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ELCA presiding bishop urges church to have ‘difficult conversations’ around racism

1/20/2016 5:15:00 PM

​          CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has called on its 3.7 million members to "be the church that models for the rest of this country what it means to have these difficult conversations" about racial inequality. Eaton made her remarks during a Jan. 14 live webcast, "Confronting Racism: A Holy Yearning."
            Eaton and co-host William B. Horne, a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Clearwater, Fla., presented the one-hour webcast, which addressed the complexities and implications of racism in the context of the criminal justice system. This was the ELCA's second webcast focused on racism.
            Joining Eaton and Horne for the one-hour conversation were: Judge Yolanda Tanner, an ELCA member who serves as an associate judge for the Baltimore City Circuit Court; Leonard Duncan, an ELCA member and student at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia; and Charlene Guiliani, an ELCA member and former police sergeant who is a student at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.
            During the webcast Duncan, Guiliani and Tanner shared their experiences and careers in the criminal justice system. A portion of the webcast was also dedicated to answering questions submitted via email, Facebook and Twitter.
            Eaton said that, although the webcast "serves as a way to keep the conversation going, it provides an opportunity for members and congregations to go deeper in our listening and in building relationships. We must commit to looking for ways to continue the conversation in our own congregations and communities."
            "But it's not going to work if we don't, if you don't, if all of us don't see that we are inextricably bound to each other, and as Paul says, 'When one member suffers, all suffer and when one rejoices, all rejoice.' When we can see that our story is the same and intertwined with everyone else's story, and, more to the point, that it's God story for us, then I think we might see not only the urgency but the beauty and holiness of this moment in time," she said.
             "Why can't the ELCA be the church that models for the rest of this country what it means to have these difficult conversations?" Eaton asked. "And trusting in our baptism, also believe and understand that we will never be snatched from Christ's hand. I challenge us to do that."
            The webcast and resources about this church's ongoing racial justice work are available at

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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

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