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Statements on the Tree of Life Massacre

Happy are those who find wisdom,
    and those who get understanding…
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
    those who hold her fast are called happy. (Proverbs 3.13, 18)

Almighty God, your love never fails. You are our wisdom, our hope, our tree of life. Look with mercy on us all, shocked and grieving for those murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. May your holy presence turn us from the darkness of hatred and violence to the daybreak of your hope. Give courage and faith to all who mourn, and a sure and certain hope in your loving care, that, casting all their sorrow on you, they may have strength for the days ahead.

Lord, have mercy.

Statement of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA


Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I write to you with a broken heart – for the lives lost, wounded, and shattered by horrific hatred and violence at Tree of Life Congregation this morning. We join our Jewish neighbors and enter into mourning for all that has been lost. In our grief, God is our comfort. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

From Pittsburgh to Portland, and around the world, Jews are living in fear. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Public acts of hatred and bigotry against Jews are commonplace. As Christians, and particularly as Lutherans, we deplore and reject this bigotry. “We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us” (1994 Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community).

We are reminded that hate-filled violence knows no bounds – whether a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, a Christian church in Charleston, or a Jewish synagogue In Pittsburgh. As people of faith, we are bound together not only in our mourning, but also in our response.

Therefore, in this tender moment of grief, let us reach out to those whose hearts are most broken – our Jewish neighbors. I encourage you to contact your local synagogue, or your Jewish colleagues, friends, and family members, to share your words of care, support, love, and protection. There may be specific acts you might offer to demonstrate your care, such as when the members of Faith Lutheran Church surrounded Congregation Beth Israel of Chico, California, serving as  Shomrim , or guardians, as they observed Yom Kippur following a hate crime in 2009.

Such simple acts can go a long way to demonstrate our love, as an extension of God’s love. As we seek to heal the brokenhearted, we are assured that God is near. There is no greater promise in the face of grief.

In peace,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop, ELCA

Statement of Bishop Bob Humphrey, VA Synod ELCA


There is very little I can add to the excellent statements published by our ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and many others, including many lay and rostered members of our Synod. But, I certainly do want you to know how deeply and completely I decry and lament recent acts motivated by hate, prejudice and destructive public discourse.

Adding to the millions of other horrible acts throughout history given birth and fueled by widespread and indefensible hatred toward specific groups of other humans; in the past week we have learned about not only the vicious attack on our Jewish siblings while they worshipped, but also of more than a dozen bombs mailed to high profile figures in our country and two African Americans killed while shopping for food.

And, those are only the horrible headlines, which do not detail the untold number of hateful or demeaning things said and done this past week by our neighbors, coworkers and perhaps even our friends and family or we ourselves. All this is a both a byproduct and perpetuation of systemic racism, sexism and prejudice at every level and in every institution of our society, including our beloved church.

This needs to be a time, therefore, not only of sympathy and prayers for others, and righteous indignation, but also of personal and corporate repentance and reformation. We must be the ones to speak out when we hear hateful remarks or accusations. We need to respond with faithful, positive action when we feel, hear or see prejudice lead to unkindness, rejection or worse. It starts with us…

Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen (ELW, Confession and Forgiveness, p.95)

Bishop Bob Humphrey

Virginia Synod, ELCA

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