Do Justice: December 19, 2019

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Welcome to Do Justice, a semi-monthly newsletter of the Virginia Synod, lifting up God’s call and command that we, God’s people, do justice. You will find helpful info about justice ministries in congregations, around Virginia, and through the ELCA. If you have stories of justice to share from your congregation, please share those with me at bayerderrick@vasynod.org so I can share them with others in the synod!

The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick
Assistant to the Bishop

Monday, December 16, began the 9 day celebration of Las Posadas (The Inns). This celebration, long popular in Mexico, takes its name from the “posadas,” or lodgings, sought by Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, as a safe place to stay before Jesus was born. Each of the 9 days of Las Posadas (December 16-24) represents one month of Mary’s pregnancy.
Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging is reenacted in a neighborhood. At dusk, a procession of the faithful takes to the streets with children often dressed as angels and shepherds. The group representing the Holy Family stands outside a series of houses, singing songs, asking for lodging. They are refused time and again until the group reaches the designated house where they are welcomed in. Prayer and song continue in the home, and festive foods are shared.

Racist Laws Being Purged in Virginia

This past week, Virginia was in the national news again on the subject of race, with the release of initial findings from the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law.

This Commission, appointed by Gov. Northam, was prompted in part by our work this year to help pass bills by Senator Spruill (SB 1079) and Delegate Price (HB 1079) to remove racist Jim Crow-era language from Virginia’s minimum wage laws. The Governor said, “Racial discrimination is rooted in many of the laws that have historically governed our Commonwealth—identifying and eliminating racist and discriminatory language will help make Virginia more equitable for all who live and work here.”

The Commission’s report recommends that dozens of these laws be repealed. This shows the direct impact of legislative advocacy – and how one small piece of legislation can help ignite an initiative to address many racist laws.

Today’s RVA Magazine op-ed by Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy board member, Rabbi Michael Knopf, is about Virginia’s legacy of slavery. He says, “bad faith broke us, but good faith can fix us.”

Day for All People

Join the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at the General Assembly. Join with people from around the Commonwealth for a day of advocacy at the General Assembly, meet with your legislators and learn about social justice issues. The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick, Assistant to the Bishop, plans to be present during this event. We will announce a meeting spot for those attending from the Virginia Synod in advance of the Day for All People.

Transportation has been arraigned from Northern VirginiaHarrisonburg, and Hampton Roads. Once you register for the event, you will be able to register for transportation.

Join our Social Media Team. Volunteers repost one message a day (Mon.-Fri. during the General Assembly) to help amplify our message. Email Roberta Oster at roberta@virginiainterfaithcenter.org.

Be a Witness at the Capitol. These volunteers serve either for one entire week or at least one day per week during the General Assembly.

For more information about the day, and to register for the event, click here.

ELCA Takes First Step in Declaration to People of African Descent

By the Rev. Dr. Phyllis Blair Milton

Recently, George Kegley asked me to share my thoughts about the apology, the Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent, that was presented and accepted at the Churchwide Assembly in August 2019.

In this apology, the ELCA recognizes and takes responsibility for this Body of Christ’s lack of fulfillment of its baptismal promises in not following the example of Jesus to strive for justice for all people (my interpretation).

It is good to confess, and it is good to receive forgiveness, but it is even better to begin to take the action steps that are needed toward full inclusion and equity for all.

When George asked me for my response, I must admit that I said, “Why me?” Oh, yeah, I was the “rostered person of color representative elected by the Virginia Synod”.

An article that I thought would be an easy task to write, has turned into an introspective look at not only my role as an ordained pastor in a predominately white denomination, but an honest and realistic look at what may be my own Synod’s struggle as well.

I became a Lutheran in 2006, affirming my baptism at Reformation Lutheran Church, Newport News. Until that time, I was a tried and true Southern Baptist. But in 2006, discerning a different path for my life which would include pastoral ministry, I left the Southern Baptist Convention in search of a more inclusive faith group. I was looking for diversity, and the opportunity to share my gifting as an African American female, giftings which were often not appreciated because of my gender and skin color. I set out to find a place I could call home. And that place was the ELCA.
I did not know at the time, but the ELCA was having its own challenges with inclusion. But in my opinion, the difference was, the ELCA was trying to be better and do better, which brings us to the Declaration.
I was excited to be elected to be one of our Synod’s representatives at our Churchwide Assembly. I enjoyed the worship and seeing how we as Lutherans take care of the business of the Church. I especially enjoyed being around other Lutherans of color and sharing our varied experiences.
I have to admit I wasn’t aware of the Declaration before it was presented at the Assembly. I researched the origins of the Declaration. The African Descent Lutheran Association in 2015 called upon the 2016 Churchwide Assembly to “draft a formal letter of repentance” for the Church’s past complicity in slavery and its present struggle with racism. This apology was offered and accepted by the African Descent Lutheran Association at this summer’s Assembly. As I understand it, the request had its basis in the1993 social statement on Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity and Culture.
So, we (African Descent Lutherans) received an apology that we had to ask for? Does that mean that no apology would have ever been given? Did we not recognize or were we not aware that processes (e.g., call process, compensation) were not equitable for all within our denomination? A look at comparative statistics within our denomination would have easily shown us that all was not well.
Romans 15:7 (Voice) says, ” So accept one another in the same way the Anointed has accepted you so that God will get the praise He is due.”
To me, The Declaration has come to mean that my denomination is moving from just being welcoming, toward being intentional in offering respect, acceptance and opportunity. I feel that the varied expressions of bishops that were elected this year clearly speaks of new levels of respect, acceptance and opportunity.
The Declaration, hopefully, is the first step toward many more steps, where my denomination makes “a recommitment to the process of right and equitable relations with this church” for all of us.

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By | 2019-12-18T10:02:43-04:00 December 19th, 2019|Do Justice, News|Comments Off on Do Justice: December 19, 2019

About the Author:

Emily is the Director of Communications for the Virginia Synod. She is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington where she earned her BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and a minor in Digital Studies. If you have an announcement, upcoming event, or news story idea you would like to share, get in touch with Emily via email or by phone at (540) 389-1000