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
STOP-Violence and racism. SLOW DOWN-Pray for peace. LISTEN-To what God says in The Bible!! When you see a traffic light-Red, STOP, Yellow, SLOW DOWN, Green, LISTEN AND RESPOND! LCMS and the LWML PRAY and RESPOND!
The article fails to mention any police violence . . . which is well-documented, systemic, and proven in court – a huge part of the problem. Pray for the safety of those in custody as well as those protecting homes and businesses. I hope LCMS will continue to work in Baltimore long after the media leaves, to help those who have the system stacked against them, to love their neighbors even (and especially) when no one is looking.
Tim, you are sadly mistaken if you feel that unwarranted/excessive use of force by police officers is “a huge part of the problem”. Certainly it has been a problem at some times and in some places, but the knee-jerk reaction of blaming the police, who put their lives on the line every day to protect us from the evil people around us, only adds to the problem, more than you apparently understand. There is NO excuse for rioting, assaulting police officers (or anyone else who is not assaulting you at that moment, i.e., self-defense), looting, starting fires, or any of the other felonious acts. When you “blame” the police (or poor schools, or lack of jobs, or ANYTHING other than the sin committed by the sinner) you encourage more of this horrible behavior.
James, the police are sinners, too.
Jim, you make a strong point about not making broad statements about police: “There is NO excuse for rioting, assaulting police officers (or anyone else who is not assaulting you at that moment, i.e., self-defense), looting, starting fires, or any of the other felonious acts.”
Tim, you make a strong request about caring for people in custody: “Pray for the safety of those in custody as well as those protecting homes and businesses.”
I see merit in your remarks and recognize an imperative call to pray for the people who live in Baltimore, including police AND protesters.
Stability can only follow cooperation and collaboration as this city and others begin to heal. It requires strong commitments from people of faith.
Commitments to improve living conditions and corrective measures for law enforcement officers. Commitments to offer alternative responses for deeply disenfranchised citizens. Faith in action may be the only viable path.
Tim — Realizing we are all sinners and all of us stand in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness which He freely gives us under His right-hand kingdom, the Church, under God’s left-hand kingdom, the State, we all are required to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13). I see Paul making no qualifications in that passage regarding our submission – we are simply to submit even if the authorities are not necessarily just. I find it very hard to believe that any police officer would intentionally seek to harm anyone. While there may be very rare exceptions, violence on the part of police officers is directed toward those who refuse to submit to the God-given authority of the officers. In that case, the officers bear the sword for a reason. If I needed to choose between the police officers and a riotous crowd of what are essentially anarchists, or even individuals who refuse to humbly submit to the officers’ authority, I will stand behind the officers every time.