Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lutherans Concerned/North America on the Death of Trayvon Martin

Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) expresses its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin, who was fatally shot on February 26.

LC/NA stands for justice, equality, and full inclusion for all in church and in society.

No one should be suspected of criminal intent or criminal actions simply because of their clothes, skin color, socio-economic status, sexual orientation or gender identity. No one should be followed and confronted because of differences in their clothes, skin color, socio-economic status, sexual orientation or gender identity. No one should be threatened with deadly force on the basis of such discrimination.

More importantly, no one should have the legal right to use deadly force without having to subsequently and substantially prove to authorities that there was a credible belief of immediate danger.

It is highly appropriate that law enforcement and justice authorities are opening significant investigations into the actions leading up to and during a confrontation that would not have happened had George Zimmerman complied with the police admonition to discontinue following Trayvon Martin.

Laws that are enacted must be examined carefully before passage to ensure there are no unintended consequences that preclude holding people publicly and legally accountable for their actions, particularly where the use of deadly force is involved.

The burden falls on public officials to find ways to properly investigate and hold accountable those who hide behind provisions of sloppy legislation. Legislatures have the burden to quickly correct such deficiencies in enacted legislation.

LC/NA believes that as people of faith, our commitments to community, justice, and love of neighbor call us to address the complex issues that have arisen in the recent intense, public discussion about the death of Trayvon Martin. Important questions about gun policy, police practices, and attitudes about race and class need to be carefully examined. However, our commitments as people of faith also require that we resist any temptation to judge individual cases based on incomplete information, public opinion, and speculation.

As a way to begin discussion, LC/NA encourages all individuals and congregations to access the following ELCA resources:

The social statement on Race, Ethnicity, and Culture at http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements/Race-Ethnicity-Culture.aspx

A draft of a possible social statement on Criminal Justice at http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements-in-Process/Criminal-Justice.aspx

A message on Community Violence at

Pastor Bradley Schmeling Called as Senior Pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul

Lutherans Concerned/North America joins Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, St. Paul, in celebrating the decision of the congregation to call Bradley Schmeling as Senior Pastor. The vote by the congregation was held on March 25, 2012, and is a landmark decision by this faithful church.

Pastor Bradley Schmeling, currently of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia, will take up his duties as senior pastor of the St. Paul congregation in mid-June. Formal installation services will take place at a later date, which will be the subject of separate announcements.

Gloria Dei is a Reconciling in Christ congregation, having publically declared their welcome of all regardless of "age, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic or family status, or physical or mental abilities."

Gloria Dei is now the largest Lutheran church with a senior pastor who is openly-gay and in a committed same-gender relationship. This 2300-member congregation is heavily involved in social justice work and was also in the past the first large congregation to have a female senior pastor.

Bradley Schmeling had been removed from the clergy roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 2007 following a famous ecclesiastical trial held after he informed his bishop that he was in a lifelong, committed relationship with Pastor Darin Easler. The jury found his ministry to be excellent and said that they believed the policy to be wrong that precluded his service solely on the basis of being in a committed same-gender relationship. Regardless, he was removed from the roster of clergy because of the prevailing discriminatory policy, but not from the pulpit of St. John's, where he remained the pastor to the present.

In 2009, the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA removed the policy barrier to service by ministers in committed same-gender relationships. Following that decision, Bradley Schmeling and Darin Easler applied to be and were restored to the clergy roster of the ELCA.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America, said, "Gloria Dei said that they were looking for a senior pastor who is 'humble, compassionate, a gifted preacher, with a passion for social justice.' Bradley Schmeling is all of that and more. Having worked on Bradley's legal and PR teams during his trial, this moment stirs past painful memories, now overtaken in joyful knowledge that one, standing for many, who was rejected has not only been reclaimed but called anew. LC/NA is proud of its role in the progress that removed a discriminatory policy, as the church journeys towards full inclusion. We join Gloria Dei in celebrating their selection of this excellent pastor to minister to the congregation and lead their outreach ministries following the teachings of Christ."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bangor

We're pleased to offer a warm welcome to the members of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bangor, Maine, who passed a number of statements of welcome over the winter. In a creative move, the congregation handed out copies of all of the sample statements of welcome provided by Lutherans Concerned for the congregation to sign whichever ones they liked the most. So the congregation is affirming their welcome in different ways!

The one they settled on as "official" is as follows:
"All are welcome here!  
Redeemer is a Christian congregation called to unite people from diverse backrounds enabling them to grow in the love of Jesus Christ. 
We therefore respond to the vision to which God has called us - to proclaim this good news and to welcome in our congregation all people without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, culture or ethnic background, physical or mental abilities, family status, gender or age.  
We pledge to ourselves and all others that we will strive to live as reconciling people in our life together and in our outreach to the world."
Please join us in keeping Redeemer Lutheran Church in our prayers as they continue their ministry of welcome. Thank you, Redeemer!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Letter to priest of former home congregation: Consider "the least of these."

The Rev. Jay Wiesner, pastor of University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation (Philadelphia, PA) wrote a letter to the priest of his former home congregation about the marriage amendment coming before Minnesota this fall. With Jay's permission, we provide the text of the letter below. Thank you, Jay, for your faithful witness.
7 March 2012

Perpetua & Her Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 202

Dear Monsignor Grams,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that this letter finds you well and that your Lenten journey is already filled with grace and mercy.

My name is Jay Wiesner. I grew up in New Ulm, was a member of St. Mary’s, and was confirmed in my faith in the spring of 1990. I remember the name I chose for myself at my confirmation: Patrick. I chose the name because of the way St. Patrick was able to teach theology to the people. St. Mary’s was where I learned the faith and I give thanks for the gifts I received from the congregation. Whenever I am back in New Ulm, I try to attend Mass with my parents as I still love the community.

From the time of my confirmation at St. Mary’s and beyond when I began to attend college, I realized that I was being called to serve God and the Church in the way of the ministry. As my faith strengthened, I realized that the Lutheran Church was where God was calling me. When I informed my mentors in the faith at St. Mary’s, I was surprised to hear their joy, even though I was leaving the Roman Catholic Church. The letter from St. Mary’s confirming my removal from membership was one of the loveliest written letters I have ever received. This is all to say that even though I am no longer Roman Catholic, I still feel tied to the Roman Catholic Church as it has shaped my faith, St. Mary’s in particular. I remember your church fondly in my prayers and I continue to pray for your strengthening. This is what makes what I am about to write all the more troubling.

During a conversation with my parents (who are still regular members at St. Mary’s), I was informed that you have been making announcements calling for your parishioners to support the marriage amendment that is going to be considered by the state of Minnesota. This greatly disturbs my family still at St. Mary’s and this greatly disturbs me as well. This amendment that is being proposed will do great harm to people who continually have great harm done to them in society. One of the many blessings of being a pastor is being able to support others in their journeys of faith, loving and worshipping our God revealed in Jesus Christ. For same sex couples who are in loving, life-giving relationships who are also Christian (and there are many of them), it is vitally important that churches help nurture this faith so that their love and the love of Christ may grow. If this amendment passes, it will inflict great harm on these loving, life-giving relationships.

I do know that the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy has spent a great deal of time and energy making statements on this issue. However, I also know that there are many Roman Catholics who greatly disagree with the church’s hierarchy; not for reasons of experience solely, but also because of their time spent in prayer and the reading of the Scriptures. As I read Acts 11.1-18, I am reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit that comes upon people others would consider unworthy of the gospel (in the case of Acts, the Gentiles). Of course, we are all unworthy of the gospel; it is only by the grace of God found in the work of Jesus Christ that any person is made righteous before God.

I’m not sure the kind of pressure you are facing from others in regard to this matter, but I kindly ask that you listen to other Roman Catholics who believe that same-sex couples should be embraced by the Church and offered the same rights and protections that heterosexual couples are offered. May I kindly request that before you make any more announcements calling for the support of this marriage amendment, you consider what it means to love those who are different from yourself and to love those who by many in this society and Church are considered “the least of these”?

My prayers continue for you and for St. Mary’s, as well as the whole Roman Catholic Church. May the Crucified/Risen One be proclaimed in all that we do.

Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me,

The Rev. Jay Alan Patrick Wiesner

Pastor, University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation

Friday, March 2, 2012

Zion Lutheran Church of Everett

Spending some time in Washington state? Head over to Everett and visit our newest Reconciling in Christ congregation, Zion Lutheran Church.

They passed their statement of welcome on "Leap Day," and it reads:
need good news? come hear it. see it. taste it. sense it. experience God’s love and grace; explore spirituality in the safety of not being judged
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)
we’re unanimously committed to embrace people of all backgrounds … you, from of any ethnicity; skeptical or assured; rich or poor; liberal or conservative; you, from all gender identities or sexual orientations … you, who are cognitively aware or affected; healthy or ill; tired or energetic; silly or serious; and you, in between all those labels … you, made in God’s image are loved and celebrated for who you are.

Over one hundred years old now, Zion Lutheran Church is excited to make their welcome official, and we're eager to celebrate their ministries. Check them out and keep them in your prayers.