Sierra Pacific Synod Bishop Speaks Out on Las Vegas Shooting

Note: Following is a slightly updated version of an e-mail message sent by Sierra Pacific Synod Bishop Mark Holmerud in the wake of the horrific Las Vegas shooting. Below it is a 2013 message regarding violence from the ELCA Conference of Bishops.

Like most of you, I awoke Oct. 2 to see the horrific news of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas just a few hours before. This is, according to news reports, the deadliest such shooting rampage in U.S. history. Sadly, it is not the first, nor will it be the last such incidence of gun violence. Over four years ago, in the wake of the Sandy Hill School Shooting, the Conference of Bishops published a pastoral letter encouraging prayer and advocacy, with resources for use in congregational and community conversations.

I am sending this message to you because many of the statements it contains and the resources it provides will be helpful, I believe, as we once again become communities of prayer, peace, hope, advocacy and deliberation.

  • I encourage all of us to ponder how we can be “public church” in this moment, for such a time as this, to stand with sisters and brothers of faith and good will as we pause to pray for healing and reflect on the pain and suffering of those whose lives will forever be altered by this event.
  • I pray we will make ourselves visible at vigils and remembrances to let Christ’s light shine through our presence, care and compassion.
  • I hope we will use our voices to advocate for legislative initiatives which will finally stem access to weapons such as those used in this massacre which have but one purpose – to visit upon hundreds, thousands of innocents this kind of carnage.
  • I lament yet another senseless tragedy, which calls to mind a school shooting which took place in Stockton where I was serving in 1989, and so many other such incidents since that time. Please join me in not forgetting that these senseless acts of violence cannot and will not be the last word in this moment. Let a last word be our voices calling for a change in gun and ammunition laws which makes these acts possible. Let a last word be that we advocate for mental health services and other means of services for those who need such assistance. Let a last word be our commitment to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Let a last word be our “Amen” to the light of Christ which shines brightly through us, even and especially now.
  • Thank you for your work and witness in all things, and in this time.


Bp. Mark

A Pastoral Letter from the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

March 4, 2013

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Jeremiah 31.15 and Matthew 2:18

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Every faithful caregiver who sits with victims of violence knows what we know – as God’s church, we are called to reduce violence and should, in most cases, restrain ourselves from using violence. Whether or not statistics show that overall violence has declined in recent years, every person wounded or killed is a precious child of God.

As bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we lament the tragedy of gun violence in our country. We are grieved by the way violence threatens and destroys life. We affirm the current soul searching and shared striving to find a way to a better future. While the church grapples with this call to reduce violence, and make our communities safer, we recognize that before God we are neither more righteous because we have guns nor are we more righteous when we favor significant restrictions. Brokenness and sin are not somehow outside of us. Even the best of us are capable of great evil.

As people of God we begin by confessing our own brokenness – revealed in both our actions and our failure to act. We trust that God will set us free and renew us in our life’s work to love our neighbors. In this time of public attention to gun violence, local communities of faith have a unique opportunity to engage this work. As bishops, we were thankful to recognize the many resources our church has already developed (see below). We begin by listening: listening to God, to Scripture, and to each other. Providing a safe place for people to share their own stories, together we discern courses of action. Together we act. And together we return to listening – to assess the effectiveness of our efforts to reduce violence.

In the Large Catechism Luther says, “We must not kill, either by hand, heart, or word, by signs or gestures, or by aiding and abetting.” Violence begins in the human heart. Words can harm or heal. To focus only on guns is to miss the depth of our vocation. Yet, guns and access are keys to the challenges we face. We recognize that we serve in different contexts and have different perspectives regarding what can and should be done. But as we live out our common vocations, knowing that the work will take many forms, we are committed to the work of reducing and restraining violence. This shared work is a sign of our unity in Christ.

We invite you, our sisters and brothers, to join us in this work:

  • The work of lament – creating safe space for naming, praying, grieving, caring for one another, and sharing the hope in God’s promise of faithfulness
  • The work of moral formation and discernment – listening to scripture, repenting, modeling conflict resolution in daily life, addressing bullying, conducting respectful conversations, and discerning constructive strategies to reduce violence
  • The work of advocacy – acting to address the causes and effects of violence, knowing that we are not saved by this work, we undertake it trusting in Christ Jesus, who laid down his life for the world and who calls us to be peacemakers, to pursue justice, and to protect the vulnerable. In this, as in all things, Christ is with us. Thanks be to God.

Important Resources:



Lutherans, Catholics Mark 500th Anniversary of Reformation

The year 2017 marks 500 years since Martin Luther famously nailed his “95 Theses” to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Although he did not intend to start a movement, his action is recognized as the start of the protestant Reformation. Over the past 50 years, Catholics and Lutherans have been working to overcome centuries of division.

To recognize the progress made and to look toward a collaborative future, a Commemoration service takes place Monday, October 9th, 6:00 p.m., at St. Therese Little Flower Church, 875 E. Plumb Lane, Reno. Rev. Jorge Herrera and Rev. Michael Patterson will preside. The Most Reverend Bishop Randolph R. Calvo and Rev. Kathryn Gulbranson share sermon duties while other clergy of both denominations, and a combined choir from local parishes, will join them.

In 2013 Catholics and Lutherans issued a joint statement titled, “From Conflict to Communion,” which recognized that the beliefs that unite are far greater than the differences. Included in the joint statement are five “Imperatives,” or goals, for which each member of both denominations should strive. One is “Catholics and Lutherans should witness together to witness to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.” Both denominations recognize that service to the world includes caring for those in need in our own community. Offerings received at this joint commemoration benefit Catholic Charities and Faith Lutheran Food Pantry, helping hungry people in this area.

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada exists to bring to public attention the needs of disadvantaged people. LEAN advocates at the Nevada Legislature to reduce barriers that keep people in poverty. However LEAN also works in the community, and to that end, will donate $1,000 to the offering for the commemoration.

Participants in the Commemoration service include:

For the Roman Catholic Church (Diocese of Reno)

Most Reverend Bishop Randolph R. Calvo, Diocese of Reno

Presider – Rev. Jorge Herrera, St Therese Church of the Little Flower

Rev. Robert Chorey – Chancellor, Diocese of Reno

Rev. Chuck Durante – St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community

For the Lutheran Church (ELCA)

Rev. Kathryn Gulbranson, Assistant to the Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod

Presider – Rev. Michael Patterson – Gift of Grace Lutheran Church, Fernley

Rev. Mary Lou Petitjean – Christ the King Lutheran Church, Tahoe City

Rev. Erik Allen – Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Reno

Rev. Thomas Beck – Faith Lutheran Church, Reno

Rev. Scott Trevithick – Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Reno

Rev. Chad Adamik – St. Paul’s Lutheran Family, Carson City

For additional information about the Commemoration service, contact Rev. Michael Patterson, 775-575-5400

LEAN Urges Public Land Stewardship

Editor’s Note: The following plea for protection of public lands, a version of which ran as an opinion piece in the Reno Gazette-Journal, is by Allan Smith, outgoing LEAN advocate. It’s a timely reminder of the sanctity of God’s creation, now that United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended the alteration of several National Monuments, including two in Utah, that will most likely open previously protected lands to fishing, ranching and even drilling.

As a Lutheran Christian, I put a high moral value on careful public lands stewardship. In the Book of Genesis, God calls on humanity to tend and to keep the earth, and God entrusts all Earth’s plants and creatures to our care. Most Christians believe we are stewards, not owners, of all Earthly riches. We manage these riches for the time we are alive, and ensure they are passed on to future generations. Today, we are called to live out this vocation to tend and keep the Earth at every level of society: in our consumer choices, our property management, and our civic engagement. Civic engagement deeply matters to public lands stewardship, and the answering the call to care for our public lands may never have been more urgent.

Secretary Zinke, a fellow Lutheran, visited Nevada at the end of July, and I have prayed that these stewardship values will be in the forefront of his mind. Still, on Aug. 24 he recommended reducing the number and size of several National Monuments, as explained in the following video from the Washington Post.


In Nevada, the majority of our state is made up of public lands. Private property owners can make choices about ecological stewardship of our own properties, and often our choice is to accommodate human comfort. Public lands are meant to serve the common good. Public lands are home to a vast array of plant and animal life. They are also places for recreation, cultural and historic preservation, scientific research, and energy development. Striking the right balance between these many needs is a difficult job which is Secretary Zinke’s primary responsibility. This job also requires citizens’ active participation, input, and attention.

Unfortunately, right now, all signs indicate that the Trump Administration is throwing caution to the wind when it comes to balanced stewardship of our public lands. President Trump has called for American “energy dominance” through more fossil fuel production on public lands and in our national waters. He is particularly interested in offshore drilling, which imperils our nation’s coastlines and fishermen. Commercial interests are lining up to use public lands in ways that would promote short-term profit, yet will rob future generations of the rich natural and cultural heritage we enjoy today.

Within months of taking office, President Trump is directing the Department of Interior to pursue an agenda which could undermine decades of thoughtful energy stewardship and conservation planning. He has called on the Department of Interior, the Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assess how to eliminate or shrink national monuments as well as marine sanctuaries. These reviews will take a matter of months to un-do conservation protections that in many cases were decades in the making. The Department of Interior has also been instructed to stop taking climate change into consideration when engaging in land use and management planning activities, and to scrap environmental assessment requirements in Master Leasing Plans. After years of public stakeholder processes about re-evaluating the price of coal mining leases on federal public lands, the Department of Interior has decided to leave cheap coal leasing prices as they are. The Bureau of Land Management is also attempting to delay methane pollution limits on public and tribal lands, endangering our public health and our climate. It is unlikely the Department of Interior will use the carefully crafted plans to sustain the Western sagebrush sea and its indicator species, the sage grouse prairie chicken. Protections for endangered species are in jeopardy at a time when one in five species are threatened or endangered. The list goes on.

Our public lands are collectively cared for by all people in the United States: with our tax dollars, our votes, and our civic engagement in decision-making processes. If there were ever a time to answer our Genesis call to tend and keep the Earth, now is it. We can and must conserve God’s creation now, before our climate is too damaged, our land and waters too polluted, and many species gone forever.

When Secretary Zinke visited our state, and assessed the value of Gold Butte, Basin and Range, and other public lands, I called on him, and my fellow Nevadans, to consider carefully what your faith tradition says about stewardship of the Earth. May we live our faith and care for God’s good creation.

Download the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s official social statement on Caring For Creation.

LEAN Completes Successful 2017 Session

Nevada Legislature Passes Majority of Supported Bills

Lutheran Advocacy in Nevada is not dead, but back in a new way.  We were last known as LEAN, for Lutheran-Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada.  That entity has been replaced with a new, all-Lutheran effort.  We kept the acronym LEAN, but we’ve “re-purposed” the name to stand for LUTHERAN ENGAGEMENT and ADVOCACY IN NEVADA.  We wanted to bring “engagement” into it, to highlight the fact that everyone is invited to do advocacy and to be an engaged citizen. Lutherans have such a great tradition, dating back to Martin Luther, of speaking out in the public square in order to hold accountable those in authority.  LEAN’S mission is to educate and equip every parishioner in Nevada to advocate for issues they care about.

For the 2017 bi-annual Nevada Legislative Session, which wrapped up in mid-June, LEAN lobbyist Allan Smith worked through the last frantic days of negotiation among assembly and senate committees and members. He reports that 31 of the 52 bills that LEAN supported were signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval. LEAN support was based strictly on current nationwide ELCA statements regarding social justice issues ranging from prisoner re-entry and environmental protection to children, family and senior citizen support. Allan was the lobbyist for Religious Alliance in Nevada (RAIN) until it ceased operations last year.  In that capacity, he provided a unified voice for Presbyterians, Methodists and Catholics as well as Lutherans and Episcopalians.  Allan has become familiar with the Lutheran Social Statements and supports LEAN’s commitment to base all policy positions in the Social Statements.

Allan is Presbyterian, and before retirement oversaw the award-winning legislative website to which LEAN has often referred.  He has a deep understanding of the legislative process, and will be an enormous asset to LEAN as we move into the future.

At present, the Policy Board of Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada consists of Pr. Diane Drach-Mienel, (Christ the Servant, Henderson), Chair; Vic Williams, Vice-Chair, members Pr. Mike Patterson (Gift of Grace, Fernley), Dr. Ed Cotton, and Sheila Freed.  LEAN is anxious to add new people to the Policy Board, especially people from the south.  A secretary and treasurer are needed.

Engagement will be the hallmark of the new LEAN.  To that end, plans for the remainder of 2017 and beyond include:

  • Workshops and trainings throughout the state to enable parishioners to learn about the issues.
  • Publishing monthly newsletter items highlighting activities and calling for action by parishioners.
  • Maintaining an active and up-to date website
  • Identifying at least one resource person in each parish to lead education and advocacy, and to work with the Policy Board to identify issues of concern.
  • Coordinating with ELCA Churchwide on their advocacy initiatives.
  • Using social media for immediate communication and calls to action.
  • Though the next Nevada legislative session isn’t until February 2019, there’s plenty of planning and short-term advocacy, planning and outreach to accomplish in the meantime.

For information on how to Engage in Advocacy, e-mail us at with your contact information and a LEAN representative will get back to you.


LUTHERAN ENGAGEMENT and ADVOCACY in NEVADA is the new LEAN, and we now have a Policy Council in place.  The Policy Council has set out for our Advocate, Allan Smith, LEAN’s advocacy agenda for the remainder of the legislative session.

Two priorities carry over from the 2015 session, and both have to do with economic justice.  They are “payday lending” and minimum wage.  LEAN continues to be interested in these, based on the ELCA Social Statement, “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All.”  (The new LEAN, like its predecessors, takes its policy positions from the Social Statements.)

Assembly Bill 163 provides significant new protection for people who use so-called payday lenders.  These short-term, high interest loans often start a downward spiral of endless debt, because when the borrower can’t pay, lenders simply give them another loan.  AB 163 requires lenders to evaluate the borrower’s ability to pay before making a loan.  AB 163 also restricts a lender’s ability to “cure” a defaulted loan with a payment plan.

There are three measures dealing with minimum wage.  Senate Bill 106 calls for a gradual increase of seventy-five cents per hour every year until the minimum wage reaches $12.00 per hour.  Senate Joint Resolution 6 also gets to $12.00 per hour, but on a different timetable.  Assembly Bill 175 began as a straightforward increase of the minimum wage, raising it one dollar per hour every year to reach $15.00.  Recently AB 175 has morphed into something quite different.  As amended, the bill refers to the Nevada Constitution, which allows a minimum wage of one dollar per hour less if health insurance is provided by an employer.  The amendment defines the kind of health plan required to qualify as “health insurance.”  The amendment significantly raises the standard, and by doing so, gets at employers who offer a “bare bones” plan and pay wages at the lower rate.  This may be a legislative maneuver to make employers, who argue that a higher minimum wage kills jobs, to either pay more on the health care side or agree to the proposed wage increase.

Increasing the minimum wage has been proposed in the past, and like this session, it has encountered resistance.  Rev. Mike Patterson was the LEAN Advocate in the 2015 legislative session.  He spent time with Assemblyman Ira Hansen, one of the most conservative people in the Assembly.  Mike was able to convince Mr. Hansen that apart from the moral considerations, an increase in the minimum wage makes economic sense.  Mr. Hansen concluded that many low wage workers qualify for public assistance in the form of subsidized food, housing, medical care, and other.  In true conservative fashion, he questions the role of government in such programs, and calculated a “breakeven” point of $15 to $17 per hour to shift these costs to employers.  Assemblyman Hansen actually made a chart showing his figures and submitted it to his committee colleagues in support of the original 2017 bill.  Advocacy works!

Advocate Allan Smith is in Carson City, speaking on behalf of the poor as well as others who suffer injustice.  To express your opinions on AB 163, AB 175, or any other bill, go here.   Or start with the Legislature home page, then click on “Share Your Opinion on Bills” in the upper right corner.