November 12, 2016
Dear Oregon Synod Friends in Faith,
President Obama, President Elect Trump, and former Democratic Nominee for the presidency Secretary Clinton have all recognized the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. They have all pledged their full cooperation to a smooth and cooperative transition of power. This is the American way. At the same time, the citizenry of this country is playing out significant fear, hurt and uncertainty about what our future holds. I write as your bishop consciously into this context. These realities help us clarify our calling.
We are blessed to live in a country with a constitution that respects and affirms the importance of religious freedoms and diverse voices. This includes all religious practice consistent with the laws of our nation – not just Christian. We in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America joyfully and thankfully claim our tradition. We also accept our role as a moral and value based voice for society. In the days to come, as in the past, we must continue to insist that those who approach God differently be honored and protected. Thank you to all who have been encouraging and practicing inter-faith cooperation and respect. These relationships will continue to be of importance in the days to come.
I am thankful for our long, Lutheran, history with Lutheran Community Service Agencies, especially the work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugees Services. We are honored, able and equipped to help welcome and resettle people from around the world displaced by war, poverty or persecution. This work must and will continue, and you can give thanks that our church has a vital and central role is such ministries.
While I mean to reference may peoples and circumstances with these words, I also want to mention by name our Muslim brothers and sisters and Syrian Refugees. For some time now both have been becoming the focus of increasing violence and persecution. Our clear call in Christ is to stand with and around such people in times like these.
Many African American sisters and brothers; gay, lesbian and transgendered friends; our Latino neighbors; and even many women simply by virtue of their gender, are feeling unsafe, insecure and at risk in these post-election days. I pray their fears will pass and security and respect will prevail, but for now I ask your prayers for many who fear for their children, their families, their livelihoods and their physical safety. Whether you or I see or understand their fears in not the issue. Love, safety and service to our neighbor is.
Last Spring we in the Oregon Synod declared ourselves to be a Sanctuary Synod. We did this as misunderstanding and persecution of our Latino neighbors was ramping up under the Obama Administration. It seems possible that unrest and deportations will intensify with a Trump Administration. You have heard a call. Now is the right time to embrace it. The ELCA has resources with which you might education yourselves and become a “Welcoming Congregation.” Becoming a sanctuary congregation would be a deeper commitment yet. I will see that there are resources available for you on the synod website in the coming weeks and I encourage your collaboration and cooperation in this work.
The ELCA is currently in the process of delving deeply into the issues of Justice for Women. Now would be an opportune time to engage this question. Extending such a conversation with those in the the broader community around you would undoubtedly be most welcome in these days. Your church has resources to help you do precisely that.
I could write more here, but this is enough for now. We will continue to be in conversation as need and opportunity arises. However, in these days I give thanks, and want to remind you, who we are as Lutheran Christians:
• We are, and always have been, committed to the care and safety of refugees and ‘aliens’ brought to us by God for food, shelter and a home. We will continue in this ministry.
• We are, and always have been, committed to honoring people of all races, gender orientations, faiths and circumstances. We will continue to surround and stand with any who suffer persecution or abuse.
• To my sisters in the faith, to those who mother; answer the call to ordained or consecrated ministry; teach; lead; administer; heal; imagine and agitate I say “Thank you!” You are due deep honor and respect
• To younger leaders who live your faith; forgive and honor your elders; bravely engage the new and believe so intensely; I also say “Thank you!” We all need your insight and confidence even as you welcome and engage the traditions passed on to you.
• As a church we have clear articulations about what it means to live and work in the public realm; care for God’s creation; shape a just economy; and live together with civility and care. Our country and our world is always in need of such leadership and articulations. We will continue to be bold in our proclamation and service!
I encourage you to study together, pray together, worship as one and ‘gird your loins’ for action as the Spirit directs. I thank Jesus it is well with our soul, but recognize that it is not always well with our world. What a blessing to be called and equipped for days like these.
With you in ministry,
Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke
Oregon Synod – ELCA