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Evangelical Lutheran Church : The Whitest denomination | Worship

 

Last updated 10/14/2020 at 11:28am



It’s true. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the least racially diverse in the United States. I am humbled and troubled by that.

Lenny Duncan has written, “Dear Church, a Love Letter from a Black Preacher.” Ordained in the ELCA, he tells us an inconvenient truth about the denomination we share.

He celebrates his fellow Lutherans and explains his life-changing experiences in church as a young adult. He recalls hearing of the unconditional love of Jesus for the first time in a Lutheran pew. He remembers Holy Communion described as, “... this is Jesus’ table; he made no restrictions, and neither do we.”

He goes on, however, to tell the truth about the ways our denomination has failed to live up to those claims.

I’m asking myself again, how did such a gap develop between our assertion that grace is God’s gift for everyone and the stinging truth that we are mostly White? Our “talk” doesn’t match our “walk.”

How did we get here? History, tradition and the largely German and Scandinavian migration to the U.S. in the mid and late nineteenth century are all a big part of that story, but that’s not all.

You see, racism is not merely a personal character flaw. It is not just a bitter, vulgar and mean-spirited individual with a confederate flag spouting the “N” word.

Bigotry and White supremacy are also part of our collective conscience. Racism comes in all kinds of forms. It is baked into our society in ways that many of us fail to see because white Americans have benefited from it for a very long time.

Housing, banking, education, opportunity, access to medical care, politics and, yes, even religion itself, have all been shaped by forces that enforce bias and exclude people of color. On top of that, our silence in the face of these forces is just plain complicity in the injustices they produce.

Black lives matter. Black lives have value. Black lives are worthy. Black lives are made in the image of God. Now what?

Duncan calls for repentance, reparations, revolution and reconciliation. He’s right. Our first steps toward these things can only begin when we confess that racism is real. It infects the hearts of individuals and the institutions we build.

It’s time to change. It’s time to pray, make hard choices, listen to Black leaders and to collaborate with all people of color to be the Church together, witnessing to God’s love and God’s justice for the world.Lenny Duncan has written, "Dear Church, a Love Letter from a Black Preacher." Ordained in the ELCA, he tells us an inconvenient truth about the denomination we share.

He celebrates his fellow Lutherans and explains his life-changing experiences in church as a young adult. He recalls hearing of the unconditional love of Jesus for the first time in a Lutheran pew. He remembers Holy Communion described as, "... this is Jesus' table; he made no restrictions, and neither do we."

He goes on, however, to tell the truth about the ways our denomination has failed to live up to those claims.

I'm asking myself again, how did such a gap develop between our assertion that grace is God's gift for everyone and the stinging truth that we are mostly white? Our "talk" doesn't match our "walk."

How did we get here? History, tradition and the largely German and Scandinavian migration to the US in the mid and late nineteenth century are all a big part of that story, but that's not all.

You see, racism is not merely a personal character flaw. It is not just a bitter, vulgar and mean-spirited individual with a confederate flag spouting the "N" word.

Bigotry and white supremacy are also part of our collective conscience. Racism comes in all kinds of forms. It is baked into our society in ways that many of us fail to see because white Americans have benefited from it for a very long time.

Housing, banking, education, opportunity, access to medical care, politics and, yes, even religion itself, have all been shaped by forces that enforce bias and exclude people of color. On top of that, our silence in the face of these forces is just plain complicity in the injustices they produce.

Black lives matter. Black lives have value. Black lives are worthy. Black lives are made in the image of God.

Now what?

Duncan calls for repentance, reparations, revolution and reconciliation. He's right. Our first steps toward these things can only begin when we confess that racism is real. It infects the hearts of individuals and the institutions we build.

It's time to change. It's time to pray, make hard choices, listen to Black leaders and to collaborate with all people of color to be the Church together, witnessing to God's love and God's justice for the world.

 

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