O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Throughout Scripture, God promises to restore God's people to health and wholeness, a promise that includes the renewal of all creation. This promise is depicted dramatically in the final pages of the book of Revelation as a grand vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The earth and its inhabitants are weary and uncertain, battered by plagues and death, wars and destruction. But God is still there, persistent and faithful. At the last, God reveals a renewed heaven and an earth permeated by the presence of God, transformed from pain to be a place of healing and wholeness for all things. The 2021 Earth Day theme, "Restore Our Earth," reminds us of this vision and the holy work God entrusts to us — of seeking the well-being of creation as inseparable from the wholeness of humankind.
In the past year the world received a jolt from its collision with the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid bare persistent racial disparities in health care access and outcomes in our nation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted the disproportionate impact (increased hospitalizations and deaths) of the pandemic on some racial and ethnic minority groups. The CDC found that "inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty and healthcare access, affecting these groups are interrelated and influence a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks."
The racial reckonings of 2020 illuminate how the legacies of slavery, the Doctrine of Discovery and colonization continue to diminish life for people and creation. The glaring inequities exposed through the pandemic are being intensified by the global impacts of climate change. The final 2020 update of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) found last year to be one of historical extremes. There were 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters across the United States, which shattered the previous annual record of 16 events in 2011 and 2017. All these disasters disproportionately affected people of color and the most vulnerable populations. We are one people and one earth in need of restoration.
Repenting the sin of racism and repenting our destruction of creation should happen together. Because God gave humans the vocation to be stewards of the earth, we proclaim that, for Christians, care of the earth is not an "environmental cause." Instead, it is central to our holy calling to treasure the earth and care for it as our home, fully integrating creation care into our love of God, neighbor and all in the environment. Recalling the good earth and our call to be stewards of creation in hope and faith, we know our recovery from the pall of 2020 will, in many ways, be a transition to a new way of life.
Dear church, we can "testify to the good news of God's grace" (Acts 20:24), which empowers us to move forward. We know that healing is possible — for the planet and for our communities. We are not too late. The time is now. To us, God is calling; through us, God wants to work a miracle; through our finite and inadequate efforts, God can and will bring about "a new heaven and a new earth." God provides us with diverse gifts as protectors and guardians of creation. We affirm, therefore, the many stewards of the land who have been and are conserving the good earth that the Lord has given us.
As stewards of creation, we have many ways to lovingly serve the earth:
• Explore and use ELCA Care for Creation resources, including video, study and action guides with information about the Creation Care Ambassadors initiative.
• Read the Lutherans Restoring Creation story "5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day as Church Together but Apart."
• Accept the ELCA Young Adults No Plastics for Lent challenge this Easter season.
• Participate in a local cleanup (with appropriate distancing) if permitted by local authorities, or participate in the Earth Challenge 2020 citizen scientist initiative, focused on plastic pollution and clean air.
• Join with the ELCA's ecumenical partner Creation Justice Ministries in advocacy, education and prayer.
• Participate in Faith and Frontline Call to Action: Good Trouble for Justice on April 19, an ELCA-sponsored consultation focusing on climate migration, food security and just transition. This event brings together people of faith at this watershed moment and calls for the inclusion of the voices, ideas and expertise of the front line and faith communities alongside career politicians and others to address and implement climate solutions.
Envisioning a world that is just, sustainable and resilient, we, as Lutherans, heed God's call and take concrete steps to repair inequities and wealth divides locally, nationally and globally. A framework built on hope and connecting climate to economic and racial justice is essential to our reimagining of communities as resilient and inclusive, void of poverty and leaving no one behind.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
From the SC Synod website: DR. MINDY MAKANT OF
LENOIR-RHYNE UNIVERSITY INTERVIEWS BISHOP
GINNY AEBISCHER ABOUT HER TIME IN THE MINISTRY.
From the SC Synod:
April 13, 2021
Dear Governor McMaster:
Lutheran Services Carolinas is a faith-based nonprofit
ministry with a long history of providing child and family
services across South Carolina, including foster care,
veterans services, refugee resettlement, services for
survivors of human trafficking, and supported housing.
We are excited to be starting an addiction recovery
program in Greenwood.
In 2017, in recognition of recurring humanitarian crises
at the southern border, we began providing transitional
foster care for unaccompanied children in the
Columbia area. We are proud of the compassionate work
we have done in this area for the past four years.
We are equally proud to serve approximately 140 native
South Carolinians every year through our traditional
foster care program. South Carolinians who choose
to foster unaccompanied migrant children do so for a
variety of reasons, from having a particular passion for
serving the Hispanic population to being drawn to the
relatively short-term nature of their commitment, as
the migrant children they foster will likely be in their care
for days, weeks or several months, not, potentially, years,
as might be the case in a traditional foster care program.
We are very concerned about the negative impact of the executive order preventing the federal government from
placing unaccompanied migrant children in South Carolina
foster care and group homes.
We respectfully disagree that programs like ours take
away from DSS foster care or are a drain on South
Carolina resources. Of the 133 unaccompanied children
our program has served since 2017, none has ended up in
South Carolina DSS care after their release to a family
member or sponsor, and in fact, the majority have not
been released to a family member or sponsor in South
Carolina. The children in our program do not use South
Carolina resources, as they have their own federally
funded medical insurance and do not attend public school.
Any child who is unable to be released to a family
member or sponsor will be moved out of state to a
federally funded foster care program.
We are saddened that responding to a humanitarian
crisis seems to have become politicized. Our program
serving unaccompanied children is, for our faith-based organization, a perfect example of The Good Samaritan
in action. The strong support throughout the state that
we have had for this ministry would suggest that
many South Carolinians appreciate our efforts
to help these children, many of whom have been
through unspeakable trauma.
Lutheran Services Carolinas has operated this small,
specialized program without problem or concern
since 2017. I would respectfully encourage you to
pause implementation of this ban to gather more information
on this complex issue. We would be happy to meet
with you or your staff to share more details on this
program that serves some of the most
vulnerable among us.
Yours in Christ,
Ted Goins, president and CEO of Lutheran Services Carolinas
Special Edition: Anti Asian Racism Statement From Bishop Aebischer
By now, most of us have received the news that on March 16, 2021, a horrific act of racism was inflicted on our Asian siblings in the Atlanta area when a suspect shot and killed 8 people in three different locations. This crime is just another example of increased attacks targeting Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID 19 pandemic.
This week I sent a letter to the pastors and deacons serving congregations in the South Carolina Synod- ELCA inviting them to set aside Sunday, March 21, 2021 or another date of their choosing to use resources for lament and prayer on behalf of our Asian-American brothers and sisters. We condemn the sin of racism in all its forms and invite congregations of the South Carolina Synod – ELCA to join with our Asian and Pacific Islander siblings to lament the pain that these attacks have caused, and to pray for the victims of violence.
God has called us to become the beloved community that God created where all are valued and honored. We then are called through the waters of our baptism to strive for justice and peace in all the world, for all.
O God of all, with wonderful diversity of languages and cultures you created all people in your own image. Free us from prejudice and fear, that we may see your face in the faces of our Asian siblings and people around the world; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
(Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship Occasional Services for the Assembly, pg 398)
ELCA’s Statement on anti-Asian Racism
Bishop Ginny Aebischer
Vaccination hopes, fears and falsehoods are around us in this time of heightened anxiety. A new resource is available, “‘All in’ Against COVID-19: FAQ and Guide to Supporting Vaccine Confidence for Faith and Community Leaders.” Released on March 1, 2021 by The Partnership Center, Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Rev. Emily Edenfield interviews Deacon Darlene Weight as part of Womens History Month
ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton shares some of the rich contributions of Black Lutheran History.
The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary of Lenoir-Rhyne University announces accreditation has been reaffirmed by the Association of Theological Schools.
LTSS received the maximum 10-year term from ATS, which oversees more than 270 graduate schools in theology and ministry in the United States and Canada. The seminary has been accredited by ATS since 1944.
As part of Lenoir-Rhyne, the seminary is also accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. “I’ve seen the commitment of our faculty and friends of the seminary,” said the Rev. Dr. Mary Shore, rector and dean of LTSS. “It is very gratifying to have other people witness that, as well.”
The process began in the fall of 2019 when Shore and Dr. Brent Driggers, chair of the committee that oversaw an institutional self-study, attended a conference to ascertain everything required to reaffirm accreditation. It was chiefly through its 184-page self-study that the seminary faculty and staff gathered information and provided analysis about core institutional areas such as mission, curriculum, student services, governance and finances.
In November 2020, a committee from ATS met — virtually due to COVID-19 — with administrators at the seminary, faculty, staff and students, while poring over the self-study in order to recommend a term to reaffirm accreditation for LTSS. LTSS received exemplary marks for its commitment to be an inclusive community, for its faculty and staff who demonstrated genuine passion about their faith and care for students, as well as its relationship with Lenoir-Rhyne, which strengthened its resources and ability to provide quality education and experiences for seminarians. “It’s an affirmation of a lot of work we’ve done strengthening our program and our ongoing program assessment processes,” Driggers said.
The last accreditation cycle for LTSS began shortly after it merged with Lenoir-Rhyne University, which has turned out to be a great partnership for both parties. “We have a campus that is more useful now than it was when it was populated by just seminary programs,” Shore said. “Lenoir-Rhyne has a presence in Columbia that it didn’t have, and the seminary has access to more resources such as the Center for Teacher Learning, information technology and marketing communications. As part of the university, the seminary has access to all of those resources, and the university has a theological faculty and stature in the church that is greater than it was before.”
From the SC Synod: BLACK HISTORY
MONTH INTERVIEWS WITH
THE REV. EMILY EDENFIELD
This February, The Rev. Emily
Edenfield conducted a series
of interviews with
African-American pastors here
in the South Carolina Synod.
We were blessed by guests
who share their experiences.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH: THE REV. JEHU JONES
The first African American pastor, the Rev. Jehu Jones, was born in Charleston, SC. He went to Philadelphia for seminary, was ordained in 1832, and founded the first African-American Lutheran Congregation in 1834. St. Paul’s in Philadelphia took hold in that neighborhood, while Pr. Jones served them and over 2000 African American families in Eastern Pennsylvania.
This February, the SC Synod remembers African-American History month. We thank God for the faithful ministry of African Descent pastors, deacons, and laypeople in this and every age.
ELCA presiding bishop, other faith leaders call for arms reduction agreement extension
January 21, 2021
ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has been joined by 21 U.S. religious leaders in a Jan. 19 statement to President-elect Biden’s transition team calling for an extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) agreement. This is a nuclear arms reduction treaty, jointly agreed to by the United States and the Russian Federation 10 years ago, that will automatically expire on Feb. 5, 2021, unless the two parties agree to extend it.
In signing on to the agreement, Eaton recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah: “[The Lord] shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).
Eaton also noted that, according to the 1995 ELCA social statement “For Peace in God’s World,” this church would give priority to “agreements among the leading nuclear powers to reduce their nuclear stockpiles and to decrease the possibility of nuclear confrontation or accident”—precisely what New START addresses.
In the statement, Eaton and the other religious leaders said:
“We call for an immediate five-year extension of the New START treaty, in order to avoid a nuclear crisis interfering with the other urgent priorities facing the nation and the world—from containing the pandemic to restarting the economy. Equally, a five-year extension would provide a period of predictability for new negotiations on further steps to reduce nuclear dangers.”
For the past 18 months, ELCA churchwide organization staff have been participating in informal discussions among leading U.S. and Russian arms control experts aimed at reducing the danger of nuclear war. The experts have encouraged initiatives by the religious leaders―such as the statement―as a first, important step toward restoring a basis for official, longer-term talks on reducing the respective nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia. While some official U.S.-Russia talks have been held in recent months, they have not produced clear results.
“We hope this, and future, initiatives can lead to concrete steps by the U.S., Russia and, eventually, other nuclear powers to reduce the danger of an unimaginable nuclear confrontation and lay a path instead for meeting urgent human needs,” said Dennis Frado, director of the Lutheran Office for World Community at the United Nations. “It reflects the importance of moral leadership to promote confidence-building measures that help adversaries to re-create a basis for a more secure world.”
The informal discussions by arms control experts are a recent effort by the Global Priorities campaign, an interreligious group that aims to secure the common good of all people by reducing global military spending and redirecting resources to unmet human needs. The latest endeavor has involved representatives of the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church. The campaign has previously been endorsed by the Lutheran World Federation (Eleventh Assembly, Stuttgart, Germany, 2010), Church World Service, the U.S. Committee of the World Council of Churches, and others. The ELCA has provided support to the campaign for several years.
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