ELCA presiding bishop laments tragic violence in Norway
CHICAGO (ELCA) — In the wake of news about violent attacks in Norway on July 22 that left at least 87 dead and scores wounded, Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), sent a message of encouragement to Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway.
“With the people of Norway, we lament this tragic violence and renew our commitment to be peacemakers,” Hanson wrote. Reflecting on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the bishop spoke movingly of the “comfort and courage” that comes from the support of global neighbors during times of national tragedy.
Hanson also remarked on the role Norway has played as a quiet agent of reconciliation in international conflict, most notably in brokering the Oslo Accords of the 1990s.
“With you we renounce the forces of violence that seek to drive us to despair,” Hanson continued. “As people of faith defined by Christ’s death and resurrection we will join with you in God’s work of restoration. May the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, grant you peace.”
The attacks were the first acts of domestic terrorism to take place on Norwegian soil. A massive bombing erupted in the Oslo city center; later, a gunman opened fire at the ruling Labor Party’s youth camp offshore from the capital. A suspect was in custody and the explosion and the shooting appear to be linked.
The (Lutheran) Church of Norway and the ELCA are members of The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion with 145 member churches in 79 countries representing over 70 million Lutherans.
The ELCA took a strong position against terrorism in a message adopted in 2004, inviting members to take an active role in preventing violent conflict. “Our struggle is not a matter of God’s ultimate salvation, which God has already secured for us and for all creation in the cross of Christ. … Our task is rather to restrain destructive acts and promote just peace among finite, sinful human beings within the constraints of our historical context.”
On July 22, Hanson encouraged ELCA members to remember the Norwegian people in prayer: “(May we intercede) for those who suffer from terrorism and war, for those who govern the nations, for those who would harm the innocent, for those who help the wounded, and for those who provide security for the endangered.”
The ELCA’s message on terrorism is available at http://www.ELCA.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Messages/Terrorism.aspx