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In the Northern Hemisphere the days are getting shorter.
Each day the sun comes up later, and sets earlier. I am still driving to work in daylight, but I go home in the dark. The Christmas lights on the houses as I drive home- some garish, some sweet- cheer me as I join the traffic heading across town. I don't know what it is like to spend Advent in the Southern Hemisphere with the days getting longer as Christmas approaches. Maybe some day I will find out visiting one of our companion synods. Until then, I experience Advent as a time of increasing darkness. At least physically.
But there's this light that shines in the darkness, and no matter what, the darkness does not overcome it. It is the light of Christ, coming into the world, shining in spite of the darkness, refusing to give in to despair, to grief, to pain. Advent's darkness reminds us of our need for life-giving light. Without light we cannot survive. A catastrophic event, whether natural or human caused, could block our sunlight and cause life on earth as we know it to cease. That is darkness unto death.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Statement from ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton on Standing Rock
When we come together for worship, we often begin with confession and forgiveness using these words: “We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.” Lutherans acknowledge that this is a broken world and, as part of it, even our best wisdom and efforts fall short. Very often we face issues of extraordinary complexity in which all sides make reasoned arguments for their reality. The current situation at Standing Rock in North Dakota is just such a case.
The route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) runs through contested land, which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sees as their homeland and sacred places, including burial grounds. Proponents of the DAPL sees it as a combination of public and private property. The pipeline will run under Lake Oahe, the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. What we see is the tension between two peoples trying to share one land. We can also see the tension between our dependence on fossil fuels and the commitment this church has made to care for creation.
This past August, the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery. In it we pledged “to practice accompaniment with Native peoples.” The doctrine declared that indigenous land was “unoccupied” as long as Christians were not present. Land deemed “unoccupied” was, therefore, “discovered,” as if it had been previously unknown to humankind. This doctrine was used as justification for European monarchies, and later the U.S. government, to take land from Native people. Many of us in this church who are immigrants have benefitted from the injustices done to the original inhabitants of this land where we now live and worship. Our church also includes American Indian and Alaskan Native people, who have been on the receiving end of the injustices done. When we repudiated the doctrine of discovery, we Lutherans pledged to do better together in the future than we have in the past.
Acknowledging the complexity of this issue and the limitations sin places on human decisions, I believe that we are called as a church to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: to stand with the Tribe as they seek justice, to encourage our congregations to pray for them and to offer material support, and to examine the racism inherent in our system that contributes to the current crisis. As promised in our resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery, we will listen to tribal leaders and respect their wisdom.
We will lend our presence when invited, our advocacy when requested, the resources of our people when asked, and our prayers, friendship and repentance at all times.
Your sister in Christ,
Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Montana Synod Strategic Benchmarks
Our Mission: "Marked by the cross of Christ forever, abundantly blessed, we faithfully serve God and neighbor."
Our Vision: "Every person a witness, Every minister equipping witness, Every congregation and ministry, empowered for witness, serving faithfully."
The Montana Synod will measure its own faithfulness to our mission and vision and to the task of providing leadership to the Montana Synod by the following benchmarks:
1. Meet the future boldly.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart. (Jer 29:11-13)
We will take risks for the sake of the Gospel, remembering that Jesus said that whoever wants to save your life will lose it, and the only way to be a disciple is to pick up a cross and follow. We will learn from our conversations with congregations and we will model faithful, visionary ministry that is more prophetic than safe.