The following is a letter from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
An open letter to the Muslim American community
Dec. 11, 2015
Dear Muslim Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and peace to you. I am writing on behalf of many Christians in this country who wish to share a word of solidarity, love and hope with you in these difficult days.
In this season of Advent, we, your Christian neighbors, are preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who commanded that “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31, NRSV).
In our love for you, our Muslim neighbors, we are distressed by the ways in which you are being forced to bear the fears held by many in our nation. Therefore, we renew our commitment to find even more effective ways to protect and defend you from words and actions that assault your safety and well-being. We believe God calls us to resist what is divisive, discriminatory, xenophobic, racist or violent, and we want you to look to us as allies and friends.
The global refugee and migrant crisis and the acts of terror committed in this country and around the world are challenges that demand our collective efforts and our common prayers. Therefore, we will seek to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as agents of peace, justice, understanding, welcome and reconciliation for the sake of the world that God so loves.
In this holy season, when we anticipate the light that the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5, NRSV), we are reminded of God’s gift of life abundant for all. Together with you, we are committed to building a stronger society based on the dignity of each human being, the value of diversity, the holiness of creation and the common good. We pledge our partnership and invite our local communities into continued dialogue and engagement to this end.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Dear Bishop Eaton
Your letter to the Muslim community was undoubtedly based upon laudable motivations. No true Christian desires that any group be the object of animosity or violence.
I have not heard of any credible reports of discrimination, much less violence, against Muslims in our country. But violence by avowed Muslims against other individuals and groups around the world is constantly reported by the media. What happened recently in San Bernardino is not an “outlier,” despite what some have asserted.
A more fundamental point is that the difference between Islam and Christianity is between a “prophet” who killed and a Savior who died. As you should well know, the Christian faith has always affirmed that a better world will only be realized through self sacrificing love, not through the elimination of “unbelievers.”
This leads me to my final observation. While you professed your friendship, even brotherhood, with respect to Muslims, no where in what you wrote did you call them to repentance and faith in the person and work of Christ. The only explanation for this omission, as far as I can determine, would be the belief that Islam is as valid an approach to God as is the Christian faith. Is this the position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America?
Hello Wayne, thank you for visiting our website and for your thoughtful and respectful response to Bishop Eaton’s letter. As this is a local church website, the bishop will not find your response, unfortunately. However, if you would like to learn more about the ELCA in regards to ecumenism and inter-faith relations, please see the following site: http://www.elca.org/Faith/Ecumenical-and-Inter-Religious-Relations