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Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine: Guest blog writer Desta Goehner

To commemorate the 9th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9 – Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson, our beloved siblings in Christ who were murdered by a self-professed white supremacist and ELCA parishioner while they were gathered for Bible study and prayer at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (often referred to as Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015 – Desta Goehner, Board President of the ELCA Association of White Lutherans for Racial Justice to share some thoughts about this day of repentance.

For more ELCA resources visit:  Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine — June 17 – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (elca.org)

See also:  Establishing_June_17th_as_Emanuel_9_Commemoration_and_Day_of_Repentance.pdf (elca.org)

Worship Resources:  Prayers_Litanies_Laments_Emanuel_Nine_Commemoration.pdf (elca.org)


As I gather with my congregation every Sunday for worship, my heart often turns to the Emanuel Nine. On June 17, 2015, nine faithful Black Christians were tragically shot and killed during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. This day stands as a somber reminder of the devastating consequences of racial hatred and violence.

What weighs heavily on my heart is the realization that the perpetrator, someone who grew up in a Lutheran congregation like mine, could commit such a heinous act. It compels me to confront uncomfortable questions about the environments and influences that shaped him — the people he interacted with at home, at school, at church and at work. He was one of us.

This is why White Lutherans for Racial Justice exists within the ELCA. We recognize our collective responsibility as white members of a predominantly white denomination to address the systemic racism that permeates our congregations, our synods, our institutions and our own hearts. The ELCA has issued resolutions, statements and apologies, but we have done very little to repair the ongoing harms caused by racism.

The burden of dismantling racial injustice cannot fall solely on the shoulders of people of color. As a white person, I must actively engage in the work of racial justice and equity. Yet I often shy away from relinquishing my power, my influence, my comfort. I’ve been conditioned to fear discomfort and confrontation, but I cannot allow that fear to paralyze me.

I have succumbed to this fear many times and certainly will again. I have also been the person to ask the hard questions and have felt the repercussions of that. Whiteness tells me to crawl back into my enclave, but my faith calls me out of that space. I trust that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide me as I lament and repent of my participation in white supremacy as a white, liberal, progressive Lutheran cis woman.

Whiteness exerts immense pressure, but I must not let it crush my resolve. I have witnessed how the weight of whiteness has led white leaders to falter, inflicting harm upon others without adequate accountability or restitution. We must acknowledge the risks inherent in naming injustice and asking hard questions that challenge harmful systems and processes.

We need each other in this journey toward racial justice. We need relationships that hold us accountable, that challenge us to confront our biases and privileges. Who are you building relationships with that offer different perspectives? It’s through these connections that our hearts change.

We must follow the leadership of people of color within our church, amplifying their voices and advocating for change. As we approach the 2024 United States presidential election, we cannot wait until after the fact to take action. Black and brown lives are at stake every day, not just during moments of political turmoil.

Commemorating June 17 as a day of repentance within the ELCA is a meaningful step toward acknowledging the legacy of racism within our church. But our work doesn’t end there. Racial justice is not an abstract concept; dismantling the structures of inequality that perpetuate racism requires tangible action. Join us in this ongoing journey toward racial justice. Together we can create a more just and equitable world where the lives of Black and brown people are valued and protected.

Reach out to your ministry leaders and ask them to include prayers of repentance in worship, and use resources on the ELCA Racial Justice website. Invite your congregation to use these resources in worship, in Bible study, on social media and in newsletters. And then notice whether your congregation commemorates June 17. If they do, express your support! If they don’t, gently inquire why not and advocate for change.

We believe in the power of community and the transformative potential of collective action. White Lutherans for Racial Justice welcomes people at all stages of their racial justice journey. Join us!


Bio: Desta Goehner is president of the Association of White Lutherans for Racial Justice and the Director of Thriving Leadership Formation, with 27-plus years of serving in different expressions of the ELCA. She is a trauma-informed spiritual director and a professional Enneagram coach for people and teams in ministry, specializing in conflict resolution, facilitation, leadership and spiritual formation. Desta’s work is dedicated to fostering racial justice, personal growth and healthy, anti-racist leadership in faith communities. For more about her visit linktr.ee/destag.

For more information on The Association of White Lutherans for Racial Justice visit: website|Facebook

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Honoring International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Guest Blog writer Rev. Aimée Appell

In honor of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ELCA Racial Justice Ministries invited the Rev. Aimée Appell, MDiv DMin to share some thoughts about the Triennial Assembly of the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice and their work to end racism and dismantle white supremacy.

The Triennial Assembly of EDLARJ (the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice, newly changed to White Lutherans for Racial Justice) was held in Minneapolis, Minn., March 1-3. A large part of our time together was spent in a pilgrimage to George Floyd Square. What I saw and experienced there changed my understanding of love and pushed my thinking about fear, as I witnessed what it means to say that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

I don’t need to tell you how often our cultural conversation limits love to an emotion. You’ve heard the songs and seen the shows and bought the cards. It is so difficult to find pop culture examples of love beyond romance that when Anna and Elsa’s sister love was the focus of Frozen, it was worthy of commentary. But repeatedly during our pilgrimage and our resulting conversations, we witnessed love as an action.

The community in George Floyd Square has been meeting daily for over a thousand days now to love one another through action. They have brought their individual gifts together to become love for their neighbors. Jennie Leenay used her fashion background to create The People’s Closet, where clothing of all kinds is available for free to those who need it. Similar projects have created a library and a garden center, each tended by volunteers. Marquise Bowie greets visitors and urges them to do the difficult work of love-in-action in their home communities, standing with victims of injustice and educating their neighbors. Community members offer their time and their stories so that pilgrims to the square leave educated about what happened there. And every day, morning and evening, the community gathers, lights a fire in the firepit and checks in, offering mutual support, listening for what is needed and loving one another. With action.

This is the kind of love that casts out fear. As our preacher, the Rev. Dr. Jia Starr Brown, reminded us at the end of our pilgrimage day, action love is the prerequisite for the emotional, sentimental kind of love that we usually talk about. “I do not enter into … relationship with anyone who does not actively work for my overall good: defending my character and advocating for my justice when it is questioned, compromised or stolen. And neither should you.”

This action-love draws us toward one another, even toward those we might not actually like. I don’t have to particularly like someone to provide them with clothing, food, shelter, safety. I just have to love them. And in loving them, I find that I fear them less. I am drawn into their community, and we become family, because family take care of one another. Family love one another, even if they don’t like one another.

1 John (and Martin Luther) remind us that we often give a lot more energy to fear than to love. The power of fear drives our economy — everything from deodorant sales to car sales to the military industrial complex is based in fear. Our political system has become so bogged down by fear that it barely functions anymore. Fear of neighbor, fear of embarrassment, fear of poverty, fear of death, fear of immigrants, fear of “those people.” We give our attention, our time, our money to fear.

This is why we are to fear and love God above all else. If we fear God above death, poverty, embarrassment or (most especially) other people, our neighbors, then we will give our attention, time, money, even our whole selves, to God, who is Love — Love as Action. God is love so deep, so radical, so active, that God could not sit still waiting for us to come to God. God’s active love came to us and showed us just how powerful Love as Action can be. Powerful enough to overcome death and to cast out fear, giving us the strength, courage and love to stand in solidarity with marginalized people throughout our community, and throughout the world.

 

Rev. Aimée Frye Appell holds an M.Div. degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn, and her Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. She has served as solo pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Washington, Mo., since 2010. Since January 2021 she has served half-time at Peace and half-time as director for evangelical mission in the Central States Synod of the ELCA. She has also lived and worked in Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Wash.; Anchorage, Alaska; St. Paul, Minn.; and Provo, Utah.

Pastor Aimée was ordained in 2010. In her time at Peace Lutheran she has helped the congregation grow into community leaders as a congregation “Bound by Christ, to Break Boundaries.” Together they have spearheaded several initiatives to build inclusion and dialogue in their community, including Vacation Culture School, Stories Matter, a local Juneteenth celebration and a series of community book discussions. In 2017 she received the Humanitarian Award from Church Women United of Franklin County Missouri. In 2018 she and her congregation received the Clergy Renewal grant from the Lilly Foundation.

After sabbatical with her family in South Africa and France, Pastor Aimée began working on a Doctor of Ministry degree, focused on anti-racism in the ELCA. In addition she has worked with the City of Washington to develop its Community Relations Committee, with the goal of building and nurturing inclusive community as their regional demographics change. She serves on the Central States Synod’s Racial Justice Team and on the board of the Association of White Lutherans for Racial Justice.

When not focusing on her call, she can be found spending time with family, knitting, crocheting, reading or gardening. She is mother to four wonderful children – Elinor, Holden, Grace and Abby (as well as three dogs, one cat, a snake, a gecko, a bearded dragon, a bullfrog and a pet rat). She and husband Nelson, who is director of the Washington Public Library, have been married since March 2000.

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Honoring National Day of Racial Healing: Guest Blog Writer Rev. Jennifer Thomas

In honor of National Day of Racial Healing, ELCA Racial Justice Ministries invited The Reverend Jennifer Thomas to share some thoughts about this topic with our readers.

 

As a person of faith, I am called to love God and my neighbor as myself. Because of this, I’m committed to learning how white supremacy culture and my own complicity in it cause harm to my global neighbors near and far — and when I know better, to do better. As a seminarian, I attended anti-racism training in the late ’90s. But my journey didn’t stop there. Even last month I learned a new term: “global majority,” a collective term for non-white people of African, Asian and Latin American descent, who constitute approximately 85% of the global population. It has been used as an alternative to terms that are seen as racialized, such as “ethnic minority” and “person of color,” or more regional terms across the globe. It roughly corresponds to people whose heritage can be traced back to nations of the Global South.  

I’m a board member of the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice and a member of the Central States Synod Racial Justice Team. As a member of both organizations, I’m interested in building a network of racial justice advocates and organizers across the ELCA. I also participate in #Reformation2022, a movement to reform the ELCA. Most of the work I do as a board and team member is amplifying the voices of the global majority community, whether it be an individual or an association within our church. 

When I was invited to blog this month for the “National Day of Racial Healing,” I had to look it up because it was new to me. The National Day of Racial Healing is a call to action for racial healing for all people. It is a time for contemplating our shared values and engaging together on #HowWeHeal from the effects of racism. It’s a day to come together in a shared commitment to building relationships. Launched on Jan. 17, 2017, it is an opportunity to bring people together in their common humanity and inspire collective action to create a more equitable world. The day is observed every year on the Tuesday following Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

You can’t change what you don’t know. So how much do you know about the impact of colonization on the global majority community?  

When we know the truth and embrace it, we begin the process of building and strengthening right relationships with our global majority neighbors. In 2023 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) launched the Truth and Healing Movement. Many resources are available to assist you and your congregation as you work on your responsibilities. 

The ELCA also has ethnic associations for Ethnic Specific and Multicultural Ministries. For even more resources, visit the ELCA Anti-Racism Pledge page. 

If you are of European descent within the ELCA and passionate about anti-racism and dismantling white supremacy, we invite you to join our partner list. 

And plan to attend the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice Triennial Assembly, March 1-3, in Minneapolis. The registration deadline is Jan. 15.  

 

The Rev. Jennifer Thomas is an ELCA pastor, ordained in 1998. She’s served congregations in Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas. Her current call is as associate director for Mission Funding in the ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop. She resides in Kansas with her husband Vance, their almost adult children, Peder and Solveig, and two adorable rescue dogs, Rose and Dumplin’. In addition to organizing, advocacy, fundraising and proclamation of the good news, Jen enjoys cooking, baking, swimming, reading and bingewatching her favorite TV shows. 

 

 

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