Beloved and Loving

The following is a letter to the editor, printed in June 10th’s Tipton Conservative, signed by several pastors in our community. Because our faith influences our daily lives, it also impacts our relationships with our neighbors, both near and far. Church needs to be a place where we can talk and listen about hard, important topics. We who know we are beloved by God should share that love with our neighbors.

Beloved people of God,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ. We write to you today in the tradition of St. Paul, whose letters called the believers to repentance and encouraged them in lives of love for God and neighbor. We write this letter out of love for this community, lament for brokenness in the world, and hope for the days ahead.

Together, we affirm that Christians are called by God to renounce the forces of evil, sin, death, and the devil. Accordingly, as Christian leaders we renounce injustice. We renounce white supremacy. We renounce violence against our fellow humans.

We affirm that in Christ, we are one family. In our personal and public lives we often fall short of loving our neighbors as we ought. We confess that we have sinned. We have been silent in the face of prejudice. We have looked away from injustice. We have valued our own comfort over the lives of our neighbors. We repent, and we ask God to have mercy on us.

We affirm that God hears us when we pray. We call on Christians in this community to join us in prayer. We pray for justice. We pray for repentance and reconciliation. We pray for healing. We pray for understanding. We pray for God’s mercy on us when we fail. We pray for the strength to persevere in this journey toward God’s will.

We affirm that a Christian’s personal faith affects their public life. We call on Christians to live in public what they profess in private: that Jesus Christ bids us lay down our own lives for the sake of our neighbors, particularly those whose cries for justice have gone unheard. As Moses commanded Pharaoh to release God’s people from captivity, we cry out for God’s people to be freed from discrimination and racism.

We affirm that the people of God are one body in Jesus Christ. Unequal treatment of some of those members hurts the entire body, and we will not sit idly by as members of this body are harmed or devalued. We pledge ourselves to resist discrimination, prejudice, and evil of every kind. We pledge to love our neighbors, even when it is hard. We pledge to pray for our enemies.

We affirm that God’s will is for abundant life for God’s people. We affirm that God’s will is for people everywhere to turn from sin. We affirm that God’s will is for followers of Jesus Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves. We pray for the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s will in us.

In Christ,

Rev. Beth Wartick, Pastor, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Tipton

Rev. Stephen Pudinski, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Tipton (retiring)

Rev. Father Richard Okumu, Pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, Tipton, and St. Mary Catholic Church, Mechanicsville, Iowa

Rev. Jay Amundsen, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Tipton (incoming)

Would you like to continue this conversation with me? I would like to hear what you’re thinking. One opportunity is this: ELCA pastor Lenny Duncan has written a book, Dear Church, specifically for Lutherans who want to have these thoughtful conversations about racism through the lens of faith. You can buy a copy online, or I can lend you mine. Let me know if you’re interested in a discussion of the Dear Church, and we’ll find a date in July.

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