In early January, French cartoonists were murdered by opponents who were offended by the cartoons their magazine (Charlie Hebdo) published. Defending the right to free expression and opposing violence, people around the world took up the claim, "Je Suis Charlie Hebdo." It was an affirmation solidarity, rejecting the sectarianism of "us" and "them." The funeral was a big tent funeral, where world leaders who normally avoided each other's company and made accusations against one another were seen together. "Je suis Charlie Hebdo."
"Je suis...the ELCA." Our church, with its 10,000 congregations and 4 million members, is not "them," it is "us." Our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, reminds us that we are all the church. Her 4 emphases say it:
1. We are church.
2. We are Lutheran.
3. We are church together.
4. We are church for the sake of the world.
Last week rostered leaders in the ELCA received an email from Bishop Eaton, inviting us all to engage in a study of what it means to be the church. Claimed, Gathered, Sent: A Guide for Conversation is a 5 week study on what it means to be the church. You are invited to participate. Your input is valuable. The study is available at ELCA.org.
The ELCA is a big tent. Our Lutheran theology has room for differences of opinion, differences in practice. We see it in the different ways our congregations have responded to the change in marriage laws in our states. We see it in the styles of worship that our congregations choose. We see it in the ways we are ecumenically engaged.
We learn from one another in our experiences of the Gospel. And we are richer for it. When I moved from Massachusetts to Montana, I experienced church in a whole different way. At first it felt a little strange. But I soon learned that despite the outward trappings we are all one
in Christ. We are all members of the same body, beloved by God, and in need of one another.
The ELCA represents not the just the merger 27 years ago of the American Lutheran
Church, the Lutheran Church in America and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.
Each of those church bodies is a combination of merger after merger over the centuries, and in
some cases schisms. We have come together, claiming our Lutheran heritage, and our freedom
in the Gospel. And while we may feel strongly about our particular ethnic or cultural heritage, in
the end we know that the death and resurrection of Jesus frees us all from the things that
The ELCA is not Chicago, and it is not Great Falls. It is all of us, in our particular
locations with our particular passions, joined together in Christ, for the sake of the world. "Nous
sommes...the ELCA." Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA