Bishop Laurie Talks Sanctuary

Our ancestors focused much attention on strangers, aliens, foreigners, those fleeing persecution. Central to the self-understanding of all who hold the Hebrew scriptures as sacred is this line from Exodus:

You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 22:21

Except for our Native American kindred, we US citizens were all once strangers in a strange land. The recent declaration of the ELCA as a sanctuary church body is one more way that we are seeking to recognize that, and to live into our deepest values as followers of Christ’s Way. It is a statement that says to our undocumented neighbors, “You matter. We see you. We stand by you.” One undocumented friend of mine said, through tears, “You have no idea what this means to me. Sometimes, with ICE raids happening all around me, I feel like all White people hate us.” There will be no one correct way to do this. I was honored to be able to stand up at the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly as the Bishop of the Oregon Synod, the first synod to declare itself a sanctuary synod, and say, “This action does not demand that any congregation, synod or ministry engage in civil disobedience or illegal action. Instead, it declares to the world that we stand in solidarity with those who are loved by God but remain at the margins of our culture. Instead, it invites each church and synod to discern its own place in God’s welcome to all. Some will physically house those in danger or protest at ICE facilities, but many more will pray for the children separated from parents, provide food or assistance to the hungry at the border, offer citizenship classes for their neighbors, visit the detained or write letters to legislative leaders.”

For some of us all this may be unsettling. We may never agree. But as children of God, which is who we are, we are loved by our Creator even when we disagree.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone.

Ephesians 2

For that I say, “Thanks be to God.”

Bishop Laurie

The Time to Act is NOW

On Monday, August 19, community leaders gathered on the steps of the Washington county courthouse to stand in solidarity with the victims of the recent mass shooting sin El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Speakers included:

  • Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington
  • Sheriff Pat Garrett
  • Ms. Salma Ahmad, Bilal Mosque
  • Metro Councilor, Juan Carlos Gonzalez
  • Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar (starts at 22:30)

Watch as these leaders responded to the troubling rise in hateful rhetoric and violence that are deeply rooted in racist ideology, and reaffirm the strength of diversity in Washington County.

Standing Up for Immigrant Rights

Bishop Laurie speaking at the rally

Bishop Laurie was one of over 300 leaders who turned out at the Washington County courthouse in Hillsboro on Monday, August 12, 2019 to advocate for our immigrant neighbors. People of faith, legal advocates, and legislators came together to say that everyday ICE is allowed to operate in our courthouses is another day where members of our community are at risk of being racially profiled, pepper sprayed, or harassed.

Juan Carlos La Puente Tapia, Pr. Ron Werner, Bishop Laurie Larson Caesar, Pr. David Eppelsheimer & Pr. Sara Gross Samuelson

Rally attendees also stood in solidarity alongside Isidro Andrade-Tafolla who was racially profiled by ICE agents during an IMIrJ vigil at the courthouse almost two years ago. The interaction was caught on video by ACLU legal observers. From the center of the circle, Isidro and the ACLU announced that they are filing a claim against ICE.

Want to add your voice to the cry to remove ICE from our courthouses? Please send an email, letter, or postcard to Chief Justice Walters sharing your concern and inviting her to join our circle of protection! See instructions here. 

ELCA as a sanctuary church: what does this mean?

Dear siblings in Christ,

As many of you know, last week the ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a resolution that, among other things, declared the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) a sanctuary denomination. Many of you are asking, “What does this mean?”

Our call to love our neighbor is central to our faith. In our baptismal covenant we promise to strive for peace and justice in all the world. One of the ways we live out this vow is through our commitment to welcoming the stranger. With this declaration, we publicly state that walking alongside refugees and immigrants is a matter of faith.

We have prepared talking points to provide a better understanding and further clarification on what sanctuary means for you and your congregations. We acknowledge this will look different in different contexts across the ELCA.

We also hope this resource will help guide conversations with your parishioners and your community about what our faith says about immigration.

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you,
for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).

In Christ,


The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop

50 years of ordaining women!

This year the ELCA celebrated 50 years of ordaining women, 40 years of ordaining women of color, and 10 years of ordaining LGBTQIA+.

ELCA Churchwide Assembly
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 9, 2019

2019 also marked the election of the first female, Laurie Larson Caesar, to hold the office of bishop for the Oregon synod! In fact, all the bishops elected in 2019 are women!

An Open Letter to the Oregon Legislature

June 28, 2019

In the late 1990s the Federal Government threatened water rights to the Little Walla Walla River because Steelhead and Bull Trout were listed as a threaten species. I was a pastor in Milton-Freewater at the time. Those of us who understand the complexities of rural agriculture can imagine the chaos this threatened. Local irrigators, and our church, began to build a coalition which included the Tribes, various government agencies, diverse environmental groups and more. We found a solution and a way around the crisis. Cooperation was the key.

In 2008 I was asked by Gov. Kulongoski to sit as a faith community representative on his State Climate Change Integration Group. State agencies were there. Scientists from Oregon Universities were there. Individuals from the private sector participated, Weyerhauser, the Family Farm Alliance, Intel, the Climate Trust and Public Utilities. Did we all share a concern for Oregon forests? Of course! Did we want to move the state from coal burning energy sources to wind and solar? Yes, but to do so you have to run power lines through forest and grasslands. How were we going to do that? Conversation was key, and look at the Columbia basin today.

The Associated Press reports today that 11 Oregon lawmakers who fled the state to avoid the cooperation and conversation that we elected them to engage in are now claiming victory in the defeat of HB2020. “Our mission was to kill cap-and-trade,” Baertschiger said. “And that’s what we did.”

Good for you.

HB2020 would have had Oregon declare a state of emergency around climate concerns that desperately need attention. Its goal was to “dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by 2050” through a cap and trade regime yet to be wholly defined. Those who are watching the science wholly understand the state of emergency we are, undeniable, in. A 2050 reduction goal is 20 years too late. We know this, but it would have been a start.

Is this a difficult issue? Absolutely! Is it going to cost us? All of us? Without a doubt. Is a Democratic super majority frustrating to Republicans? I get that. However, grinding needed conversation and action to a halt is anything but a victory.

Those of you in our state legislature have been given a trust by the people of Oregon. It’s a hard job. I respect that. It is likewise the job of faith communities like mine to support your work and speak up when you have failed. I am doing my job. Leaving the state to avoid doing yours is a catastrophic failure. My prayers for renewed integrity in office will continue.

Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke
Oregon Synod – ELCA
2800 N Vancouver Ave, Suite 101
Portland, OR 97227

Bishop Elect Laurie Larson Caesar

CHICAGO – The Rev. Laurie A. Larson Caesar, Portland, was elected May 11 to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Oregon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The election took place during the Synod Assembly, held May 10-12 at the Graduate Hotel in Eugene.

Congratulations and welcome to the new, Oregon Synod Bishop Elect Laurie Larson Caesar! Bishop Elect Laurie will being her work August 1, 2019.

Larson Caesar was elected on the fifth ballot, with 164 votes. The Rev. David Brauer-Rieke, bishop of the ELCA Oregon Synod since 2007, received 118.

The bishop-elect has served as pastor of Spirit of Grace Lutheran Church in Beaverton since 1996.

Larson Caesar received a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., in 1988 and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 1992.

Larson Caesar will be installed Dec. 14, 2019 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Portland.

Juiana vs. United States

The Juliana vs. United States court hearing has been rescheduled and is now on the court’s docket for 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 4. The Our Children’s Trust rally to support the hearing and the plaintiffs is now scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. in Director Park.
(What is this?)

If you wish to participate:

  • Bring your folks to Director Park  in Portland with signs and clergy vestments no later than 2:30 pm, assembling in designated area for the faith community 
  • Encourage folks to sign in to watch the live stream of the hearing on their devices and/or watch the live stream at the rally beginning at 2:00 p.m
  • Make 10 second videos in your congregation/community saying that your community supports the Juliana youth plaintiffs and upload your video on the EcoFaith Recovery website by June 2 at 2 p.m. 

We have been notified that everyone is being encouraged to sign in to watch the live stream of the hearing on their devices in order to try to get the largest count ever of people watching the live-stream of a hearing.  To sign in to watch the live stream, click on this link.  And the other way to have the greatest impact is to make those videos of your faith community’s support for the plaintiffs which will be shown at the rally and on social media.

Vision Series 4: Let the River Run

Living at the “convergence of opportunity, need and change” the Oregon Synod voted May 11, 2019 to call the Rev. Laurie Larson Caesar to the office of synodical bishop. Congratulations to our new Bishop Elect!  She will assume her office August 1, 2019.

The picture to the left is of the former Elwha Dam in Washington State. It was removed in 2012 to restore natural fish habitat and it is the largest dam removal in U.S. history (click on photo for video.) Assistant to the Bishop Susan Kintner made reference to this achievement in her Mother’s Day Synod Assembly sermon May 12. This removal is a good example of the convergence of opportunity, need and change. Salmon runs have been strengthened. Indian lands restored. And a source of cheap, hydro electric power has been sacrificed. That is to be expected. There are always trade offs when needs and opportunity collide.

What I remember most from Rev. Kintner’s sermon, however, was a side note. She stating that once the dam was broken the river could no longer be guaranteed to stay in its banks. Such is the challenge and beauty of the wild. Yet, surely there is no joy like seeing salmon fight their way upstream to fulfill their God given calling! So it is in our lives, and so it will be in the months to come.

As a synod we now embark on a new journey. I had frankly hoped to serve as your bishop a while longer and kayak the wild waters of the new with you. But that’s okay. This call makes sense as we are indeed at a pivotal time of transition.

Bishop Elect Laurie and I had lunch last Thursday. We have committed to each other to meet weekly from now through July 31 to attend to the various opportunities of transition. My staff and I are committed to doing all we can to make this shift as seamless as possible. At the same time, learning the rhythms of a new job at this wonderful convergence will be challenging for our new bishop. Our synod has lots of balls in the air and some will certainly drop. That’s okay, though. Most balls bounce, and I know you will care for one another as the river flows around our feet.

Over the next month we will attend to matters of staffing, of stabilizing our grant supported ministries, and continuing the work of transition in congregations. August 4-10, 2019 Bishop Elect Laurie and other members of our synod will be off to Milwaukee, WI for our ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The office of bishop is much more than just our wonderful work here in Oregon. Bishop Elect Laurie will now share in the leadership of the larger church, involve herself with universities and seminaries of the ELCA, and be a liaison for us all with ministries such as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Community Services. I am thrilled for her, and for us all, as I know we will be will served and well represented.

Also at our Assembly last week we called Greg Shea to the office of Synod Vice President. Greg is a current Synod Council member and participant with our Mission Table. He is a gifted leader and careful thinker. Greg and our new Bishop Elect will certainly be a pair to draw to, and Greg will also be traveling to Milwaukee for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Debby Chenoweth, who now finishes 8 years of service as our former Synod Vice President, has been a gift to us all. She has certainly been a joy for me to work with. Thank you Debby. Thank you Greg. Thank Bishop Elect Laurie.

As for me, I am finding peace in the singular focus and call to get our new Bishop Elect ready to serve. Come August 1 I will hand over the keys to the synod office and head to the hills. Gretchen and I are looking forward to some welcome relaxation and recreation. Come fall I will see what the Spirit has in store. Retirement is not yet my goal. Continued service is.

Next month will be the last of what I have planned as five monthly letters about vision and transition for the synod. We will know more at that time about ministry direction, needs, staffing and our hopes and dreams. Please be patient. For now I ask that you keep Bishop Elect Laurie and our new Vice President Greg Shea in your prayers. These are exciting times, but I am not at all sure which banks the mighty Elwha might yet choose to challenge.

Just watch for the salmon!

Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke