150 years ago on June 19, the last slaves were freed in Texas. It took a little time for the word of the end of the war and the Emancipation Proclamation to reach them, it turns out.
So it is particularly poignant that this year Juneteenth was overshadowed by mourning. A young man, full of hate, intentionally went into a Bible study in an historic black church, and after sitting with the group for an hour, pulled out his gun and murdered 9 people. Did you know that the pastor, Clementa Pinkney, was educated at our ELCA Seminary in South Carolina? So was another pastor who was killed-Daniel Simmons. That's part of what we do as an ELCA. We educate Lutheran pastors. And we welcome others to partake of the world-class theological education we offer in our seminaries. Southern Seminary educates a number of pastors for the AME church, as does Philadelphia and other seminaries. Did you know that the very first AME pastor was educated at Gettysburg Seminary?
Offended by being told to sit in the balcony of his Methodist Church in Philadelphia, he vowed to start a church were African Americans were welcome, and so began the African Methodist Episcopal Church. And Gettysburg welcomed its founder as one of our students.
The young man who shot the church members at prayer, chose them because they were black and he was white. 150 years since the end of slavery in the United States, and we still have people who kill because of race. I don't know the young man. I don't know if he is crazy or sane. I don't know if it was a crime, a hate crime or a terrorist act. I'll leave that to the criminal justice system to sort out.
But I do know that what was done was evil. And I do know that one of the evils that our country has to deal with is racism. It didn't end with the Emancipation Proclamation. It didn't end with the Voting Rights Act of the 1960's. It didn't end with the election of an African American President. Racism is still alive and well, and we are all affected by it. All of us.
African Americans are affected by it, and we are deeply aware of the affront to that community. In our part of the country, Native Americans are affected by it. Asian Americans, Latinos are affected by it. All of us are affected by it, because it demeans everybody to have anybody demeaned. You see, that's our Christian take on it. If any member of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. We need each other. Paul uses the metaphor of the body, and reminds us that the various body parts cannot go rogue and function without the others. Neither can any race, any group. It doesn't work that way.
But our thinking that it does is part of our sin, part of our rebellion from God, part of what we need to mourn and repent. Bishop Eaton, the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA wrote: "It has been a long season of disquiet in our country. From Ferguson to Baltimore, simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this...the fatal shooting of nine African Americans in a church is a start, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism."
She goes on:
"I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against inequality. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray-for insight, for forgiveness, for courage."
Bishop Jessica Crist
Ten Myths about Racism
You've probably heard a lot about race during the last week. Maybe you're a little tired of it. Maybe you think it isn't really our problem, living as we do in 2 of the most racially homogeneous states in the country. But I am going to disagree. Racism is our problem, whether we are black or white or native American or anything else. So I am going to share some myths about racism.
10.Myth: " Racism is dead. It went out with the Emancipation Proclamation."
Reality: Our country was built on the backs of African slaves. The effect of that linger over the centuries.
9. Myth: "I can't be a racist. I don't even know any black people."
Reality: Racism is not as much about personal attitudes as it is about structures of privilege.
8. Myth: "I never did anything wrong to a person of color."
Reality: You benefit by being white. That is systemic racism.
7. Myth: "We have an African American President. That proves we are post-racial."
Reality: White backlash has grown in the last 6 years.
6. Myth: "I am color blind."
Reality: When you are white, you can set aside your white privilege, but you can always take it back up. When you are black, you do not have that option.
5. Myth: "I believe in merit--no special treatment for anyone."
Reality: People who start with fewer advantages--especially economic--do not have a level playing field.
4. Myth: "Let's just forget about the past and move on."
Reality: The past still affects the present--economically, socially, psychologically. We learn from the past, and maybe by learning will avoid similar mistakes.
3. Myth: "Black people (or American Indians or Latinos) are racist, too. Why do you always have to pick on white people?"
Reality: Prejudice is part of racism, but not all of it. Racism is prejudice plus power.
2. Myth: "Some people are just too touchy."
Reality: Most people are just too insensitive.
1. Myth: "I am not a racist."
Reality: Racism touches all of us and degrades all of us. It divides us and makes us less human.
The first step to overcoming racism is to identify it. As Christians we believe in repentance. And we believe in redemption. We believe in a God who died for all people, and who rose for all people.
Thanks be to God!
Highlights of the Assembly
First, I want to thank everybody who attended the Assembly, and those who preached and led worship in their home congregations to make it possible for others to attend.
And I want to give a huge “Gracias!” to all who contributed to the Synod Assembly Offering. Although we are still counting the offerings that are coming in late, we know that we have received enough to make the Bolivia water project a reality. Thanks be to God! And if you haven’t sent your offering in yet, still do. There are many other needs in the Church in Bolivia and South Africa.
In this week after the Synod Assembly I want to share what various people thought were the highlights of the Assembly:
“I really like hearing about what we were doing overseas, whether it was the malaria project, church expansion in Africa, or our relationship with the Ethiopian church.”
“Welcoming New Hope Lutheran Church as our newest congregation!”
“The global musicians were fantastic. They added a wonderful dimension to the whole experience!”
“An inspiring uplifting Faith Walk.”
“I am very excited about our new partnership with Intermountain—serving children and joining with ecumenical partners in this ministry!”
“The time I got to spend with others I don’t see a lot—the networking that happens, the connections that get strengthened.”
“The workshops I attended. They were engaging and informative, and definitely worth attending!”
“The music, the singing, the fabric decorations, the banners, the tryptich, the displays
(and chocolate!), the great meals and catering crew from the Heritage, and all those
great Lutherans who are such a joy to be with.”
“Honoring Harold Spilde.”
“Recognition of the 70th anniversary of Cliff Gronneberg’s ordination. What
an accomplishment. Like he told me, ‘If you live long enough, you’ll get
“The discussion on accompaniment and that we can’t be the dancing elephant at the
“Great to introduce all the candidates and interns at the assembly. Also revealing to
introduce all the new people who have accepted calls in the Montana Synod in the
past year. The message is, ‘This is a Synod that is forward into mission with a pack
of new and energetic leaders!”
My thanks to all of you who helped make this a successful Synod Assembly! To see Synod
Summaries from the Assembly and other post-assembly news, including elections, go the our
Jessica Crist, Bishop
See You At Assembly!
In just a few days the Montana Synod will gather in Assembly in Great Falls. Our staff and volunteers are working hard to get everything ready. Now all we need is you!
There are a couple of last minute requests that I have for you:
First, please bring non-perishable food for the Friday night offering. We will be donating it to FISH, the local church-run food program that is the recipient of the Spirit of Hope Award.
Second, please remember the Sunday monetary offering for the Bolivia water project. Several years ago the Bolivian church asked us to send a cattle expert to advise them on a farm they own. We did and he did and we are now raising $10,000 to get water to the cattle so that they can be more productive. The farm supports a ministry to children in Cobija, a border town where drugs and violence take an enormous toll and the church is a safe haven. So please contribute generously.
We are offering a couple of opportunities before the Assembly actually starts. One is a workshop on Global music, from 10-2, with our global musicians who will be with us for the Assembly.
A second is an opportunity to discuss the proposed 2016 budget in greater depth from 2:30-3:30.
The Assembly will feature global music, global keynote, and a variety of global workshops. We'll also discuss and vote on the budget, elect voting members to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, and take action on the issues I have been writing about for the last month.
We will honor retirees and others, celebrate our life together, and renew our connection with the wider church.
There is more information in this newsletter and on the website if you have questions.
You don't have to be a voting member to join us. We'd love to have you.
Serve the world, especially the poor and those in need.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA