Dear South Dakota Synod,
Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We are nearing the end of the month of June, during which many celebrated the diversity of God’s good creation. You may have noticed during Pride month that members from your faith community show their support for our LGBTQIA+2S siblings through their words and actions. Some wear clothes in rainbow colors or fly rainbow flags to show their support while many others participate in Pride events in their local communities. Others among us are a bit more reluctant, standing back and wondering where they fit in all of the celebrations and festivities. Yet together, those very engaged and those reluctantly standing by, are the ELCA.
At the recent Synod Assembly, our fabulous Glocal musicians shared a song called “For Everyone Born: A Place at the Table.” The song expresses the longing that all of God’s good creation deserve a place at the table. As a synod, we have committed ourselves to “journey together in Christ.” Journeying together means that we accompany each other. But journeying together also means that, like how Jesus joined the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we accompany others who are journeying down the same road and may find themselves longing for travel companions. Also at the Synod Assembly, the “Open Door” Accompaniment team offered an imagination lab to design brief welcome statements. These welcome statements signal to other travelers that your community of faith is ready to welcome them, with doors wide open, and that your community is able to provide, for everyone born, a place at the table.
I can confidently say that when you have seen one congregation, you have seen one congregation. We are not all the same, but we are held together by the same promises from God, who, through God’s grace, provides for everyone born a place at the table. As your Bishop, I continue to be committed to listening, learning, and caring for all people of the South Dakota Synod. During the month of June, I have committed myself to listen and learn from those who identify as LGBTQIA+2S while simultaneously caring for their personhood as beloved children of God. I have invited community members to share their laments with me so that I can share them with you. It is my hope that together we can seek God’s guidance on how we can journey together as the body of Christ.
I commend these laments to you for your personal prayer and devotion time.
Please, join me, and others in prayer:
“‘How long, O Lord,’ must we continue to raise our voices in the church in order that our queer identities may be seen and celebrated as a part of your very good creation? I pray to you that your church may open its doors and extend extravagant invitations to all LGBTQIA+2S siblings, pastors, deacons, and ministers, yet I continue to lament the pain this church has caused to anyone who has come out, anyone who has questioned their identity, or to anyone who has boldly lived out loud their queer identity only to be turned away. May your compassionate Spirit be with us to soften hearts and to see the beauty of your beloved people. Amen.”
“I lament for the slow-moving change in the church to welcome myself in all of my beloved queerness. I pray for the Holy Spirit of God to move in powerful and world-changing ways, here and now, so that myself and my siblings can know liberation. I long for the day when I can walk into a church without looking both ways to sense incoming danger. I yearn for fellowship where I can work, worship, and pray as an equal member of the body of Christ, without any extra attention, questions, or caveats. I crave a welcoming community that does not restrict a creating God, or any of God’s beloved creatures, to a needlessly limited gender binary. I hope for a Church that truly reflects the magnificent, expansive welcome of God’s grace, no longer held captive to the powers, policies, and pride of this world. I await all of this in the promise of resurrection, new life, and the kingdom of God.”
“How long, O Lord must we tell our youth, “it gets better” rather than the world becoming better? How long, O Lord until the fear, shame, and trauma that has been inherited no longer resides as a baseline of the LGBTQIA+2S spirit? Lord, how long until the church is no longer used as a tool to hurt those in this beloved community? We are all bearers of Your image, we aspire to love as Jesus did and we desire the same in return. Ever-loving God, we ask you to heal the generational trauma that fills in the cracks in the lives we lead. Take the weight of discomfort and judgment off of our shoulders and bolster our hearts to overflow with Your knowledge and Spirit. Amen.”
Journeying together in Christ,