by Bishop John Henderson (in Heartland eNews 20 May 2020)
National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week
26 May – 3 June 2020
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
This powerful truth of Scripture, that we are all one in Christ Jesus, is immensely liberating. We are one humanity, joined in Christ Jesus. For now, however, we can only glimpse the fullness of what this truly means.
In the meantime, as we wait for God to fully reveal this truth to us, we are to treat each other with care and dignity. The following statement is meant to help us in that, speaking as it does to a godly, respectful relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians:
The Lutheran Church of Australia acknowledges that our loving Creator God first gave the land on which we are placed, to the peoples of the First Nations who have walked and cared for this land since before recorded time.
We thank God for the land’s Traditional Custodians and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging as we travel this journey of reconciliation in Australia.
These words will soon appear in the LCA’s first Reconciliation Action Plan.
To translate the Apostle Paul’s words for today, God is no respecter of persons and doesn’t have favourites. God equally loves all those he creates. He equally sent Jesus to be the Saviour of all peoples. One is not better than another. Just so, God freely gives faith to all and rejoices greatly when his people live in obedience to him and in harmony with each other.
In this together
In 2020, with health restrictions on the numbers of people who can gather in public, mass events for National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week cannot go ahead as planned.
This won’t, however, stop the work of progressing reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
The official theme for Reconciliation Week this year is, In this together. It was planned last year, well before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and we started hearing ‘We’re all in this together’ from politicians and seeing it on signs on neighbourhood fences.
In the context of COVID-19, ‘We’re all in this together’ is an appeal for solidarity. We are not merely isolated individuals, worried only about ourselves. We belong to a community which cares about and looks out for each other.
In the context of Reconciliation Week, In this together is about people with and without Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestry journeying together,
- listening and learning from one another;
- building and deepening relationships with one another;
- acquiring a richer, deeper and more nuanced understanding of Australia’s history and its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples past and present;
- working together to repair the damage wrought by that history;
- and achieving a shared sense of fairness and justice.
In this together is also a call to us all to be involved in the work of reconciliation, however best we can. What harms one, harms all of us. When one does good, we are all better for it. All Australians will live in a better place when we work on this together.
Launch of LCA Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) website
You may have read in a recent LCA eNews that we will soon launch a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) website. This is now available to you, and I encourage you to visit it and see what you can learn – rap.lca.org.au.
A RAP is not, of course, the ‘first step’ on our church’s reconciliation journey. On the website you’ll see revealing insights into past work that has brought us to this stage (watch, for instance, the 1997 video ‘Out of the Shadows’). Building and deepening relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians has been a focus of many Lutherans for a long time, a hundred years or more. We have done some things well, and there are always things we could do much better.
Why a RAP? Simply because it’s the best tool we have right now to help us walk that extra mile and move forward in our journey together. A RAP guides and sharpens our thinking and planning. It provides structure, direction, a comprehensive overview of our activities, and a forward-looking focus. A RAP provides us with a means of genuine consultation and ongoing dialogue. And it allows us to take the time we need. If you ask, ‘Are we there yet?’ the answer is, ‘Not yet. Be patient.’ A RAP helps us see how we are travelling, and what the next steps are, on our way to a destination that only God can see.
Our LCA RAP must not be about ‘political correctness’ or ‘virtue signalling’. If we allow it to become that through failing to take up the actual challenge of walking together, then it will have failed in its purpose.
Your active participation in this journey will help us make sure that we do, indeed get there one day, as God has promised, one people in Christ Jesus.
God our loving Creator and Father,
As we reflect on National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week, we pray
- for members of the Stolen Generations and their families still experiencing the harmful consequences of forcible separation;
- for national, regional and local level reconciliation initiatives, including all efforts to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- the work of gospel among all Australians, including those who spread the gospel and serve the people in Central Australia, Cape York, the SA West Coast, and in many of our towns, cities, and rural communities.
- for the LCA’s RAP Project Team and all others involved in the work of preparing and implementing the RAP;
- for ourselves, that we each might have opportunities to participate in the work of reconciliation and contribute meaningfully to it.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The LCA worship planning page provides this resource to incorporate into your worship planning as appropriate for your circumstances: National Reconciliation Week Service Order.
Yours in Christ’s service,
Pastor John Henderson,
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand.
Adelaide South Australia, 20 May 2020
Links to some reconciliation-related resources
- Reconciliation Australia website
- The Five Dimensions of Reconciliation
- 2018 National Reconciliation Barometer summary
- Factsheets on National Sorry Day (26 May), and the two days that bookend Reconciliation Week: the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, and the anniversary of the High Court Mabo decision