ULS Faculty Statement regarding George Floyd, Racism, and White Supremacy

The season of Pentecost begins with a remembrance of the early Church gathered in Jerusalem, not long after their leader Jesus was executed by the Roman state and three days later was alive again. When the disciples were in one place there was suddenly a “sound like the rush of a violent wind” and “divided tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:2-3, NRSV). The Holy Spirit filled each of them. The Church was filled with Breath.

In Scripture, this same Breath moved over the waters in creation. God breathed this Breath into the first human being in the Garden. God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones and the Breath. This same Breath descended upon Jesus in his baptism, is promised as the Advocate, and intercedes when our sighs are too deep for words.

As Church, we live in a time of pandemic in which COVID-19 takes our breath away. On May 13, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton stated, “This pandemic has exacerbated racism and racial inequities deeply entrenched in society and across the church.”

As Church, we live in a white supremacist culture in which Black people continue to be lynched, when men like Eric Garner and George Floyd say with their last breaths, “I can’t breathe.” Within the past few months Ahmaud Arbery was killed by a retired police officer and his son while jogging, and Breonna Taylor was shot eight times by Louisville Metro Police Department officers serving a “no-knock warrant”. This month will also mark the five-year commemoration of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9 - the nine people murdered by a self-professed white supremacist on June 17, 2015, during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.  We are sickened and outraged by the deaths of all these, and the deaths of many other Black persons in our communities, all God’s children.

These forces which deny Breath, especially the breath and lives of Black people are sinful. This sin denies the image in which human beings are created. In the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Affirmation of Baptism liturgy, those who publicly affirm their faith are asked if they renounce the ways sin that draw them from God. What do we as ULS Faculty affirm and renounce in the face of this violence and dehumanization?

This Breath, which continues to move through the Church, calls us to the foot of the cross, and demands that we ground our teaching in a theology of the cross. Christian faith requires that we identify the risen Jesus who was asphyxiated by the police power of the state with George Floyd who was asphyxiated by the police power of the state. The cross calls ULS not to ivory towers and closed Bibles but onto the streets, to open Scriptures that open the doors (digital or physical) of our churches, rather than close them, to open our hearts to love our neighbor as ourselves. The cross also calls us to pray for those who persecute, to have clean hearts and renewed spirits.

White supremacy and racism are sins, contrary to the will of God. Although we all fall short, we are called back to the suffering of Christ in the world, and asked to stand in solidarity through word and deed.  We are asked not only to bear pain and mourn losses, in words and prayer, but beyond that to foster accountability and right action, assured of our freedom to serve by the grace and Breath God extends to all.

Along with our own sense of sickened outrage and grief for the families of George Floyd, Armaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, we are aware also of many of our alumni and community members who are protesting and standing in solidarity, living out Gospel values with their lives and Breath.  As for all who are impacted by the COVID-19 response, we pray for your safety, life, and ministry, and stand with you.  May God’s grace be with us all in these times.

Signed,

The Rev. Dr. William O. Avery
Professor Emeritus

Mr. Evan E. Boyd
Library Director and Archivist

The Rev. Dr. Reed Carlson
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies

The Rev. Michael Cooper-White
President Emeritus

The Rev. Dr. Wayne E. Croft Sr.,
Jeremiah A. Wright Sr. Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics in African American Studies

The Rev. Dr. Katie Day
Charles A. Scheiren Professor Emerita of Church in Society

The Rev. Dr. Allison deForest
Director of the Graduate School, Institutional Assessment, Distributed Learning and Co-op Programs, Adjunct Faculty

The Rev. Dr. Maria E. Erling
Professor of Modern Church History and Global Mission

Dr. Vincent Evener
Assistant Professor of Reformation and Luther Studies

The Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Folkemer
Professor Emeritus of Church Music

Deacon Dr. Nancy Gable
Interim Director of Admissions

Dr. Crystal L. Hall
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies

Deacon Chelle Huth
Director of Lifelong Learning, Certificate Studies & Adjunct Faculty, Field Formation

The Rev. Dr. Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman
Glatfelter Professor of Biblical Studies

The Rev. Dr. John F. Hoffmeyer
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

The Rev. Dr. Leonard Hummel
Professor Emeritus

The Rev. Dr. Philip D. W. Krey
Ministerium of New York Professor Emeritus, Early Church History

The Rev. Karl Krueger, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, History of Christianity
Director Emeritus of the Krauth Memorial Library

The Rev. Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen
Professor of Systematic Theology

The Rev. Dr. Gordon W. Lathrop
Charles A. Schieren Professor Emeritus of Liturgy

The Rev. Dr. Charles R. Leonard
Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Director of Field Formation, and Dean of the Philadelphia Chapel, Contextual Formation

The Rev. Dr. Mark Oldenburg
Steck-Miller Professor Emeritus of the Art of Worship

Dr. Jon Pahl
Peter Paul and Elizabeth Hagan Professor in the History of Christianity

The Rev. Dr. J. Paul Rajashekar
Luther D. Reed Professor of Systematic Theology and Director, Asian Theological Summer Institute

The Rev. Dr. Quintin L. Robertson
Instructor & Director of the Urban Theological Institute & Black Church Studies Program

Dr. Kyle K. Schiefelbein-Guerrero
Steck-Miller Assistant Professor of Worship and Liturgy

Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran Sebastian
H. George Anderson Professor of Mission and Cultures and Dean of the Seminary, Vice President of Student Services

The Rev. Dr. Nelson T. Strobert,
Paulssen-Hale Professor Emeritus, Religious Education

The Rev. Dr. Storm Swain
The Frederick Houk Borsch Associate Professor of Anglican Studies, Pastoral Care and Theology

The Rev. Dr. Gilson A. C. Waldkoenig
Paulssen-Hale-Maurer Professor of Church in Society and Director of TCCI

The Rev. Dr. Timothy J. Wengert
Professor Emeritus

The Rev. Dr. Karyn L. Wiseman
The Herman G. Stuempfle Associate Professor of Homiletics

The Rev. Dr. Norma S. Wood
Professor Emerita

The Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann
Interim President and Adjunct Professor of Homiletics

The Rev. Dr. Martin Zimmann
Director of Congregational Relations; Adjunct Faculty in Church and Society; Executive Director, Stewardship of Life Institute

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