Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress... James 1:27
Recently, the domestic abuse shelter, Embrace, which serves Barron, Price, Washburn and Rusk counties in Northwest Wisconsin, lost county funding for the important work that it does to help individuals and families find safety and protection from abusive partners. The reported $25,000 cut in funding was in reaction to the organization’s display of Black Lives Matter placards at its facilities and its antiracism statement on its website. Several local and national news agencies picked up the story.
About 15% of the victims that are served by Embrace are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). When I read Embrace’s anti-racism statement, I was struck by how it echoed many ideas expressed in statements of my church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s condemnation of racism and white supremacy.
It grieves my heart that funding for the only domestic abuse shelter in four counties in Northwest Wisconsin has been cut. A study from Rutgers documented an increase in domestic violence since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic. Access to the support of a domestic abuse shelter can be a matter of life or death. Surely this conflict will put the most vulnerable families among us in even more danger.
My response to this situation may be perceived as a partisan political statement. Let me assure you it is not. It is a matter of faith. Racism and the resulting racial violence is a sin. Domestic violence is a sin. As Christians we are called to “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” Micah 6:8. For me to be silent in the face of this injustice is sin.
As a church, as people of faith, we are called to care for the” least of these my brothers and sisters,” for those on the fringes, the weak, the poor, and the vulnerable. We are called to end the root causes of injustice, violence, and poverty. As ELCA Lutherans we often say, God’s Work, Our Hands, and I add Our Voices. Addressing injustice in our society is God’s work and it requires our voices.
If you are a person of faith, I invite you to pray about how you can speak the truth and act justly in the face of this situation. Pray that the conflict between the board and Embrace is resolved and funding restored. Pray that we work together to end racism, racial violence and domestic violence. Pray for courage and wisdom. Use the voice God has given you to speak on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced or unheard.
Together in Christ,
~Bishop Laurie Skow-Anderson
Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA