August 28, 2018
Tuesday after the 14th Sunday of Pentecost

Dear partners in the Gospel:

The powerful story of Esther, a woman, an immigrant, a minor, an unlikely person who is placed in a position to speak for what is right -- to speak for those who have no voice – is a narrative I have been praying with recently. Abandoning her fear of death, Esther saved many lives when she addressed the Israelite communities’ struggles. Esther represents people’s hopes, dreams and fears and carries an important message for us: God never forgets God’s people; God’s faithfulness always prevails. 

Our world, our culture, our church needs more Esthers. And the problems are large: hunger, poverty, racism, sexism, prejudice based on a person's place of origin, prejudice based on religion, people who are not accepted because they are differently abled, people who are mistreated because of their sexual identity. Sometimes it seems daunting; however, I believe we each can take on at least one issue. Each of us can be educated on an issue and we can speak out. God has us placed here for such a time as this.

At Synod Assembly in June, as part of the Critical Conversations around the life of our church, we lifted up the final social statement draft from the ELCA Task Force on Women and Justice: One in Christ . Social statements are meant to help communities and individuals with moral formation, discernment and thoughtful engagement with current social issues as we participate in God’s work in the world. They result from an extensive process of participation and deliberation and are adopted by a two-thirds vote of an ELCA churchwide assembly. To prepare a statement for the 2019 Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, the task force is seeking comments on the final draft until September 30, 2018 .

God empowered Esther to stand up against injustice and evil. How do we speak for the voiceless from our place of privilege in society? For too long the culture of the church has perpetuated patriarchal systems that contradict the truth of the Gospel. By standing up against evil, we help to build God’s kingdom on earth. In our Affirmation of Baptism, we promise to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Like Esther, we are challenged in times such as these to move beyond our fears and break the silence.

As your bishop, I am fully committed to this work and ask that all rostered ministers and congregations faithfully read and engage this timely and incredibly important work. Because I want to encourage you to participate in this critical step in the development of the ELCA social statement on women and justice, on Saturday, September 29, 2018 , from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Zion Lutheran Church in York, ELCA Task Force Member Pastor Lori Kochanski and Deacon Marsha Roscoe will host a synodical hearing. Hearings are a critical and important step in the social statement process because they provide comprehensive feedback from across our church. They also provide a place for participants to hear what others are thinking. While you gather in York, at the same time, I will be engaging this very conversation with the Conference of Bishops gathered in Chicago.

Whether it is women and justice, or any of the issues that plague those people who are without a voice, God continues to call us to stand up for people who are suffering and to share God’s love with the world. Esther risked her life for the sake of the Jewish people. The church needs disciples who are willing to be the followers of the one who gave his life on the cross for sake of the world; who has called us to be salt and light for the world. The world needs more Esthers. The world needs us for such a time as this.

Yours in Christ,
†James S. Dunlop, bishop
Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA 

Click here to download a copy of the draft statement.
For more information or to register for our synodical hearing on the social statement, click here .
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