|The following announcement was shared with our synod on June 17. For a printable version of this letter, along with Frequently Asked Questions about this postponement,please click here. We will be publishing a compilation of some of the usual Synod Assembly reports, financial and statistical information in early August. They will be sent out by email and posted on our website to download.|
Dear People of the Pacifica Synod,
As you know, the 2020 Synod Assembly scheduled to take place at California Lutheran University at the end of May was postponed due to COVID-19. We thought about rescheduling to August. However, we believe that the best advice will continue to deem it unwise to gather together in large numbers. At a special Synod Council meeting held on Saturday, June 13 for the sole purpose of discussing this issue, the Synod Council passed the following motion: Due to the extraordinary circumstances of a global pandemic, Synod Council votes to postpone the 2020 Pacifica Synod Assembly to May 2021 and combine it with theregularly scheduled 2021 Pacifica Synod Assembly.
What Does This Mean?(An excellent Lutheran question.) During this time of physical distancing for the sake of the health of the neighbor, an assembly of the voting members of the Pacifica Synod is not possible in person. We considered holding our assembly via Zoom. While this platform is being used successfully for smaller meetings, the expertise to conduct a synod assembly, in which everyone can hear and be heard to conduct the business of the synod is currently beyond our expertise. We need time for the synod staff and Assembly Planning Team to acquire the knowledge, skills, and technical equipment to successfully host an assembly on-line. The Synod Council has decided that the best way forward would be to plan now to hold the 2021 Pacifica Synod Assembly on Saturday, May 1 online either via Zoom with individual voting members attending from home, or at different satellite locations where smaller groups could gather (if allowed by public health regulations). If we use satellite locations, the locations will be connected with each other either through Zoom or another platform. This plan will allow time to obtain the necessary tools, expertise, and training for staff and voting members. This decision was not made easily. We thank the Synod Council and staff for many hours of deliberation to find the best solution to a problem none of us could have foreseen. Frequently Asked Questions are listed below. For additional questions, please reach out to your pastor, conference dean, or the Office of the Bishop. Yours in Christ, Bishop Andy Taylor (he/him/his) Lori Herman, (she/her/hers)Pacifica Synod Bishop Pacifica Synod Council Vice President
|July 2, 2020|
Dear Pastors, Deacons, and Congregation Presidents of the Pacifica Synod,
Your Synod Council members have signed the ELCA’s Anti-Racism Pledge, and the Council has written a statement expressing support for the work of racial justice, with a commitment to engage in the “difficult and necessary work of repentance and change.” You will find this statement immediately following this message.
We ask you and your church leadership to join us. Please read and discuss the Synod Council’s statement and deliberate on what God might be calling you to do to build a more just, peaceful world for all of God’s people. We’d like to hear what creative ministries are emerging at this time to help further God’s work of justice in Pacifica Synod congregations and ministries.
Please prayerfully consider this request. After your council has met and discussed this issue, we ask you to respond. Please send your responses to Carol Youngman at CarolYoungman@pacificasynod.org. Tell us about the discussion, what you have decided to do, and what ministries have already begun in response to the call to work for racial justice.
Thank you for your partnership in this ministry. Remember that God’s love and grace is freely given to you, and that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has set you free. St. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5 that we are not to use this freedom for ourselves alone, but to live more loving lives in service to one another and to our neighbors. God bless you as you consider how to use your freedom to work for racial justice and thus to serve God’s people in love.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Bishop Andy Taylor Lori Herman, Synod Council Vice President
Together in Christ we equip, accompany, and serve boldlyso all may experience God’s boundless grace.Together in Christ we are Pacifica Synod
|Statement of the Pacifica Synod CouncilThe killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon (Sean) Reed, and George Floyd are among the most recent in a long history of too many similar tragedies. In June, we also joined in remembrance of the Emanuel Nine, nine African Americans killed by a young, self-professed white supremacist during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, and we recall, with sadness, that their killer was once a member of an ELCA congregation. And we clearly see that some people are more likely to be stopped or killed by police, to suffer from illnesses including COVID-19, and to be denied loans, housing, or a greater income, and to face other discrimination because of the color of their skin.|
Christ died and rose again to make all people one with God. As Ephesians 2:13-14 reminds us, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” If we are all children of God, then it is a sin against God and our neighbors to stand by, indifferent to a society that causes some to suffer more than others, and that unjustly benefits some more than others.
We are called to repent. As Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said in her sermon for Trinity Sunday, “Until the white majority feels within their soul that the pain and suffering of black and brown people is our own pain and suffering, it will not be safe to be black or brown in America.” And we are called to act. We must change ourselves and our society. We are called to join in God’s work of breaking down the dividing walls in our society and making us into one.
We ask each person in our synod to personally commit to the difficult and necessary work of repentance and change. To learn about the history of racial discrimination and its lingering effects, and to take steps to change them. To be better citizens and to better manifest our love for our neighbors and God. We also ask each of our synod’s congregations to commit to this work. To develop an anti-racism plan and to partner with racial justice organizations. To be God’s church in the world.
Please join us in taking the ELCA Anti-Racism Pledge: https://elca.org/racialjusticepledge.Our churchwide and synod offices have resources to help us, found at https://elca.org/emanuelnine and www.pacificasynod.org. Our synod’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group will add more resources over time. Bishop Andy Taylor recently sent a letter inviting us to work together for racial justice, which we echo.
We, the members of your synod council, have committed to doing this work in the synod, in each of our own congregations, and in our lives. The Office of the Bishop’s staff has joined us. Will you join us, too?
|Bishop Andrew TaylorLori HermanAngela JacksonTom PankowDámaris AllenMaura BelandThe Rev. Linda BrownJeff CoursBecky DraperAnthony EderMark FornwallFreya HendricksonGreta Hobson||The Rev. Jeff LilleyGerald MarecekDaneen PyszNicolette RohrThe Rev. Maria Santa CruzThe Rev. Jennifer ShawThe Rev. Brian TaylorThe Rev. Terry Tuvey Allen The Rev. Tom Goellrich Rachel Line Terri Robertson Carol Youngman|
“The Church of Christ in every age, beset by change but Spirit-led, must claim and test its heritage, and keep on rising from the dead”
(Fred Pratt Green, 1969).
Words matter. Words matter in our Scripture, in our hymns, in our governing documents, and beyond. Fifty years ago, on June 29, 1970, the Lutheran Church in America voted to change the word “man” to “person” in its bylaws and opened the door for the ordination of women. The American Lutheran Church achieved the same thing by resolution a few months later. The church was led by the Spirit to change. At the time it was scary for some. Fifty years later, it is now part of our heritage.
|Fifty years later we celebrate the anniversary as a whole church. The influence of those decisions 50 years ago is not merely the impact on women. This is a celebration for the whole church, because the whole church has been strengthened by the gifts of ordained women in its leadership. We celebrate how these pastors have shared the Word, including with words of compassion, conviction, and curiosity. We also give thanks for the moments when there are no words, but they have offered their presence.|
We also know that women who are pastors have struggled in ways men who are pastors have not. They deal with sexual harassment, disrespect, and often lower pay due to gender-based discrimination. The first women of color in our predecessor bodies weren’t ordained until 1979. And it wasn’t until 2009 that barriers to ordination were removed for LGBTQIA+ individuals in committed relationships. We know that racism and heterosexism complexify and intensify these problems. This discrimination is also part of our heritage, and something that we need to continue to work to eliminate.
|In recognition of this 50th anniversary on June 29th, I invite you to express gratitude to a pastor who is a woman for how she has influenced your life. It could be by letter or email, or by other means. If you post on social media, please use the hashtag #thankyoupastor. If you would like more resources for celebrating this year, go to elca.org/50yearsofordainedwomen, which has an adult forum, Bible Study, video, and worship materials.|
|Fifty years after 1970, we also live in a world beset by change. I am grateful for the Spirit who continues to lead us and for the women God has called to minister to us.|
I thank God for all of you who minister so faithfully.
Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”
5/29/2020 2:45:00 PM
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) reaffirms its commitment to combating racism and white supremacy following the recent murders of Black Americans. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon (Sean) Reed, and George Floyd were our neighbors. Ahmaud Arbery was chased down, shot, and killed by a retired police officer and his son while jogging in Brunswick, Ga. (Feb. 23, 2020). Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was shot eight times by Louisville Metro Police Department officers who entered her apartment while serving a “no-knock warrant” (March 13, 2020). Dreasjon (Sean) Reed, a 21-year-old from Indianapolis died after being shot at least eight times by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer (May 6, 2020). George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis while begging for his life, a block away from Calvary Lutheran, an ELCA congregation (May 25, 2020). As the Conference of Bishops, we condemn the white supremacy that has led to the deaths of so many unarmed Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color in our country. We grieve with, pray for and stand in solidarity with the families and friends of all whose loved ones have been and continue to be victims of injustices run amok, racist violence and the insidious venom of white supremacy.
The ELCA’s social policy resolution, “Condemnation of White Supremacy and Racist Rhetoric,” adopted by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, states: “As persons called to love one another as God has loved us, we therefore proclaim our commitment to speak with one voice against racism and white supremacy. We stand with those who are targets of racist ideologies and actions.” As church, together we must work to condemn white supremacy in all forms and recommit ourselves to confront and exorcize the sins of injustice, racism and white supremacy in church and society and within ourselves as individuals and households.
On May 21, the ELCA Southeastern Synod hosted a webinar: “Becoming the Body of Christ – Condemning White Supremacy” in response to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. This is one of many strategic opportunities happening across this church to address white supremacy and racist rhetoric. On June 17, we will gather again as church to commemorate the Mother Emanuel 9 and to repent of racism and white supremacy. An online ELCA prayer service, including leaders from across the church and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton as preacher, is being planned for June 17, 2020, marking the fifth anniversary of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9. We encourage congregations to reaffirm their commitment to repenting of the sins of racism and dismantling white supremacy that continue to plague this church by marking this day of penitence with study and prayer leading to action. https://www.elca.org/emanuelnine
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Deacon Sue Rothmeyer
The Rev. Tracie L. Bartholomew
Bishop, New Jersey Synod
Chair, Conference of Bishops
The Rev. Thomas M. Aitken
Bishop, Northeastern Minnesota Synod
The Rev. Abraham D. Allende
Bishop, Northeastern Ohio Synod
The Rev. Jon V. Anderson
Bishop, Southwestern Minnesota Synod
The Rev. James A. Arends
Bishop, La Crosse Area Synod
The Rev. Daniel G. Beaudoin
Bishop, Northwestern Ohio Synod
The Rev. Susan J. Briner
Bishop, Southwestern Texas Synod
The Rev. Shelley M. Bryan Wee
Bishop, Northwest Washington Synod
The Rev. Michael L. Burk
Bishop, Southeastern Iowa Synod
The Rev. Susan Candea
Bishop, Central States Synod
The Rev. H. Jeffrey Clements
Bishop, Northern Illinois Synod
The Rev. Barbara J. Collins
Bishop, Upper Susquehanna Synod
The Rev. Yehiel Curry
Bishop, Metropolitan Chicago Synod
The Rev. Patricia A. Davenport
Bishop, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod
The Rev. Suzanne D. Dillahunt
Bishop, Southern Ohio Synod
The Rev. James S. Dunlop
Bishop, Lower Susquehanna Synod
The Rev. Paul T. Egensteiner
Bishop, Metropolitan New York Synod
The Rev. Paul D. Erickson
Bishop, Greater Milwaukee Synod
The Rev. R. Guy Erwin
Bishop, Southwest California Synod
The Rev. Katherine A. Finegan
Bishop, Northern Great Lakes Synod
The Rev. William O. Gafkjen
Bishop, Indiana-Kentucky Synod
The Rev. Michael K. Girlinghouse
Bishop, Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod
The Rev. William J. Gohl
Bishop, Delaware-Maryland Synod
The Rev. James W. Gonia
Bishop, Rocky Mountain Synod
The Rev. Erik K. Gronberg
Bishop, Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod
The Rev. Constanze Hagmaier
Bishop, South Dakota Synod
The Rev. Lorna H. Halaas
Bishop, Western Iowa Synod
The Rev. Regina M. Hassanally
Bishop, Southeastern Minnesota Synod
The Rev. James E. Hazelwood
Bishop, New England Synod
The Rev. Mark W. Holmerud
Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod
The Rev. Robert F. Humphrey
Bishop, Virginia Synod
The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer
Bishop, Grand Canyon Synod
The Rev. Richard E. Jaech
Bishop, Southwestern Washington Synod
The Rev. Laurie A. Jungling
Bishop, Montana Synod
The Rev. Donald P. Kreiss
Bishop, Southeast Michigan Synod
The Rev. Wilma S. Kucharek
Bishop, Slovak Zion Synod
The Rev. Kristen E. Kuempel
Bishop Northwest Intermountain Synod
The Rev. Kurt F. Kusserow
Bishop, Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod
The Rev. Laurie A. Larson Caesar
Bishop, Oregon Synod
The Rev. Michael L. Lozano
Bishop, Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod
The Rev. Patricia J. Lull
Bishop, Saint Paul Area Synod
The Rev. Brian D. Maas
Bishop, Nebraska Synod
The Rev. John S. Macholz
Bishop, Upstate New York Synod
The Rev. Gerald L. Mansholt
Bishop, East-Central Synod of Wisconsin
The Rev. Idalia Negron-Caamano
Bishop, Caribbean Synod
The Rev. Leila M. Ortiz
Bishop, Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod
The Rev. Michael L. Rhyne
Bishop, Allegheny Synod
The Rev. Michael W. Rinehart
Bishop, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod
The Rev. Peter Rogness
Interim Bishop, South-Central Synod of Wisconsin
The Rev. S. John Roth
Bishop, Central/Southern Illinois Synod
The Rev. Craig A. Satterlee
Bishop, North/West Lower Michigan Synod
The Rev. Laurie Skow-Anderson
Bishop, Northwest Synod of Wisconsin
The Rev. Timothy M. Smith
Bishop, North Carolina Synod
The Rev. Kevin L. Strickland
Bishop, Southeastern Synod
The Rev. Pedro M. Suarez
Bishop, Florida-Bahamas Synod
The Rev. Ann M. Svennungsen
Bishop, Minneapolis Area Synod
The Rev. Andrew A. Taylor
Bishop, Pacifica Synod
The Rev. William T. Tesch
Bishop, Northwestern Minnesota Synod
The Rev. Steven L. Ullestad
Bishop, Northeastern Iowa Synod
The Rev. Shelley R. Wickstrom
Bishop, Alaska Synod
The Rev. Lawrence R. Wohlrabe
Interim Bishop, Eastern North Dakota Synod
The Rev. Herman R. Yoos
Bishop, South Carolina Synod
The Rev. Samuel R. Zeiser
Bishop, Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod
The Rev. David Zellmer
Interim Bishop, Western North Dakota Synod
The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, who was elected in 2013 as the fourth bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and elected to a second term in 2019, will be leaving the bishopric as of July 31, 2020 and, beginning August 1, will serve United Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, PA as its next president. Bishop Erwin has served on ULS’s board of trustees for two years, and succeeds interim president Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann, who will return to her position as Vice President of Institutional Advancement.
“I warmly welcome Bishop Erwin to the ULS community, and look forward to serving in ministry together” stated Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann. “With Bishop Erwin’s leadership, by the grace of God, United Lutheran Seminary is well-positioned and re-energized for moving forward into a faithful future.”
“I am so very grateful that the Holy Spirit has brought us to this moment,” said Rev. Dr. Peter Boehringer, chair of the ULS Board of Trustees. “With Bishop Erwin’s deep commitment to Luther’s theology of the cross, and his long history of working for justice, I believe he will lead the way in lifting up before our students and our church a greater sense of how the Gospel of Jesus Christ empowers us to be servant leaders in the world. Our society, indeed, our world is facing incredibly challenging issues. I have no doubt that he will inspire and help shape a new generation of seminarians to lead the church in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bear on those challenges.”
Guy Erwin was the ELCA’s first gay, partnered bishop and the first openly gay male to serve in that office in the churches of the Lutheran World Federation. Born on the Osage reservation in Oklahoma, he is the first Native American bishop in the ELCA. In the ELCA Conference of Bishops, he has served on the Executive Committee and as Region 2 liaison bishop to the ELCA Church Council, and as chair of the bishops’ Theological and Ethical Concerns Committee. From 2000 until his election as synod bishop in 2013, Dr. Erwin held the Gerhard and Olga J. Belgum Chair in Lutheran Confessional Theology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. At Cal Lutheran he taught in the Religion and History departments, served as Faculty Chair for two years, and directed the university’s Segerhammar Center for Faith and Culture.
“Though I am sad to leave my work as bishop, which I have dearly loved,” Dr. Erwin said, “as a life-long educator I rejoice in the chance to work with ULS’s remarkable faculty in carrying out the seminary’s mission to prepare its students for public ministry and principled engagement in the world. As a historian, I honor what our two predecessor seminaries have meant to the church, and the legacy with which we have been entrusted. At the same time, we stand on the threshold of tremendous changes in theological education, in the life of the church, and in our society, and I embrace the opportunity that this provides for ULS to be a leader in new ways.”
During the Reformation anniversary year in 2017, Bishop Erwin was in high demand as a teacher and speaker and gave 30 lectures and presentations in the United States and Germany in addition to his normal duties as bishop. Through the Lutheran World Federation and his work with the Faith & Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, Bishop Erwin maintains an extensive set of international connections, particularly in Germany and the Nordic countries.
Bishop Erwin holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a doctorate from Yale University. He also received a Fulbright grant for two years of study at the University of Tübingen in Germany, and an IREX grant for a year at the University of Leipzig. His doctoral dissertation was on the late medieval roots of Luther’s theology of the cross, and his subsequent scholarly work has focused on the religious culture of Lutheranism, particularly its worship and piety, with a special interest in the visual arts and architecture. In 2000, after teaching church history and historical theology at the Yale Divinity School for six years, Bishop Erwin moved to Southern California with his husband, Robert T. Flynn, a West Virginia native and alumnus of Yale Divinity School, who has worked in scholarly publishing at Yale University Press, Columbia University Press, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles as well as serving two terms on the Board of Trustees of 1517 Media, the publishing house of the ELCA.
Formed in 2017 by joining the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, founded in 1826 and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, founded in 1864, United Lutheran Seminary (uls.edu) has two physical campuses and a distance learning community, enrolling 350 students and offering seven graduate degree programs, four certificate programs and lifelong learning opportunities.
|As part of the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, voting members adopted a resolution designating June 17 as a commemoration of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9—the nine people shot and killed on June 17, 2015 during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.|
Our relationship to the shooter as well as two of the slain reminds us of both our complicity and our calling. Together we confess that we are in bondage to the sins of racism and white supremacy and, at the same time, we rejoice in the freedom that is ours in Christ Jesus who “has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14). May God continue to guide us as we seek repentance and renewal, and racial justice and reconciliation among God’s precious children.
An online ELCA Prayer Service for the Commemoration of the Emanuel 9, with Bishop Eaton and leaders from around the church, is scheduled for 12 Noon EDT on June 17, the 5th anniversary of their martyrdom. More details will be available on the ELCA website soon. Congregations, ministries and leaders are encouraged to include this commemoration in your worship and conversations. A number of resources are available on the ELCA Website.
June 15, 2020
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.Ephesians 2:13-16
Last fall, before COVID-19 kept us from traveling, I visited Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. After two days of visiting with students, meeting with faculty, and sitting in on classes, it was time to go home. A pastor offered to drive me to the airport, and I gratefully accepted his offer. I was tired of being in a suit and clergy collar, so I took my collar off, and packed my suit jacket into my carryon luggage. I said sheepishly to the pastor that I wanted to open my collar for the flight home, even though that meant people wouldn’t realize they were sitting with a clergyman. He replied that he always wore his collar when he travelled. I said, “You’re a better man than I,” to which he replied, “that’s not why I wear it. I wear it because I’m a black man. When I don’t wear it, I get pulled over by TSA. But when I wear it, I usually am allowed to pass through.” And I said to him, “You live a very different life than I do.” As he drove, he told me about that life, about how he has learned to be cautious when stopped by police, how he and his wife (who is white) get treated when they go out together, about a pattern of discrimination that he faces daily. He was not complaining. He was telling me about his life. And I learned again, not for the first time, that I was born with an advantage that others do not have, an advantage that comes from having white skin.
I have other stories of coming to that realization. When I was in the first class for my Doctoral degree, our cohort of ten sat in a circle. The final person to arrive in class was a woman of African descent. She looked at the only open chair and said to the class “Would someone please change places with me? I’m an African American woman and I never sit with my back to an open door.” I remember thinking that it would never have occurred to me to be concerned about sitting in that seat. I was once told by a Latino colleague that his parents always made sure he was well dressed when he went to school because they didn’t want him to be called out for being “dirty.” I was told by another colleague, an African descent woman, that she was thanked at a multi-synod event for a presentation given by another African descent woman who didn’t particularly look like her. These are things most of us have never experienced. I have never had to worry about where I sat in class, or about being called “dirty,” or being confused with some other short, dark-haired preacher, at least not to the extent that these colleagues were. Again, this comes from what is called “white privilege.”
I have talked to many people who reject the concept of “white privilege.” They claim, rightly so, that they have worked hard for all they have earned, and that their lives have not been easy. White privilege does not mean that white people live easy lives with no struggles. A good definition of white privilege comes from Francis E. Kendell, quoted in this article by Cory Collins: White privilege is “having greater access to power and resources than people of color [in the same situation] do.” White privilege allows me, through no merit of my own, to walk through a TSA checkpoint with little fear of being stopped, while my African descent colleague needs to wear a clergy collar to get the same treatment.
Such privilege is based on systemic racism, which allows us unconsciously to accept it as normal when white people are treated with respect and people of color are treated with suspicion. Such racism is deadly for people of color, as illustrated in the death of George Floyd which has shocked the nation. It is easy to blame killings like his on a few bad apples, some racist cops who are completely unlike the rest of us. But the problem of suspecting people of color more than white people is not the problem of a few unenlightened folks. It is a problem in all of society. There is no reason my African descent colleague should be treated any differently than me. And yet he is.
It is the nature of sinful human beings to suspect people who are different, who are “other” than we are, to be less worthy of the privileges we have for ourselves. For example, the Greeks had a word for anyone who was not Greek. The Greek word for non-Greeks is a word we know in English: “barbarians.” You know how that term is used now. The dictionary defines a barbarian as “a person in a savage, primitive state” or “a person without culture, refinement, or education.” But originally, “barbarian” just meant “outsider,” someone who is not one of us.
Jesus lived in a culture where there were insiders and outsiders. The insiders were the people of Israel. Anyone who was not was a Gentile, an outsider, not “one of us.” But when Christ died and rose again, Jesus did so to make all people one with God. After Jesus’ ascension, God sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day. That Spirit allowed people to confess their sins and to realize that to continue to treat Gentiles as outsiders was not in keeping with what God wanted. As the verse from Ephesians quoted above reminds us, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” Again and again, the early church had to confess their sin of trying to keep the Gentiles out, trying to maintain a privilege that had been done away with by Christ’s cross and resurrection. Again and again, they had to repent and change their ways of worship, of thought, of life itself, in order to be one with the Gentiles who, like them, were also beloved children of God.
Good people of the Pacifica Synod, this is work we also have to do. We are called to repent, not just once but again and again, of the sin of racism, which so infects our lives and thoughts. We are called to action, to change our ways of worship, of thought, of life itself, in order to be one with our siblings of color who, like us, are beloved children of God. As Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said in her sermon for Trinity Sunday, “Until the white majority feels within our soul that the pain and suffering of black and brown people is our own pain and suffering, it will not be safe to be black or brown in America.” Our work is to accept this pain as our pain, and to act to change ourselves and our society. By doing this, we participate in God’s work of healing the racial divide in our nation. By doing this, we participate in God’s work of breaking down the dividing wall of hostility between us.
We in the Pacifica Synod are committed to providing resources to guide this work. Our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group is currently curating resources and they will be added to the Pacifica Synod website. if you would like to share a resource that has been helpful for your congregation or recommend an organization doing racial justice work in your local community that your congregation is partnering with, please send an email to Pastor Lara Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org We seek resources for children, Confirmation, youth groups, young adults, inter=generational Bible studies, women’s groups, men’s studies, etc. As we receive resources and partnering organizations, we will post them on our website at www.pacificasynod.org.
Our Churchwide offices also have resources. I encourage you to take time on June 17, this coming Wednesday, to participate in the worship service in commemoration of the Emanuel Nine. The worship service will be streamed live at 9 am Pacific Daylight Time, 6 am Hawai’i Standard Time here and will be available after that on the ELCA’s YouTube channel. The Emanuel Nine were nine African Americans who were meeting for Bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015, when they were killed by a young white supremacist. Two of the participants were taking classes at Lutheran Southern Seminary, our ELCA seminary in Charleston. The young white supremacist had been confirmed in an ELCA congregation. As Bishop Eaton said at the time, “One of ours has killed two of ours.” It is a tragedy that the name of the gunman is more widely known that the names of those who were killed. I choose not to name the gunman here, but to honor those who were martyred that day: Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Mrs. Cynthia Graham Hurd, Mrs. Susie J. Jackson, Mrs. Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. DePayne Vontrease Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Mr. Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr., and Mrs. Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson, AME Licentiate.
In response to these killings, to the lingering effects of racism, and to our church’s courageous decision not to ignore the history of our complicity in the perpetuation of racism, the ELCA issued an apology to the African Descent community for the sins of racism. This document contains a history of the Lutheran church’s response to slavery and discrimination, and calls for a repudiation of racism and white privilege. In order for such repudiation to become a reality, action is needed. Daily repentance is needed.
I hope you will join me in this work. I pray for the day when I never again am asked to change seats with a woman of African descent due to her concern about sitting with her back to an open door. I pray for a day when my siblings of color no longer need to concern themselves any more than their white neighbors with what they or their children wear. I pray for a day when people of color will be seen and recognized for who they are. I pray for a day when my colleagues of color can go through TSA checkpoints the same way I do. I pray for a day African Americans will be no more afraid of police than are white people, as we are both treated as valued members of the community. May God bless us, lead us in repentance, and help us to work for racial justice. May God lead us to that day.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Andy Taylor/he, him, hisPacifica Synod of the ELCA
Together in Christ we equip, accompany, and serve boldly so all may experience God’s boundless grace.
|From the Bishop A Time of ChangeApril 27, 2020|
| Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20|
Dear members and friends of the Pacifica Synod,
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
I find myself in this Easter season noticing more than I had in the past how much the lives of the disciples changed with Jesus’ death and resurrection. They had lost one of their number, Judas, and had to deal with the reality of his betrayal of Jesus, and of them and their trust. They had to give up all notions of earthly power and wealth, realizing that the Reign of God would not bring them material comfort or political power as they had thought. They were given a new mission-to make disciples of all nations, to baptize, to teach. They were to live as Jesus’ followers, trusting not in earthly power but in the power of Christ that is made perfect in weakness. Instead of living long lives of prestige, James the brother of John would be the first to be martyred, and tradition has it that ten of the eleven remaining disciples were put to death for their faith. It was a harder life than the one they had envisioned, but it was a life filled with meaning and purpose, and filled with hope that the God who conquered death would continue to put to death all systems that drain human beings of life on this earth, and would work in and through them to bring life and joy in this life, and when this life is over, would lead them into eternal life. They embraced a life that brought suffering and lived in faith and hope that God would be at work in and through them to make a difference in the world.
We currently are facing lives filled with more suffering and hardship than we could have imagined just a few months back. Many of us are separated physically from those we love. We see friends via the internet, we talk over the phone, but we are asked to keep our distance from all who live apart from us in order to protect them, and ourselves, from the coronavirus. But, like the early disciples, we do not face these hardships alone. Jesus says to us, “I am with you always to the end of the age,” just as he said it to the early disciples. And because Jesus is with us, we can continue the journey our Lord has placed before us. We can continue to proclaim the good news that God is alive and active in our world, that the Holy Spirit is among us giving us all we need to face the challenges of this day, that God who is mother and father of us all continues to gather us as beloved children and calls us to love each other as a good mother enables her children to love each other because they know how deeply she loves them.
We are in this together, friends and members of the Pacifica Synod. And we continue on this journey together. But many of you are asking, what happens when this journey ends? When can our churches come back together? When will we be able to worship in the same building at the same time, singing and praying and communing as we did in the past?
I would urge you to be patient for a while longer. Our governors still have shelter at home orders for all of us. Hawai’i’s order has been extended through May 31, and California’s continues without a timetable to end. Public health officials have not yet said it is safe to gather even a few at a time. Which means that if we meet too quickly, we will endanger the lives of our neighbors. When Jesus was asked which the greatest commandment was, he responded as follows: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31) The way we show our love for God on earth is by loving and protecting our neighbors. In order to protect the lives of our neighbors, we should keep distance for as long as public health officials request that we do so. This means we should not plan to return to public worship until we are cleared to do so.
When we do come back together, we will need to carefully consider how to do so. The virus will not be gone, and experts are stating that we will need to meet first in smaller groups, probably of no more than ten at a time. Churches may want to meet in person, but there should be consideration for those who will not feel safe to meet-those in high risk groups, such as those over 60 or those who suffer from respiratory or other health conditions. Even if some worship is done in person, those who have stayed at home and need to continue to do so should not be forgotten. Online worship, bible study, and fellowship will be with us for a while.
We in the office of the Bishop are encouraging pastors, deacons, and church councils to discuss how congregations should re-open when our governors and public health officials say we may do so. We encourage these leaders to continue to listen to advice from health officials as to how many can safely gather. Distancing will still be required, and singing will be difficult, as singing can spread the virus from greater distances. Masks may need to be worn at public gatherings for some time, which will make the reception of communion difficult. There are many issues for congregations to consider. Luckily, there are others in our society who are thinking about such issues. The governor of Wisconsin is allowing churches to hold public worship, and the Wisconsin Council of Churches put together a guide for thinking about how to safely do so. I found this a helpful resource in thinking through some of the issues involved in being church during this time of COVID-19, and I encourage you to read it as you think about how your own church may ensure safety for those who gather once gathering is allowed.
No matter when or how we meet again, we will not be the same. The disciples found a new energy and enthusiasm for ministry due to the changes they experienced after Easter. I pray the same will be true for us. As you walk through the challenges of this day, keep your eyes open for the opportunities Jesus brings you to share your faith, to help your neighbor, to live in grace, hope, and love. Let us use this time to give witness in word and deed to the God who loves us and rose from the dead for us. And let us continue to use our lives to praise God by helping our neighbors have all they need to live and thrive.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Bishop Andy Taylor/ he, him, hisPacifica Synod of the ELCA1801 Park Court Place, Bldg. CSanta Ana, CA 92701714.692.2791www.pacificasynod.org
Life is a Line
It is 7:15 on Friday morning. My husband and I are standing in the early entry senior citizen line at our local grocery store. The opening time is 7:45 and the line is already down the sidewalk and around the corner.
Entry time was a bit touchy from frustrated and anxious customers. We were greeted by a cheerful on-the-spot employee. A manager called out, “no paper products, no flour, eggs, milk, or fresh butcher meats. Several people left the line.
The six feet distancing rule is not evident in our senior line. We came with ID. The picture alone is a sure give away of your age. The chuckle in line was about who really was a senior, just guessing by their hair color. The multiple response was “we’ll see when the hair dye is gone”.
Just a week later, on a Friday night, there was no line and the mandatory mask and gloves rule was not strictly enforced. Once inside, visible blue tape lines on the floor indicated six foot distancing. Employees were handing out disinfected wipes for the carts. Some shelves were adequately stocked while others remained empty.
When not in line at the grocery store, we are at the church food pantry with other volunteers wearing homemade masks and blue gloves. Two days a week, Hope has the opportunity to provide this much needed community outreach service. Observing the six feet distancing requirement, our guests wait patiently in line for volunteers to gather their needful request for food and personal care items. As some of the volunteers are working to stock the shelves and put fresh items from Feeding America in the freezer or refrigerator, others are bagging fresh donated oranges and avocados.
Each week you can see the toll that this COVID 19 pandemic is taking. The worry, stress and anxiety can be seen on the faces of the growing number of guests that we are passionate to serve.
Volunteering at our food pantry for a few weeks now, we have a deeper, more thankful appreciation for ALL frontline angels and heroes who minute by minute demonstrate their deep love for others and a desire to make a difference. As there are many frontline people there are also many behind the scenes people working tirelessly with determined resolve to support each other and pull together to give relief and hope for a Son filled tomorrow.
There is a thief among us. Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID 19) is everywhere. This infectious thief knows no boundaries and threatens our very way of life. Avoiding person to person contact and social distancing, within six feet, has become the new normal. Typical of a thief, he is sneaky and all to often goes unnoticed in our homes and communities. We can limit the survival of the virus (thief) in our environment by cleaning with disinfectant plus frequent hand washing.
Exhausted, but diligent around the clock scientific research and a myriad of individuals, corporations, and military resources have gathered in response to eliminating and destroying this deadly thief who has created this pandemic.
Faith communities around the world are on high alert for this threatening thief. Churches, worship centers, and religious gathering places are mandated to close and shelter in place. However we gather, we are one in Christ.
In response to these directives from our state and government as well as our Synod, Hope Lutheran in Riverside has put forth a herculean effort to stay in touch and communicate with all in need of food and faith-based assurance through live human contact via YouTube and Zoom. This is a tangible way to stay vigilant, help ease loneliness and isolation that has become a growing concern.
Sunday morning Pastor Kelly became visible electronically. After numerous hiccups and much needed techno-savvy faithful partners, thankfully she was able to go forward with the Gospel message from John, chapter 11.
Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died. Jesus expressed his grief just as many of us have through these uncertain times, through tears. Jesus wept (v: 35). He was deeply moved and troubled. Pastor Kelly is also deeply moved and troubled by this rampant thief (virus).
Weary from wearing too many hats, she gives us heart-felt assurance that we can continue to reach out to others by phone, skype, video chat and prayers. As we offer up prayers for Pastor Kelly, Lance and their family, friends and loved ones, we are compelled by our faith in the Apostles’ Creed to go with God and serve the Lord anyway we can.
Submitted by: Shelley Palestis