Synod Racial Equity Team

Big Read: Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

“Just as Jesus defied Herod and then continued on with the work of liberating healing and justice-filled shalom, so too must Christians subvert every way that our society’s racial hierarchy is allowed to exist. This subversion must happen first and foremost in the church.”  Drew Hart, Author

This fall, Advent Lutheran of Madison would love to have participants in your congregation join a multi-congregational inter-denominational BIG READ of Drew Hart’s book Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, with the opportunity and resources for a variety of events and ways to engage. The book is very accessible and engaging for what is not an easy topic, and we have recently confirmed for the author to be here for the conclusion of the Big Read the weekend of December 1 & 2.

Order books at Let them know you’re part of the MCC (Madison Christian Community) ordering, and you’ll receive 40% off the cover price, so books are only about $10 each!

Contact Pastor Nick Utphall at for more information or to let him know you’re interested!

“On the Misuse of Scripture to Justify Injustice” – WCC Statement

On the Misuse of Scripture to Justify Injustice
A Statement by the Wisconsin Council of Churches (from

As the crisis surrounding immigration continues to unfold, we, the members of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, raise our voices in protest at the policies being implemented and at the inappropriate appeal to scripture by government officials in support of these policies.

With a signed Executive Order instructing the indefinite detention of families, the reunification of children separated from their parents unlikely to occur, and National Guard troops from Wisconsin being sent to support ICE activities along the border, it is clear that our government intends to continue using its authority in ways that perpetrate trauma.

We, the members of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, have covenanted “to pray and work together for the unity and renewal of the church and the healing and reconciliation of the world.” That means, whenever possible, we will strive to give clear expression to the Christian faith that unites us, especially when that faith has been publicly perverted or maligned, and stand with the weak and powerless when they are being exploited, maltreated or neglected – especially by those who are officially responsible for the public welfare.

We are especially concerned with the Attorney General’s appeal to scripture to support the policy of separating parents from their children, and by extension, the indefinite detention of undocumented immigrants and the rejection of asylum seekers.

The Attorney General appeals to Paul’s statement in Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”

We reject this theological misrepresentation of Scripture, specifically, and of Christian teaching about the State, generally, in justification of such obvious injustice.

This verse has been used in many contexts: by Nazis demanding that Christians submit to and participate in the genocide of Jews; by South African Christians defending the injustice of Apartheid; by American Christians defending the institution of slavery. The historical echoes are profoundly disturbing and we call the church and society to attend, that the past not be repeated.

The Apostle Paul, author of these words, was himself imprisoned and executed by the Roman Empire. He wrote this sentence in a larger context, in a letter written to Christians in Rome, who were an illicit community and in danger of persecution. He wrote it as part of a larger argument that includes not only his insistence that governmental authority is ordained by God but that such authority has its limits.

Paul asserts that there is a higher law, a higher principle to which any government, any human community, any human is subject: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

We declare that our common Christian witness is imperiled by inauthentic Christian teaching in the public square, and the church’s own limited, episodic responses to injustice. When Christian teaching is perverted by those in governance and that twisting of scripture is allowed by the Christian community, we stand in a dangerous place.

Throughout Hebrew and Christian scripture, there is an understanding that all human authority is subject to divine judgment and justice; that laws are just only to the extent that they conform to divine justice. The Hebrew prophets railed against the injustices of kings and societies that ignored the plight of the poor, of widows and orphans, of strangers and aliens.

It is not only the government which bears responsibility for a just society; the voice of the people addressing their government, the witness of the Church and its prophetic voice offered in encouragement and admonition must not be absent. We must not only speak a Word into these perilous times, but be ready to act, as well. We pray for the guidance of the Spirit that our words and actions may be true.

The criminalization and detention of undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers is manifestly unjust. As Christians, we cannot stand by idly; we cannot remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression.

We call on the churches and their pastoral leadership to remain steadfast and bold, both in Christian teaching and public witness, that misrepresentations of Scripture not be allowed to stand.

We call on the members of our congregations, lawmakers, and people of good will to rise up in protest against this injustice, to ensure that people seeking asylum, refugees, immigrants hoping to make a better life for themselves and their families, be welcomed, embraced, and allowed to help make this a better, more inclusive and diverse, stronger nation.

Approved by the Board of Directors
June 25, 2018

The members of the WISCONSIN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES  (WCC), which includes all ELCA synods in this state, “have covenanted to ‘pray and work together for the unity and renewal of the church and the healing and reconciliation of the world.’ That means, whenever possible, we will strive to give clear expression to the Christian faith that unites us, especially when that faith has been publicly perverted or maligned, and stand with the weak and powerless when they are being exploited, maltreated or neglected….”

See also the WCC study guide on “Becoming Welcoming Communities – Immigration Reform.”

“Bridging Borders: Geography, Culture, Race”

Sunday, August 12, 2018 from 4:00 – 6:00 pm
New Life Church  – 7564 Cottage Grove Road – Madison
*Free will offering

Offered by SCSW Racial Equity Ministry Team

Pastor Mary Pharmer lived in El Paso, on the Tex/Mex border for the first 3 months of this year.  She volunteered in a house of hospitality for immigrants coming across the border from Mexico and Central America.  Eager to share stories of this time, she has prepared a visual presentation to share at the Racial Equity gathering.

“The Realities of Incarceration Part 2:  “Incarceration and Sacred Space”

July 29, 2018 from 4:00 – 6:00 PM
New Life Church – 7564 Cottage Grove Road -Madison

Panel Discussion Led by Former Jail Chaplain, Rev. Christa Fisher

Please join us for  Part Two of Our Series on Our State Incarceration System:”Incarceration and Sacred Space” – an interfaith conversation about sacred space within a fortress of fear.  How are individuals and community formed or deformed by sacred space – a place for worship, learning, healing, beauty, and sanctuary? These and other questions will be addressed by a panel of people with direct worship experience within the Dane County Jail. Plans for the new jail do not include a designated multi-faith sacred space.  Come learn why the blue print must be amended and how you can help make this happen.  It is vital and urgent that you attend this event and bring at least one friend if not your whole congregation.  A prize will be presented to the person with the most guests!  It’s that important!


Are You Wondering What Your Congregation Can Do to Help With the Situation at The Borders?

We are united in our concern for the safety and support of those most vulnerable at our borders and appreciate your interest in getting involved.
Here are some links to excellent information that will help to understand what we, the ELCA, are doing to address those on the margins and how your congregation might get involved:


“The Realities of Incarceration”

Next Racial Ministry Event presented by Jail Chaplain, Christa Fisher

Sunday, June 24
4:00 – 6:00 pm
New Life Church
7564 Cottage Grove Road – Madison
*Free will offering

Wish you could have attended past events?
Visit the Racial Equity Ministry Team page for videos of previous presentations. Topics include:
• Journey of Immigration & Citizenship: A Personal Story
• The River of Struggle: Black Life in the Americas
• AMMPARO: Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation & Opportunities

Journey of Immigration & Citizenship: A Personal Story

Journey of Immigration & Citizenship: A Personal Story
APRIL 22 – 4:00 – 6:00 pm
New Life Church, 7564 Cottage Grove Rd., Madison
We who attended Rev. Marsh’s presentations about the history of the African slave trade and the aftermath were challenged emotionally and intellectually as we accompanied Rev. Marsh as he led us on this journey. April’s event leads us on another journey as we will hear another personal story of immigration and the path to citizenship by another member of our SCSW-ELCA family. Rev. Erich Hartenberger (St. John’s, North Freedom) and his wife Deazy will share their personal story of Deazy’s immigration and the often-complicated path to citizenship.

Wisconsin Reads “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich’s The Round House explores cultural differences and divisions we see within Wisconsin communities, as well as efforts to close those gaps. Capturing the story of a 13-year-old Chippewa boy, Joe Coutts, who witnesses the trauma of a sexual assault on his mother, the vision of Wisconsin Reads The Round House is to provide diverse audiences access to an important story of how sexual assault impacts a Native American family and its surrounding community. To reach our goal of enhancing youth literacy as well, Wisconsin Reads The Round House also includes two companion read programs geared toward young audiences with Erdrich’s book of poems Jacklight and her children’s novel The Birchbark House.   

Please see the Wisconsin Reads The Round House website for events taking place in Baraboo, Hayward/LCO, Marshfield, Rice Lake, Waukesha/Milwaukee, Madison, and West Bend. And don’t forget to “like” Wisconsin Reads The Round House: An NEA Big Read on Facebook! There are a wide range of events associated with this project, including discussion groups, literary fests/readings, and cultural events.

Jo Teut, our Diversity Specialist, will be hosting and facilitating a three-part discussion in Madison on the following dates:

April 4, 2018 12:00-1:00 pm (Part One)
April 11, 2018 12:00-1:00 pm (Part Two)
April 18, 2018 12:00-1:00 pm (Part Three)

Participants will receive an electronic copy of the book. However, participants will also be able to request a copy from their local library or purchase their own copy if desired.

To participate in this three-part book discussion, please register by April 2nd, 2018. Registered participants will receive reminders, information about accessing the book, and location details.


Howard Thurman Conference

Howard Thurman Conference

April 26-27, 2018


A Legacy Toward Community: Howard Thurman’s Vision of Authentic Self. Love. Justice. Reconciliation.

The Racial Equity Team recommends this conference that reanimates the remarkable contribution of Howard Thurman, through lectures, breakout discussions, and times of contemplative reflection.

The conference  will be held April 26-27, 2018 at Upper House, 365 East Campus Mall, Suite 20,  Madison, WI. Click on the title link above to learn more & register.

This event is hosted by Upper House in partnership with the Bradshaw-Knight Foundation and Selfless Ambition.