By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“We’re just beginning to figure out how to respond” to the violence in Baltimore, LCMS Southeastern District President Rev. John R. Denninger told Reporter via phone from a Council of Presidents (COP) meeting in Fort Wayne, Ind., April 28.
In the wake of more than 200 arrests, 144 vehicle fires, 19 structure fires and injuries to police officers and protesters in Baltimore, staff from the Synod’s Office of National Mission, in St. Louis, are making plans to assist the district in its response.
Several Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod congregations are located close to where the riots and looting have been taking place since Sunday, April 26, but as of this writing there have been no reports of damages to the churches or injuries to their members, according to Denninger.
At least one LCMS pastor in Baltimore, the Rev. Martin Schultheis, was planning to attend a possible clergy gathering the afternoon of April 28 at Security Square Mall, about a mile from Schultheis’ congregation, Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Also expected to attend are city and school officials.
There are rumors that demonstrators are targeting the mall after school lets out for the day, Schultheis explained, so the pastors and city officials are meeting there “to pray and stand firm against” any possible violence. Whether or not the rumors are true is anyone’s guess, the pastor said, but he’s going just in case.
Why put himself in harm’s way?
“It’s my community,” he said. “This is where I live, where I work, where my people live and work.” The idea is that, “if there’s an opportunity to stand together and help calm things down, then [we’ve] got to do it.”
Schultheis added that he and others on the front lines in Baltimore “have really appreciated the prayers” being said on their behalf. “Obviously, we are praying like crazy, but it is very comforting to know that so many others are, as well.”
Southeastern District President Denninger said he plans to meet with LCMS pastors in Baltimore and surrounding suburbs when he returns home on Friday, May 1, “to try to take care of the shepherds and to listen to them. And then, from there, learn what they have been doing already — What are they hearing from their people? What things could be most helpful to all of them? — and what ideas they have” for reaching out to their hurting communities.
At the COP meeting, he has been talking with LCMS Missouri District President Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly “because he has experience in Ferguson” and Denninger said he is hoping that Mirly’s staff and pastors can help Southeastern District workers “learn some of the things [they] learned” from ministering to people during that earlier crisis.
“It’s pretty amazing to listen right now to Ray talk about the significant things that are happening in Ferguson,” even though it often “takes a long time” for those positive efforts to bear fruit.
But that, Denninger said, “makes me think that, as difficult and hard as it is, this could be a kairos moment that the Lord uses — the crisis of the moment — to create a new opportunity for ministry for people who are very afraid and upset right now.
“We have an answer to that.”
Posted April 28, 2015