Statement regarding incident at St. Paul's First Lutheran Church, North Hollywood
On July 8, 2020, a Black woman who was sitting on the grass on the campus of St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church (stpaulsfirst.org) in North Hollywood, California, a congregation of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). The woman was confronted by lay members of the church and a video of the incident was posted on YouTube. The Los Angeles times published an article about the incident on July 11, 2020.
St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Santa Monica is a Reconciling in Christ congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and its Southwest California Synod (SWCA). The ELCA is a separate denomination from and has no association with the much-smaller WELS. We repudiate the racist words and actions of those in the video, and would not tolerate them in our congregation.
While this incident did not take place at our church, our congregation and the ELCA does acknowledge its shared responsibility with all largely-white churches for the racism that has played too large a role in the history of American Christianity, and re-emphasizes the ELCA’s belief that “we are called to confess the sin of racism, condemn the ideology of white supremacy, and strive for racial justice and peace.”
Guy Erwin, Bishop, Southwest California Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
James Boline, Pastor, St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Santa Monica
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Why is St. Paul's webcasting worship services instead of meeting in person?
In response to the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, and at the urging of Bishop Guy Erwin of our Southwest California Synod and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church will not be gathering in person for worship services. This is a temporary measure and during this time we will instead be gathering via live webcast.
St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Santa Monica, founded in 1926, is a congregation within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), committed to living out our faith through worship, learning, service, and by pursuing justice, reconciliation and wholeness for all. The word "evangelical" in both the name of our congregation and of our denomination means that we are centered in the Good News of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.
We fully embrace our Lutheran theological heritage, which invites us to be radically inclusive and wholly welcoming of all regardless of race, age, ability, gender expression, or ethnicity. St. Paul’s is an inclusive and inter-generational Christian community in which faith relationships with God are nurtured and deepened.
We are also a Reconciling in Christ congregation within the ELCA since 2001. "Reconciling in Christ" means that St. Paul's Lutheran Church has adopted an affirmation of welcome for all people, but particularly those who might not feel welcome in other faith communities. We are intentional in our embrace and inclusion of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender individuals.