ELCA News Bloghttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/ELCA, others decry 'divisive rhetoric' by presidential candidatesELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/96http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/96<div class="ExternalClassA01D506D2EF34B3F94BDE4D103FA538F"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">I</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">n a Sept. 29 letter to the chairs of the Republican and Democratic national committees, more than 45 religious, interfaith, community and advocacy groups and organizations expressed concern regarding the &quot;divisive rhetoric&quot; being used by some candidates campaigning for the U.S. presidency. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is among the signers.</span></p><p>The groups wrote that, while there are candidates who recognize that &quot;we are stronger together&quot; inspiring &quot;Americans to join together to move our nation forward,&quot; there are candidates &quot;who seek to divide us.&quot; The letter noted the &quot;anti-Muslim rhetoric&quot; in the past week from several presidential candidates.</p><p>&quot;This rhetoric is not just ugly, but it is also dangerous, for our country's future as it almost always is followed by an uptick in hate crimes and violence. We also see these statements as a harbinger of what may be; increasing attacks on communities based on faith, ethnicity, or race in order to achieve political gain,&quot; they wrote.</p><p>In their letter, the groups thanked members of each political party who have spoken out against anti-Muslim rhretoric, &quot;but more needs to be done. We ask you to categorically reject this type of bigotry and state on the record that it is incompatible with this country's founding principles. Further, we ask you to speak out publically against those in your parties who promote anti-Muslim bigotry or any other rhetoric that seeks to divide Americans based on how we look or how we pray.&quot;</p><p>Muslim Advocates initiated the letter and partnered with the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign&#58; Standing with American Muslims, Upholding American Values for support. The ELCA is a founding member of the campaign. The letter is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.shouldertoshouldercampaign.org/2015/09/30/shoulder-to-shoulder-joins-group-of-47-organizations-calling-for-political-party-accountability-on-anti-muslim-rhetoric">http&#58;//www.shouldertoshouldercampaign.org/2015/09/30/shoulder-to-shoulder-joins-group-of-47-organizations-calling-for-political-party-accountability-on-anti-muslim-rhetoric</a>.</p></div>10/01/2015ELCA congregation to hold vigil in Roseburg, Ore.ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/97http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/97<div class="ExternalClass8FDCDDCE995F4331928E74493A3C7704"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">F</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">aith Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Roseburg, Ore., will hold vigil Oct. 1 at 7&#58;00 p.m. (Pacific Time) following a shooting at Umpqua Community College there. A gunman opened fire on campus, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 20 others.</span></p><p>&quot;I have not heard from any students – the names of victims have not been released. We have one teacher at the school who is a member of Faith Lutheran, and she is OK,&quot; said the Rev. Jane C. Baker, pastor of the congregation.</p><p>&quot;Roseburg is a small community of 21,000 people. We're not near any major city, and there's not another ELCA congregation within 70 miles from here,&quot; said Baker. &quot;But we have a presence here.&quot;</p><p>Baker said an invitation has been extended for the community to attend the vigil, including ecumenical and faith partners. &quot;We gather this evening to be with one another and to pray for families, students and everyone involved,&quot; said Baker. &quot;Tonight we look to God. No one else has the words for this now.&quot;​</p></div>10/01/2015Lutherans, others rally around death-row inmateELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/95http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/95<div class="ExternalClass94D98967DFFF43CE847E0CA80B9638B7"><p>​Lutherans, faith leaders and other advocates are fervently working to stop the scheduled execution of Kelly Gissendaner, Georgia's only woman on death row. The execution is set for Sept. 29. Gissendaner received the death penalty in 1988 for persuading her then-boyfriend to murder her husband. The boyfriend, Gregory Owen, is eligible for parole in eight years due to a plea bargain.</p><p>Gissendaner is featured in the October issue of The Lutheran magazine (<a href="http&#58;//www.thelutheran.org/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">www.thelutheran.org</span></a>), in part because of the activism of Jennifer M. McBride, a Christian ethics professor of ELCA-affiliated Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa. </p><p>Gissendaner has shown remorse for her involvement in the murder of Douglas Gissendaner and has been through a transformation that has included reconciliation with her children and ministry to despairing inmates, some of whom speak on her behalf and plead for her life in videos circulating on social media this week.&#160;&#160; </p><p>McBride taught Gissendaner as part of a theology program in the greater Atlanta prison system. Through the theology program, Gissendaner became familiar with the writings of German theologian Jürgen Moltmann and started a letter exchange with him that has lasted five years. Moltmann, at age 85, was able to attend and speak at the graduation ceremony of the first cohort of graduates of the prison program.</p><p>Gissendaner's execution was originally scheduled for March of this year, but first due to snow and then due to cloudy drugs, it was canceled. God, as Moltmann noted then, sometimes works in the most mysterious ways and when you least expect it.</p><p>Since the new death warrant was issued Sept. 18, McBride and other faith leaders have used Facebook and Twitter to encourage others to read (or re-read) Moltmann's Theology of Hope message with Gissendaner. Fortress Press has provided a free PDF of that particular chapter from &quot;Collective Readings&quot; (Fortress Press, 2014). </p><p>In her urgency to have ELCA members and others read Moltmann and pray for Gissendaner, &#160;McBride wrote&#58; &quot;Our reason for reflecting on hope and life at this time may seem obvious. On the one hand, our hope is clear&#58; We hope for clemency. We are calling on Governor Nathan Deal's Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Kelly's death sentence to life in prison without parole. On the other hand, what it means to be people of hope in the face of condemnation to death is not at all clear. For, the threat and likelihood of death surrounds Kelly on every side … biblical hope affords us strength to live in the tension between false certainties. As we fight for Kelly's life, we have no certainty, only a command&#58; We are to 'live into the possibilities and promises of God' in active resistance to death.&quot;</p></div>09/28/2015ELCA bishop joins interfaith leaders in ceremony preceding papal visit to PhiladelphiaELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/94http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/94<div class="ExternalClassF1E6CD9F83FA41DF899FFBB59AB98008"><p>​The Rev. Claire Burkat, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, joined other Christian and interfaith leaders Sept. 22 for the opening ceremony and Mass for the World Meeting of Families 2015 Conference. The conference, the world’s largest gathering of Catholic families, is being held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia Sept. 22-25 in anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit to the city Sept. 26-27.</p><p>“Many Lutherans are welcoming Catholic families from all over the world in their churches and in their homes,” wrote Burkat in a letter to Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. “We all want to extend hospitality to the body of Christ to show our excitement and respect for you and the Holy Father by caring for the faithful that are making the pilgrimage to our city of brotherly and sisterly love.”</p><p>Several ELCA congregations in Philadelphia are hosting visitors who have traveled to the city for the pope’s visit.</p><p>“We are celebrating God’s welcome,” said the Rev. Karin Hart, pastor of Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion. “We are opening our doors to those who seek sanctuary during the papal visit.” </p><p>Holy Communion members are hosting 150 visitors from Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Boston. Other host congregations include Trinity Lutheran, where more than 250 visitors will stay, and Atonement Lutheran, which will house at least 150 people during the week.</p></div>09/23/2015ELCA presiding bishop calls for end to incursions onto Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinian propertyELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/93http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/93<div class="ExternalClass7B46F160FC3646D6A1D6EBB03A38D5CA"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has urged chairs and ranking </span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">members U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees to call upon the Israeli government to halt the ongoing incursions onto Palestinian land and demolition of Palestinian property.</span></p><p>In a Sept. 10 letter to U.S. officials, Eaton wrote to express her distress about actions of the Israeli government that make prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians &quot;more difficult in the short- and medium-term and threaten further the realization of a just two-state solution which so many of us seek.&quot;</p><p>As ELCA presiding bishop, Eaton said that she follows closely the situation in Israel and Palestine, &quot;because the events there directly affect the situation and ministries of our companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and the lives, livelihoods and security of Israelis and Palestinians.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We join our sisters and brothers of the Roman Catholic tradition in expressing in the strongest possible terms our outrage over the resumption of construction of the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank,&quot; wrote Eaton, who visited the Cremisan Valley this year. &quot;I could see the existing and then-potential threats that the planned path of the wall would have on the Palestinian communities there,&quot; she wrote. The Most Rev. Oscar Cantu, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, urging the Israeli authorities to stop work on the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley. Lutherans and Catholics in the United States have been in dialogue for the past 50 years.</p><p>In her letter, Eaton noted that The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a member of the Association of International Development Agencies – a coordination forum of international non-governmental and non-profit organizations working in the occupied Palestinian territory – brought to her attention that a &quot;surge in home demolitions by the Israeli Army in August. They determined that the recent demolitions 'rendered 132 people homeless, including 82 children, accounting for a quarter of the displacement from demolitions in 2015 and marking the highest number of people rendered homeless from demolitions in nearly three years.' They also note, 'These demolitions are being carried out against the backdrop of the government of Israel's plan to 'relocate' 7,000 Palestinians living in 46 communities throughout Area C. The international community has repeatedly called on the government of Israel to cancel the 'relocation' plan. The plan affects Bedouin and herding communities in the central parts of the West Bank, including the E1 area around Jerusalem, where the government of Israel plans to expand settlements, which are illegal under international law.'&quot;</p><p>The LWF was one of more than 30 international organizations that called on world leaders to take action against the ongoing demolitions. The LWF is a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.</p><p>The series of events are &quot;very disturbing and destructive,&quot; said Eaton, &quot;both for those directly affected as well as the broader cause of promoting better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians and bringing to an end their too-long-standing conflict.&quot;<br> <br>Through the ELCA Peace Not Walls campaign, this church's members are encourage to write their &quot;members of Congress and senators to urge them to call upon the Israeli government to halt these harmful actions immediately and avoid further hostile activities that dim the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.&quot; Information is available at <a href="https&#58;//secure2.convio.net/elca/site/Advocacy%3bjsessionid=209FABF285757E6DDAAED67017A08BDB.app296a?cmd=display&amp;page=UserAction&amp;id=463">https&#58;//secure2.convio.net/elca/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=209FABF285757E6DDAAED67017A08BDB.app296a?cmd=display&amp;page=UserAction&amp;id=463</a>.</p></div>09/11/2015ELCA leader participates in national 'Liberty and Justice for All' news conferenceELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/92http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/92<div class="ExternalClassC754B1EBA8384AAEBF2CC2183C9BC5B5"><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">At the invitation of leaders from U.S. historic Black Methodist denominations, Kathryn M. Lohre delivered a statement at the Sept. 2 &quot;Liberty and Justice for All&quot; news conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The news conference served in part to announce an initiative to make ending racism a national priority. Lohre serves as executive for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations and assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop and is past president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC).</span><p>In her statement, Lohre called on all Christians to partner in this initiative. &quot;Because we are interconnected, we cannot help but proclaim that the body of Christ is suffering,&quot; she said. &quot;All of us are suffering – all of us together.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I stand here today representing the solidarity of the churches and our inter-religious partners with the Black Methodist Coalition. We believe that black lives matter – to us and to our Creator. We believe that our diversity – religious, racial or otherwise – is a God-given gift. We believe that our solidarity cannot be demonstrated by our words alone, but that our actions must speak louder than our words,&quot; Lohre said. &quot;We are called first to confess and repent for our complicity in racial injustice and then to recommit ourselves to overcoming racism in our houses of worship and in society.&quot;</p><p>The news conference was part of a series of events Sept. 1-2 that began with worship and concluded with a meeting at the White House, in which the Black Methodist Coalition, along with the NCC and other ecumenical partners participated. Leaders of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME), the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion), and the Union Methodist Episcopal Church are working together on the &quot;Liberty and Justice for All&quot; initiative. In addition to conciliar partnerships with these churches, the ELCA has bilateral dialogues with the AME and AME Zion. In 2010, the ELCA and AME Zion developed a joint &quot;Statement of Mission,&quot; available at <a href="http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/ELCA_AMEZ_Statement_Of_Mission.pdf">http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/ELCA_AMEZ_Statement_Of_Mission.pdf</a>.</p><p>At the news conference, the Rev. Lawrence Reddick III, senior bishop of the CME, announced that the objectives of the initiative include criminal justice reform, education reform, economic justice, gun safety and voting rights. &quot;As people of faith, we believe hearts can be changed. But the problems and consequences of racism cannot and should not wait for changes in the heart alone,&quot; Reddick said. &quot;Political leaders must act to do in legislative action for fairness and equality what changes of heart may be slow to do.&quot; </p><p>&quot;I have very little to say because I'm tired,&quot; said the Rev. George Battle, senior bishop of AME Zion, at the conference. &quot;But one thing I must say is that we need to go to leaders of delegations who do not look like us,&quot; as well as to Congress, and visit our statehouses and governors and legislators &quot;who have a direct impact on those we serve&quot; and &quot;demand that they hear us,&quot; he said, adding, &quot;We need to pray like we've never prayed before.&quot;</p><p>ELCA congregations will participate Sept. 6 in &quot;Confession, Repentance and Commitment to End Racism Sunday.&quot; The AME, together with the AME Zion and CME, are calling &quot;every church, temple, mosque and faith communion&quot; to &quot;confess and repent from the sin of racism&quot; during their respective worship that day. In response to that call, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton has invited ELCA bishops, pastors and leaders &quot;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.&quot;</p><p>ELCA worship resources for Sept. 6 are available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/resources/worship">www.ELCA.org/resources/worship</a>. Audio of the Sept. 2 news conference is available at <a href="http&#58;//nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2015-9_liberty_justice.php">http&#58;//nationalcouncilofchurches.us/news/2015-9_liberty_justice.php</a>.</p></div>09/04/2015