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ELCA Letter
ELCA Letter

Our denomination, the ELCA, holds a churchwide assembly triennially — to worship, vote on matters of governance and policy, and be church together for the sake of the world. This past week’s churchwide assembly was full of important votes and actions, including:

  • Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was reelected for a second six-year term on the first ballot. 
  • A declaration of apology to our siblings of African descent, which was received by the African Descent Lutheran Association with thanks and a call for accountability and living into the words shared.
  • Approved resolution declare the ELCA a “sanctuary church body,” encouraging participation in the ELCA AMMPARO initiative for migrant children, discernment of care for our immigrant neighbors in our context, and the promise of forthcoming resources for this work.
  • Approved support for the World Council of Churches’ Thursdays in Black, awareness movement for a world without rape and violence. 
  • Vote to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance, in honor and remembrance of the martyrdom of the Emmanuel 9. 
  • Approved a declaration for inter-religious commitment, reaffirming ecumenical and interfaith partnerships.
  • Approved the recommendations from a strategic taskforce which has been studying how to work toward authentic diversity in our church.
  • Approved memorials: affirming but not endorsing the Poor People’s Campaign, care for immigrants and refugees, and other statements. 
  • Adopted a new social statement, “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action,” and its implementing resolutions.
  • Deacon Sue Rothmeyer was elected Churchwide Secretary, a full-time position which acts as executive administrator and leader on all constitutional matters and  interpretation. 
  • Constitutional change for Deacons (rostered ministers of word and service) to be ordained, from the previous practice of consecration.
  • Celebrated the milestones of 50 years of women’s ordination, 40 years since the first woman of color was ordained, and 10 years since full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ clergy. 

A Pastoral Letter regarding the Churchwide Assembly Vote to Become a Sanctuary Churchbody

by Andrew Lewis (Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Macon GA)

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the middle of last week, the Churchwide Assembly voted to designate the ELCA a “sanctuary church body.” Over the next several days, news organizations picked up the story; the coverage was mostly vague.

When I returned home from worship this afternoon, I learned that Fox News aired a short panel discussion on the Churchwide Assembly’s decision. I assume that this piece will make the usual social media rounds over the coming days, and I write to you today in hopes of addressing any concerns that might be raised by the segment. 

After repeated viewings of the panel, I can state definitively that Fox News misreported the facts both about the ELCA’s position and about undocumented immigrants. Fox News did not have a representative from the ELCA on the panel and implied that ELCA congregations would simply ignore US law. This is not true. One of their guests also implied that undocumented migrants carry disease and pose a public health risk. This is also not true.

The ELCA’s designation as a “sanctuary church body” means that our denomination will continue to support refugees as they are resettled in the US through our partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, provide legal assistance to immigrants pursuing their legally-protected right to seek asylum, and ensuring that undocumented immigrants are aware of their rights under US law. Moreover, it means that the ELCA will continue to advocate for just and human treatment of detained immigrants, such as calling for adequate housing at detainment centers and accompanying minors through immigration court as part of the ELCA’s AMMPARO program. Congregations that have the resources to do soma provide food, shelter, and financial assistance to migrants in need. Finally, it also means that the ELCA will speak out against xenophobia, racism, and fear-mongering against all people. 

You may notice that these are long-standing ELCA practices. As I have mentioned many times before, ours is an immigrant faith: transplanted from Europe into the US and Caribbean by wandering Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes. This immigrant communities maintained their customs in this new country and shaped the ELCA as it is today. After WWII, one in six Lutherans was either displaced or a refugee. And over the years, our faith has become more diverse, made up of Lutherans from Central and South America, Africa, India, the Middle East, and every corner of the map. On a typical Sunday, Lutherans in the ELCA worship in more than thirty different languages.Because we are the spiritual heirs to a wandering Aramean, roving Germans and Danes, and displaced Christians from across the globe, our denomination has long been committed to welcoming the stranger. We do so in the belief that what we do unto the least of these, our sisters and brothers, we do unto Christ himself.  The Churchwide Aseembly’s actions, then, re-commit us to this long tradition. 

                                               "The Lord's Prayer"

                                            Sunday, August 18 at 8:00am and 10:00 am

This Sunday’s Gospel lesson begins with a disciple asking Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Interesting. I wonder what John the Baptist taught about prayer, even as I wonder what the disciple was really asking for. Was s/he asking about posture and gestures? time of day? or the content of the prayer? specific words to say?

Jesus responds by offering a model prayer — the one we have know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” In this prayer we learn that we can speak to God about our daily needs, our relationships, and our fears. In the Lord’s Prayer we learn that the God to whom we pray is like a loving parent who hears, provides, forgives, protects, and expects us to be equally generous with one another. , 

But Jesus  doesn’t stop with just teaching us a prayer that we can say when we gather together. He teaches us about the mindset we should adopt when praying. Finally he teaches us what to expect to receive when we pray. Can you guess what it is?

Pastor Ritva

Who is St Stephen's Lutheran Church

We are a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), located in  the Southeastern Iowa Synod

At St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, we recognize the need to proclaim openly that the gospel is God’s gift to all people to be shared unconditionally. 

As a community aspiring to a be a spiritual home for all God’s people, we welcome all persons, without exception, without regard for age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, financial or family status, physical or mental abilities, or any other human distinction used to discriminate and exclude. 

St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church (ELCA) is a Reconciling in Christ congregation that welcomes diversity, which enriches, nurtures and challenges our life and ministry. Come and join us as we know, live, and share Christ together in love. 

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To Know, Live, and Share Christ


St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, ELCA

610 31st Street SE | Cedar Rapids, IA 52403 | 319-364-2637 | ©2014