Late last week, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, issued a call for the entire denomination to take part in "Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday" on September 6th. This makes me both excited and nervous.
I'm excited because appreciate her leadership, which comes as a response to the invitation from leadership within the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and Christian Methodist Episcopal denominations. These historically black denominations invited people of faith across the country to join them in this initiative on September 6th, and Bishop Eaton ensured that Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations would be amongst those to heed the call.
I'm also excited because, in our congregation, we've been working to confront racism head on. We're not to shy to speak about it, to name it as a sin, or address the effects of institutional racism in the structures of our government that have led to the endangering of black lives. This is exciting because it's a pitch in our wheelhouse, a place where we're becoming adept.
But where we're adept, we're also becoming comfortable, and that's why I'm nervous. It's incredibly easy to pray about something, even to confess and repent of a sin, and then do absolutely nothing about it. If we go on living the same way, then our prayers and our confessions yielded no true repentance at all. If we use this day to assuage our guilty egos rather than foster a swell of support to make concrete decisions and actions that combat the racism in our world, then we've failed to understand the holy urgency faced by our sisters and brothers of color.
We all know that we can't be satisfied with #hashtagactivism. Neither can we stop with postures of prayer. We must also undertake postures of action to help reflect the reign of God, who promised that no sectarian or ethnic or racial or gender or sexual division could separate us from the love of God in Christ. In the words of a former pastor of mine, who I'm sure paraphrased someone else, "Pray like it all depends on God. Work like it all depends on you." As Lutherans, we live in this tension where we know that ultimately all good comes from God, and yet God calls us to become the avatars through which that good comes to life. As we pray for the end of racism, we must also work toward that end. And we must do both with a relentless passion, expecting God and ourselves to act in unison with the Gospel.
So, as many of us across the country across from within our own faith communities enter this event called "Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday," let us prepare not only to use our words, but our bodies, to confess and repent of our roles in fostering racism, as well as recommitting to working for world where there's simply no room of hatred, oppression, or bias, based on race or any other God-given piece of our identity in Christ.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.