Dear ELCA voting members:
As Bishop of the ELCA South Carolina Synod where this horrific shooting of the Mother Emanuel Nine took place, I am strongly in favor of the resolution to memorialize June 17th as the Emanuel Nine Feast Day of Repentance from racism.
I have seen in our state so many ways that their martyrdom has changed hardened, stubborn hearts. The most public witness was having South Carolina State Legislators from both parties come together to remove the Confederate flag from the State Capital where it had flown since the early 1960s.
Another witness in our Synod has been seen in the over thirty Selma movie events we have hosted between traditionally African-American and white congregations (mostly Lutheran). Every one of these events has begun by praying for each of these nine martyrs and their families asking God to let their witness of forgiveness and grace continue to change hearts and minds in overcoming the racism in our communities.
The congregation where the shooter grew up is now hosting their second African-American intern and has participated in these Selma conversations.
Most recently, the leadership team behind our Selma events have adapted the format to discuss the documentary Emanuel : the untold story of the victims and survivors of the Charleston Church shooting.
The South Carolina Christian Action Council which brings together all denominations has each year since the shooting invited all congregations to mark the Sunday closest to the date as Racial Healing and Justice Sunday in remembrance of the Emanuel Nine.
This resolution would also be a powerful teaching moment for all of the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A feast day also creates an opportunity for our children and youth to learn what the deaths of these martyrs are teaching us about a faith in Jesus Christ that is worth living and dying for today.
Thank you for allowing me to share these reflections about the significance of this resolution.
Bishop Herman Yoos
South Carolina Synod,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
1003 Richland St., Columbia, SC 29201-2407
Joining neighbors, serving boldly, loving all, through Christ.
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