My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ in the NT-NL Mission Area:

+ Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! +

As I conclude my call to the office of bishop, in these last days, I cannot help but shudder at the depth of human sin and depravity that reign in the hearts of people whom God has made. One year after the senseless murder of the Charleston Nine in a church, after which too many of us were silent, 49 human beings are savagely murdered at a gay nightclub (a sanctuary for so many) in an act of despair and hatred that defines our age. A man committed this carnage because inner demons and outer societal voices drove him to despise LGBTQ people simply for being who they are as God created them. How can Christians remain silent at such a time? How can we refuse to care, to speak up, and to act on behalf of the LGBTQ community? How can we refuse to confront the homophobia, racism, arrogance, and fear-mongering we see and hear daily?

Indeed, there is a need for strong, clear, and healing Christian proclamation and witness now more than ever. As ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton said this week: “Our work begins now. We need to examine ourselves, individually and as a church, to acknowledge the ways we have divided and been divided. We must stand with people who have been ‘othered.’ We must speak peace and reconciliation into the cacophony of hatred and division. We must live the truth that all people are created in God’s image.” Yes indeed. Even LGBTQ people. Even Muslims. Even those who murder in the name of purity of race, culture, or self-understanding.

We are shocked by the viciousness of the attack, angered by a cavalier response of some of our political leaders who are using this for political gain, saddened for the families of the victims, grieved that such hatred and bigotry continue to grow like a cancer in our society and among our people, even people of faith in Jesus Christ. In my years as your bishop, I have seen it, I have heard it, I have even experienced it.

Yet, I have seen, heard, and experienced so much more. I have seen communities of love reach out to nurture and sustain each other as they join hearts and hands in Christ. I have heard story after story of people of faith and good conscience giving of themselves financially, physically, and spiritually for the sake of others they hardly know. I have witnessed people of NT-NL extending arms of faith around the globe and touching others of all faiths with hands of mercy and grace. I have experienced the voices of healing, forgiveness, and peace that bring hope in the midst of the darkest hours of our nation’s and our personal lives.

On this Feast Day of the Cappadocian Fathers, I thank you for allowing me to stand in the line of great servant bishops who have served the Church of Jesus Christ from age to age. Where I have been faithful, I give thanks that the Word of God has been spoken or shared. Where I have failed, I repent, ask forgiveness, and seek reconciliation. In all things, I give thanks to God in Christ Jesus for the privilege of working with you, walking beside you, witnessing your faithfulness, and sharing DiscipleLife. Be assured that I will be praying daily for each congregation, pastor, and lay-authorized preacher of the Gospel, and for Bishop-Elect Gronberg as he serves…

Onward in faith bearing the mark of the cross imprinted upon us in our baptism! Sealed by the Holy Spirit, we are the people of the Way! May God help and sustain us in our weary years, and may the grace of our living Lord Jesus unite us in love.

Grace and Peace in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Kevin S. Kanouse Bishop