ELCA Responds to the Many Disasters with Aid

The ELCA distributed the following this week:

"During a time of an unprecedented number of disasters around the globe, our church is answering God's call to love others as ourselves.  Here is a sample of what Lutheran Disaster Response is actively working on:

In Texas, where Hurricane Harvey caused destruction, e're hiring a disaster response coordinator to work with our partners and affiliates to connect volunteers and donations to where they're needed most.

In Florida, where Hurricane Irma caused damage, we're helping Lutheran Services Florida with relief for their most impacted staff.

In Haiti, we're supporting 100 female-headed households and 100 farmers whose gardens and livestock were lost to the hurricane.

In Cuba, we're supporting the distribution of items like cookware, dishes and blankets to help families get back to normal life.

In Mexico, where three major earthquakes struck within weeks, we're supporting our localpartner as they distribute food, water and other basic necessities to those who have lost their homes.

In Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin islands, where Hurricane Maria left devastation, we're coordinating the delivery of critical items including dry food, generators and solar-powered phones.

Recovery from these disasters will take years.  Please continue to pray for our neighbors impacted by disasters around the world."

With the outbreak of wildfires in California this week, I expect the ELCA to do something there too. 

I spoke with Pastor Velazquez this week and he suggested persons interested in helping the people in Puerto Rico consider making cash donations.  Shipping and getting items to the people in greatest need is proving to be difficult on the island.



Bishop's Convocation on Courageous Leadership for Wholehearted Ministry

Pastor Heather and I joined other synod rostered people at this event this week at Triumphant Lutheran Church.  We spent a lot of time discussing the difference between guilt and shame.  In general, guilt requires forgiveness and shame requires healing.

Lutherans are like many others in being better able to discuss guilt rather than shame, even though Jesus healed more people than he forgave.  People in power, including white males since the start of the church, tend to be more comfortable discussing guilt rather than shame, since shame introduces the need for justice, a topic those in power usually want to avoid.  The preference comes out in our liturgies and we think Jesus came primarily to forgive.

As more women and minorities gain power in the church, we may get better at handling shame.

The suggested book for this convocation is on my reading list for this fall.

San Antonio Clubhouse

I visited this ministry for adults with serious mental health diagnoses this week as part of my work with St. Luke's Lutheran Health Ministries.  Club members do much of the work at the facility and gain job skills while there.

In general, mental health funding remains the most difficult in the health care industry because of the continuing stigma associated with mental health diagnoses.

Abode Contemplative Care for the Dying

I visited this nearby hospice ministry this week as part of my grants committee work for St. Luke's Lutheran Health Ministries.  Abode was started by some members of Reconciliation Episcopal several years ago and I have visited them several times in the past.  The mission of Abode is to provide hospice care in a family setting for those who have no family able to help care for them.

News Media Constantly Correcting President Trump

Within the last few weeks, i have read more and more news articles where the reporter corrects what are believed to be falsehoods continuing to be promoted by our president.  I am seeing more of the same being done on television.

In a culture where truth is increasingly being determined by elections, personal opinion, and polls instead of facts and testable realities, the church faces a growing challenge getting people to believe there is real truth in any area of human life.

How do you think Christians shouldtalk about truth when truth is portrayed as relative to each individual? 

Haven for Hope

This week five members of the education work group for the San Antonio Sponsoring Committee visited Haven for Hope to learn about how they provide for schooling for the 150 or so youth housed there at any particular time.  We learned a major need in local public schools is for teachers to receive trauma training, including the trauma of homelessness.

The sponsoring committee continues trying to get better educated on the intersection of education and poverty so we can later get involved in projects to help the education of poor youth.


Most White Denomination in America

According to the current issue of The Christian Century, Lutherans are the most white denomination with only 8% of members being non-white.  I assume all groups of Lutherans were counted together.

At the start of the ELCA, this denomination set a goal of having at least 10% of the members be non-white or have a primary language other than English within ten years.  We are now 30 years into the ELCA and the goal has still not been attained.  I read a couple years ago the only progress in the percentages has been because of a drop in white membership, not because of an increase in non-white membership.

The ELCA faces a challenge of having little leverage to encourage local congregations to work on denominational goals.  With the local congregations controlling offerings, owning the church buildings, and selecting their own pastors, denominational officials have little influence over the goals local congregations.  Until local congregations make desegregation a top priority, Lutherans will remain primarily white.

Tax Debate Underway

Our nation is again talking about reducing taxes.  We are hearing how certain proposals will affect the top 1%, billionaires, millionaires, small businesses, the middle class, and the working class.  I have yet to hear any comments on how the tax plan will affect the poor - the bottom 20%, many of whom are hungry or homeless.

As the debate moves forward, I expect the churches will be evaluating proposals based on their impact on the poor.  The poor cannot afford expensive lobbyists and Christians will need to help this group find a voice in the debate.

Investigating City Council Invocations

An ecumenical group of local citizens is investigating how cities comparable to San Antonio handle a controversial problem: praying at city councilmeetings.  This local project is growing out of a controversy over a year ago when a local cleric virtually said that anyone in the city who did not agree with him is condemned.  Such comments are not helpful in a government setting.

I researched what is done in San Diego and Pr. Charles Fredrickson researched Austin.  Later this month all of this research will be brought together and hopefully our city council will make an informed decision how to proceed.

District 2 of San Antonio

At a recent gathering of the Faith Based Initiative in San Antonio, we were told the greatest concentration of churches in the city is in District 2 on the east side.  District 2 is also the district with the most social problems.  The congregations there are trying to improve the neighborhood but the challenges are more than the congregations can handle.

Board of Project Quest

Several weeks ago i was asked to consider coming on the board of directors of this major job training program in San Antonio which was founded by COPS/Metro.  After talking with a number of people and meeting with some board members, I decided now is not the time for me to assume this additional responsibility.  My plate is already full and I do not want to take time and energy away from the San Antonio Sponsoring Committee or MacArthur Park Lutheran Church and School.

David Gushee to Stop Writing

A well-known writer for Religious News Service has announced he will stop writing religious news stories.  David Gushee has been trying to bridge the gaps between religious groups but has become frustrated by the deep divisions in the country.

With so many bridge builders in the religious world withdrawing, it will be hard to keep the world from becoming more divided.

European Lutherans v. American Lutherans

I have heard several discussions over the years whether Lutherans in Europe or Lutherans in America are more faithful to the tradition of Martin Luther.

Lutherans in Europe seem to live closer to the social teachings of Luther while Lutherans in America have traditionally attended church services more often.  Both have strengths and weaknesses.

However, with the explosive groups of the Lutheran church in the Third World and the continuing decline of the Lutheran churches in Europe and America, the whole issue may become moot in the near future.

Hillary Clinton as a Settler Woman

When Lynn and I first came to Texas as pastors, I heard a lot about the difference between pioneer women and settler women.  Pioneer women were the first in their fields and settler women were people who followed others in their fields.

While it is true Hillary Clinton would have been the first woman to serve as President of the United States, it is highly unlikely she would have been known if her husband Bill had not been a previous president.  In some ways she was following his path.  The following of her husband may be one reason a good number of women did not campaign for her enthusiastically.  These women wanted a true pioneer woman to be first and not a settler woman.

With this kind of thinking, I would count as a settler man.  Lynn became a pastor a week before I did.

Sitting with Mark Kusenberger at a Football Game

I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to sit with Mark Kusenberger at the high school football game last Saturday.  His knowledge of the game was helpful since I do not get a chance to see many games and sports continue to change.  I was able to get away from church work for a while which is something I have been wanting to do too.

Letter to the Editor Submitted

I wrote a letter to the editor of the San Antonio Express-News October 7 responding to another writer who complained Christian leaders are concerned only about abortion.  If the letter is not published in the next week or so, I will publish it here in this blog.

When I was in Seguin recently for the 40th anniversary of my ordination, several people said they wish I would write more often.  We will see if this letter gets published.

Sukkot Interfaith Clergy Gathering 5778

I was the only Lutheran in attendance today at Temple Beth-El for their annual celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.  We had tasty food, a study of the significance of the day for Jews, and an opportunity to gather outside for fellowship.

I was amazed how many of the people present are working on our fledgling San Antonio Sponsoring Committee.

Rabbis Mara Nathan, Marina Yergin, Samuel Stahl, and Cantor Julie Berlin were our hosts.

2903 Nacogdoches Rd.     San Antonio, TX 78217    phone: 210-824-7135  fax: 210-826-5146