On Oct. 14, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton delivered the opening worship sermon at the National Council of Churches’ (NCC) Christian Unity Gathering in Hampton, Va. NCC member churches, including the ELCA, and other partners gathered in remembrance and lament to mark the 400th anniversary of the arrival of West Africans at the site of their enslavement.

“We need to contrast the myth of America with the promises of God,” Eaton said in her sermon. Preaching on Habakkuk 2:1-4, she called the conference into God’s promise of justice and peace for all people, contrary to the human institution of slavery and its vestiges of white supremacy and racism.

Addressing those in attendance of European descent, Eaton said, “It’s only because of what God has done for us in Christ 2,000 years ago that we, white brothers and sisters, can take away the scales from our eyes, get over our guilt about this, and finally wake up to the story that the myth of America is not the America that has worked for everyone, nor the one that works for us now.”

That day Eaton also participated in a Heads of Communion panel titled “How Is Your Church Working to End Racism?” She presented a report on the “Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent” and the adopted resolution to condemn white supremacy, which were were offered at the ELCA 2019 Churchwide Assembly, and the ELCA’s strategy toward authentic diversity.

Eaton was joined on the panel by Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, presiding bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and Betsy Miller, president of the Moravian Church Northern Province.

Also on Oct. 14, Kathryn Lohre, assistant to the presiding bishop and ELCA executive for ecumenical and interreligious relations, was one of four leaders the NCC presented with the J. Irwin Miller Award for Excellence in Ecumenical Leadership. “Her life of deep commitment to the ecumenical movement exemplifies the kind of faithful leadership we wish to see in the world,” the NCC offered in its award materials.

On Oct. 15, participants gathered for a service with leaders of the World Council of Churches and the Canadian Council of Churches on the shores of Old Point Comfort in Hampton to mark the 400 years since the arrival of enslaved Africans at that site. Testimonies, prayers and liturgical acts of remembrance and recommitment were offered.

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