ELCA Bishop Asked to Speak Out on Church Burnings

11/1/1996 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, should write a pastoral letter to all congregations of the church on the subject of the African American churches that burned this year, according to an action taken by the steering committee of the ELCA's Commission for Multicultural Ministries.
     The committee, meeting here Oct. 11-12, also urged the bishop to be alert to an opportunity to hold a press conference "denouncing these despicable acts of vandalism and burnings." The action specified that "a visible presence of people of color and language other than English" take part in the event.
     Background information prepared by staff informed the committee that the ELCA has been active through the National Council of Churches of Christ in a nationwide campaign "to end racially motivated burnings of churches and to restore those churches that have been destroyed."
     In June the ELCA sent a "Disaster-gram" fund-raiser to all ELCA congregations.  In that form Anderson called the church "to action concerning the continued fire-bombing of African American churches" and asked them to respond with financial assistance for the NCCC's effort.
     Anderson asked members of the ELCA "to share his outrage at the situation and support the importance of an ecumenical coordinated response."  He asked for prayer "that the people of our nation will reject such hatred and injustice, and respond with strong moral and legal support."
     The background paper said the "vicious attacks' present the ELCA with "an excellent opportunity to speak out in solidarity with all God's people."  It said the Lutheran church historically has not been "outspoken on issues affecting, particularly, people of color."
     Erik Phelps, a committee member from Eau Claire, Wis., cited instances of desecration of American Indian worship sites and said, "This is happening in the context of freedom of religion for people of color."
     The Rev. Frederick E.N. Rajan, director of the commission, said, "The ELCA responded immediately, programmatically and ecumenically.  I am proud of that leadership.  What is missing is passion from on high.  The focus on what has happened should remind leaders to stand up and speak forcefully."
     In a separate action the committee voted to call upon the ELCA to make public its disapproval of the desecration of American Indian/Alaska Native sacred sites and instructed the commission to develop a position statement "decrying this practice" for consideration at its next meeting.

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service,
(312) 380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir.,
(312) 380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG


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