If you’ve made the trip to Columbus, Ohio for this year’s Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), you’ve either been vaccinated or tested. When you’re inside the convention center, you’re wearing a mask. You’ve also observed a leadership that has wrestled with an intersectional quandary: what happens when your first transgender bishop fires an Hispanic pastor on the vigil of Our Lady of Guadalupe?
You get to work. Not the evangelization kind of work. Not the education of children or the administration of sacraments. Time for that work will come. This is the Audre Lorde kind of work.
“This is a time to remind ourselves of all of the antiracist commitments and apologies we have made as a church, and to offer a public recommitment to become an antiracist church,” the church’s leader Elizabeth Eaton said on Tuesday.
At the ELCA, our hearts are restless until they rest in antiracism training.
Eaton went on to say that the apparition at Guadalupe, a feast that is not recognized on the ELCA liturgical calendar, confirms “that the Latine community,” a term that seems recently to have replaced ‘Latinx’, “is seen, known, and imbued with dignity. It speaks to their dignity of being made in the image of God, despite how human society looks down upon them and marginalizes them.” After more Freudian projections, Eaton concluded her introductory remarks by reminding those in attendance that “this is our common work, especially as a white-majority church.”
Later, she made a reference that confirmed what all critical listeners already suspected: “on the screen behind me are the various statements and declarations this church has made throughout the years.”
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For this ecclesial body, that is the work: releasing statements and declarations. The minister admits of the perception that her organization is primarily a political one sustained by ad hoc committees, working groups, and press releases.
In a similarly political act, voting members of the assembly voted 741-59 on a “reconsideration to revise the social statement 'Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (2009)' so its wording reflects current church understanding, church policy, civil law and acceptance of marriage of same-gender and gender non-conforming couples.” For those 741 members, Obergefell not only holds legal weight, but also reverses settled moral doctrine.
When church and state are separated like this, who needs unity?