As congregations and as synods we need to be concerned, become aware of, and be active in naming White privillege and fighting racism. We want to hear from our synods regarding how you are engaging this intentional effort to become an anti-racist, cross-cultural church. This list was begun in Ocotber 2016. Please send your notices to firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Dakota Synod
Bishop David Zellmer reports that the synod counsel is actively building relations with the Republic of Lakota in South Dakota, listening to their stories, and trying to understand the challenges that they face to see where the ELCA can intentionally partner with them. They are also looking at ways to partner with new Muslims moving to South Dakota to work in a beef processing plant (moving from work at a pork processing plant elsewhere).
Bishop Julian Gordy reports that the synod is engaged in discussions about how the EDLARJ work integrates with the anti-racism team’s work of the synod.
Two workshops were offered at the Southeastern Synod’s WELCA convention in Atlanta September 17th: the book discussion of “Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Conversation of Race”, and the showing of the video, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” with subsequent discussion. Also scheduled is a showing of the video, “Race: The Power of An Illusion” and discussion after each part in Nashville on November 3rd. Synod staff began watching and discussing the video’s first part in December 2015, and is scheduled to view and discuss the third (and final) part in their next staff meeting after the Grace Gathering.
Upstate New York Synod
Patsy Glista and Pastor Lee Miller from the Upstate New York
Synod have provided a link to the resource packet they created. It can also be accessed from their website, upstatenysynod.org. The link to the synod’s Racial Justice
Resource kit is http://upstatenysynod.org/download/assembly/Congregational.Racial.Justice.Resource-Tool-Kit.pdf.
Documents that were used during assembly and/or in advance of assembly related to Racial Justice are also availableunder the “Assembly” sub-category in the Resource section of the website athttp://upstatenysynod.org/document-center/.
John Hulden, Assistant to Bishop of Minneapolis Synod, noted that the synod is planning on getting a racial justice staff person on their synod. At the 2016 Synod Assembly they passed a resolution, RC2016-11, Resolution Addressing Racial Injustice:
Resolution Addressing Racial Injustice
Whereas, the Minneapolis Area Synod is committed to work together so that all people might live in just and healthy neighborhoods; and
Whereas, racial injustice and violence continue to thrive in our country and this Twin Cities area; and
Whereas, Scripture calls us, as part of our Christian response, to walk in solidarity with people of color, because standing in silence sanctions continued injustice and violence; and
Whereas, in the ELCA’s social statement, “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture (1993),” this church says “When we speak of racism as though it were a matter of personal attitudes only, we underestimate it. We have only begun to realize the complexity of the sin, which spreads like an infection through the entire social system…[O]ur mission and ministry are in a society where white people have been favored and hold unequal power to implement their prejudices – socially, politically, and economically. What has been the case is still the case: skin color makes a difference and white people benefit from a privileged position,” and
Whereas, 23 years after “Freed in Christ” was approved, these problems still persist, and our congregations remain intertwined in a network of unearned privilege; and
Whereas, congregations can be empowered by beginning the conversation about racism, racial injustice, and a commitment to racial equity, and
Whereas, each congregation has the opportunity to be a catalyst for addressing issues of racial injustice within the larger community be engaging in such a conversation, and
Whereas, this synod has resources available to all congregations through the Unite Table; therefore be it
Resolved, that the 2016 Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly ask the Unite Table to provide resources to congregations regarding racial justice, and be it further
Resolved, that the bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod encourage congregations of the synod to have discussions toward creating racial justice statements that reflect their contexts, to be developed by the 2017 Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly, and be it further
Resolved, that each congregation be strongly urged to find ways to advocate for racial justice, and be it finally
Resolved, that each congregation be asked to forward the name of a congregational racial justice liaison to the Unite Table of the synod by December 31, 2016.
Authors: Rev. Stephanie Coltvet Erdmann, Edina Community Lutheran Church, on behalf of Racial Justice Leadership Team, email@example.com, Rev. Jen Nagel, University Lutheran Church of Hope, firstname.lastname@example.org, Rev. Melissa Pohlman, Central Lutheran Church, email@example.com
Sierra Pacific Synod
The Sierra Pacific Synod has an anti-racism working group, which is part of the Racial & Ethnic Mission Strategies Discipling Team (REMSDT). This Team started over 10 years ago through the hard work and leadership of Jane Okubo and the Reverends Adisa Armand, Richard Rubio Bowley, and Joe Barndt. The Team is supported by Bishop Mark Holmerud, who is deeply committed to the work of racial unity and reconciliation, as is the Synod’s liaison to the Team, Reverend Carlton Monroe. The REMSDT supports the efforts of training and developing a discipling process addressing the issues of white privilege and systemic racism in our communities, including the church. They solicit input from congregational pastors, social advocacy committees, and interested congregants.
Since its beginning, the anti-racism working group has sponsored a 2-½ day training seminar 5 times using Crossroads’ Anti-Racism Organizing and Training curriculum. There have also been 4 half-day introductory trainings during the last 2 years. From the training in spring 2015 at Hope Lutheran in El Sobrante, came requests for more of the introductory seminars in Northern California’s semi-rural areas. In July 2015 for the training at Bethlehem Lutheran in Auburn, 70 people attended with some coming from as far away as Fresno, San Jose and San Francisco. In September 2015 there were 40 attendees at a 4-week series of the introductory workshop (12 hours in all) at Peace Lutheran in Grass Valley. In May 2016, the anti-racism working group presented a workshop at Synod Assembly. This has been done annually for 3 years. In June 2016, the fourth introductory training was held at El Cerrito Lutheran. With 20 attendees, there was a lively, spirited, and collaborative discussion.
In August 2016, the Synod WELCA sponsored two attendees to the recent WELCA Today’s Dream, Tomorrow’s Reality training “How to Have Helpful Conversations About Race in the Church.” Inez Torres Davis, the creator of this training, has done this work for over 20 years. On October 8th an overview of this material was presented at the Synod WELCA retreat.
At the 2016 Assembly, a resolution was passed affirming the work of the REMSDT, and resolving to take steps to provide leadership and ongoing support for the Team. The Assembly directed the Team to “draft a Synod-wide strategy to dismantle racial injustice, social inequities and systemic racism at every level of this church’s ministry.” That strategy will “include (but not be limited to) the development and implementation of an anti-racist curriculum which will become a continuing education requirement for all rostered leaders under call” in the Synod.
Rocky Mountain Synod
The Rocky Mountain Synod presently does not have a racial or anti-racist focused group. About ten to fifteen years ago there was a group. Non-white or ethnic focused congregations are very few in this synod. Preliminary discussion is taking place about establishing a Native American congregation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This synod includes Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah.
Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod
Anja Stuckenberger of the N.E. Pennsylvania Synod reported that at the 2016 Synod Assembly in this synod, the focus was on recognizing discriminatory history and increasing awareness of how racism is working in our nation today. This area has a large Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and this influences most churches found there. There is a strong sense of equality and a lack of understanding of the impact of racism on the African Americans and Hispanic groups that are present in the area. Although most of the rural areas are white, the urban churches have been collaborating to build relationships with those who are not like them. The synod has established a Social Justice Network which is concerned with antiracism training and social justice activities within the synod.
Northwest/Lower Michigan Synod
The synod has had an Anti-racism Team which has been active since 1998. The team was trained using the Crossroad’s model. Three years ago the synod passed a resolution at Assembly that the Synod make available anti-racism training every year for both pastors and lay persons. The training for 2016 is planned for November 19 in the Lansing area at a local congregation. This is the third training since the passing of the resolution in the synod. Previous to that, first call pastors were encouraged to take anti-racism training as it was available.
Working in 2000 in the Kalamazoo area, with the local Northside Ministerial Alliance, the ERACCE (Eliminate Racism and Claim-Celebrate Equality) organization was created and funded by the Synod. The money to fund this group was generated from the closing of a Kalamazoo congregation, mostly due to the changing color of the neighborhood in which it was located. This organization has provided training for over 1500 leaders in the Kalamazoo area. This organization continues in existence today as an independent non-profit and is an established resource for anti-racism training nationally using the Crossroads model.
Living Water Ministry, the synod camping and retreat ministry, lives out the meaning of becoming a multi-cultural church. This ministry is supported by both the N\W Lower and Southeast Michigan synods. Through grant funding from several sources, the camping experience was provided to kids from foster programs and kids of color. The teen leadership training program became the Bridge Builders program, providing focus on anti-racism and building multicultural leadership in the church, through an ELCA grant. This program was opened up to the youth leaders in other synods. Intentionality regarding staffing for the camp made sure that thirty percent of the staff were persons of color.
The synod also has a Church and Society Committee which is working on issues of prison ministry, prisoner reentry, issues around poverty and opportunity and immigration issues. Currently there are Syrian refugees being resettled into the synod and being supported by local congregations.
Greater Milwaukee Synod
The Greater Milwaukee Synod has had an Anti-Racism Team since 2000. It has provided Anti-Racism Training opportunities for rostered leaders and congregation members since 2004. Training organizations used have been Crossroads Antiracism Training and Organizing and the former Lutheran Human Relations Association. Over 500 people have attended these 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 day workshops. In addition the team has offered book and movie discussions annually. They have also done short workshops at the synod assemblies and congregation leaders events. The team has also provided various learning opportunities with groups in congregations when requested. Funding for the team is a line item in the synod budget.
SW Texas Synod
Bishop Ray Tiemann has established a group of ten dedicated persons and named the group Peace for Racial Justice, ie.PEACE: Partnership for Equality, Awareness, Commitment, and Education for Racial Justice. This group is composed of both laity and clergy, some of whom have received anti-racism training. This group is fairly diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, and diversity in relationships (biracial, multilingual).
Group goals for 2016-2017 are
- Begin the training and development of leaders and advocates for Racial Justice
- Create a brochure to disseminate to all congregations in our synod explaining our existence, purpose, and goals
- Disseminate ELCA material concerning Racial Justice
- Create a platform for reflection, a tool for education and a beacon for remembrance of past milestones and celebrations of diversity, justice, and acceptance of each other
- Create a forum for ongoing reflection, deep and significant discussions and world-changing commitments on racial justice
A specific duty of the group is to disseminate and discuss the ELCA Social Statement “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture.” A Facebook page has been established “Peaceforracialjustice.”