Statement regarding Incident at St. Paul’s, North Hollywood (Wisconsin Synod)

On July 7, 2020, a Black woman who was sitting on the grass on the campus of St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church (stpaulsfirst.org) in North Hollywood, a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Church (wels.net), was confronted by lay members of the church and the video of the incident posted on YouTube. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a separate denomination from the much-smaller WELS, and the Southwest California Synod has no association with it. We repudiate the racist words and actions of those in the video, and would not tolerate them in our congregations.

While this incident did not take place at a SWCA Synod or ELCA congregation, the ELCA does acknowledge its shared responsibility with all largely-white churches for the racism that has played too large a role in the history of American Christianity, and re-emphasizes the ELCA’s belief that “we are called to confess the sin of racism, condemn the ideology of white supremacy, and strive for racial justice and peace.”

Bishop Guy Erwin

Comments(12)

  1. Rachel Foreman says

    Please be sure to use this as a teaching moment, as some of your parishioners have a lot to learn about love, acceptance and inclusion.

  2. Allie Schwenn says

    You spent 90% of this comment distancing yourself from those in this video and explaining how you’re not at fault before even attempting to address the racist actions. This makes me respect your entire organize so much less. This makes me think you’re exactly like the people in this video. Jesus was humble, he was loving, he turned over tables when needed. All you’re doing is defending yourselves here, while throwing in some words at the end that pretend to acknowledge the vast amount of pain caused to the black community. I don’t know what this response represents but it sure isn’t Jesus. You can/should do better.

    • Charlie Wingerd says

      Citing this statement:
      “We repudiate the racist words and actions of those in the video, and would not tolerate them in our congregations.”
      “[T]he ELCA does acknowledge its shared responsibility with all largely-white churches for the racism that has played too large a role in the history of American Christianity, and re-emphasizes the ELCA’s belief that “we are called to confess the sin of racism, condemn the ideology of white supremacy, and strive for racial justice and peace.”
      There is a specific problem with the mathematical pronouncement that was made, and a huge problem in differentiation.
      There is a large problem with your generalizations and lack of knowledge regarding the ELCA, ”
      Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture expresses the ELCA’s calling to celebrate culture and ethnicity. This calling commits the ELCA to confront racism, to engage in public leadership, witness and deliberation on these matters, and to advocate for justice and fairness for all people. The statement is grounded in the conviction that the church has been gathered together in the joyful freedom of the reign of God as announced by and embodied in Jesus. That reign has not come in its fullness, but the message of God’s yes to the world breaks down all dividing walls as we live into that promise.”
      “In daily life, cultural, ethnic and racial differences matter, but they can be seen and celebrated as what God intends them to be – blessings rather than means of oppression and discrimination. We are a church that belongs to Christ, where there is a place for everyone. Christ’s church is not ours to control, nor is it our job to sort, divide, categorize or exclude. This statement was adopted by the 1993 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.”
      https://elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Race-Ethnicity-and-Culture

      • Rev. Todd Bruning says

        Math aside. The first paragraph in any press release speaks volumes. We distanced first. Then spoke a word on justice. We either buried the lead. Or led with what was really most important to us. If you think the majority of our mostly white ELCA congregations are greatly different than this WELS congregation … “There [may be] a large problem with your …[own] lack of knowledge regarding the ELCA”. Thank you for defending us. But defending US is one of our biggest problems.

    • Alyson says

      Agreed! To shut people out of your congregations does nothing!

  3. Lisa says

    THANK YOU you for speaking out. God Bless you!

  4. Merri says

    I was raised Missouri Synod, but changed churches because they put voter guides in the narthex, and pushed James Dobson ideology. I went to a WELS church after going to a German Christmas service there with family. Then the pastor started preaching right wing politics from the pulpit. Now I am ELCA, and while I like it, I miss the solemnity and old hymns. The order of service from page 15 or 26 in the hymnal. I feel like I’ve been banned from my church. I’ve studied the Bible front to back twice at an LCMS church, and I’m still a Democrat. It’s all so sad.

    • Len Andrews says

      I would assert that you can’t embrace the OT calls to justice and concern for the powerless or the NT Gospels and identify as Repulican, though you wouldn’t necessarily have to be a Democrat.
      There is actually zero framework for a Christian with integrity to express Christianity through support of a man who steals children from desperate asylum seekers.
      I often read scripture with my ELCA friends. Bless them. I know that outsiders will view this unfortunate instance of unwelcome as a problem with Lutheranism. But they are wrong.

  5. Gertie says

    Please accept racists like those in the video in your church. They need love and guidance even more than everyone else. Please do as Jesus would do and pick them up, care for them, forgive them and show them the way. And seriously—no one cares which sect is part of which. A church without the love of Jesus isn’t a church.

  6. Dennis Urena says

    I respect the fact that you made a statement regarding this horrific event. I as a latin/black man would like to Express my thanks. It is unfair that another’s synod’s actions have caused people to look at all Lutheran churches as racists but isn’t that what happens daily to black and latinos across america ?? If you are true I’m your words then don’t just speak these words. If your synod is “largely-white” then start educating and hosting events that will bring those largely white people together with blacks and latinos.

  7. El Darden says

    As a member of the Episcopal Church – USA, which is now in full communion with the ELCA, I’m relieved to know that this incident did not involve an ELCA parish because I would personally would feel uncomfortable being communion with a denomination embracing at least few members so “un-woke” that this sort of nonsense would happen here well into the 21st century. . . . The peace of the risen Lord be with you.

  8. Charlie Wingerd says

    To Rachel Foreman and Linda Haering,
    You are welcome to [virtually] attend worship at any congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You may even attend a congregation that has a called and ordained female pastor, which has been occurring for 50 years now. You are also welcome to the Communion Sacrament when/if it is available in the local ELCA congregation if you are baptized in Christ. You are free to explore the beliefs of the ELCA through various statements.
    You are also free to attend explore the beliefs of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Lutheran Church – Wisconsin Synod (WELS), and attend worship there. In your exploration of those congregations and those separate denominations, you will likely find abundant criticism of the ELCA as a denomination. Therefore, in your exploration of these criticisms, you will determine that the WELS and LCMS are superior Lutherans to those of us in the ELCA, as we beg for the grace of God and attempt to show and share that grace to others.

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