Dear siblings in Christ,
Our social media streams, tv and radio waves, podcasts, papers, and conversations brim with painful news. Again, and again, powerful people and institutions seem to enable and protect those who abuse their power and privilege. I want you to know where I stand on these important issues along with the Office of the Bishop in the Virginia Synod and the ELCA.
Abuse of any kind will not be tolerated or excused. We encourage victims to report their abuse to the appropriate authorities and/or their pastor, and if it involves Pastors or Deacons – to me or our Synod staff. We will listen with respectful compassion and respond appropriately. We urge survivors to access needed support 1 and we believe the church community can and should be a resource for healing. We also acknowledge that survivors often do not report abuse for many good reasons.
Some boys and men and most girls, women and gender non-conforming people experience daily, painful interactions within our patriarchal and sexist systems, including – and at times especially – the church. I do not presume to speak for them. They will speak and lead with their own voices and experiences. Men, including me, need to accompany and encourage them. We need to confess our complicity and actively confront sexism, harassment, and abuse whenever we encounter it.
As we move into the future the ELCA and Virginia Synod will endeavor to facilitate healthy conversations, learning, and relationships that lead us toward greater justice, transparency, understanding, and compassion. 2
As always, we must all boldly speak and act in accordance with our faith. St Paul says,I therefore…, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called… (Ephesians 4:1 NRSV)
This is not a political issue, though it absolutely applies to politics. This is a faith issue; a justice issue; a basic human rights and dignity issue. This is about respecting and protecting all people, about believing the abused and about responding with clarity, confession, and compassionate justice.
May God guide and direct us.
Bishop Bob Humphrey,
Virginia Synod, ELCA
1. One place to start: www.vdh.virginia.gov/domestic-and-sexual-violence-prevention
2. We will offer resources for individual, small group, congregational and community use, such as: the proposed ELCA Social Statement on Women and Justice or the 2015 Social Message on Gender-based Violence
A PRAYER for all who are hurting and conflicted after weeks of painful memories prompted by recent news stories.
“Lord God, even the news can bring back painful memories. Guide us always toward the path of truth and justice. Open our hearts and minds to grow and be transformed by your love. Give us your peace!
Be with all who are victims and survivors of abuse in any form. Help them find pathways to justice, healing, respect, and renewal. Surround them with your love and a community of faithful support.
Help us all to embrace your commands: to love you… and love one another, as you have loved us.
We pray in the name of the One who breaks through injustice and brings the Kingdom near, Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”