OVER THE PAST YEAR, church workers, members, and students from across the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) have reached out to let us know that they've been motivated by the Gospel to faithfully foster multiethnic church cultures. While many congregations have been taking steps to create positive change within their churches, schools, and communities, some might not be aware that there are ways to support efforts to bridge racial divides across their region.
In the LCMS, every church belongs to a regionally-based district (save non-regional groups like the English and SELC Districts). These districts convene for separate conventions to set the priorities and agendas for the upcoming term. Ahead of each convention, congregations have the opportunity to submit an overture, or proposal, for consideration.
Several congregations and circuits (clergy leaders within a city or region) have been submitting overtures to their districts that would further work around racial reconciliation. If approved, these measures could reshape how ministry is approached regionally, and even across the entire Synod, for generations to come.
While the overtures have their differences, they all draw motivation from Paul's call to share the love of Christ as we "bear one another's burdens," Luther's explanations of the 5th and 7th commandments, and the Synod's 2019 Resolution, “To Affirm the Common Humanity of All People and Ethnicities."
The proposals also share a common call to create a task force that would have 18 months to complete the following:
Bethel Lutheran Church in Gurnee, IL recently approved their overture and submitted it to the Northern Illinois District. Bethel's pastor, Rev. Benjamin Squires, said that he's "praying that other congregations also submit similar statements" ahead of the district's September 30 deadline. The pastors of Circuit 7 in the Atlantic District have expressed similar sentiments, with their overture saying that multiethnic ministry requires a district to be "informed of its history within communities of color to understand its successes and its failures."
Racial reconciliation resolutions have been passed at conventions before and have made a positive impact. In 2018, the Northwest District created a task force to explore racism, its effects, and how congregations can respond in ministry. The group's continuing work includes creating videos about Lutherans' personal experiences with racism within and outside the Church, Bible studies for congregations, school curriculums, overtures, and recommendations on how congregations can see the people around them and serve them in Gospel and action.
Read the full 2018 resolution from the NORTHWEST DISTRICT.
For more information on how your congregation can submit an overture in your district, please feel free to CONTACT US and we'll connect you with someone who can guide you through the process.
Thanks for doing your part to lead the way.
- Matt & Josh, LRJ
Rev. Matthew Ryan González & Joshua Salzberg are the co-founders of Lutherans for Racial Justice (LRJ), a grassroots coalition committed to the pursuit of racial equity, justice, and healing within the congregations, communities, schools, and organizations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Learn more about LRJ.
Note: This article was updated to mention the non-regional SELC District.