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ELCA presiding bishop responds to attacks on Jewish community

ELCA presiding bishop responds to attacks on Jewish community

A release from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, published in the Living Lutheran:

CHICAGO (Feb. 22, 2017) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued a letter in response to recent attacks and threats on the Jewish Community.

February 22, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

These famous words attributed to the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller have been on my lips in recent days: “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

In the face of anti-Semitism, we are called to speak out – as an expression of our love of neighbor and as our faithful response to the love of God in Jesus. In doing so, we become ambassadors of hope in the face of despair, imitators of Christ.

Our Jewish neighbors are once again living under threats, fearful for their safety and security. Over the weekend, a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was desecrated, and on Monday, another wave of bomb threats was made to Jewish community centers across the country. This was at least the fourth round this year alone. As Christians, we affirm that Jews remain “beloved of God” and that an attack on them is an attack on those whom our God – the one God – has called “my people.”

In many places, with leadership from across this church, we are reaching out and showing up with our Jewish neighbors, often with ecumenical and inter-religious partners. We can and should continue and expand these important ministries of presence.

There is also the critical long-term work. As a church, in our 1994 Declaration to the Jewish Community, we have pledged “to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us.” This will not happen quickly. It will take concerted efforts to correct “the complicity of our own tradition within this history of hatred” and to seek deeper mutual understanding and cooperation between Lutheran Christians and the Jewish community. We have many excellent resources to aid us in these complicated but necessary tasks.

So, let us continue to speak out, to reach out, to show up, and to root out this deadly bigotry of anti-Semitism. For the courage to do God’s will, and for the peace of our Jewish neighbors, we pray.

In peace,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

– – –

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.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder


Photo from Upstate New York Synod, ELCA


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Philip B. Spivey

Congratulations, ELCA, for standing tall and speaking truth to power and recognizing early on–that we are all literally in the same boat.

As I see it, the phenomenon of antisemitism is singular in world history: It began —on a much smaller scale—thousands of years ago and it persists to this day on a global scale. It’s the persistence of this phenomenon over time that amazes me and how rapidly it rises its ugly head when a society needs scapegoats; Jewish folks always lead the pack of scapegoats when in fact there is no “objective” reason to target them. I can only surmise that, over the eons, anti-Jewish feeling has been bred into our bones. Very much like white supremacy and misogyny, all we have to do is gently scratch the surface of most societies— et voila—the jaws of hate will open wide at the slightest social provocation.

BTW: I found the linked article (above) very instructive. If we read between the lines, you begin to see how closely linked the “isms” really are; some are ancient while others are relatively modern creations.

David Carver

You know, I’ve genuinely never understood modern-day anti-Semitism.

Rod Gillis

The common denominator is hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. You may find this article from of some help in putting the two together. NB, “Modern secular anti-Semitism has a historical continuity with religious anti-Semitism.”

In any event it is important for Christians to understand the contribution of Christian antisemitism to antisemitism in general given our long history of complicity, in our scriptures, in patristic, medieval and reformation theologies, in our classical liturgies and so forth.

David Carver

That is to say – In the old days, Jewish people might be branded as “Christ killers”, or accused of spreading the plague or of blood libel. Somehow I doubt any of these are much of a motivating factor in this day and age. So why?

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