Please excuse this temporary diversion from my urban farm blog.
My heart is heavy this week with the news that Bishop Bruce Burnside struck and killed a jogger in a drunk driving hit-and-run accident. It happened Sunday afternoon when he was traveling to a meeting at my mother's church in Sun Prairie. I am so sad for the family of the jogger, a woman my own age, who leaves behind a husband and three children. I can't imagine their grief and I won't allow myself to think that the victim could have been me or someone I know. Hit-and-run drunk driving is unforgivable!
Bruce Burnside is bishop of the South Central Synod of Wisconsin, a geographical division of the
Lutheran Church America.
That makes him my bishop. I met him once in July 2000 when he presided over the
funeral of my mother-in-law at St. Stephen's in Monona, long before he was
How can this horrible event have happened? Did the bishop have a history of drunk driving incidents? Has he been terribly depressed? Is he alcoholic? Do we expect too much of our church leaders--brilliant theologian, inspiring preacher, compassionate pastor, capable administrator, occasional politician? Have we as a synod appropriately supported Bruce before, during and after the prolonged illness and subsequent death of his late wife? Were there people who knew he was struggling and couldn't help? Why, oh why did this happen?
All I know is that in one moment on Sunday afternoon we lost an innocent soul in an ungodly accident. At the same exact instant, the soul of a bishop hit rock bottom. There is no judicial consequence that can exceed what has already occurred in Bruce's heart, no book bigger than the one he knows too well. And so like ancient King Solomon, I pray for wisdom and discernment. Hit-and-run drunk driving is unforgivable, and yet we are called to forgive. Not seven times. Not seventy times, but seventy times seven. It may take Lutherans in our area a while to recover, but ultimately we must forgive. Meanwhile, we pray for the souls of both victims, dead and alive.