Tag Archives: Justice

WORDS FROM GUATEMALA AT WTS SOUP SUPPER by Prof. Norma Cook Everist & Carina Schiltz, 3rd Year MDiv

Diaconal Minister Dr. Rebecca Wiese (WTS 2002) and guest speaker, Pastor Jose Pilar Alvarez Cabrera, who is the Senior Pastor of ILUGUA (Iglesia Luterana Guatemaltecca in Zacapa, Guatemala) recently spoke at Wartburg Seminary at a soup supper sponsored by the Seminary’s Center for Global Theologies.

Dr. Wiese who is called as an ELCA diaconal minister at Grace Lutheran Church in Davenport, IA, is a physician at Genesis Medical Center in the Quad Cities.  She has traveled to Zacapa, Guataemala eight times as part of the accompaniment ministry of Presbyterians and Lutherans in Davenport with Lutherans in Guatemala.

Pastor Cabrera’s voice was clear and persistent. His commitment was translated by the persistent voice of second year M.Div student Carina Schiltz, assisted by second year M.Div student Mytch Dorvilier.

“We want peace and justice, but there is conflict in our country,” said Pr. Cabrera. He has worked for years with farmers who live in peaceful resistance to the multinational corporations who suppress local interests. The local people who lack the power of voice or money are defending their land and the mountain that is the source of water, which is life for this and future generations.  He said, “Water doesn’t come from a faucet; it comes from the mountain. It comes from the rivers.” And they are being polluted. The mountain is the only source of water for 300,000 people.

The Lutheran Church in Guatemala, together with many other religious leaders have organized and taken their message to such global places such as the Organization of American States, The European Union Parliament, and Amnesty International to seek justice and protection. The powerful multinational corporations have money to pay off judges and others which in turn endangers local leaders, some of whom have been jailed.  Their lives are under constant threat. A priest was offered money to have Pr. Cabrera killed. The priest replied, “I do not want the money; I want you to leave.”

The solidarity movement has become the mission of the church in the midst of conflict. The people simply want healthy, safe water for everyone. Many of the corporate projects are dangerous to the water and the land. A hydroelectric plant would benefit companies between Panama and the United States, not the people who live in the area.

The offers of money, the government (five ruling families) support of the companies, the use of the military to keep the people quiet, all take away the voices of the community. Pr. Cabrera described how the churches have united in this fight for life and thereby have gained credibility and moral authority among the people. They talk to the military, trying to tell them to support the people, not just the huge corporations. The role of the churches is very important.  Pr. Cabrera, whose life has been in danger many times now has body guards. Being with him for five years, the body guards now have become part of the community and even the church.

Ninety-five percent of the people are poor. The multi-national corporations actually increase local poverty while benefitting only the five powerful top Guatemalan families. The Mayan spiritual leaders of the indigenous peoples say, “Don’t be scared pastor. The Spirit of the Mountains will protect you.”

PERSISTENT FOR PEACE by Tammy Barthels, M.Div. Middler and Prof. Norma Cook Everist

“It is a delight to come home to Wartburg. Wartburg has strengthened me and formed me in who I am today.”

Dr. Winston Persaud introduced her Excellency Marie Jilo Barnett to the Wartburg community at a dinner given in her honor this Spring.  Appointed in 2008, she is Sierra Leone’s first female ambassador to Liberia, as well as to Core d’Ivoire. Marie studied at Wartburg from 1990 to 1994, when she received her M.Div. degree.

Reverend Barnett was passionate and invoked hope with each word that she spoke about teaching men and women to co-exist in the Image of God. “It is possible,” she said.

Ambassador Barnett is zealous about negotiating peace and promoting women. She was the first Lutheran woman to be ordained in Western Africa. Her position as Ambassador is about building bridges between Liberia and Sierra Leone; this, she said, is the essence of her appointment.

She encourages women to take action. “Do what you can. Avoid Chaos. Pray with one another, do not pray alone. Get everyone of all races and religions involved. Say ‘NO’ to injustice.”

Ambassador Barnett is called to serve. She did not campaign, nor did she join a political party. She is doing what she believes is hers to do. She depends on her faith and is strong in prayer. “Seek the kingdom and all will be given to you.” Her faith gives her the strength to sit on parliament and represent women and their rights.  She believes strength comes when women come together and support one another. She said, “We do not do it on our own.”  She is involved with a network of women: women lawyers, women doctors, and women from the market. “Together we make a difference. In the nothingness that we have, we share, and we have much.”

Marie has seen a lot of hardship and constantly worked in ministries of reconciliation.  She sees the need to build bridges of peace.  In her role now as Ambassador and also through Lutheran World Federation she has had many opportunities to serve.  “God has been with me everywhere I have been all over the world.”

Ambassador Barnett had worked with Laymeh Gbowoee, well-known Lutheran laywoman who led the peace-movement in Liberia. She said to Gbowe, “Don’t sit alone.” Barnett and other women supported the women from Liberia in the peace talks. Ambassador Barnett now works with Liberian President Serlief. Gbowe and Serlief both became Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

When asked what is most important for her theologically, Ambassador Barnett said, “Justification by grace through faith.  If we have faith, the Holy Spirit will guide us.” She told of times when she needed to speak publicly in crucial diplomatic situations.  “The Holy Spirit would guide my words.  Be strong in prayer.”

Marie’s husband, Tom, also received his M.Div from Wartburg in 1994 and now serves as the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierre Leone.  Dr. Dan Olson, WTS professor emeritus, preached at their ordination in Sierre Leone.  In a church of lay leadership, the Barnetts were the first to be ordained.   Marie served as pastor of Faith Community Lutheran Church, Freetown.

While at Wartburg Marie said that she and Tom were welcomed and supported as international students.  She said, “The international students saw some American students for whom ends did not meet.”  Together with others started the food pantry for students , which continues to this day.

When asked about the demands of her busy life, Marie responded, “When I’m helping people, I’m revived.”  She  concluded with Christ’s mandate: “Go and baptize all nations. Do not be afraid. I will be with you to the end of the age.”

From 1996 – 2002 Marie was a member of Parliament in Sierre Leonne, serving on various Committees asfollows:

1. Foreign Affairs and International

Cooperation Founded the Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians and served as Vice President.

2. Health and Environment Pioneered the settingup of the National AIDS Secretariate.

3. Education – Participated in the oversight that saw the University of Sierra Leone

locate campuses in the different Geographical Regions.

4. Defence – The only female member of the drafting committee of the much celebrated

“Lome Peace Accord” that brought lasting peace to Sierra Leone in 2002.

5. Works and Infrastructure – Pioneered the setting up of the Social Action for Poverty

Alleviation under the National Commission for Re-integration, Repatriation and Resettlement.

6. Social Welfare, Gender and Children

Set up the network of women Ministers

Prayers for Sexual Assault Awareness at Wartburg Seminary by Mary Wiggins, 2nd Year M.Div

The community of Wartburg Seminary, during the week of April 25th 2013, prayed for those impacted by Sexual Assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. This effort was coordinated by the Global Concerns Committee and the Chapel Staff and planning groups. Although Sexual Assault and Abuse primarily affect women, it does not discriminate for men and women, young and old from all over the world are survivors of rape, incest, and abuse. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are impacted by sexual assault in their life time.  

What makes sexual abuse so vile? Its power to isolate and to silence.

Fifty-eight candles were lit in the chapel to represent how sexual abuse statistics would look in a community of Wartburg’s size. These candles were accompanied by prayers for victims–survivors and those who did not survive, supporters, advocates and perpetrators. With sighs too deep for words to express these candles were a visual prayer for all the people whose voices were silenced by abuse.

Image of candles on the Table in Loehe Chapel.

Holy One, you do not distance yourself from the pain of your people, but in Jesus you bear that pain with all who suffer at other’s hands. With your cleansing love bring healing and strength to victims of sexual assault and by your justice, lift them up, that in body, mind, spirit they may again rejoice. In Jesus name, Amen.” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 84)

Photo credit: Mary Wiggins

KEEP YOUR COURAGE AND JOY an Interview with Dr. Renate Wind

KEEP YOUR COURAGE AND JOY an Interview with Dr. Renate Wind

by Karen Ressel, M.Div. Middler

Dr. Renate Wind read excerpts from her latest biography, Dorothee Soelle-Mystic and Rebel, opening the world of Soelle to the students and faculty of Wartburg Theological Seminary during Wind’s public lecture here September 13. Dr. Wind, Professor of Biblical Theology and Church History at the Evangelische Hochschule Nürnberg, Germany, is an activist and reformer in her own right.  She was, and continues to be, engaged in the peace and justice movements.  “I think we can change the world only with movements from below, from the grassroots; in Germany it is graswurzel,” said Wind

In 1968 she stood with many others in protest of the Vietnam War and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Army.  “We demonstrated against the two super nations.  We opposed the use of military forces used to stop liberation movements here and there.”

Wind always knew she wanted to be a teacher; however, becoming a theologian and a biographer was not as obvious to her.  “I wanted to be a teacher since my first year of school.  As a pastor’s daughter, I was familiar with my church, but also in protest against it, like many pastor’s children are. Even now I have some difficulty with conservative Lutheran theology.”

“When I was eighteen I wanted to study art, or journalism, but then came the theology of liberation from Latin America and a new perspective of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (among other things).  That was new thinking in theology.”  She began as a parish pastor in southwest Germany.  Then she found herself serving as a school pastor for twelve years, and finally she was elected as a professor.

“During the 1970’s there was a great change and a lot of reform, and a will to reform school education to help children of all abilities.  It was a very exciting time.  I worked at one of the new schools that integrated all kinds of pupils together.  I gave a lot of energy to that!  Many of the children came from very difficult circumstances.  All children should have the chance to make the best of it.  Yes, it was very exciting to be there.”

Her desire to educate her students was the motivation for each of the biographies she has undertaken, “I wanted to make a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for my pupils who were 16, 17, and 18 years old.  I wanted to show the young people that there is a way to be a politically active person, a way to be in life and society.”

“I did not make the Bonhoeffer biography to become a famous writer!  I never thought it would be so successful!  I only wanted to make it for my pupils but it brought me to Wartburg, for example, and many other places.”

“All of the biographies have to do with my engagement in the peace activist movement and solidarity of the Latin American liberation movements. …All of my subjects had a great influence on me and my theological thinking.  Each biography is not the biography of saint; it is holistic.  I wanted to have dialogs with human beings that impressed me; that influenced me.”  As she researched, she asked herself, “What is the legacy that is important for us today?”

Wind feels there has been a shift in education over the last twenty years to a more conservative, elitist thinking, but she is not discouraged, “I take courage in my job as a teacher.  I think there will be something going forward in many people, not in all of course, but many.  My students become teachers in schools.  I am always connected with school life.”

“I took part in many movements that were not very successful.  But, the movement of Jesus was also not very successful in the beginning.  I am an old revolutionary student from 1968.  I still hope we can change the world and make it a better place! I think education is one of the main things to do that.”

Dr. Renate Wind is an inspiration and has this advice for those who will come after her, continuing the work toward peace and justice: “Keep your courage.  Keep your joy.  If you have no joy in the movement and what you are doing politically, you will not get through the difficult times.”

BOOK REVIEW: DOROTHEE SOELLE: MYSTIC AND REBEL by Renate Wind

BOOK REVIEW: DOROTHEE SOELLE: MYSTIC AND REBEL by Renate Wind. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012, 203 pages. Cloth $ 25.00

Reviewed by Norma Cook Everist, WTS Professor of Church and Ministry

Through Renate Wind’s compassionate, truthful telling of the life of Dorothee Soelle we truly begin to know the woman who at twelve in 1941 had not yet felt the terrors of the War in the affluent suburbs of Cologne. This woman at seventy was celebrated ecumenically and globally as theologian, poet, and activist for peace and justice. Soelle sought the truth, so she studied theology and believed it must be lived and experienced in relationship. Wind writes, “She was such a living witness of an exciting love for God and the world that many of her friends remember her as if she were still with them.”

Wind’s book is compelling drama. Soelle in post-war Germany searched for a way to move from German humanist culture, without bypassing repentance, toward a radical Christianity. She became student, writer, wife, mother, instructor in a girls’ high school, all acceptable roles for a woman in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. And then catastrophe for that time: separation, divorce, a woman on her own; but also new communities, new challenges and “Political Evensong.” Soelle’s deep theological inquiry, prolific writing, speaking and activism led her to become world-renowned and controversial. She was invited to discussions, conferences, organized actions and teaching assignments, including a professorship at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Dorothee Soelle became one of the most highly regarded theologians of her time, yet never received a teaching appointment in Germany.

She believed the only way one can really grow into Christ was to grow into the movement for resistance. Wind writes of Soelle, “She was a path-breaker and a torch carrier, a symbol and a role model with whom many identified…She placed signs of hope along the way for all who wanted to set out for the promised land of freedom, equality and brother-and-sisterhood.”

Renate Wind, professor of biblical theology and church history at the Evangelische Hochschule in Nürnberg, is author and peace activist. English-readers will not be able to put down this edition, translated from the German by Nancy Lukens and Martin Rumscheidt.

Renate Wind describes herself as a younger contemporary of Dorothee Soelle, entrusted with this biography by Dorothee’s second husband, Fulbert Steffensky, and friend, Luise Schottroff. Each of us will connect with this book in our own way and find our own questions. Mine: How does one deal with the contractions of wanting to believe in the superiority of one’s country, living a relatively privileged, calm life and the realities of violence, injustice, and death? How am I inspired to do theology sensually, poetically, and politically?

ISSUES OF JUSTICE, FAMILY, AND THE SINGLE PERSON By Jenn Collins, M.Div. Senior

“Now that I’m good at staying in the lines—I’m staying in the lines for you.”

My nephew, Ben, who is six years old, told me these words while he colored a picture that he called “grassy pickle.” What he drew looked nothing like a pickle, and the colors he chose were purple and orange. But I didn’t care. When he was done coloring the “grassy pickle,” he cut the picture in half and said, “you write your name on half and I’ll write my name on half.”

I don’t know what it is to be part of a couple. But I do know what it is to have relationships that are sustaining and meaningful. Ben stayed in the lines for me. My nephew Ben and I met when he was born—May 25, 2005. I held him and told him that I loved him. This was the first time I remember an instant connection with another human being. When I left for internship, Ben had just turned five and had started kindergarten. I told him that I was going to school in Colorado, so I wouldn’t see him until the first grade. Leaving him was one of the hardest things I had ever done. Over the year, I would talk to him on the phone and he knew exactly where I was. “How are you doing in Colorado?” he would ask. When I came home from internship, Ben called out my name and leapt into my arms for a huge hug.

Why do I tell you this? 

Throughout my seminary experience and into the ministry of the congregation, I have experienced a new kind of definition for family. I get the impression that the definition of family in the church is the family that is created through marriage. Specifically, a man and a woman who marry and have children. Here are some examples of statements I have heard and read.

  1. In the entrance form for candidacy there is an entire page labeled, “family information.” The only thing I needed to do on that page was mark the bubble for “single.” 
  2. When we say, “families are included” at Wartburg, what is implied is, “families who are here”—which in most cases includes only partners, spouses and children.
  3. In our society there is primacy in the spousal relationship. If you are not a spouse, your relationship with any given person is not priority. (This makes sense to me, completely. But it also means, for me, that I am no one’s priority).
  4. In my previous lay ministry experience, I worked the holidays because, “I didn’t have family.”
  5. I have been told/asked, “I don’t understand why you’re single. Don’t worry, you’ll find someone,” “You need to just jump back into dating—have you thought about meeting someone on-line?” And then the question that all single people in ministry are faced with, “Are you sure you’re not gay?”
  6. People assume that I’m lonely.

I feel like I need to apologize for even writing this because I don’t want to be perceived as another single person who is unhappy in life.

Seminary is hard for anyone—and there are different challenges to being married, being parents, or being single. But the single voice isn’t one that is often heard, understood, or given much real concern. I wonder where is the injustice in the church that comes about based on marital (or single) status? Where is the actual injustice that takes place for the single person? In the call process? With regard to financial aid, internship income, insurance, etc? And perhaps the macro question is, “How does marital status impact our life together here at seminary and in the church at large?” I’m hoping to spend January thinking about this in an independent study. 

But here is a call for now, beloved church: Please remember that just because I am not married—this does not mean that I am without family. After all, Ben colors in the lines—for me.