From the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon:
Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke of the Oregon Synod ELCA, has sent out the following letter about the events in Harney County and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Lutheran Pastor Matt Littau serves the Paiute Reservation Church of the Living Waters, and he also serves the worshiping community of Peace Lutheran and St. Andrew’s Episcopal in town.
Dear Members and Friends of the Oregon Synod,
“A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.” The Apostle Paul writes these words in Galatians 5. The Jews used unleavened bread, flat bread, for holy observances. The “leavening” referred to here is a bad thing. Profane, actually. Paul uses this image with the Galatians to discuss how easy it is to misuse freedoms towards destructive ends.
For the past month citizens of Oregon, and now people around the globe, have witnessed the destructive leavening of the Malheur occupation in Harney County.
We have watched the uninvited and unwanted presence of Ammon Bundy and his followers grow and damage the community of Burns. Asked to leave, they have not done so, although they had promised they would. The people of Harney County have been harassed, property has been destroyed, sacred sites for the Paiute people have been desecrated, and now one man, Robert LaVoy Finnicum lies dead. That’s what we know today.
Pr. Matt Littau is the Oregon Synod pastor on site. Pr. Littau serves the Paiute Reservation Church of the Living Waters, and he also serves the worshiping community of Peace Lutheran and St. Andrew’s Episcopal in town. In addition, Pr. Littau is a medical first responder who works closely with the police and local social service agencies. Synod staff and I continue to stay in conversation with Pr. Littau, not only for his personal support, but also so that we might know how best to serve the community as a whole.
Things are currently extremely tense in Harney County. Many residents are armed, for their own perceived sense of protection, and everyone is on edge. People are coming in from outside the community for a variety of different reasons. The media is a constant presence. Local residents are simply trying to do their job and live their lives in peace. Schools have been disrupted, heavily armed Federal agents are present, and the church in town is accessible only through a single, back door, since the church building, being directly across the street from the sheriff’s office, sits within a safety perimeter.
Your prayers are appropriate now and as you gather for worship on Sunday. Pray for the Paiute people who have had degradation and disrespect added yet again to their lives. Pray especially for Charlotte Rodrique, chair of the Paiute tribal council. Pray for the local ranchers, the town’s people, the sheriff David Ward and Judge Steven Grasty who is himself a member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Pray for the children, for safety and for the end to this violence. Pray for the family of LaVoy Finnicum who have suffered a loss.
There is no need for money or donations at this point, save for the Paiute people and Church of the Living Waters who live in deep poverty. That is an ongoing need. It is not helpful to show up at present. If you do not have a relationship with the people in Burns now is not the time to ask them to create one with you. That would be wonderful work for a day yet to come. Do pray, and if you wish to share your concern cards can be sent to Pr. Matt Littau, c/o Church of Living Waters, P.O. Box 126, Hines, OR 97738.
Please call the synod office if we can be of assistance to you in this.
Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke
Oregon Synod – ELCA