The Road to 270 Was Through the ELCA – Vicar Lenny Duncan, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church; Conshohoken, PA

Picture 002To fulfill its duty as a way-station for theological discussion of current events, all this week “We Talk. We Listen” will be playing host to multiple perspectives of the recent election of Donald J. Trump to the Presidency of the United States. Our first is from a student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelpia, Vicar Lenny Duncan – and he doesn’t pull punches. For presenting itself as a denomination that is welcome to all, many of the ELCA’s churches are thick in states that ultimately catapulted Trump to the presidency, harking to his campaigns use of misogyny, racism, Islamaphonbia, and ableism. As a black man who is formerly incarcerated, he writes unflinchingly of what this new political reality means to him, and many marginalized communities that now worry for their survival after last week’s tidal shift. Read, post, comment, and share!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


 

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Secretary Hillary Clinton making her concession speech on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 – after losing the Electoral College vote to Donald Trump 228 – 290.

I know many of you are still reeling from the results of Tuesdays election. Many of you reading this are still trying to deal with the seismic shift that you believed happened. You are trying to find a new north for your moral compass. A way forward.

I am not. I stand before you unafraid, unsurprised and unbowed. Not because I’m made of better stuff than you. But because I know white America. I have traveled all over this country as a homeless teen. I have hung with “friends” for months or years only to hear them say “nigger.” Then explain how they didn’t mean me, because I’m different.

I have been hungry. I’m talking real hunger, when you haven’t eaten for at least 3 days. You start out full of emotion, anger and desperation. But by day 3 your emotions deaden. They become flat. You start to shuffle through the day and your body starts to eat itself.

Spiritual hunger is no different, and the body of Christ reacts the same way.

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I have seen empire clearly since I was a child. Since the police dropped a firebomb in my neighborhood in West Philly to stamp out the M.O.V.E organization. As the flames rose and I asked my Dad what the smoke was from he looked me in the eye and said “That’s what happens when you call the police for help.”

I have worn leg and wrist shackles with the long chain dangling in between. Unable to take a step longer than 6 inches without it pulling on my ankles. Blood filling my county issued shoes. Sat in a room with 40 other people. Anger confusion and rage floating around like an unwelcome shadow. Sat and listened to a harried public defender get my name wrong three times as he explains the deal I must take. Or I could to stay in jail for a year while the courts figure it out. What’s another felony weighed against being stuck on the modern-day plantation?

I’m not surprised because as a Black man I have lived in Donald Trump’s America since I was a child. I have been preparing for Tuesday since I taught myself to read.

A mantra I often use in regards to my work with the #decolonizelutheranism movement is that “the problem is not sociological, it is theological.” I stand by that now.

Here is your wake-up call.

The area’s that won this demagogue the day were overwhelmingly ELCA Lutheran strongholds. The path to 270 and beyond marched right through the heart of the Augsburg Confessions and wore the red cover of an ELW as it marched up to the voting booth. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the crumbled “blue firewall.”

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Many states that propelled Donald J. Trump to the presidency – North and South Dakota, North and South Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia – have significant numbers of congregations in the ELCA.

Many failed to see it coming. Why? Because they thought they were having a political discourse, when they were actually facing systemic evil and its consequences. A theological battle was raging across our pews and we depended on polite society to win the day. They underestimated the power of white supremacy and evil. White supremacy doesn’t need its unwitting participants to be consciously racist.  In fact it relies on you not believing you are. The pundits refuse to call it what it is. The conversation has already shifted.

“We need a reset”

“We need to give him a chance”

“Unity should be our main focus”

This call rings hollow to me because it is always what the oppressor always says to the oppressed. It tells you that the boot on your neck is actually a deep massage. That your dying children are actually your own fault. That the continued state of poverty and emptiness you find yourself is your fault. It relies on the deeply embedded mythology of the American dream.

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”

People talk about gas lighting, but Black peoples have been getting gas-lighted in America since the first whip beat us close to death, and we were told it was our behavior that caused it.  

They will tell us in the next coming weeks it was a DNC collapse that caused this. They will point out that neo liberalism is a failed experiment. They will talk about the lack of dialogue between urban society and middle America. Someone will write a New York Times bestseller about this like Nero playing violin as Rome burns.

But the problem isn’t political. It isn’t sociological.

It is theological.

The path to 270 was through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We failed. The magic number was 107,000. That was how many votes decided the Trump Presidency.

We only had to point out to 107,000 people that the Gospel is good news to the oppressed, never to the oppressor. That the Gospel is liberation here and now. But we as leaders of this church refused to because we were concerned about portico benefits. The next council meeting. Someone said my sermon was too political. To treat Jesus as someone who was incarnate in time and space, and then to believe he was unaware of the political ramifications of his ministry is heresy. Period.  

Resurrection has political ramifications because the structures we have as government are imbued with deep evil that runs down to its DNA.

This happened because many of us quiver with fear at the prospect of declaring from the pulpit that Jesus was a brown man, in a colonized land, railroaded in court, and killed by state sanctioned execution. Because we are heretical. We have taken Jesus from time and space and reduced him to an intellectual exercise that has far less impact than the hymns we choose every week.

We are all guilty.

We have entered a 2nd Reconstruction.

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A a post-election protest rally in downtown Chicago, one of many such protests around the country.

Black codes will become Muslim codes. Or LGBTQ codes. The prison industrial complex is going to have an orgy of pain and merciless hunting in the coming weeks and days. Law and Order the new twin gods that we will sacrifice our children too. The economy the new golden calf that we will make love too. My life is on the line, but you never mentioned that. You sat in pastoral care meetings and let your parishioners talk about health care. Meanwhile on Tuesday I became an endangered species.

The hope. Where is the hope for us than?

The church has always flourished when it was counter cultural. When it was in resistance to the empire.

The hope is that you are seeing America clearly for the first time in a long time. The hope is that same brown man who was executed stood up three days later and shifted the entire universe.

The hope is you were anointed, called to a time such as this. Republics have fallen. Kings pass away.

Empires crumble. The church has stood throughout it all. The first step is we need to challenge what it means to be a Christian and a Christian leader. The next is we organize, we resist. Lastly we need each other so desperately right now. People gather in community because when we gather in the name of God something deep down inside each and every one of us gets fixed. Set right and renewed.

I leave you with this as we contemplate what we each will be doing in response to all this last week.

—–

“All people need power, whether black or white. We regard it sheer hypocrisy or as blind and dangerous illusion the view that opposes love to power. Love must be the controlling element in power, not power itself. So long as white church men continue to moralize and misinterpret Christian love, so long will justice continue to be subverted in this land.” 

National Committee of Negro Churchmen, “Black Power Statement” July 31st, 1966


 

14718881_10206240696451273_7297790714910039448_n.jpgLenny the vicar at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Conshoshoken, PA and Candidate for Ordination to the office of Word and Sacrament in the ELCA. He is also the Evangelist for the #decolonizelutheranism movement, as well as a frequent voice on the intersection of the Church and the cries of the oppressed. He pays special attention to the #blacklivesmovement in his work, but lifts up the frequent intersection with other marginalized peoples.  He believes that the reason the ELCA has remained so white, is a theological problem, not sociological one. He is currently an M.Div Coop student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and holds a Bachelors of Biblical Studies from Lancaster Bible College, with an emphasis in New Testament Theology and Ministry.

 

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70 thoughts on “The Road to 270 Was Through the ELCA – Vicar Lenny Duncan, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church; Conshohoken, PA

  1. David L. Pursey, Master Sergeant, USAF, Retired

    Vicar Lenny Duncan;
    Thank you for voicing your opinion, as you have the right to free speech. You have that right because of the United States Constitution. I defended that Constitution for 25 years in the military in places like the Middle East, South Korea, and Central America.
    So, if Trump lost to Clinton, then we have President elect Clinton. As a Soon to be Lutheran pastor, why would you want this person as President? She will NOT take care of the people you mention in your article. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a pathological liar. She also broke the law with her email scandal, she has taken millions of dollars from countries that are radical and terrorists. She lied to Congress and the Justice Department, led by Loretta Lynch just let Hillary free to do anything that would lift her to the Presidency. Shameful! She also indirectly murdered the four gentlemen in Benghazi. And you want HER to run the country. Do you really think she was going to help America? NO! She is out for herself.
    With all that said, it makes no difference who sits in the Oval Office…PERIOD! Why? Because God is in control. God is our creator, our a Lord and Savior, our King. Have faith in God, as I have had the past 8 years and preach Love. Love thy neighbor as thyself. God WILL make it right with your faith, my faith, and Americas faith in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sgt. Pursey, you’re response is the kind of bizarre, unhinged, deluded “argumentation” that has created the conditions for the present political — no, theological! — disaster. For example, you place the blame for Benghazi on Hillary Clinton. Why not blame Ronald Reagan for the “murder” of the 220 marines killed in Beirut in 1983? You end your comment with an appeal to the Accept-Trump-Because-God’s-In-Control rationale. That argument didn’t work in 1933 and it doesn’t work now. Listen to Lanny’s prophetic words, repent, and start thinking, speaking, and acting like an actual Christian.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Deborah K MAJ (Retired)

      Hillary displayed honor and humility in her campaign. Mr. Trump displayed hate, racism, sexism. His campaign made me shame to be an American. I am a retired Major and did not like what I heard and saw in this campaign. One thing this campaign did bring out is the seething hate and whit racism that is so interwoven in our society. Trump allowed the seething hate to come to the forefront of his campaign. We all have the right of free speech and we exercise it, but most of all I hate character bashing. I am a Black woman and racism is alive and Trump has brought it out of the dark shadows. I retired from the military also, twenty-three plus and as a Black female saw racism at it’s best. Thank you Lenny for your insight , your reality that all has to deal with due to this election.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Robert Saler

      The notion that God is in control in a deterministic sense is in fact not Lutheran. Luther was very aware that there are forces of evil in the world which oppose God, which is why many of us (Lenny included) have begun reclaiming the church’s ancient language of demonology and exorcism to name the horrors wrought by systemic evil. If you want a God whose sovereignty encourages passivity in the face of evil, then Lutheranism is not your theological ally.

      Liked by 2 people

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  3. A Pissed Off ELCA Pastor

    Did you actually say that pastors shouldn’t do pastoral care for the people in their flock? My god, this “church” is fucked up if they let people like you get through candidacy.

    Second, if the problem isn’t sociological, then STOP TALKING ABOUT SOCIOLOGY. You’ve offered not one dime of actual theology here.

    Third, learn to use apostrophes.

    Fourth, the despised hymnal is CRANBERRY, you idiot, not red. SBH was red, the Christians in North Dakota that you hate so much know that.

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    1. No, he didn’t. But he did talk about the need for pastors to speak prophetically to a mostly-White culturally Lutheran Church. The gospel calls for that. That’s theology, pissed off pastor. Try to not be offended, but to hear. Try to view the vicar’s words in the best possible light. Or not. Your call (pun intended).

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Wow, you actually got through candidacy? You didn’t learn enough to see the deep pain in Lenny’s rage or to ask yourself what is it about this that is making me so angry? What is this hitting in me that is making me lash out? You’re going to call someone an idiot over punctuation (which as a former editor I didn’t notice any glaring errors)? Finally you, who probably doesn’t read anonymous notes from parishoners, are going to rail on someone and then not have the courage of your convictions to attach your name to your speech?
      I don’t think Lenny was saying not to do patoral care. I think he was drawing a parallel between the consequences of this election for most Lutheran pastors (who are mostly white, cis-gender males) are not as dire for them as they are for people like himself. He never said he hates the people in North Dakota. He issued a challenge to leaders in states like North Dakota to challenge your people to stand on the side of the oppressed (which for many might mean standing on the side of people like them in many ways). If you read a call to preach the dangerous, uncomfortable parts of the gospel to your people as hate, you might have some soul searching to do. This is our call as clergy – it is actually in vision and expectation to preach and teach social justice (and care for creation) and it is in our vows.
      Lenny’s language might be devoid of lots of uplifting language but, for many of hs, it is hard to find that right now. We woke up Wedsnesday morning to a nation that, to our eyes, voted racism, sexism, homophobia, & xenophobia dressed up as change and plain speaking as preferable to more of the same. With that, we had it affirmed, once again, that all lives really don’t matter, that black, brown, native, LGBTQ, immigrant, Muslim and female lives were worth trading in for the prospect of change. Not only is that deeply painful (which, you may remember from pastoral care classes will show up as rage), it is terrifying. People who consider themselves Christians voted for a man who has literally brought White Supremacy into the white house.
      So, maybe instead of reacting, calling names, and getting all wound up, consider with all of your pastoral care knowledge that this is coming from a fear for ones life and the lives of so many others, it is coming from lived experience that you and I could likely never imagine, and a deep intelligence and place of study. It is a call to action born out of the cries of the people. I think there are some parts if scripture that read like that.
      Also, you’re really picking on him for saying red? Pretty sure that’s because the cranberry hymnals are actually red and it makes a lot more sense to say red in comparison to the map.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Randy Amundson

        I saw nothing of the kind on Wednesday. Donald Trump has fought for equal rights for all races and ethnic groups over the course of his life. He has stated that gay marriage is established law and when asked about bathroom use in his buildings, transgenders were free to use that bathroom they were most comfortable in. As far a xenophobia is concerned, the president of this country is charged with the safety of ALL her people. His position on Syrian and other Middle Eastern immigrants and especially refugees is based on that expectation of the office he has been elected to in that regard. As far as the Mexican border problem is concerned, that revolves around the rule of law. If immigrants are here illegally, that means they are outside the law. Our responsibility is then to change the law or enforce current laws regarding immigration. I think, if you pull your head out long enough and give the new administration a chance you will see that the approach they take is an approach which will allow him to fulfill his responsibility in this area to the best of his ability using both new law and enforcement of existing law. I think it would be best for those of you who preferred the unindicted felon who thinks its acceptable to suck the life out of a full term baby in the birth canal with a suction device inserted at the base of the baby’s skull, then I’m thinking the God I worship who created that life might be wanting to talk with you and you should listen.

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      2. Donald Trump was sued multiple times for racial discrimination in his housing practices. During the campaign he called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, and has pushed for a ban on all Muslims coming to the United States. He said a judge on one of his cases couldn’t be impartial because he was of Mexican descent. That’s not racist? Not to mention the fact that he just asked one of the leaders of the Alt-right to be one of the top people on his staff. His record on LGBTQ rights is mixed at best, but his VP choice supports conversion therapy which is incredibly harmful and has been opposed by the American Psychological Association, among other groups. Pence also thought that money for HIV treatment and research should go to Conversion Therapy — so, forget sick people, let’s really mess up people who are fine! As far as refugees from Syria, this trope that they aren’t vetted enough is RIDICULOUS. There is an incredibly thorough process they have to go through before they can come to the US. But aside from that, as a Christian, the Bible tells us over and over again to welcome the alien AND Jesus was a political refugee. What if there had been a wall to keep Jesus out? The immigration thing is blown way out of proportion, first of all. Immigration has been in decline for years and most people are escaping horrifying conditions. You want to tell a kid who is escaping a threat on his life from the drug dealers in his town that he has to go back and get killed? That’s cool. Totally what Jesus would do. We have been TRYING to change the laws, but congress is stuck and nothing is happening. I won’t sit by and let people die because they are trying to escape violence and poverty. My Christian Values extend far beyond the birth of a child. My Christian values include care for the poor, welcome for the stranger and the alien, care for widows and children, and, in the words of Isaiah, “to loose the chains of injustice
        and untie the cords of the yoke,
        to set the oppressed free
        and break every yoke?” No one candidate will ever encompass all of my Christian values, but I will pick the one who prefers care for the whole person through their life over someone who wants to make sure women give birth no matter what. My Christian values are those of Jesus when he told the story of the Good Samaritan and when he met the woman at the well. The fact that some are okay with someone who has been married multiple times, had affairs, been sued by the justice department, is currently being sued for the rape of a young girl, has sexually assaulted women, likely worked with Russia before the election, and so many more messed up things, over a politician who has made mistakes and has been dishonest (which is every human, not to mention every politician) and is pro choice is totally confounding to me. I’m good with God. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Rev. Jessica A. Harren

        Randy, Trump just elected a white supremist to his cabinet, and won’t pubically condemn the KKK parade in his honor. Please check your facts. This is racism.

        Also, know what lowers the abortion rate, statistically? Free access to birth control, good sex education, advocating for concent, feeding mothers and children, subdaized day care, mental health and addiction treatment. A living minimum wage. Pro-life means helping a baby live, not forcing a mom who has no way to care for a child to have one no matter what.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Hey, Pastor, you seem angry and defensive. What about this article was so threatening to you? You insult Lenny on a personal level. He brought ideas and owned and shared his own experience. As a younger Pastor, Pastors like you who call people names when they are threatened are why the church is dying. Lenny is going to help save it. Figure out what is so threatening to you, own it, treat Lenny with respect, and then we can get somewhere. Also, he didn’t say don’t do pastoral care. I heard him say don’t stop from speaking the gospel — you know, the one where speaks up against injustice ALL. THE. TIME — out of a. misguided attempt to protect the feelings of white people that you call pastoral care. What about our call to love all? How can you do pastoral care in a way that doesn’t leave out care of black, brown, disabled, LGBTQ, and women’s bodies?

      Liked by 1 person

    4. 1) Nope. Vicar Duncan definitely did not say that. He just pointed out that we have choices about the topics we discuss in conversation, and to the extent that we let racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic rhetoric be ignored or normalized because we make other choices, we contribute to the problems that face our siblings in Christ (and our fellow citizens of other or no religious background) who are the direct targets and victims of policies informed by that rhetoric.

      2) I think there’s a pretty robust theology of incarnation and a forcefully articulated Christology here if you care to listen.

      3) We’re nitpicking grammar now? Way to ignore the substance of this reflection.

      4) Is “cranberry” a shade of red? Does calling Vicar Duncan an “idiot” contribute to the building up of the body? Do you think that part of the problem in the church might be that we get this worked up about mis-coloring a hymnal, but not about the very real ecclesiological problems that Vicar Duncan is calling to our attention?

      Liked by 2 people

    5. Richard G.

      Theology is present in the article in statements regarding the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. The theology of this is critical precisely because the heritage of western theology shifts attention away from Jesus in space and time (i.e. the Word made flesh, or incarnation) and relegates Jesus to an idealized person in the image of the persons creating such ideology. This is referred to as colonial theology, the theology which western Christianity created in order to theologically justify and promote the takeover of lands in the name of civilization. The theological heritage of the “curse of Ham,” theories of poly-genesis, racial hierarchy theories, and the use of Paul’s letter of Philemon all bear a history of denying the humanity of Jesus as reflected in the canonized Gospels. The goals of these theological positions were to subjugate people because their identification is subhuman. By removing the human identity of Jesus in the context of Jesus’ socio-political context colonial theology allows us to avoid Jesus altogether. Bro. Lenny’s article refers to Jesus as a brown man and a religious and political outsider – that is, the revelation of God in the sufferer. Such a theological position, i.e. reclaiming Jesus as Immanuel, means one cannot stand idly by when marginalized people stand to be victimized by acts and systems of oppression.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. pastor Judy

      Just shut up please..this is NOT THE FORUMN FOR YOUR RESPONSE. The pathological liar? Will be revealed. The pathological liar is already showing its stripes by choosing a racist, antisemitic, mysogynistic bully as his right hand man. Please listen to a voice speaking truth and conviction and lament….to white privilege and power….

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    7. Reverend Victor Jose Gimenez

      Seems like the only thing fucked up here is that you are pissed off at grammatical errors lol Dude if your that pissed you do need pastoral counseling lol

      Liked by 1 person

    8. Anger is not helping and saying stuff like learn to use apostrophes is…..? Why do we have such hate , I find this difficult to understand. You don’t have to name call me in your response, just voice a legitimate opinion without the rest. My mother use to say you get better results with honey than vinegar ~ and that is true. We do not come together for a solution in anger. God Bless us and keep us all. Melinda Rhodes

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    9. Rev. Willie Rosin (ELCA)

      Dear Pissed Off ELCA Pastor,
      First of all, CALM DOWN! Did that help? I didn’t think so. Second of all, I sincerely hope that your title is a “false flag” to throw readers off and into the idea that the ELCA is full of angry people like yourself who lashes out at others without the common courtesy of even providing a name. Such an act is cowardly, disingenuous, and deceitful. It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard with an anonymous name and type things that you would never say to a person’s face. So please don’t do it. Third, it’s hard for me to read Lenny’s piece as well. Because it is convicting. I grew up in South Dakota and still live and serve in a largely homogenous, white, and politically red context. Which I am okay with – demographics are hard to change and I’m fine with being a Conservative. But not a Conservative who is okay with racial discrimination, misogyny, and hateful rhetoric toward groups who have been labeled as “other” than white. Many of the people whom I serve and serve with don’t know anything other than the identity of Republican – myself included, though that has changed over the last decade to an extreme moderate independent. Lenny’s work here is reflective of his life experiences in conversation with scripture and Lutheran theology. Our political alliances should take a much lower tier than our faith and trust in the God who saves us. The God to whom the Scriptures witness and proclaim. The God who came to us in the flesh and broke down the penultimate power structure of sin, death, and the devil. If his writing offends you or pisses you off, I suggest that you ask yourself why you are offended or pissed off. The conviction of our own sin which clings so closely to us is never a comfortable event. But a necessary one. Every day, according to some guy named “Luther”.

      Liked by 1 person

    10. Eric

      Dear Pissed Off ELCA Pastor,

      I’m sure somewhere in your vulgar, hyper-aggressive anti-Christ of a comment was some constructive criticism you were offering Vicar Lenny. Unfortunately, it didn’t come through. I thought he made theologically articulate comments about the nature of Jesus, the scope of the incarnation, and the eschatological hope of evil being vanquished.

      But as long as fellow leaders in the ELCA keep losing the forest for the trees (cranberry vs. red? Really? Apostrophes? Really?) we’ll never have a chance to actualize God’s dream for the liberation of the oppressed.

      Also, if you’re going to make these claims in a forum such as this, sign your name and claim them as your own. Not doing so cuts the legs from any argument you intend to make.

      Do the work to get to the root of your anger, repent, then maybe God can salvage something redemptive from this.

      Liked by 1 person

    11. Pastor Katie Slack (ELCA)

      Dear “Pissed Off,”

      Grace and peace to you, child of God.

      First, no, Lenny did not say that pastors shouldn’t do pastoral care for the people in their flock. Let’s look at the passage you most likely drew this conclusion from:

      “My life is on the line, but you never mentioned that. You sat in pastoral care meetings and let your parishioners talk about health care. Meanwhile on Tuesday I became an endangered species.”

      You read these three sentences, and the middle one was the one that offended you? Our brother Lenny is telling us that he is in fear for his life, that this is life or death for him, and you are upset because he dared call out our hypocrisy? How easy it is for us to sit passively in mundane meetings and call it “pastoral care” while we leave our brothers and sisters to die in ditches – do you not think those dying might be in need of our pastoral care as well?

      Lenny does not claim that pastoral care is the problem. He is begging that we extend some pastoral care to those being targeted and oppressed by systems of injustice! Reminding us that pastoral care is not just sitting and listening (though we could stand to do a lot more sitting and listening to our brothers and sisters of color, and to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters), but pastoral care can also be standing up with the marginalized and oppressed!

      Please, set aside your “pissed off feelings” and the supposed slight in the middle sentence, and hear the context of his words – Lenny is telling us that his life is at stake – this is no time for easy offense.

      Also, your second line about Lenny’s candidacy is childish and petty, and beneath you as a pastor, a Christian, and a decent human being.

      Second, let me offer you some “actual theology” gleaned from Lenny’s article:
      “… the Gospel is good news to the oppressed, never to the oppressor.”
      “…the Gospel is liberation, here and now.”
      “…Jesus [is] someone who was incarnate in space and time, [and thus] he was [aware] of the political ramifications of his ministry.”
      “Resurrection has political ramifications.”
      “We are all guilty.”
      “Where is the hope for us, then? … The hope is that same brown man who was executed stood up three days later and shifted the entire universe.”
      “…when we gather in the name of God something deep down inside each and every one of us gets fixed. Set right and renewed.”

      This is a lot, and I could go on. But I wanted to give you at least a dime’s worth.

      Third, another example of a petty slight beneath you. Also, in the face of another’s life and death, I believe issues of grammar pale in comparison.

      Fourth, with all sincerity, this example of the church’s fixation on and idolatry of such petty issues IS what is killing the church. Our hatred of a particular worship book coupled with our apathy in the face of injustice and violence and oppression across the board is embarrassing, it is opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it disqualifies us from the name “Christian.”

      Brother or sister in Christ, please prayerfully consider Lenny’s words again, hear the hurt and anguish and fear and righteous anger. Hear also his hope, despite everything. Hear his call to us all, to prayerful examination of our own selves, our own motives, our own faith lives. Hear his call to stand as Christ stood, with the oppressed, the marginalized, the downtrodden, and all those who cry out for justice.

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    12. Pastor Katie Slack (ELCA)

      Dear “Pissed Off,”

      Grace and peace to you, child of God.

      First, no, Lenny did not say that pastors shouldn’t do pastoral care for the people in their flock. Let’s look at the passage you most likely drew this conclusion from:

      “My life is on the line, but you never mentioned that. You sat in pastoral care meetings and let your parishioners talk about health care. Meanwhile on Tuesday I became an endangered species.”

      You read these three sentences, and the middle one was the one that offended you? Our brother Lenny is telling us that he is in fear for his life, that this is life or death for him, and you are upset because he dared call out our hypocrisy? How easy it is for us to sit passively in mundane meetings and call it “pastoral care” while we leave our brothers and sisters to die in ditches – do you not think those dying might be in need of our pastoral care as well?

      Lenny does not claim that pastoral care is the problem. He is begging that we extend some pastoral care to those being targeted and oppressed by systems of injustice! Reminding us that pastoral care is not just sitting and listening (though we could stand to do a lot more sitting and listening to our brothers and sisters of color, and to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters), but pastoral care can also be standing up with the marginalized and oppressed!

      Please, set aside your “pissed off feelings” and the supposed slight in the middle sentence, and hear the context of his words – Lenny is telling us that his life is at stake – this is no time for easy offense.

      Also, your second lined about Lenny’s candidacy is childish and petty, and beneath you as a pastor, a Christian, and a decent human being.

      Second, let me offer you some “actual theology” gleaned from Lenny’s article:
      “… the Gospel is good news to the oppressed, never to the oppressor.”
      “…the Gospel is liberation, here and now.”
      “…Jesus [is] someone who was incarnate in space and time, [and thus] he was [aware] of the political ramifications of his ministry.”
      “Resurrection has political ramifications.”
      “We are all guilty.”
      “Where is the hope for us, then? … The hope is that same brown man who was executed stood up three days later and shifted the entire universe.”
      “…when we gather in the name of God something deep down inside each and every one of us gets fixed. Set right and renewed.”

      This is a lot, and I could go on. But I wanted to give you at least a dime’s worth.

      Third, another example of a petty slight beneath you. Also, in the face of another’s life and death, I believe issues of grammar pale in comparison.

      Fourth, with all sincerity, this example of the church’s fixation on and idolatry of such petty issues IS what is killing the church. Our hatred of a particular worship book coupled with our apathy in the face of injustice and violence and oppression across the board is embarrassing, it is opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it disqualifies us from the name “Christian.”

      Brother or sister in Christ, please prayerfully consider Lenny’s words again, hear the hurt and anguish and fear and righteous anger. Hear also his hope, despite everything. Hear his call to us all, to prayerful examination of our own selves, our own motives, our own faith lives. Hear his call to stand as Christ stood, with the oppressed, the marginalized, the downtrodden, and all those who cry out for justice.

      Like

    13. Rev. K. Russell Crouthamel (ELCA)

      “Pissed-off-pastor,” there’s little that I could say to you that Revs. Rawlings, Harren, Rosin, and Eric haven’t already said more eloquently and effectively. The ELCA is almost entirely white, almost entirely upper-middle-class, and almost entirely silent on the issue of systemic injustice and racism. That needs to change if we’re to truly proclaim the Gospel in the world today. That doesn’t mean that we should abandon being pastoral to those in our charge, but “pastor” means “shepherd,” and my understanding is that in addition to defending them from predators, tending their wounds, and feeding and caring for them, shepherds occasionally have to shout at, curse at, poke, prod, and shove the sheep in their charge. And sometimes we pastors need someone to poke, prod, shove, and shout at us, too.

      (Also, completely unrelated to the substantial arguments, but I have to note it takes a special kind of pedant to draw a distinction between cranberry-colored and red, being as last I checked, cranberries were, in fact, red in color. And yes, I’m aware that many in my church are that pedantic. Why exactly are we arguing about the color of the hymnal again?)

      Liked by 1 person

    14. Rev. Lorin Darst (ELCA)

      My word, I’m worried for you. And, if you really are an ELCA pastor, I worry more for your congregation.

      My prayers are with you, whoever you are. Please, please please seek help.

      As a white male, I’m truly grateful – and convicted – by the almost-Rev. Duncan’s writing here and elsewhere. He’s already a great and prophetic voice and leader. I’m looking forward to seeing where the Spirit leads next.

      Like

    15. J. Banks

      To the Pissed Off Pastor: If I were a member of your congregation and came to you with concerns such as those expressed by this individual, would you respond to me in this manner? Is it the messenger? Is it his word choice? What would I need to do in order for you to be able to hear my pain?
      For the record, I know that my punctuation isn’t perfect.

      Like

  4. Samantha S.

    You are spot on, except for one thing.

    “letting us talk about health care” is, for some of us, just as much about lives on the line. For me, and many others like me, the impact a trump presidency can have on Healthcare, on our ability to access Healthcare, Is about lives on the line. Without that healthcare, my life is also on the line. Without it, I will die. So please, I implore you. Do not ever stop speaking your truth, don’t stop telling the facts about the very real threat to your existence. But remember, Healthcare isn’t some frivolous thing that only is discussed by those with privilege. For many of us, it’s life and death and threatens our existence too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lenny is a true blessing to the kingdom! His honesty, brilliant insight, and courage to address the issue of the day while others continue to do business as usual in the church is a breath of fresh air for our church. Keep up the great work Lenny! You have been anointed and appointed for such a time as this!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Frances Love

    Thank you so much for having the courage to speak what so many of us know to be the truth, but don’t have the confidence to speak. ♡ ♡ ♡

    Like

  7. Pingback: Why am I in the ELCA? – syncopated hustle

  8. Astounded

    Reading David Pursey’s comments here made me understand EXACTLY how the country is in the shape it is in. A mindset of TOTAL denial that cannot use logic to any discerning argument. If he somehow finds it God’s will that a misogynistic, racist, homophobic man preaching hate is suitable to be leader, then I hate to imagine what he thinks of God as.

    Clearly his idea of God and what we are taught are nothing alike. I guess just another one who feels they need to be part of the social circle of Lutheranism in hopes of getting a magical little house in heaven, and not having ONE idea of what the gospel teaches.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pamela Hunter

    I have read this article twice. two things occur to me .  1. his congregation was taking care of him by meeting a deadline with Portico for his insurance. Its important to follow through with the practical support for his well being as well as the listening support he so clearly needs and desires. 2. I have been in all the  states he mentioned and have lived in many of them. Looking  carefully at the map, I can see an even stronger correlation of blue states and the presence of the elca. Look at the New England Synod, the Upstate New York Synod, the Metro New York Synod, the New Jersey Synod, the many synods od Minnesota and the all of the west coast synods.  All blue. Though there are many elca churches in West Virginia, the Carolinas, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and Iowa, those areas of the country had smaller elca churches, and also experienced more of the fall out over the issues of lgbt inclusion and ecumenism .  They don’t have the strength they once had to sway opinion, yet they endure. It seems wrong to make them seem complicit in a democratic loss when in fact we don’t know how they voted, since their influence would be lost in a lot of statistical noise. Finally, we all need to resist demonizing people we really do not know well. We cannot talk with people we have already deemed morally bankrupt. The Lutheran view of human nature and by extention, our relationship before God is that we are all simultaneously saints and sinners, no exception  for people who decide they are right or victimized. This ultimately gives strenght to people who otherwise might be excluded from the very hard and necessary conversations that we all need to enter into to address the times ahead.  Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Stephanie

    The truth and the pain I will let wash over me so that I can revisit in quiet. They are not going anywhere.
    When I was confirmed a Lutheran there was a red hymnal. Many of them now reside in missionary churches around the world. I saw them in Liberia. Then came the green hymnal and the blue supplement that said “hey maybe there are other people in this Church than whites. Then came the cranberry.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Rev. Maggie Falenschek

    Powerful, Vicar Lenny. I am convicted and called to repent. Thank you for speaking truth, challenging the powers that be, and reminding me of the gritty call of the incarnate Christ. 🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌

    Like

  12. This is a powerful, terrifying, truthful TRUTH being named here. Thank you for your courage in speaking it. This nation has indeed moved into something that is like we’ve never seen before (politically) but which grows directly from what you describe us having always been. Our white supremacist SOUL (earliest formation and original sins) have been unleashed. I am praying for you and for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dr Peter C LOUX

    The Africian American vote was and has been strongly for Democratic leadership since the Kennedy Presidency. Vicar Lenny, I ask you to tell me how the large cities are doing after the half century of overwhelming democratic control of the black family. And tell me how democratic policy has helped the black family unit since LBJ’s Great Society? Maybe it is a time for reformation within the government to let men like Ben Carson, Alan West, and David Clark help change what I see as real problems in our society. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that to remain silent was evil, but I think you need to be open to a rebirth in our society to the values of our forefathers and continue to pray for our new leadership that ran on the promis to clean up the swamp called Washington.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Eric Morris

    I’m not sure whyn the E.L.C.A. is trying to interpose itself in U.S. presidential politics. In fact, if filing under non-profit status under the US Tax code:
    Religious organizations, as well as all other organizations exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, are prohibited from participating or intervening, directly or indirectly, in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office.7

    Let’s stick to our Christian Mission …. Jesus died , and was resurrected. He will return to judge the living and the dead ….. and his Kingdom will have no end. Preach and share the gospel not political rhetoric.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rev. Jennifer Chrien, ELCA

      Eric, the tax code prohibits religious organizations from intervening “in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate.” It’s not a prohibition against talking about politics. Church members and, yes, even pastors, are also citizens of this country and entitled to have political opinions. Furthermore, it is an essential part of Vicar Duncan’s calling to speak out publicly about these matters.

      The constitution of the ELCA states: “This church SHALL serve in response to God’s love to meet human needs, caring for the sick and the aged, advocating dignity and justice for all people, working for peace and reconciliation among the nations, and standing with the poor and powerless and committing itself to their needs.” (ELCA Constitution 4.01.c) and “Lift its voice in concord and work in concert with forces for good, to serve humanity, cooperating with church and other groups participating in activities that promote justice, relieve misery, and reconcile the estranged.” (ELCA Constitution 4.03.g)

      It is the responsibility and calling of all ELCA Lutherans, and especially its public leaders (pastors and deacons), to speak publicly for justice and against violence. That is exactly what Vicar Duncan is doing, and I am grateful for his witness.

      Like

  15. Eric Morris

    A Racist is someone who interprets and acts on outside information through the prism of race.
    See his above quote:
    any failed to see it coming. Why? Because they thought they were having a political discourse, when they were actually facing systemic evil and its consequences. A theological battle was raging across our pews and we depended on polite society to win the day. They underestimated the power of white supremacy and evil. White supremacy doesn’t need its unwitting participants to be consciously racist. In fact it relies on you not believing you are. The pundits refuse to call it what it is. The conversation has already shifted.

    This is not a way forward towards healing the current division in our country.

    The view above can help little , but may do great harm.

    I hope that he was having a theological discourse , not a political discourse.

    Like

    1. Eric,

      One of the classic ways of speaking of sin in a Lutheran way is that sin is “being curved in upon oneself”: a destructive, God-and-neighbour-denying self-absorption. White supremacy is as a communal, institutional, and corporate sin, the curved in on self of one demographic of society, that arrange institutions and range words over others to its own advantage. The consequences of the sin of white supremacy are manifest in the evils of mass-incarceration, police brutality inflicted on black and brown people’s lives, in terrors that I as white person have not known personally but am only beginning to understand And the sin of white supremacy manifests in ways that destroy white people too, as white people are caught up in the fear, the violence, the anger that we inflict on others and ourselves. I think we can’t get a grip on the powers that hold us unless we have the courage to name them openly, as Lenny does, in the mode of abrasive lament- a mode well represented in the Scriptures. For me as a white person, the mode is confession, of my own sin, but I’m learning to listen to lament of others, and to be transformed. How can we love God and love neighbour, without hearing the lament of our neighbour, and with them, the cries of Christ from the cross?

      Like

  16. Lenny, thank you for your faithful witness to Christ. What you’ve made plain here is difficult for white Lutherans and other white Christians to read. We are tempted to be defensive. But what you have said is true.

    White Supremacy runs loose like a demon, in our churches, and in our country.

    And then we white folks have the gall to tell you that you’re overreacting. And as you’ve cited here, “So long as white church men continue to moralize and misinterpret Christian love, so long will justice continue to be subverted in this land.”

    We attempt all the gymnastics we can think of to avoid the truth.

    The truth is we white folks, heap burden after burden on people who are black and brown, we are witnesses as people who are black and brown are being attacked and murdered. And we deny the reality that is in front of us, and we do not lift a finger to help. As Jesus says in the end of Luke chapter 11, woe to us.

    We do more gymnastics; we even go so far as to ignore Jesus. You’re right, it is not Christian.

    Thank you for telling us the truth. May we have ears to hear. Because this truth can lead us to where God is calling us.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Matthew Jones

    Trying using the English language the next time you compose a message! In my Language: we use things called “punctuation”; to correspond our written message!

    I suggest you spend more time studying what has been taught to you in the “horrible” government mandated, required and financially supported ; public education system!

    You would have more “opportunities”, in this “awful” Country, if you could properly compose a written message in the English language!

    Like

  18. Corey Bergman

    Hey Vicar Lenny,

    Thank you for your words. You are a gift to the Lutheran tradition and may your voice never be silenced by those who seek to control your use of it. I realize through people like you, and the #decolonizelutheranism movement that I am just as much a part of the problem as those who are violently racist. As I deal with coming to terms with what that means for me as a future Pastor I look towards you and your peers to continue to force me to ask the hard questions of myself when I am uncomfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Maddie Tallman

    Your witness is crucial to the movement. Thank you for braving a majority white audience with these words of revolution. May God keep you safe, and may She give me the effing courage to do my effing job.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Liz Kocher

    Lenny, I give thanks to God for your witness and inspiration for all our faith communities, especially us in the seminaries who look up to the example of your prophetic voice and your gospel in action. May we be so moved by the Holy Spirit to confront the evils of our world, and may God continue to give us strength and courage to be public leaders in our church.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Vicar Duncan, thank you for your words. As a white woman, they are uncomfortable and challenging; as a white woman with white privilege, I need to hear them. I appreciate your honesty and your call to action. I know that there are people here disagree, and unfortunately for some of them, their rhetoric proves your points. I take on your challenge, not because I want to feel good about myself, but because my values and beliefs demand that I not be complacent and that I stand with and ally with those who are being oppressed and persecuted. I’m also learning that talking isn’t enough – it’s too comfortable and too easy to become complacent. If being uncomfortable and facing my own privilege and demons resulting from it is the cost of truly living what I say I believe, then so be it. God’s people – all of them – deserve to be treated with respect, no matter what they look like. For me, the most challenging thing is loving those who seem bound and determined to deny the racist reality in front of them. I’m not perfect, and I fall. I’m every bit as broken. I hope I can do better.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I am ashamed and embarrassed on behalf of all ELCA rostered leaders (one of which I do hope to be in the near future) that an ELCA pastor would choose to be anonymous to express hatred. I would encourage this pastor and others to seek out a prison ministry to preach in if you have not already done so.

    Lenny, I and so many of us at LSTC are so grateful for your witness and presence and everything that you are. For as long as you are willing to bless this church with your witness – because I know we agree that it’s theology can be life-giving if we give it a better chance – I’m in it for the long haul and grateful to work with you in that long haul as well

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Lenny,

    Thank you for your perceptive theological analysis and inspired voice. As a member of the ELCA, you have revealed the truths to all of us that we so often hide away. Thank you for that. Let us remember that a theologian of the cross calls a thing for what it actually is. And that “thing” within our body politic is racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

    This might be the most Lutheran response to the events of last week that I have seen. May the church follow your faithful and courageous witness and ask for God’s forgiveness whenever it falls short of it.

    In the love of Christ,

    Ben

    Liked by 1 person

  24. John Public

    Really? – As of December 31, 2015, there were 3,668,034 baptized members in the ELCA. There were 9,320 congregations organized in 65 synods in nine geographic regions.

    Hard to say the ELCA vote made any difference at all…

    Like

    1. Rev. Jennifer Chrien, ELCA

      John, your comment leads me to wonder if you read the post at all? Vicar Duncan points out that the ELCA is disproportionately represented in the midwestern states that were considered Hillary Clinton’s “blue wall” and that went to Donald Trump. Within those states, the margin of votes that determined the electoral college winner was small.

      Of course, we can’t actually know that the ~100,000 deciding votes were ELCA members. But these were “our” communities, “our” people (speaking as an ELCA pastor), and so we have to own some responsibility for the outcome.

      Like

  25. L. Heywood

    Thank you, Lenny. I’m very grateful for your witness and constant call to action – and for you as a colleague and fellow disciple in the Church of Christ. I’ll echo someone above – I’m here for the long haul, for such a time as this. That sounds righteous, but it’s really just the least I can do. We have a long road of repentance before us – not just naming what’s wrong, though that’s a good start, but of committing to turn around and begin the work of righting the wrong of centuries. May our eyes be open to that work, and our call to carry it out. Lord have mercy.

    Like

  26. Joan Beck

    When the planes hit the towers in 2001 I thought, there go some self-righteous angry men imposing their justice again. Wiith Trump’s campaign, election, and now his appalling appointments, I thought the same thing. When on Sunday my pastoral colleague in his sermon called Trump evil, rather than mistaken and deluded and racist and sexist and any of a number of other demonstrable adjectives, I thought the same thing, that is, he self-righteously demonized the other. One thing I appreciate about Vicar Duncan’s essay is that he talked out of his own story, allowing me to come alongside by my own consideration of the matter. He did not take away my freedom to turn, repent, commit. Thanks for the respect. I will stand behind you.

    Like

  27. Kathleen Billman

    Lenny, thank you for saying what you have witnessed and experienced as an African American man living in the United States. As a white woman deeply formed by the Lutheran heritage, I take the experiences and challenges you have shared deeply to heart, as a call to face what needs to be faced and to take action on the faith commitments I process. Kadi Billman

    Like

  28. Pingback: Post-election Holiday Assortment: Perspective-taking, Advent resources, #decolonizelutheraism keeps growing | Liturgy Remix

  29. Jane Allan

    This is powerful. We must dwell not in fear, but in forgiveness that reaches out even to those we may fear, as a response to the overwhelming gift of grace!

    Like

  30. I’m a pastor in the Reformed Church in America, which is in full communion with the ELCA. I was directed to this site by a retired RCA minister who is still deeply involved in ELCA life. The Vicar’s letter surprised me, then saddened me, and finally challenged me. But what surprised me too, was that there is almost as much, if not more, response to the letter by the angry, anonymous pastor. But I don’t see the care for that person that I do being expressed for the Vicar. If the expression of fear is anger, as I read in a couple of posts, then this anonymous pastor must be very frightened indeed, by a sense of betrayal and doubts about a just God in an unjust world.

    I am also puzzled by the ongoing references to the color of a hymnal. I did get whiffs of an issue some years ago when I was given a gift of a green hymnal and a red one, and told to make sure that the color I referenced was the correct one for the service at the appropriate hour. “And everyone snickered. I didn’t think too much about it, but now I see that it must have been quite a trip! But even as the angry pastor is criticized for bringing it up, I have to wonder why so many people felt the need to keep it going rather than focus on the underlying pain that evoked the reference. And if apostrophes aren’t important, why do you keep bringing them up again? Why not just let it fade away into the obscurity it so justly deserves? From out here, sometimes it looks like you protest too much. On the other hand, is it a convenient, easy alternative to avoid acknowledging another facet of that truth that is even more painful to some in the ELCA than what the Vicar voiced?

    If I may, one more observation: The RCA recently adopted as a Fourth Standard of Unity, a contemporary document that came out of South Africa and which is called “The Belhar Confession.” The usual fault lines have been shaking, but the fears are being addressed. This document is a South African Reformed confessional response to apartheid, and it provides some wonderful structure to the Christian’s sense of displacement in the Body of Christ. It calls for a reconciliation within the Body of Christ that recognizes that even the oppressor is oppressed in his/her own sin and misery, and stands in just as much need of grace and redemption as those who are oppressed by the oppressor. It’s an extraordinary document, Biblically based, and faithful to the cry of all of God’s people, “How long, O Lord?”

    We all have our brokenness, we all stand in need of grace, and we all are responsible for each other–even those who seem to reject us and whom we reject, or vilify us and whom we vilify, or push us away in anger and we leave in a snit. Perhaps for very different reasons, Vicar Larry and Angry Pastor are both hurting and in need of genuine pastoral care. The Apostle Paul wrote, just because the foot claims it doesn’t belong to the body doesn’t make it so. Even when we yell, all of us smelly, aching, sweat-drenched feet still need the body’s nose to locate the smell, and hands to bathe us with Epsom salts, and eyes to see where to dust with the Gold Bond powder. All of us need to experience the paraklesis so desperately needed on all sides in the Church.

    Yes, God is in control. And Romans 1 shows us that God will allow those who are determined to sin to have their own way. These two things are not contradictory. Pray for those in authority: either they will need it to exercise faithfully God’s authority, or they will need it to keep them from leading us completely off into their own unrighteous paths. Either way: Pray.

    Like

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