“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 9:9).
In today’s lectionary text, Genesis 9:8-17, Noah receives God’s covenant. The rainbow becomes a sign of the irrevocable promise of God’s faithfulness and mercy — of God’s peace for all creation. So, too, are we called to be signs of, or witnesses to, God’s peace.
With you, we are alarmed by a completely different kind of sign. As you know, protests against stay-at-home orders have erupted over the past few weeks. Protesting is a valid public expression, but here in Illinois, protesting has included people carrying placards with anti-Semitic messages directed at our governor, J.B. Pritzker. There is a twisted logic in comparing our Jewish governor with the Nazi regime, but the impact of these messages is still to promote anti-Semitism and its evil companions: white supremacy, racism and sexism. We, the ELCA bishops in Illinois, publicly denounce this bigotry here and wherever it occurs. Anti-Semitism is contrary to the irrevocable promise of God and “a violation of our hope and calling” as witnesses to God’s peace (Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community, 1994).
In our ELCA social teaching we acknowledge that there are times when “through faithfulness in its life and activities as a community for peace, the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit becomes a presence for peace that disturbs” (For Peace in God’s World, 1995). This is one of those times. Even as we seek peace amid a pandemic, we must uphold our commitments to our Jewish neighbors. No matter our politics or opinions about our elected leaders and their policies, all of us must come together on the basis of our church’s commitments to “oppose the deadly working of such bigotry” (1994 Declaration).
In Christ’s love, all of us continue to pray for Governor Pritzker and all our elected leaders as they make difficult decisions intended to protect lives. As a church, we encourage one another to abide by government policies that seek to safeguard the health and well-being of our communities, and to participate in healthy forms of civic engagement.
In peace and in partnership,
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Rev. John Roth
Bishop, Central/Southern Illinois Synod
The Rev. Yehiel Curry
Bishop, Metropolitan Chicago Synod
The Rev. Jeffrey Clements
Bishop, Northern Illinois Synod
- - -
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.