Statement on "Black Lives Matter" Sign

(Reprinted from November 27, 2020)

Dear RELC Church Family:

The Council thanks those who provided feedback regarding the Black Lives Matter signs at RELC and concerns about the Black Lives Matter organization. We apologize for the lack of communications with the congregation regarding the Council’s decision to display the signs.

The Council agrees with the June of 2019 ELCA statement the “Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent,” which apologizes to people of African descent for the church’s “historical complicity in slavery and its enduring legacy of racism in the United Stated and globally.” Additionally, the declaration further proclaims: “this church enters into a season of confession and lamentation. Beyond empty promises or well-meaning intentions, this church recommits to the work of racial justice, socioeconomic equity and racial reconciliation.”

Bishop Eaton has joined many ELCA Lutherans in affirming Black Lives Matter. On October 7, 2020, the DC Synod issued a statement of commitment to racial equity. Among other things, the letter states: “We acknowledge the events that have transpired over the more than 100 days since the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We witness the calls for justice, and join the many voices in declaring that Black Lives Matter are sacred.” The letter goes on to say “our silence only gives cover to racist policies, practices, and systems. There are no sidelines. Remaining neutral in situations of injustice leaves us on the side of the oppressor.”

The Council views the Black Lives Matter signs as a Christian statement that while all lives matter, at this moment Black lives are most at risk. The BLM movement was spurred on by the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and has grown into an organization with chapters in cities across the US. As stated in the ELCA Black Lives Matter document: “The movement seeks to help people recognize that Black lives matter no less than other lives, and to expose how Black people have been and continue to be dehumanized and considered insignificant, expendable prey in our society… When we say Black lives matter, we are promoting and protecting human rights and living out God’s commandment to love our neighbor.” We know that we will never reach absolute consensus about sensitive decisions like these. In this time of Black people vulnerability to prejudice and harm, we feel called by Christ to announce our support publicly for Black safety and security, and our opposition to racial injustice.

RELC has historically played an active role within the Arlington Civil Society Community in advocating for justice and inclusion. The Council will continue current discussions on how best to determine the appropriateness of similar engagement going forward. The Council also joins Pastor Linman in the commitment to providing opportunities for our congregation to engage with each other in thoughtful and respectful ways as we seek racial justice in our church and world. Currently Pastor Linman is leading a discussion of Pastor Lenny Duncan’s book, Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US, and the monthly Friday Evening Film Series. We hope that you will join us in these and future `activities and help us in expanding this commitment to racial justice.

Your RELC Council,
Deb Andre
Paul Bastuscheck
Jeanne Broyhill – Council Chair
Mike Fuelling
Matt Gagelin
Monica Hirschberg
Glen Mason
Joyce Mortenson
Edd Nolen
Jenny Tigney
Norman Olsen

(November 2020)

Documents referenced in this letter are below