Poverty and marginalization of vulnerable and key populations (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, sex workers, people who inject drugs, prisoners, migrants, women and girls) are major contributors to the spread of HIV,” said the statement.&#160;&#160;&#160; “Infection rates within these populations are disproportionately high, and yet few have access to life-saving treatment.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;Ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to prevention, care and treatment services must continue to be the focus of our HIV and AIDS ministries both here at home and abroad,” the statement continued. “We encourage Lutherans and Episcopalians everywhere to support efforts by our governments, churches and other partners to provide resources towards treatment, care and prevention services.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “World AIDS Day is about getting to zero,” said Dr. Ulysses Burley, ELCA HIV and AIDs strategy coordinator. “Zero new HIV infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination. We have more knowledge than ever to achieve zero new HIV infections and zero deaths from AIDS-related illness, but we have yet to adequately address the issue of discrimination.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “The church was built upon the greatest story ever written about zero discrimination – the gospel,” said Burley, who is also a member of the steering committee for <em>Always Being Made New&#58; The Campaign for the ELCA.</em> “It's in the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we can rewrite stories of stigmatization to stories of salvation, affirming that all were created in the image of God, and all have access to God's amazing grace, even people infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS. The statistics have been shared; now it's time to share the stories.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The joint statement from the ELCA and The Episcopal Church is available at <a href="http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/World_AIDS_Day_2014.pdf">http&#58;//download.ELCA.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/World_AIDS_Day_2014.pdf</a>.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Information on the ELCA’s strategy for HIV and AIDS is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/HIV-AIDS-Ministry">www.ELCA.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/HIV-AIDS-Ministry</a>.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The ELCA's social message on AIDS, &quot;AIDS and the Church's Ministry of Caring,&quot; is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/aids"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">www.ELCA.org/aids</span></a>.<br>---<br><strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America&#58;</strong><br>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.<br>For information contact&#58;<br>Candice Hill Buchbinder<br><span class="baec5a81-e4d6-4674-97f3-e9220f0136c1" style="white-space&#58;nowrap;">773-380-2877<a title="Call&#58; 773-380-2877" href="#" style="margin&#58;0px;border&#58;currentcolor;left&#58;0px;top&#58;0px;width&#58;16px;height&#58;16px;right&#58;0px;bottom&#58;0px;overflow&#58;hidden;vertical-align&#58;middle;float&#58;none;display&#58;inline;white-space&#58;nowrap;position&#58;static !important;"></a></span> or <a href="mailto&#58;Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org">Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org</a><br><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">http&#58;//www.ELCA.org/news</a> <br>Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a> <br>Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com</a></p></div>12/01/2014ELCA presiding bishop offers prayer, hope in wake of Ferguson decisionhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7709http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7709<div class="ExternalClassF54F2F26F00345F5B968B35674EFB948"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">&#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; CHICAGO (ELCA) – In response to the St. Louis County grand jury decision Nov. 24 not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), offered a word of prayer and hope.</span></p><p> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;As a nation, we are struggling with and divided by the decision. It has affected so many of us in so many different ways. We want the assurance that all of this means something. We want to know that someone cares. Has not God created all of us to have inherent dignity, value and worth?&quot; she wrote in a pastoral statement to the 3.8 million-member ELCA.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;Despite the anger, violence and injustice connected with this sad and horrible tragedy, we should not abandon our hope or our neighbors. Let's join Michael Brown's father and call for peace. The reconciliation we have with God in Christ leads us to our neighbors with the hope that we can engage one another in a common cause.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;We come together at the cross. It is our only hope. And, resting in the conviction that we are redeemed, we can begin the hard work of confronting the reality of systemic racism in our country. Because of the cross, we have peace; we have hope; we are loved. I join with you in prayer for the Brown family, Officer Wilson and his family, the prosecutor and his family, the grand jurors and their families, the community of Ferguson and all who work for justice and peace,&quot; Eaton said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; According to Judith Roberts, ELCA director for racial justice ministries, &quot;pursuing racial justice must be on-going deliberate work that changes policies and practices across all sectors of society. If we truly desire a just society, we must ensure every community has access to quality education, affordable homes, safe jobs, fair living wages and accountability within the criminal justice system.&quot; <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;When attitudes persist that some communities are less desirable, when the practice of racial profiling is the norm, implicit bias prevalent, a pervasive community distrust of law enforcement exist – there exists only frustration for the many voices that still feel unheard.&#160; There are actions we can take today to call for reform both at the state and federal level,&quot; said Roberts.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;ELCA members are encouraged to support long-standing civil rights organizations that fight to end racism and ensure justice for all and advocate for and support legislation that would end racial profiling,&quot; said Roberts. &quot;As a church of moral discernment, I would also lift up what we have said as a church, particularly in the ELCA social statement, 'The Church and Criminal Justice&#58; Hearing the Cries,'&quot; she said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The Rev. Roger Gustafson, bishop of the ELCA Central States Synod, based in Kansas City, Mo., said that the announcement of the grand jury &quot;has angered some and pleased others, assured some of 'the system's' validity, and convinced others of 'the system's' corruption.&#160; People have taken to the streets – some to express frustration at this particular decision, others to pursue their own agendas – but none of those who have engaged in violence has honored Michael Brown or respected the wishes of his parents, who have called for calm and the peaceful pursuit of justice.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;During the three months of deliberation by the grand jury as to whether white police officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the death of black citizen Michael Brown, the emotions and reactions have flowed. Underneath the surface responses, however, people who are guided by the Gospel of Jesus Christ might suspect that deeper rhythms are at work,&quot; Gustafson wrote.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In a reflection, the Rev. Stephen Bouman, executive director of ELCA Congregational and Synodical Mission, expressed his sadness, particularly in the death of Michael Brown. &quot;His family is grieving. The death of young Black males by police still happens too often in our communities. I am sad that a rite of passage in young Black lives is to learn survival skills as they learn how to negotiate being out and about in the world and encounters with law enforcement,&quot; he said. &quot;My deepest sadness is for Michael's parents and family. May their child rest in the arms of our Good Shepherd.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The full text of the presiding bishop's message is available at <a href="http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Pastoral_Word_on_Ferguson.pdf">http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Pastoral_Word_on_Ferguson.pdf</a>; the ELCA's social statement, &quot;Freed in Christ&#58; Race, Ethnicity, and Culture&quot; at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Race-Ethnicity-and-Culture">http&#58;//www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Race-Ethnicity-and-Culture</a> and the social statement, &quot;The Church and Criminal Justice&#58; Hearing the Cries&quot; at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Criminal-Justice#sthash.TyDhiqLD.dpuf">http&#58;//www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Criminal-Justice#sthash.TyDhiqLD.dpuf</a>. The National Council of Churches of Christ statement regarding the grand jury's decision is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2014-11fergusonnoindictment.php">http&#58;//www.nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2014-11fergusonnoindictment.php</a>.<br> - - -<br> <strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America</strong>&#58;<br> 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 &quot;God's work. Our hands,&quot; 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.</p><p> For information contact&#58;<br> Melissa Ramirez Cooper, Manager, Public Relations<br> 773-380-2956 or <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/tools/secure_emailer?a=TWVsaXNzYS5SYW1pcmV6Q29vcGVyQGVsY2Eub3Jn&amp;b=TmV3cw==&amp;subject=News&amp;body="> email </a><br> ELCA News&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">www.ELCA.org/news</a><br> Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a><br> Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">www.livinglutheran.com</a><br>​</p></div>11/25/2014