Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Once again our nation has been rocked by the senseless and horrific act of one human being against other human beings. Once again our President has had to address our nation because someone filled with hatred toward another and possibly motivated by extremist religious teaching has chosen to act in violence, horrific violence. Now a nation, a community, a circle of friends and countless families have received the gut-wrenching news of a loved one being randomly shot down.
Bishop Robert Schaefer of the Florida-Bahamas Synod shared Sunday, June 12, following the close of their synod assembly which gathered under the theme of “Let Justice Roll” this word to the Conference of Bishops of the ELCA: “In his sermon at the closing Eucharist this morning, Pr. William Flippen, Jr. reminded us that “as Christians we DO NOT have the right to remain silent.” He is right. Let’s be honest: Church, it’s time to be clear about honoring and standing up for the basic human rights of the LGBTQ community and reasonable gun control in this country. Come on, who needs to have an automatic weapon? My youngest daughter has connections with one of those who died and another who was wounded. Let the church be clear: Every human being shares in the image of God and therefore shares the same dignity without regard to racial or ethnic distinction, family status, age, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or differing abilities. Period. This senseless violence must end. Join me in praying for the victims of this atrocity, their families, the family of the shooter, and that justice may at last roll down like waters.”
This morning Bishop Schaefer sent this update: “As of now, I am aware of a relative of one of our Latino pastors who is hospitalized and in critical condition. Our Heart of Florida Conference (Orlando) rostered leaders met early this morning, since I was unable to be with them just getting back last night from our assembly, I am waiting for a report. Our closest ELCA congregation is probably less than a mile from the club. We have three ELCA hospital chaplains in Orlando who are actively ministering to the families of the victims. I spoke with them a short time ago and told them the entire Conference of Bishops will hold them in prayer: Prs. Melinda Plumley, Julie Frank and Debra Geweke. They are busy but encouraged by the support from the community including Imams who are working and praying alongside them.”
So I ask the leaders and the disciples of Christ in the Grand Canyon Synod to keep praying. But in addition to prayer there are other ways to move from anger, fear or passive resignation:
* Contact a local blood bank and if your eligible, donate a pint of blood which might go toward helping those still being treated in Orlando hospitals or at least be available for other neighbors in need.
* Reach out to your Muslim neighbors, and assure them that you will refuse to associate them with others who may pervert their tenets of faith in order to justify the killing of another. (Remember Dylan Roof, the shooter at Mother Emmaunel in South Carolina, was raised in an ELCA congregation)
* Connect with your local LGBTQ community and remind them that they are not alone as this horror may very well have been a specific target of hatred directed at their community.
* Engage in civic responsibility and advocacy to work toward ending gun violence and insisting on responsible gun laws that can lessen the probability of future actions like we just observed. For reference below is the link to the Conference of Bishops’ letter on Gun Violence: http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/COB_Pastoral_Letter_On_Violence.pdf
Finally, may we continue to be forthright in our proclamation of the promise of our baptism and the gospel message, that in and through Jesus Christ, his death and his resurrection, sin, death and the devil will not win the day. We affirm faith in a God of love and life. May the Holy Spirit continue to empower us to boldly and courageously live out this witness. May the Holy Spirit continue to sustain those fighting for their lives, those treating the victims, those who serve in law enforcement seeking the facts, and for those families and friends who need God’s strength now and for the days ahead.
In Christ’s Service,
Bishop Steve Talmage