Dear Sisters and Brothers,
How do we even begin to name the torrent of emotions that have washed over us this week, even on this single day?
Like many of you, Kerry and I have sat in our living room, glued to our televisions, receiving news of new terrorist attacks across Europe and North Africa, watching the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney at Mother Emanuel AMC in Charleston, and finally hearing the words we’ve waited a lifetime to hear from the Supreme Court of the United States: the constitution grants same gender couples the right to marry.
Earlier this week our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, called on the congregations of the ELCA to commit this Sunday’s worship service to public lament of the murder of those killed at Mother Emanuel AMC last week when a white terrorist entered the church and murdered a group of our sisters and brothers engaged in bible study and prayer. In her letter to the ELCA, Bishop Eaton wrote,
Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as was the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor at Mother Emanuel. The suspected shooter is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own.
Bishop Eaton goes on to name this horrific event a direct consequence of our historic and ongoing sin of racism.
In his first comments on the steps of the Supreme Court, Jim Obergefell — one of the plaintiffs in the marriage equality case — made it a point to say that this step forward for human and civil rights does not preclude the possibility of steps back for others and named the horror of last week’s killings in Charleston as evidence of this. He called on the nation to continue working against the scourge of racism even as he celebrated today’s historic ruling for LGBTQ equality and civil rights.
For that reason, when we gather as a congregation this coming Sunday we will be lamenting the ongoing loss of brothers and sisters to gun violence and racism, even as we are strengthened and encouraged by the promise of the gospel: that in Christ we are a new creation. As we live in the tension of the already and the not yet, we will offer thanks for signs of that inevitable future in which the indelible image of God imprinted on each of our souls is made visible by the way we live with and love one another.
Then, many of us will join the Pride festival pouring through the streets of Chicago as our city joins others around the country in celebrating the new freedom and dignity enjoyed by LGBTQ people, which ennobles our common humanity.
Rejoicing in the Lord always,