Our hearts are breaking today as we take in the news of another mass shooting. Today’s crime, apparently motivated by racial hatred, has taken the lives of nine innocent victims while they were gathered in prayer and Bible study. Among those Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator, pastor of the church and close friend of several ELCA bishops as well as our Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in South Carolina. Pastor Pinckney was a graduate of that seminary.
I have joined with other religious leaders in the state of Rhode Island in issuing the following statement:
We reach out in loving concern to the people of Charleston, South Carolina, and especially the members and friends of the individuals who were slain while attending a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last night. We not only honor the life of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney who lost his life shepherding his flock, but we also honor those who were gathered in prayer and reflection. Houses of worship must be safe havens for all who are in distress and seeking God. When any sacred space is violated, all faith communities are diminished.
Churches and synagogues and temples across this country are responding with various forms of worship, prayer, church bells or moments of silence. I ask that all of our congregations, consider setting aside a moment of silence this weekend in worship in order to honor and remember those who have died in this tragedy as well as those grieving the loss of loved ones. In this long year of racially related tragedies, I am mindful that the work of racial reconciliation, the prophetic call of justice and the task of being the people of God is before us, perhaps, in ways we have not seen in years. As I reflect on my years in the ministry, I realize that I never feared for my safety while conducting a bible study or leading worship. I suspect for many of you reading this email, that is true as well. We do live in two societies, and among our many challenges is the task to be faithful people of deep reflection, honest assessment and seekers of reconciliation that is possible in Christ.