Pastoral Letter in Response to July 7
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Dear Partners in Mission,


“But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
Luke 10:29


July 7 has now taken its place in the long history of tragedy in Dallas. A peaceful rally has ended in violence clearly targeted at law enforcement. Multiple officers killed in the line of duty.

The rise of social media, of instant communication, has brought a level of transparency and immediacy to our lives. This transparency destroys the shadow of hearsay. Video evidence brings horrors such as in Dallas last evening to our homes. It also brings hard truths to light as we witness in real time the shootings of black men by law enforcement. Hearing the cries of loved ones as their spouse, partner, friend, or colleague suffer and even die removes from us any veil of dispassionate observation.

This immediacy can incite reaction and frustration and anger. We have seen this manifested in our African American sisters and brothers who for too long have been marginalized and victimized by systemic racism. We will see it now from those who are grieving in Dallas. We have been awakened again that violence bred from anger and fear is not a Texas or Minnesota or Louisiana problem; this is a national problem.

This Sunday, we will be challenged, in the midst of these realities, to engage the story of the Good Samaritan. We will be reminded that Samaritans were a marginalized people from the perspective of Luke’s gospel. We will also be challenged to notice that only one person in the story bothered to engage the injured party in their pain. Only one person listened.

In recent years, the Black Lives Matter movement has challenged us all to take seriously issues of systemic racism. This movement has encountered resistance claiming that by singling out one community they must be excluding another. This is the exclusionary temptation, the lie told that by listening to the story of pain and grief of one community we must ignore the stories of others, the lie told that we cannot care about our law enforcement officers and their families while at the same time challenging the privilege and assumptions that impact how law and justice are carried out. This lie the Church must reject, engaging in compassionate work together.

“Who is my neighbor?” That question asked of Jesus is simple and yet most difficult to carry out. The story of the Good Samaritan challenges us to stop pushing back when others tell their story of pain. We are encouraged to listen closely to one another and take seriously the experience of others, to listen more, to speak less, and to care for those marginalized.

Our hearts are broken in North Texas for the families of law enforcement officers whose lives were taken. These are friends, colleagues, and family. We are in mourning today and will be for some time. We must reject this act of violence. We must also be people who listen and work for justice and peace. May we respond to this violence with ears willing to listen and hearts open to being changed. May the Holy Spirit make it so.

In mission together, 

Bishop Erik Gronberg

Copyright © 2016 NT-NL Synod, ELCA, All rights reserved.

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