Stepping Back, Leaning In

Gabrielle Horton (Twitter: @gabhorton); Incoming Master’s in Public Policy Candidate, University of Michigan

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July 5th: Alton Sterling.

July 6th: Philando Castile.

July 7th: Five members of the Dallas Police Department.

And on July 8th, I served my last day with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, where I oversaw our Public Engagement efforts in South Los Angeles. The timing of these brutal murders, two of which were documented on smartphone video cameras, and subsequent protests –  including in Los Angeles (where Black Lives Matter protesters continue to occupy City Hall for a second week in a row) – have continued to weigh heavily on my heart and mind.

As the departure date for South Africa drew near, I found myself relieved to be free from work duties, which would have surely kept me buried sky high with briefing papers and emails ensuring our office’s proper response and presence in this ongoing narrative around law enforcement, communities of color, and violence. I even started to mentally frame the 21st International AIDS Conference as a vacation of some sorts, where I would simply join the rest of the ELCA Young Adult Cohort for a week of HIV/AIDS workshops and then return back to “reality” when I got back to America. I figured that 11,000 miles away with complete strangers could in no way match the horror I witnessed on my iPhone screen just days before; and could in no way compare to the haunting dreams of gun shots and bloodshed that I had to shake loose night after night. I was convinced that this experience would finally allow me the peace of mind – even if for just eight days – to box up and shelve away my American Blackness, and check back in once the wheels touched down at LAX the following week. And while I generally understood the racialization – and even the Africanization – of the HIV/AIDS epidemic to a certain degree, I was in no ways prepared for the level of intersectionality of this epidemic, which has so profoundly shed light on my identify as an advocate for urban communities of color, and a tireless advocate in the pursuit of justice, access and equity for all. Continue reading “Stepping Back, Leaning In”

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Invisibility: A Super-Power to Some, Lived Experience for Others

Ryan Muralt, Program Development Associate
ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation (@reconcilingwrks)

Invisibility is often a desired “super-power” to be used against enemies or to light-heartedly spook your friends and family. However, there are those in our society who are forced into their invisibility; they do not get the choice to become invisible. Marginalized people like sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men, lesbian, gay, bisexual people and children with HIV are often forced to the margins and out of sight only illuminated for the split second mention in a high level speech.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Pause for a moment and think about how this phrase lands on your ears and then continue reading.

Continue reading “Invisibility: A Super-Power to Some, Lived Experience for Others”

Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly

Aaron Geringer, Graduate Student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Minnesota State University, Mankato

When I first got into AIDS advocacy, my mentors gave me a shirt with a Dr. Seuss quotation I will never forget. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will get better. It’s not.” Being in Durban at the 21st International AIDS Conference has been an emotionally infectious experience. Partially because of the pain, anger, and despair that AIDS has unleashed within our communities; but mostly infectious because of just how deeply these 18,000 individuals care about this cause. This has truly been the most diverse event I have been to, with people from all races, nationalities, occupations, ages, abilities, faiths, sexual orientations, and gender identifications. Despite our differences, we all share a profound desire to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Continue reading “Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly”

Jesus, Politics and the Praxis of Protest

Peter Severson (Twitter: @lutheranAdvoCO); Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Colorado

Being in the city of Durban for this 21st International AIDS Conference is being in the center of a roiling cauldron. This event brings together a huge and complex and disparate group of people whose focus is supporting individuals with HIV and working to prevent the spread of the disease. The presence of many high-level world leaders, from heads-of-state and diplomats to United Nations officials and world agency leaders, gives all attendees a higher level of access than usual to key decision makers. As a result, activist actions and protests have been a part of the proceedings from the beginning, as people agitate for change.

One of those moments happened on Tuesday afternoon, during an otherwise quiet afternoon hour of downtime for me. I was outside on the conference center plaza, having a snack with an acquaintance of mine from college, when suddenly a knot of people formed inside and began chanting. Curious, I walked inside to see what was happening. I discovered a mass of people surrounding a man in a suit who had just come out of a session. The protesters were holding signs that said “Thank you,” along with drawings of pills and medicine, while the man in the suit looked uncomfortable but was evidently trying to listen to some of the protesters ask him questions. Continue reading “Jesus, Politics and the Praxis of Protest”

The Deification of Maleness & Masculinity

A Call to Confession for the Sin of Idolatry

Rev. Andrea Roske-Metcalfe, Associate Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church of Apple Valley, MN

Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was the Sphinx. Oedipus said, “I want to ask one question. Why didn’t I recognize my mother?”        

“You gave the wrong answer,” said the Sphinx.      

“But that was what made everything possible,” said Oedipus.    

“No,” she said. “When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered, Man. You didn’t say anything about woman.”

“When you say Man,” said Oedipus, “you include women too. Everyone knows that.”      

She said, “That’s what you think.”[i]

13405667_10153438242250728_1392988140_oWe always begin with confession. During worship in the church where I’m a pastor, we first welcome the people, point out that everyone is invited to the table for communion; maybe mention the reason behind the flowers on the altar. It’s light, sometimes we crack a joke…we’re just gathering, you know? But we’re also not messing around. We begin worship, just after that, by confessing our sins. We do this, not because we are defined by our sins or because our tradition lays the guilt on thick, but rather because it centers us. It reminds us, corporately, of the work we have left to do in bringing about the kin-dom of God, and of the work we will never be able to do on our own, which leaves God an awful lot to work with. Confessing our sins, and then hearing words of forgiveness and absolution, centers us for worship, which is where we rehearse the kin-dom of God.

We always begin with confession. Dear friends, today is no different. Today, we confess the sin of idolatry, in particular the ways in which we deify maleness and masculinity. Continue reading “The Deification of Maleness & Masculinity”

The Role of Young Activist Women in the Lutheran Church

Sally Fifield

UNCSW16 - 4I was raised Lutheran, identify as Lutheran, feel comfortable in the Lutheran Church, but I struggle with the church. I question the space the church has made for young women, like me, who crave an institution that questions the status quo, that demands justice, dignity, and protection for all our neighbors, and that puts social justice and activism in the center of the church.

Growing up in the church I was encouraged to participate in service projects and mission trips. While in hindsight that work was problematic in the relationship dynamic it created, it did lay a foundation for faith in service and in action with the community. I craved this active and moving faith that was modeled for me.

As a young adult I have looked for new home churches that reflect my ideals and values, but have found that the way church is structured now is for middle class, white families that are comfortable with tradition. When you are looking for the faith-based activist community for young single 20-somethings, you might want to invest in a community outside of the church. Continue reading “The Role of Young Activist Women in the Lutheran Church”

The Spirit Intercedes

Mikka from ELCA World Hunger in Chicago, Illinois

MikkaThis year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) was my seventh experience in that space. Each time, I am reminded that the Spirit works in mysterious ways…

During our time together, the ELCA Young Adult Cohort focuses on leadership development at the intersection between faith and justice. Lately, that conversation has been leading me back to the promise of baptism – through water and the word, we are claimed, gathered, and sent for the sake of the world.

This past summer, ELCA World Hunger engaged tens of thousands of youth and their congregations in the conversation about clean water through ELCA World Hunger’s Walk for Water. According to the United Nations, women in Sub-Saharan Africa walk, on average, 3.7 miles for water each day. This often conjures images of drinking glasses, water jugs, and water wells, but there is so much more to the story.

In June 2014, I had the opportunity to visit and learn more about the 13 Lutheran churches in the island nation of Indonesia. One of the ministries we visited was a women’s crisis shelter of the GKPS (Gereja Kristen Protestan Simalungun – Simalungun Protestant Christina Church). During that visit, we met a woman named Rusti.

As we were settling down in a circle for conversation, I thought to myself, “ELCA World Hunger certainly partners with and supports many health ministries, but the focus is on women’s empowerment – how am I going to tie this back to the program directly?” And as the Holy Spirit does hear our wonderings, the first words out of Rusti’s mouth were:

“I don’t have indoor plumbing in my home, so I have to walk to an area away from home.”

Continue reading “The Spirit Intercedes”