Gangs, Gaza and the Gospel (An epistle to the churches of the New England Synod, ELCA from Bishop Jim Hazelwood)

This letter was waiting for me in my inbox from Bishop Jim Hazelwood when I returned from Uganda last week. I believe it is written from the perspective of relationship, not the polarized politics that feed our hungry news-cycles. Even still, these issues are complicated, and I ask for your prayers for our ongoing discernment, for all those who suffer at the hands of others, for courage for those who can help, and for those whom we have elected to office, to make sound and good decisions, especially those with whom we disagree. We can make a collective difference if we are willing to try. Peace be with you all.


(A Letter to the New England Synod from Bishop Jim Hazelwood – July 16, 2014)

 “I am weary with my moaning;  every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eyes waste away because of grief; they grow weak because of all my foes.”(Psalm 6: 6 & 7)

 What other response can one have in these days of suffering?  I listen to the news and think of our brothers and sisters in our companion synods in Palestine and Honduras.

 Today, in Gaza a short-lived cease-fire ended, with death and destruction.  I was just in Israel and the West Bank in November, eating lunch with Munther and Mona.  I worshipped with Palestinian Christians in our Lutheran congregations, walked the streets of Jerusalem, and witnessed the pain, hypocrisy, and injustice of a people longing for peace.

 Yesterday, as a nation, we deported 50 women and children back to Honduras.  The humanitarian crisis on our southern border grows every day, as children flee the gang violence that is consuming Central America.  It is a violence rooted in drugs and profit.  In 2012, I slept in a humble cabin in the mountains in Honduras near the Nicaraguan border, worshipped with Dagoberto, and worked alongside our sisters and brothers to build a church where the Good News of the Prince of Peace is being proclaimed today.

 The New England Synod has a deep relationship with these two parts of the world.  We are in companion relationship with the Lutheran Church in the Holy Land (ELCJHL), and in Honduras, with both Lutherans and Episcopalians.  As we watch, read, and hear the news about two difficult and complex issues in our society – Immigration and the Middle East, I wonder: what can we do?

 These issues are riddled with complexities that are not simply distant, but quite connected to our own lives.  The dynamics of the Middle East involve how we invest our money in foreign and domestic companies, how we buy our food in the grocery store, as well as our attitudes toward those who are a part of the Jewish and Islamic faith traditions.  The issues of immigration are tied to our U.S. drug use culture, our desire for products and services to remain inexpensive, and our misunderstanding of people whose racial make-up may be different than our own.

 The complexity of these parts of the world come home in our congregations when we have debates over how to invest our endowment funds, minister to the parents of drug addicted children, and enjoy our hotel rooms being cleaned for us on Cape Cod.  The world is not far away, it is here.

 What can we do?

–         I invite your congregation to include, in your prayers and petitions, our brothers and sisters in Israel, Palestine and Honduras.  Pray for an end to violence; pray for a fair treatment of all people; pray for understanding, and pray for the reign of God.

–         Educate yourselves on both of these matters, by seeking out thoughtful perspectives that deepen your God-given compassion.  Avoid the extremes in the media who seek to establish a preconceived agenda.

–         Consider including information in your congregation bulletin or newsletter.  Below are some links to resources.

–         Consider joining me in making a financial contribution to support the Augusta Victoria Hospital in West Jerusalem, and the Lutheran Disaster Relief for Unaccompanied Children.

–         Realize that in a global society such as ours, everything is connected to everything.  How we live our lives here in the U.S. impacts the children walking in the streets all over the world.

Let God, whose compassion runs so deep for us that the tears of an ancient Psalm resulted in the action of the extraordinarily generous gift of Jesus, move us to acts of compassion. 


-BJH, 7/16/2014

About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Volunteer Firefighter, Teacher, Mission Focused Church Leader, Camp Lover, Change Proponent, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
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1 Response to Gangs, Gaza and the Gospel (An epistle to the churches of the New England Synod, ELCA from Bishop Jim Hazelwood)

  1. Kathy Suarez says:

    Can’t you see how biased and political this is? Why not: “Open Borders, Israel and the Gospel”? Is the Gospel pro-Hamas and pro-illegal immigration? Why would a bishop — and the ELCA in general — take such a political position? Instead, shouldn’t we call for just laws and compassion?

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