Lutherans advocating for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the life of the church and society will continue their efforts at the 2011 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) being held at the Orlando World Center Marriott, Orlando, Florida, August 15-19.
Our focus is to help the church further its advocacy to curb bullying in our congregations and communities, particularly the harassment and violence directed at young people who are most at risk. Bullying is a pervasive type of oppression that can and has had horrific consequences, including suicide by some who were victims of it. Research shows that the long-term effects of bullying are pernicious for everyone: victims, perpetrators, bystanders, and indeed to the very the fabric of civil society. Those most at risk for bullying are those who are perceived to be different in some way, because of race or ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, age, body shape, or physical ability — someone who is, or can be made into, an outsider.
Bullying, for children regardless of gender, is most commonly verbal (calling names, spreading rumors). Also common in bullying is social isolation — shunning or purposely excluding others. Taken together, the effect can be huge. Social media can raise the impact on the victim exponentially, overwhelming a young person’s ability to cope.
The church is uniquely positioned to work from a theological basis that addresses physical, verbal, or social bullying. Christ and the church are radically welcoming and connective — teaching and practicing the profound ways that we are responsible for each other. For Christ, there are no outsiders. The heart of our ministry as a church is reconciliation with each other by Christ’s welcome, a reconciliation that makes us one family, breaks down division and discord, and renews us in God’s image.
Bullying seeks to divide, to raise up some by putting others down. The message that Christians must actively, publicly, and clearly send to all of society is that our common faith, our common care for each other, especially those most vulnerable, compels us to act in the face of bullying and injustice. Our framework is one of justice, our talisman is equality, and our reconciliation is through Jesus Christ.
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said, “With this legislative plan to foster anti-bullying, LC/NA and the Goodsoil coalition of allied voting members at the Churchwide Assembly, is doing something new which works at the intersection of oppressions. If we are truthful, most of us, youth, adults and elders have experienced bullying in our own lives. Some of us have been bullies or benign bystanders, choosing non-action over solidarity, care for the victim, or intercession. Bullies exploit the smallest perceived difference, sometimes engineering one if none exists. While LGBT youth and young adults are particularly vulnerable, bullying on the basis of race, immigration status, class, accent, culture, and ability are as common and damaging. Our churches and youth groups should be as bullying-free as our schools and communities. There is no pain like church pain. We are here to make sure there are plans to reduce and ultimately eliminate that pain through education and action. “
We, LGBT and allied Lutherans, are essentially indistinguishable from the rest of Lutherans. We gather in worship with all other Lutherans and do the larger work of the church. During the churchwide assembly, we will be part of the work of the assembly, not setting ourselves apart. However, we will also gather to host a worship service on Wednesday evening. We will gather to give thanks for the progress made since policy change, and so that the message of the lingering incompleteness of the institutional church’s welcome and a call to justice is given graceful but clear focus. Worship being the highest expression of the welcome of Christ, all are welcome to join us at the additional worship service on Wednesday evening.
Our hope and work is so that the church continues to thrive, reaching out to spread the good news to all those who are oppressed, weighed down by inequities and the events and circumstances of their lives, that their salvation is secure in Christ Jesus and their lives, welcome, and value are respected and protected in the community of believers known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.