Bishop Michael Rinehart, Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA, encourages bridge building for churches and LGBTQ people

Once again this year as summer begins, we find ourselves face-to-face with a massacre. Last year on June 17, it was the Charleston massacre. This year on June 13 it is the Orlando massacre. Our hearts are heavy.

Many of you found about this after worship this past Sunday or perhaps only heard about it in passing beforehand and didn’t get an opportunity to address it. It’s okay. We cannot be on top of everything all the time. There will be plenty of Sundays ahead to address hatred and violence, if we remain committed to do so.

At our assembly, I encouraged every one of our congregations to build a bridge, allowing people of difference to come into relationship with one another. I mentioned that this is not a matter of political correctness; it is a matter of life and death. We are fighting for the soul of our nation.

The Orlando massacre underscores the importance of building bridges. Whether African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, or LGBTQIA, we must denounce hatred in every form. Let us pray and work for a time when people do not run to violence to solve problems.

Perhaps this summer is a good time to explore themes of the kindness of strangers. In our synod, this upcoming Sunday, June 19, is Juneteenth, the day emancipation of slaves was announced in Texas in 1865. It is also Father’s Day. Perhaps the role of a true father is announcing freedom from slavery. On July 10, we will read a story in which Jesus makes a hero out of the despised Samaritan. I believe dwelling on this story may help us understand more clearly the gospel we proclaim. We are not short on opportunities to proclaim the gospel of peace.

My prayers are, as always, with you as you inspire compassion and boldly witness to the hope that transcends the fear and prejudice of this mortal realm in which we live.

Yours in Christ,

Michael Rinehart, Bishop