Author Topic: Solidarity and Unity  (Read 2463 times)

Pr. Terry Culler

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2020, 04:58:36 PM »
Just what are the signs/symptoms that lead to the conclusion that there is active, systemic racism inside the :LCMS?  There seems to be a lot of assuming going on but no evidence.  It seems to me that one of the problems with the idea of systemic racism is that it doesn't have to be proven, merely asserted for it to be true.  If a problem must be fixed, then it must be properly identified and the methodology must be appropriate for the resolution of said problem. 

The mere fact that there are a relatively small number of black clergy/members in the LCMS is no more a sign of racism that the fact that there are few white clergy/members of the Missionary Baptist Church.  The problem confronting the church is the sinful desire to worship only with people like ourselves.  It's one of the reasons so many congregations are filled with middle class people.  The church growth people out of Fuller years ago taught that we should have target markets because felt most comfortable in a place where most others were like them.  That is not the call of the Church of Christ, but it is a reality we must all face in one way or another.
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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2020, 03:06:02 PM »
I would call attention to the October 2020 Christianity Today.

Editor in chief, Daniel Harrell, introduces four major articles that focus on systemic racism in our country and in Christian congregations. He begins by calling attention to the enormous challenge of the ever-penetrating repercussions of systemic racism in America...Systemic racism requires changes in laws and policies that perpetuate discrimination.

"At its core, Christianity is about systemic change. God so  loved the world that He sent His Son to save it....For many Christians, love tends to get relegated to personal relationships and forgiveness of individual sins. Win individual hearts and minds to Jesus, and trust that change will follow. Inasmuch as structures and systems are composed of component parts, changing an individual person for good can have significant effects.  But good people still  make for bad systems. The whole remains greater than the sum of its parts. For systemic change to happen, the entire system must be addressed.....

"As one body of Christ, we posses power beyond any one of us could ever exert on our own. But to fully tap into that spiritual power requires sacrificial love. Jesus calls us to lay down our lives - our agendas, preferences, and priorities - to take up a cross and follow (Mark 8:34).   As Jesus' disciples, we make plain  his passion to do right by the least and the lost, the disenfranchised and discriminated - along with their persecutors."

The four articles that follow trace the work of black Atlanta pastors who are working to build bridges between blacks and whites in the congregations they serve. 

In his book, That Bridge Pastor Dhati Lewis wrote, "The power of faith is transformative."  Serving the God of the Exodus and the Son whose anointing set the captives free, black Christians are working to change their neighborhoods, their cities, and the nation...."

The Atlanta  Be the Bridge ministry trains Christians (black and white) to do the humbling work of learning from marginalized voices, developing empathy and pushing for justice - all undergirded by a belief in the power of God's reconciling work."   is available from Amazon.

The common message of the black pastors to the readers of Christianity Today is, "Listen to our story of where, when and how systemic racism continues to impact upon relationships within the One Body of Christ and in our society. We, your brothers and sisters in Christ,  believe that God can and will empower black and white to live together as His One and One Beloved Bride.  Together, we can be a voice for true equality for all people in the United States of America."

Marie Meyer

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2020, 03:17:51 PM »
As Jesus' disciples, we make plain  his passion to do right by the least and the lost, the disenfranchised and discriminated - along with their persecutors."

Marie,

Could you help me understand this part that you quoted? Who are these “least and lost”? Where does Jesus call us to “do right” to them? And what does that even mean? How are they disenfranchised? And how discriminated against? And who is persecuting (???) them? I honestly have no idea what the fellow is talking about.
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Richard Johnson

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2020, 05:22:50 PM »
If you've not read the book by Robert P. Jones to which Pr. Speckhard refers (or even if you have), you might find interesting a recent interview with him sponsored by the Brooklyn Historical Society. You can find it here.
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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2020, 07:08:09 PM »
I would call attention to the October 2020 Christianity Today.

Editor in chief, Daniel Harrell, introduces four major articles that focus on systemic racism in our country and in Christian congregations. He begins by calling attention to the enormous challenge of the ever-penetrating repercussions of systemic racism in America...Systemic racism requires changes in laws and policies that perpetuate discrimination.

"At its core, Christianity is about systemic change. God so  loved the world that He sent His Son to save it....For many Christians, love tends to get relegated to personal relationships and forgiveness of individual sins. Win individual hearts and minds to Jesus, and trust that change will follow. Inasmuch as structures and systems are composed of component parts, changing an individual person for good can have significant effects.  But good people still  make for bad systems. The whole remains greater than the sum of its parts. For systemic change to happen, the entire system must be addressed.....

"As one body of Christ, we posses power beyond any one of us could ever exert on our own. But to fully tap into that spiritual power requires sacrificial love. Jesus calls us to lay down our lives - our agendas, preferences, and priorities - to take up a cross and follow (Mark 8:34).   As Jesus' disciples, we make plain  his passion to do right by the least and the lost, the disenfranchised and discriminated - along with their persecutors."

The four articles that follow trace the work of black Atlanta pastors who are working to build bridges between blacks and whites in the congregations they serve. 

In his book, That Bridge Pastor Dhati Lewis wrote, "The power of faith is transformative."  Serving the God of the Exodus and the Son whose anointing set the captives free, black Christians are working to change their neighborhoods, their cities, and the nation...."

The Atlanta  Be the Bridge ministry trains Christians (black and white) to do the humbling work of learning from marginalized voices, developing empathy and pushing for justice - all undergirded by a belief in the power of God's reconciling work."   is available from Amazon.

The common message of the black pastors to the readers of Christianity Today is, "Listen to our story of where, when and how systemic racism continues to impact upon relationships within the One Body of Christ and in our society. We, your brothers and sisters in Christ,  believe that God can and will empower black and white to live together as His One and One Beloved Bride.  Together, we can be a voice for true equality for all people in the United States of America."

Marie Meyer
I would be happy to consider any changes to the systems of our congregation and/or church body if anybody would propose one that would take it from "systemically racist" to "not systemically racist." I've never heard any such proposal, and nobody will point out the concrete, systemic differences between systemically racist congregations and non-systemically racist congregations. How would anyone know if we had already made such systemic changes? Most people won't even say what system they are referring to. Constitutions? Voters' Assemblies? Acolytes? What systems? I know there are racists in our congregations and synod, and I agree that particular sin needs to be preached against. But how is that a system? Every proposal I've heard involves emphasizing and perpetuating the falsehood of race as a characteristic that calls for solidarity among Christians. I commit an injustice if I see a black person and think I know something about them because of their skin color. They commit an injustice if they claim to speak for other black people or insist on being treated as a black brother or sister rather than just a brother or sister.

I think people insist on the word "systemic" in order to absolve themselves of any need for evidence for their accusations and to accuse everyone in general rather than anyone in particular. They generally claim, falsely, that anyone who rejects this idea of systemic racism really is minimizing historical racism or denying that racism is real.

In the quote from Christianity today, I've bolded an aspect of the problem. Black pastors do not have a common message any more than white pastors have a common message. A common message unites people (and divides them from others) truly. A common race (as popularly understood in terms of skin color) unites and divides them falsely. The CT article simply reinforces the idea that people have some relevant solidarity with other people of their same skin color. They don't, as least not among Christians. There can be no "we, your brothers" unless those pronouns are grouping people by skin color. The sense of "we" that the Gospel dissolves is instead being asserted and solidified. That is the problem; such groupings are unBiblical. They are emphatically NOT like Biblical subsets of humanity, like family or the church.

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2020, 07:26:35 PM »
As Jesus' disciples, we make plain  his passion to do right by the least and the lost, the disenfranchised and discriminated - along with their persecutors."

Marie,

Could you help me understand this part that you quoted? Who are these “least and lost”? Where does Jesus call us to “do right” to them? And what does that even mean? How are they disenfranchised? And how discriminated against? And who is persecuting (???) them? I honestly have no idea what the fellow is talking about.

Suggest you locate the October Christianity Today.  It may help you better understand  the  editorial and the four articles from the perspective of our black brothers and sisters in Christ.  BTW, the "fellow" is a black ordained pastor.

If you have read anything by the late LCMS pastor, Dr. Peter Steinke, you will recognize the need for systems to change before entropy sets it and the likely-hood of change declines. 

Marie Meyer



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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2020, 08:31:18 PM »
Thanks, Marie. I confess my experience with Steinke has largely been negative...again, I haven’t understood much of what he was saying, not sure of the systems he seems quite sure of. But could you tell me how YOU understand the words cited?
« Last Edit: October 18, 2020, 08:33:37 PM by Weedon »
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2020, 08:52:50 PM »
As Jesus' disciples, we make plain  his passion to do right by the least and the lost, the disenfranchised and discriminated - along with their persecutors."

Marie,

Could you help me understand this part that you quoted? Who are these “least and lost”? Where does Jesus call us to “do right” to them? And what does that even mean? How are they disenfranchised? And how discriminated against? And who is persecuting (???) them? I honestly have no idea what the fellow is talking about.

Suggest you locate the October Christianity Today.  It may help you better understand  the  editorial and the four articles from the perspective of our black brothers and sisters in Christ.  BTW, the "fellow" is a black ordained pastor.

If you have read anything by the late LCMS pastor, Dr. Peter Steinke, you will recognize the need for systems to change before entropy sets it and the likely-hood of change declines. 

Marie Meyer
I have read some on systems. I know they can have implicit bias in them. I'd be interested in knowing what system in my congregation or denomination is racist, since you objected to my saying I didn't think they were systemically racist. Again, I'd be happy to work to change it if you will point it out.

There could be all kinds of ways. For example, I know there are cultural differences between black/Hispanic people in our area vs. white/Asian. The latter group tends to be very clock-conscious and hold up punctuality as a virtue. The former tends not to. In our multi-racial school, I'd be willing to wager that black students get far more tardy slips than white students per capita. If one's grade depended upon punctuality, one could make the case that the system of our school was racially biased. But that would only work if we assumed that punctuality were an unreasonable demand, that it was there in order to elevate white students over black students, and that all black students had trouble with it and no white students had trouble being on time. There is the rub. We have to categorize people by race and ascribe attributes to them based on group identity in order to do anything about it. Better to talk about lateness than blackness.

I've spoken often to our congregation about implicit assumptions and how they shape people's perception and expectations. For example, we're not on a public transportation route and we have a large parking lot. That tells people the sort of people we expect to be serving are people who have vehicles and drive places, not people who rely on busses or walk. We have to be aware of sending that signal if we're going to communicate effectively with a wide range of people. In our county, that particular distinction probably correlates somewhat to race. But we talk in terms of accessibility and vehicle ownership, not in terms of white and black. That way, we're not pigeonholing any middle class, suburban black people, nor excluding white people who lack vehicles. We're talking about everyone without reference to race even though on some topics due to a variety of cultural and demographic influences, we may be addressing black people or white people disproportionately.

I do not believe our congregation or synod intentionally discriminates. Nor do I see any systemic racism. I think taking the existence of it on faith does more harm than good by forcing people to be thinking of themselves and others in terms of their race. That perpetuates the problem. Rather than working to dissolve the bogus solidarity people sometimes feel with people of the same skin color, it reinforces it. Rather than helping people overcome the assumption that other people must have some solidarity with people of their same skin color-- e.g. that a black person is like black people as a group-- it teaches them to assume it more strongly. 


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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #23 on: October 18, 2020, 09:04:39 PM »
Peter, I modestly suggest that you talk, for hours and hours and hours with people who have experienced systemic racism. Learn how they see it. Learn some nuances in approach and thinking and experience that you may not have. Rather than simply declaring that racism in your system doesn’t exist, listen to them and see if they agree with you. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. But you would benefit from long conversation. Listen to them. And listen to people outside your particular systems. See how they understand similar systems elsewhere. Then ask the questions about your systems that they have asked about theirs.
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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #24 on: October 18, 2020, 09:06:58 PM »
Thanks, Marie. I confess my experience with Steinke has largely been negative...again, I haven’t understood much of what he was saying, not sure of the systems he seems quite sure of. But could you tell me how YOU understand the words cited?
Like you, my long time pastor, a classmate of Rev Steinke, has expressed a similar opinion of Rev Steinke. 


He endured multiple Steinke led Winkels and Pastors conferences ... rarely if at all able to recommend the material to others.
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Pr. Terry Culler

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #25 on: October 19, 2020, 09:37:48 AM »
Feelings are important, but our feelings are sometimes unconnected to facts.  So just what are the signs of systemic racism inside the LCMS?
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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #26 on: October 19, 2020, 10:06:48 AM »
Feelings are important, but our feelings are sometimes unconnected to facts.  So just what are the signs of systemic racism inside the LCMS?

I'm certainly not the expert on this, but from my observations since a year ago summer at the LCMS convention when we were accused of institutional racism, this is part of what I think has been noted by some:
--The closing of the only black college in the LCMS (Concordia-Selma).  It had experienced years of declining enrollment and financial stability, but I think there are some that feel we should have done more to save this institution and that it is a sign of systemic racism in that we allowed an historical black college in our synod to fail.
--It has been noted that there were no blacks among the incoming first year students at either of our seminaries.  I suspect it is identified as racist in that we are not working to either more actively recruit students from this demographic, or that we are not making the proper adjustments in the schools to encourage more enrollment from this demographic.
--It has been noted that that there appears to be a lack of support for ministry to the black community on a synodical level.
--Recently a couple of our high schools have come under scrutiny for their treatment of black students and for representation of blacks at these institutions.

These are just a few of the things I have picked up on as I listen to the news within the synod.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #27 on: October 19, 2020, 10:21:04 AM »
Bowen Family System Theory and how Peter Steinke applied it to congregations has made sense to me when we experience anxiety or conflict. I understand that some people will react more from an emotional point of view and others will react from an intellectual point of view. Few of us are well-differentiated in our selves and able to react equally from both points of view. I generally find that I am more reasoning in my responses and I have little patience for someone that will present primarily with emotional responses to a situation. I try understand this anxiety about myself and rise above it and seek to understand the basis for another's responses.

I saw in the petition drive that seeks an end to systemic racism in the LCMS a very emotional response. As I reason my way through the disputes, I can find many ways that I am not involved. But if I am part of the system, then somehow my participation either contributes to the escalation of anxiety or deescalates the system. The symptom-bearer in the system is not the cause of the problem but the carrier of the anxieties of the system. What anxieties exist in the LCMS that causes a group of people to respond emotionally with a petition drive? The closing of Selma, the lack of support for the Black caucus, the inability to value the contributions of people from cultures different from Perry County in the 19th century?

I want to become aware of the stressors and figure out my role in change. Not all stressors are viewed as valid by everyone in the system, but they nonetheless will cause anxiety in the system. May we recognize and share our own experiences about what should change and what will not change? Our unity in the gospel will not change. Our ability to welcome the voices of others in contributing to the sharing of this gospel can change. Our unity in ... will not change. Our ability to ... can change. Going through the exercise of filling in these blanks through conversations with people will show the common ground we share and the common destination we seek.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2020, 10:29:52 AM by therevev »
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D. Engebretson

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #28 on: October 19, 2020, 10:28:11 AM »
Feelings are important, but our feelings are sometimes unconnected to facts.  So just what are the signs of systemic racism inside the LCMS?

On the petition site "A Call for Racial Justice Reform in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod" the following is also noted:
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) presides over 6,000 congregations with more than 2 million members, 778 elementary schools, 84 high schools, 8 colleges and 2 seminaries -- not to mention its many educational, missional and service efforts around the world. The signers of this statement are either members of the LCMS, have been educated by Lutheran teachers, encouraged by Missouri Synod pastors or have experienced the seemingly limitless generosity of the church body’s participants and organizations.

WE LOVE OUR CHURCH.

But we have a problem.

Despite presiding over the largest Protestant school system in America, the LCMS is our nation’s third-LEAST racially diverse religious body. Among the more tangible effects of our systemic issues: the Synod’s only Historically Black College has closed, black ministries have lost synodical funding, and no Black Lutherans are entering seminary this year.

Throughout its history, our church body has made efforts toward racial equality, but it has also been an impediment, and at times, a hostile opponent to those causes. Just as often, our cultural divides have been exacerbated by the church's silence when we have failed to speak for the suffering -- even for those within our very own congregations and schools (The Black Clergy Caucus of the LCMS released a statement that gives further context on these matters).


While we refuse to closet past transgressions, we are not here to relentlessly flog ourselves nor our leaders. Driven by fervent hope, we faithfully believe the people of the LCMS have the opportunity, capacity and influence to lead the Church and nation in taking actions for equality, justice, and reconciliation.

With all this in mind, the signers of this statement humbly:

    CONFESS that our thoughts, words, and deeds have created, deepened, and sustained the lasting wounds of racial prejudice, inequality, and injustice -- by what we have done and by what we have left undone, we repent.
    DECLARE an intent to, by God’s grace, dismantle the systems of racism within our congregations, communities, and church body. Our work for racial equality does not end with this statement, but rather begins. We will aim to honor the humanity of our black and brown neighbors by listening, learning, and moving towards faithful action in the decision making process of our church, city and Synod, inviting the accountability of fellowship when we fall short.
    PLEDGE SUPPORT, in word, deed, and resources, to RAISE UP future black leaders, as well as seeking out opportunities to ELEVATE & AMPLIFY current Black Lutheran voices (donating to The Institute of Black Lutheran Studies & Center for Social Justice is a great place to start).

We do not expect the deep wounds of racial divide to be healed overnight. We do believe, however, that it is reasonable and necessary for us to take immediate, visible, bold action. The lives of our congregants, the future of our communities, and the survival of our church body depend on it.

It’s time.


Emphasis added.
https://www.change.org/p/the-members-of-the-lutheran-church-missouri-synod-a-call-for-racial-justice-reform-in-the-lutheran-church-missouri-synod
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

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Re: Solidarity and Unity
« Reply #29 on: October 19, 2020, 10:34:39 AM »
Peter, I modestly suggest that you talk, for hours and hours and hours with people who have experienced systemic racism. Learn how they see it. Learn some nuances in approach and thinking and experience that you may not have. Rather than simply declaring that racism in your system doesn’t exist, listen to them and see if they agree with you. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. But you would benefit from long conversation. Listen to them. And listen to people outside your particular systems. See how they understand similar systems elsewhere. Then ask the questions about your systems that they have asked about theirs.
I think this post encapsulates quite well the attitude conservatives constantly encounter that makes them simply not want to bother. I spend years grappling with race issues in a particular context and in general, and write an article carefully explaining the distinctions I've discovered in Scripture and in the news of the day, and without referencing or debating anything I said someone with vastly less experience ministering to black people in the current context comes along and assumes I've just never really listened to them and then goes on to completely mischaracterize what said. I didn't "simply declare that racism doesn't exist in our systems," I distinguished between the racism of people and systemic racism. The above response demonstrates some people simply can't grasp the point. I didn't say systemic racism doesn't exist anywhere in the abstract, nor that our congregations and synod had no racists in them. If I listened to black people the way Charles listens to me I could see how that might be the problem.

Please, if you're going to respond to the article, respond to the article, not boiler-plate assumptions on the same topic floating around out there. That means reading it first. It is right here in the body of the thread. No need even to link to it. Yes, it disagrees with prevailing progressive assumptions, and no, that disagreement is not for lack of having interacted with people who hold those assumptions.