LWF Council issues statement on the sin of racism

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: jalexartis CC-NC-SA
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: jalexartis CC-NC-SA

Statement refers to Charleston shooting

GENEVA, 2 July 2015 (LWI) – At its 2015 meeting, the Council of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) issued a public statement on the “sin of racism”. The statement adopted at the 18-22 June meeting in Geneva calls on Lutherans to raise awareness and advocate against racism in churches and congregations. In the statement, racism is called “a structural sin”.

 “It is tempting to locate evil outside of the beloved community,” the LWF Council statement reads. It calls upon Lutherans to “confess and address our individual actions that perpetuate racism, both things done and left undone, in church, society and relationships”.

The Council addressed the issue of racism informed by the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, which happened on the day of the Council opening. Nine African Americans were shot in Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, one of the oldest black churches in America during a Bible study session by a young man. According to survivors, he was shouting racist phrases while shooting. The attack is being investigated by police as a hate crime.

The alleged perpetrator who was arrested a day after the attack is a member of a congregation which belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Two of the victims, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the Rev. Daniel Simmons of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston graduated the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, one of eight ELCA seminaries.

"All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy," Rev Elizabeth Eaton, presiding Bishop of the ELCA and LWF Council member, said in a public statement after the shooting. "One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own."

"We might say that this was an isolated act by a deeply disturbed man," Bishop Eaton added. "But we know that is not the whole truth. It is not an isolated event. And even if the shooter was unstable, the framework upon which he built his vision of race is not."

The statement calls for prayer and forgiveness, and a stronger Christian advocacy against racism in the church environment.