My dear friends,
It has been a few days now since we first heard of the horrendous events in Orlando, and still our hearts and minds can barely comprehend. 49 people slaughtered and 53 more injured by a hate filled individual affected by extremist rhetoric. Members of the LGBTQ community deliberately targeted. We are better than this, and as Christ’s church, in this place and time, we need to speak loudly and clearly our Christian truth that all people are created in the divine image and all people are beloved children of God.
Soon after I was elected bishop, I called several pastors of congregations that had voted to become Reconciling in Christ congregations. If you don’t know what that means, please visit the Reconciling Works website, https://www.reconcilingworks.org. The mission of Reconciling Works is to support the welcome, inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ people in the Lutheran Church. Congregations that vote to become RIC, adopt a welcoming statement and become publicly recognized as being a place of welcome, full inclusion and safety for LGBTQ people and their families. We have many such congregations in our synod and still more congregations currently in the process. I affirm and encourage this.
I asked the pastors of these congregations if they would be willing to work on taking steps to become a Reconciling in Christ Synod. There were some enthusiastic responses, but also caution because such a decision should be undertaken with due deliberation, education, and spiritual discernment. I regret to say, I soon became caught up in all kinds of busyness and didn’t pursue the matter at the time. I wish I had. I wish we were. The RIC designation is a visible, public witness to our support and celebration of LGBTQ people, our sisters and brothers in this human family. In the face of the events in Orlando, such a public witness is essential.
I’d like us to take steps over the next year toward a consideration of becoming a RIC Synod. It will entail conversation, study, prayer, and a willingness to listen to one another and learn from one another. Whether we achieve that or not, I need you to know that we in the Synod Office already understand ourselves to be RIC and will continue to advocate for all people, welcome all people, celebrate all people as we move forward together.
My colleague, Bishop Robert Schaefer of the Florida-Bahamas Synod, had the following to say in his letter following the murders: “Church, it’s time to be clear about honoring and speaking up for the basic human rights of the LGBTQ community and reasonable gun control in this country. How many hate crimes against the LGBTQ do we need to tolerate? How many humans need to be massacred by commonly available assault weapons before we come to our senses?” I couldn’t agree more. I am committed to both. I look forward to your partnership as we live into our Christian witness ever more boldly and confidently. The world is desperate for our Christian voice!
In the meantime, we continue to cry out against violence and hatred as we pray for the families, friends, and communities of those killed last Sunday. God grant us wisdom and peace.
Bishop Mary Stumme Froiland