Lutheran leaders respond to terrorist tragedy
ELCA Bishop for New York City watched towers go down
The Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, Bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, was in his office in lower Manhattan when two airplanes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City on the morning of September 11.
“We watched both buildings disappear in a cloud of smoke,” he said. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Bouman, whose office is two blocks from where the World Trade Center towers were standing, gave assurance that the synod staff in New York was safe and unharmed following the disaster. He said that, as a result of the cataclysm, “people are streaming into the churches in Manhattan” [for prayer].
From his office in Chicago, ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson said, “As Christians it is important that we behave responsibly at this time and not act harshly.” Said Anderson, “We offer prayers for our leaders, who must reassure a shaken nation and investigate [these] terrible deeds.”
The day of the terrorist attacks, staff members packed the chapel at ELCA headquarters in Chicago for a special midday prayer service.
LCMS President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, said in St. Louis, Missouri, “The monstrous attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., are an astounding example of mankind’s fall into sin and the forces of evil at work in this world.” He said, “We encourage all to turn their eyes to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, WELS President Dr. Karl Gurgel said, “Our prayers are with those most directly affected by the tragedy. Seldom have we in America felt the full impact of the evil in the world as we are now.”
Gurgel called on members of his denomination to “be more resolved to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the only unchanging comfort in this ever changing world.”
In the Twin Cities, church leaders gathered at the Minnesota Church Center the day following the attacks. Speaking for the ELCA’s Minneapolis Area Synod, recently-elected Bishop Craig Johnson spoke simultaneously to a roomful of building employees gathered for prayer and, by means of a live television feed, viewers across the metropolitan area.
Johnson said, “As Christians we cling to Christ for our hope and hold in prayers all the victims. The church stands against violence. In the darkest times, we are confident in hope for a new day.”
Speaking moments later from the same podium, the ELCA’s Saint Paul Area Synod Bishop, Mark Hanson, soon to be ELCA Presiding Bishop, said, “Pleading for God’s mercy and peace is the most appropriate response to a day of violence. The heart of God is grieved this day.” He quoted Romans chapter 8 from the New Testament, reminding listeners, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
Hanson also spoke the following Sunday afternoon, to over 35,000 Minnesotans gathered in front of the state capitol building in St. Paul. There, he said, “We pray for our Muslim neighbors, that they may not become victims of our rage.” He added, “To Muslims and Jews, we say, ‘You will be safe in our community.’”
In Baltimore, Maryland, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) President Kathryn Wolford said, “We pray for the wisdom to not cast blame on whole peoples and religions because of the horrific acts committed by extremists.”
There were reports of prayer vigils in many Lutheran churches in Canada, Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden.
Words of sorrow and condolence flowed from Lutheran leaders in Jordan, Palestine, Kenya, and Tanzania.