Letter from Bishop Dave on Current Events

​August 25, 2017

Dear Friends and Members of the Oregon Synod,

 Last week President Trump issued a directive to the Pentagon that U.S. citizens, who are transgender, will no longer be allowed to serve in any branch of the U.S. military. It looks at present like those currently serving will be allowed to stay, but those wishing to serve in the future will be barred. It is still unclear.

Several days ago, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, I and – I assume – other bishops of the ELCA received a letter from many concerned leaders of the ELCA. They wondered why our church had not spoken out on this issue following President Trump’s July 25 tweet, in which he claimed he was going to take such an action. My immediate response to this letter, in all honesty, was that I am unable and unwilling to respond to President Trump’s tweets which are many, and often ill-advised and inappropriate. Please forgive my arrogance and frustration with this. I seek to be helpful and responsive on behalf of our church, but not reactionary.

Now that the president’s intent has become action please let me direct you to a recent statement by the ELCA on this issue. It will be found at https://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/7897. This letter offers resources and statements by our church that may be helpful to you should your congregation or acquaintances have questions. Without a doubt our church stands opposed to the removal of rights and privileges of individuals due to sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or the like. The president’s decision is a sad reversal in our society’s fight to embrace and honor one another.

I have also not issued any sort of statement relating to the violence in Charlotteville, VA August 17th. You are the voice of our church, not me. I know there have been prayers among us in response to what U.S. senators, both Republican and Democrat, call an act of “domestic terrorism.” President Trumps reaction to the event has been roundly responded to as unresponsive and inappropriate. He did denounce white supremacist activities a day after the event, but then again at his recent rally in Phoenix minimized blame on the part of white supremacists and neo-nazis, defending his original comments and attacking the U.S. press.

You are the voice of the Church, not me, but I do recognize that I have a unique place from which to speak for ELCA Christians. So, let us be clear. Violence of any kind is wrong. In the case of Charlotteville violence was introduced into our country by white supremacists and neo-nazis. We grieve for those who were killed and injured. I worry about the discord becoming common place in our society. Our president’s unwillingness to clearly distance himself from this cancer in our country is unimaginable to me. I keep him in my prayers.

Debate now continues on the removal or respect for civil war statues - and, this debate has been going on for several years. I find it helpful to realize the “true” civil war memorials, those erected soon after the war, were modest monuments generally set up in cemeteries to remember the dead. This is as it should be after a war, both in its modesty and its purpose. Other civil war memorials, such as the statute of Robert E. Lee at issue in Charletteville, were meant to be public displays, often funded by private individuals, and erected during Jim Crow and civil rights eras. It seems as if they were meant to underscore racist values and honor the reasons for a civil war which attacked values of equality held by many in this country during that time and, I would like to think, all of us in this country in the modern era. Needless to say, our church stands firmly against racism, the use and misuse of people for financial or personal gain, and the dishonoring of any of God’s creation. In this case, of course, it is our African American sisters and brothers under attack. I give thanks for their work and witness among us.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and I as bishop of the Oregon Synod, seek to be a clear and honest voice in society for the Gospel, those for whom Jesus died, and the care of all. We speak from the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and from our Lutheran Social Statements which are more pointed and contextualize teachings. (http://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements) All of our current social statements pre-date the election of President Trump, and none of our social statements have been formed, or come from, particular political stances. Our teaching has not changed. What has changed in the last few years is societal division, polarization, intolerance and greed.We have, and will continue, to speak to the civil rights of all people.We have, and will continue, to advocate for health care for all, just wages, compensation, and equality in hiring practices and remuneration.We are a voice for peace, proclaimers of the Kingdom, and the arms and hearts of Christ’s love among us.In Christ, we will name and resist racism wherever we see it. We advocate for the honoring, acceptance and safety of those who are gay, lesbian or transgender. We fight so that the voices and gifts of women might be heard. In gladly partner with Muslims, Jews and those who may voice no religious sentiment for the common good, even as we proclaim our faith and the love of God as we have experienced it in Christ Jesus.We work for justice for Native American people. We seek understanding and welcome for immigrants and asylum seekers. We steward the earth in days for greed and ecological destruction. We do not do this as Republicans or Democrats. We do not do this in reaction to or contrary to our political leaders. We do this work because it is – and always has been – what the Spirit calls us to.That said, I must acknowledge that the current tide of U.S. politics flows distressingly contrary to what we believe and work towards in many ways. These are difficult days. My goal is to be clear, bold and faithful in all I say or write. I know you seek the same.

So again, you are the voice of the Church, not just me. I hold you in my prayers as I know you do me. Let us do our work with grace, humility, trust and confidence. As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:

See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to
do good to one another and to all. 
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything;
hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Blessings, 
Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke
Oregon Synod - ELCA

Living Out Vocation

October 5, 2016

I am blessed to have some of the sages of the tribe of faith as members here at Mt. Carmel. One of those sages is Pastor Larry Jorgensen who recently retired from Trinity Lutheran in Gresham. We have recently been in conversation around leadership in our church in the 21st Century. According to a recent study, by 2019 three-fourths of the congregation in the ELCA will be able to afford a first year called pastor. Nearly 20% of those will be sharing one full time pastor.

So now what? It is clear that faith communities seek out and encourage people they believe might be good pastors and open to the call. In other words, we are the incubators for new leadership in this church. Notice that this is not up to just the pastor. PEOPLE in the pews need to also encourage those new leaders. It's up to all of us!

You can look at the full study here: http://blog.neiasynod.org/2016/04/supply-demand-clergy-elca-report-elca-research-evaluation/

Every Family Has One...

December 13, 2015

I've been thinking lately! Surprises many. This morning I heard Donald Trump say that if elected he would temporarily stop all Muslims from entering this country until our elected officials figure out what's going on. When it comes to Mr. Trump, there are those that like him and those that don't. He is like an Uncle Donald. Now wait hear me out. Every family has an Uncle Donald. Think about it. Their name may not be Donald or they may be a cousin, but like Mr.Trump there are people who love him and others in the family roll their eyes when they walk into the room. They love to share their opinions, argue with people and be the expert on everything. At first I used to argue with them but then it was two people arguing who is the better expert. And after all that only encourages them. I can't ignore them because they seek me out. Come on, you have one in your family too. There might be one in your near future with the Holidays approaching. Uncle Donald isn't going to go away and there are people who share his expertise. Come to think about it, so does every faith community. I think what I am getting at here is that sitting down around a table may be one way to get at this problem. I know we won't agree but after all Jesus sat a table with one who would betray Him. What do you think? Email me anytime.

Where in the World is Pastor Glenn?

September 23, 2015

I have been on the road this past month. This is a photo of an Oregon Episcopal Delegation that I was part of recently in Nashville, TN. From right to left: Pastor Wilson from Hillsboro, Oregon; Rev. Roberto Arciniega, Missioner for Latino Ministries in the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon; Rev. Samuel Burbon from Woodburn, Oregon; and myself. I know I am not Episcopal, but I was invited to join this delegation for the first ever Latino Developer training including six of the major denominations. Sponsored by Red Ecumenica para el Desarrollo de L Lati nas (REDIL), it was all in Spanish. I was not sure I would understand much but I was encouraged to attend with my Episcopal colleagues from Oregon. Armed with my 1 year of PCC Spanish, I boarded a plane with my new friends and flew to Nashville. During the week I learned that everyone at the training was bilingual and we got along famously. The training was held at the Scarritt-Bennett Center which was right next to Vanderbilt University. The weather was warm and VERY HUMID but the training was energizing! There were not only workshops but also music and worship every day. There were such joy and excitement in the air.

Here in the Northwest I believe we need to collaborate with our sisters and brothers from other faith traditions. The developing relationship with our Episcopal friends is exciting and filled with possibilities. We already have congregations that are sharing pastors or even locations. This seems like a good next step in building on what has already been achieved. Reaching out and developing relationships with other cultures gives us an opportunity to share our cultural traditions and learn from others about their cultures.

Missionaries in Portland!?

August 23, 2015

This past week I was part of a Mission Developer Training Program hosted here in Portland at the Sheraton at the airport. This photo is a snap shot of Oregon Mission Developers in the Oregon Synod. I am half-time at Mt Carmel as pastor and half time as a Director of Evangelical Mission (DEM), working with congregations and leaders in Oregon. Mission Developers is a project of the ELCA to train up leaders, not just pastors, for starting new missions and faith communities in the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean for the sake of the gospel.
Tuesday night I had dinner with ELCA leaders and staff from both Chicago and around the country. One of the leaders was Rev. Ruben Duran, Program Director for New Congregations. Ruben is a classmate of mine from seminary. He shared his story with us, growing up poor in Peru. It is an inspiring story of the church at work in the world. He co-led the training with Rev. Neil Harrison, Program Director for Congregational Renewal.
People began arriving on Wednesday from all over and I was able to greet old friends and meet new acquaintances. The new Mission Developers came from many different cultural backgrounds and ethnic communities. There were young developers with new ideas and seasoned veterans mentoring a new generation of leaders. Leaders included new missions starts with the LGBT community, including Finn Lamborn from Portland. The picture shows our Oregon Mission Developers, DEM's, and the Bishop and staff in this picture.
The ELCA provides training and leadership along with financial support to these emerging leaders through your Mission Support.
This was the first training I was at where you could talk out loud about being Lutheran and gay. There was always honest conversation in the past but quietly and behind the scenes. Today, we have LGBT Mission Developers telling the Lutheran story. I think this is an important voice in Christianity today.
Worship was on Friday. The Bishop preached and shared his passion for mission here in the North West. He also asked us all to pray for these developers and their work on behalf of the mission of the church. It is also what I would ask you to pray about.