June 2, 2020
We are all enduring a difficult season – navigating a pandemic while tensions over race boil over in the wake of yet another wave of tragic deaths of black neighbors.
In this letter our Indiana—Kentucky Synod Bishop, Bill Gafkjen, and his counterpart in the United Church of Christ have reminded us of “the need for us to speak out and say ‘No More’ to this hate and this harm to our siblings in the human family.” Please take a few minutes to read this important statement.
We say “no more” because every human is made in the image of God. Every one of God’s children has a place in the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced, enacted, lived and died to reveal.
We say “no more” as followers of Christ, who charged his disciples to love and serve the neighbor in need. We practice love that responds to the plight of those at risk.
We say “no more” as those whom the Spirit joins to one another, each with gifts and value in the body of Christ that we share.
None of us knows every detail of every case in which a black neighbor’s life is tragically lost – but we can easily recognize a gruesome pattern. It is a pattern steeped in the sin of institutional and personal racism. Sin that we are all called to confess and seek forgiveness of…for racism has no place among those who invoke the name of Jesus.
Let’s be clear – even as we say “no more” – we are seeking new equilibrium for our society, our communities and our nation. Let us be wise and discerning enough to recognize that:
- Naming and addressing racism does not de-value the work of the police – these public servants take on incredibly difficult work for our sake. Nearly all of them serve with honor, love for their communities and dedication to keep the public safe. Those who choose to make this about being for or against the police are bypassing the hard work of healing racial tensions.
- Naming and addressing racism means recognizing and speaking honestly about bias and privilege. As a straight, white male, paths have been available to me that have not always been available to LGBTQ neighbors, women or people of color. Saying so does not mean that life was handed to me – I have had to work hard (as did my parents). However, recognizing these realities about my own life helps me to honor that others’ struggles are different from mine. As people of faith, we owe it to our neighbors, especially those different from us - whom we are called to love - to listen and seek deeper understanding of their experience.
- Naming and addressing racism does not condone the violent and destructive acts of rioters….but calls us to listen closely to the voices of protest. Indeed, we may feel the call to join in peaceful acts of protest as an act of solidarity with our neighbors. We must not lose the critical message of protest in the noise of violence.
These are but some starting places – some entry points – into what must be an ongoing conversation. This is not easy work…but we dare not ignore our place in this work. As Christ followers, we are called to heal the broken…and the fractures of our broken society are more evident than they have been for a long time. No more.
Let us pray for peace, for justice, for transformation, for healing.
Let us confess our own brokenness.
Let us stand with our neighbors who are hurting, at risk, frightened and hungry for justice.
Let us speak truth about privilege, racism, pain and hope.
And above all – let us look to and imitate Christ, who shows us what God’s love for us and for our neighbors looks like.
Bishop Gafkjen promises next steps for our Synod and our congregations – we will absolutely keep you posted and invite you deeper into this important, difficult, but necessary work.
Pastor Brian & Pastor Todd