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From Words to Action: Congregation joins the Truth and Healing Movement

The following is cross-posted from Living Lutheran. You can find the original post here.

From words to action

Congregation joins the Truth and Healing Movement

By Isabell Retamoza | October 9, 2023

In April, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton launched the Truth and Healing Movement to increase the church’s understanding of the impacts of colonization on Indigenous people in past and present generations. Living Lutheran reached out to Richard A. Magnus, a retired pastor who attends Edina (Minn.) Community Lutheran (ECLC), to hear how the congregation’s work with the movement has affected members and the community.

Living Lutheran: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Magnus: My first call was to urban ministry at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Denver. My assignment was to get to know the communities of color and then invite suburban congregations into relationship with those communities. My second call was to an urban campus ministry in Boulder and the Auraria Higher Education Center, Denver. In that role I was … invited to serve on the National Indian Lutheran Board (NILB) from 1979 to 1981 as one of three “blue eyes” on the board. While in Denver I served as a mission director for the Rocky Mountain Synod and in that capacity supported Rev. Dr. George (“Tink”) Tinker in forming the Four Winds American Indian Survival Project.

In 1997, I was called [as] executive director of the ELCA Division for Outreach. In that capacity I worked with pastors Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo, former pastor of All Nations Indian Church, and Gordon Straw, director of the ELCA Indian desk [both deceased], to form the Indigenous Institute, which trained 20 ELCA leaders in a better understanding of Native Americans.

In retirement I was invited to serve on the ELCA Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery Task Force, where I continue to serve on the leadership team.

Could you tell me about ECLC?

In September, ECLC will celebrate its 75th anniversary. ECLC has always had a concern for justice. In 1971, ECLC called Barbara Andrews as the first woman pastor in the former American Lutheran Church. In 1973, ECLC supported members of the American Indian Movement with meals in their Wounded Knee trial. Since the 1980s the congregation has supported homeless housing ministries. It continues to support two food shelves. In 1985, ECLC became a Reconciling in Christ congregation. Strong advocacy was given to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. The congregation partners with Redeemer Lutheran Church in Northeast Minneapolis in the African American community, Iglesia Luterana San Pablo in southeast Minneapolis and Cristo de Paz in El Salvador. Youth groups have traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation. In 2003 the congregation sued the state of Minnesota over requirements for churches in the “conceal and carry” law.

In a current capital campaign to reduce debt, one-tenth of all contributions are given to community partners. One of those recipients is the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. Members accompanied Pastor Helgemo to Standing Rock [Indian Reservation] to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline at least twice.

There is increasing interest [in learning] the history of settler takeover of Native land, to understand the history as having an ongoing effect on Native people and to ask what is called for from us to address current injustices.

Why did ECLC decide to engage with the Truth and Healing Movement?

The 2016 Churchwide Assembly passed the “Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.” Some members paid attention to that action. The trips to Standing Rock followed. Then in 2020 the ELCA Church Council adopted the “Declaration to American Indian and Alaska Native People,” which I brought to ECLC. In October 2021 eight members under the leadership of Pastor Helgemo visited the Lower Sioux Agency, the Mille Lacs Band and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Those visits were a great stimulus for more action.

In September 2021 the Indigenous Rights group was formed. [It] has offered many educational experiences for the congregation, including sacred sites tours in the Twin Cities; educational forums on the Doctrine of Discovery; conversations with Vance Blackfox, director for Indigenous ministry and tribal relations; and more. The group prepared a land acknowledgment that is used in the bulletin every Sunday and is encouraged to be used at the beginning of committee meetings, etc.

In initial planning for the ECLC’s 75th anniversary, the theme chosen was “Sacred Ground.” The study portion of the celebration in September through mid-November will focus on the fact that we are on Dakota land and encourage the congregation to ask what that means and how it should inform our relations with Native nations, hopefully as strong advocates for justice for Native nations.

The action to join the Truth and Healing Movement announced by Presiding Bishop Eaton during Holy Week this year encouraged the congregation even more to dig deeper and make even more use of the excellent resources on the ELCA website (

How has work with the movement impacted the congregation?

There is increasing interest [in learning] the history of settler takeover of Native land, to understand the history as having an ongoing effect on Native people and to ask what is called for from us to address current injustices.

The congregation had as many as 60 screens when offering Zooms on the Doctrine of Discovery, the ELCA declaration and conversations with Vance. Twenty-seven members traveled to the Lower Sioux Agency on June 17 to learn from the Rev. John Robertson, a retired Episcopal priest who now works as a cultural interpreter in the Lower Sioux Museum.

Upcoming plans include attendance at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Wacipi (powwow) on Aug. 19 and a sacred sites tour led by Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs of the Minnesota Council of Churches on Oct. 7. There will also be several sessions directly related to resources provided for the Truth and Healing Movement during the anniversary celebration time.

Use of the land acknowledgment statement also deepens the understanding of members and calls them to action. Here is the land acknowledgment:

My hope is that we are in the Truth and Healing Movement for the long run. There is so much to be undone to right the wrongs of our past.

“We acknowledge that Edina Community Lutheran Church is located on the traditional, ancestral and contemporary lands of the Dakhota Oyate, the Dakota nation. Treaties developed through exploitation and violence were broken. Tribes were forced to exist on ever smaller amounts of land.

“Acknowledging this painful history, we as a congregation confess our complicity in the theft of Native land and acknowledge that we have not yet honored our treaties. We further confess that Christians and Christian churches have benefited from this land theft. We commit to being active advocates for justice for Native people and to truth telling that leads to healing.”

Another item that appears in our bulletin each week is:

“At ECLC’s Annual Meeting on February 5, 2017, the congregation approved the following statement and made a commitment toward racial justice: Racial injustice continues to thrive in our country and communities. Our Christian response is to walk in solidarity with people of color, because standing silent sanctions continued violence.  We recognize that those who are white, are intertwined in a network of unearned privilege. We, as a congregation, are compelled to advocate for racial justice. We invite other congregations to join together in expressing their commitments to live out our shared faith—active in love—in the struggle for equity and justice.”

What should congregations consider before they engage in this movement?

Ask yourselves why you are considering joining the Truth and Healing Movement. Ask whether you are willing to be changed by what you will learn in the process. Go to the ELCA website to see … what might be best for you to use as you begin. Find Native organizations and people who can be your guides and informers, remembering that leadership must come from those communities and people (but the work of learning will need to come from you).

Take the leap—there is so much to learn, so much to gain as you see the connectedness and begin to remove myths to be fed by the gifts of reality in the Native world these days.

Do you have any closing thoughts you want to share?

I am so grateful that our church is where it is now as it seeks to reclaim relationships that were lost with the end of the NILB. We have tremendous opportunity to become an important ally in working for Native justice. … My hope is that we are in the Truth and Healing Movement for the long run. There is so much to be undone to right the wrongs of our past. I’m a humble volunteer in an exciting justice-oriented congregation.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the author’s name and listed Richard Magnus as the pastor at ECLC. Both have been corrected. The story also included a reference to Enbridge Line 3 as the pipeline ECLC members protested with Rev. Marlene Helgemo and not the Dakota Access Pipeline. This has been corrected and clarified.

A Conversation with Rev. Alejandro Mejia: In Celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

The following is cross-posted from Living Lutheran. You can find the original post here.

Para celebrar el Mes de la Herencia Hispana, del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre estamos hablando con luteranos de ascendencia latiné para amplificar las voces de nuestros hermanos en Cristo. Hoy estamos hablando con Rev. Alejandro Mejía, director de la misión evangélica del Sínodo de Delaware-Maryland.

Las respuestas han sido editadas para su publicación.

¿Cómo está usted conectado a la ELCA?

Nací y crecí en Colombia, América del Sur. Mi familia siempre ha pertenecido a la iglesia luterana. Recuerdo estar presente en conversaciones en las que se mencionaba el nombre “ELCA”. Cuando me hice más activo en la iglesia, aprendí sobre los fuertes lazos que hay entre la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana de Colombia y la ELCA. Recuerdo haber visto o escuchado de líderes como Mary Campbell, Rafael Malpica Padilla, por mencionar a algunos que son conocidos y que todavía están entre nosotros. Tiempo después, cuando ya servía a una congregación, me llegó una invitación del Sínodo de Carolina del Sur de la ELCA en los Estados Unidos para servir como desarrollador de misiones entre la creciente comunidad latina.

Todo eso es para decir que la ELCA siempre fue parte de mi jornada de fe, gracias a su asociación con la iglesia en Colombia. Por supuesto que nuestra conexión se ha vuelto directa y más fuerte desde que me mudé a este país.

¿Cómo cree que la ELCA puede amplificar mejor las voces latinés?

Creo que, juntando las caras con las historias, explicando los puntos fuertes de nuestra gente. Debemos fomentar atención y empatía en nuestra iglesia hacia las necesidades y realidades de nuestros hermanos latinés, pero también es necesario que publiquemos historias sobre las habilidades, los puntos fuertes, el poder que existe entre nuestra gente. Somos luchadores; nunca nos echamos para atrás. Eso es algo que hay que mencionar. Por supuesto, aún hay tantas necesidades por satisfacer. Sin embargo, hay tanto que podemos ofrecer para hacer más fuerte a nuestra denominación. Así como contribuimos a la grandeza de este país, también podemos hacerlo en nuestra denominación.

¿En qué formas puede la ELCA ser más inclusiva de la comunidad latiné?

Es importante abrir espacios en la mesa de toma de decisiones donde se sientan los poderosos. Pero no se trata de traer a una persona latiné porque existe la necesidad de cierta diversidad. Se trata de traer suficientes personas de una comunidad en particular, en este caso la comunidad latiné, para que haya una voz más fuerte y asertiva. Para una persona de color es intimidante estar en la mesa con probablemente otras dos o tres, pero en la que todavía somos una minoría.

También es importante tener presente que América Latina está formada por varios países, cada uno con tantas culturas diferentes que nos hacen únicos. Los líderes de nuestra iglesia deben confiar en nosotros, escucharnos, y aprender con nosotros y de nosotros. Podemos prosperar si lo hacemos juntos.

Es esencial ser conscientes de nuestra presencia proporcionando formas en las que podemos sentir que pertenecemos. No porque necesitemos ayuda, sino como iguales. Un ejemplo de ese enfoque podría ser ofrecer interpretación simultánea al español en reuniones como la asamblea de toda la iglesia, entre otros espacios importantes para nuestra vida como iglesia; poniendo a disposición material de adoración, de formación en la fe —por mencionar unos cuantos— en español, escrito por líderes latinés.

Necesitamos más y más líderes latinés listos para servir; por lo tanto, debemos crear formas de capacitar y equipar a las personas de nuestras comunidades facilitando el acceso a la educación. Y no solo seminarios; hay otras profesiones que se necesitan dentro de nuestra iglesia que pueden funcionar por el bien de nuestra comunidad latiné.

Hay muchas oportunidades y maneras que nuestra iglesia podría implementar para poner en práctica el hecho de que todos son bienvenidos, con el fin de que podamos sentir en nuestros cuerpos que, en efecto, somos vistos y apreciados.

¿Cómo ve a la comunidad latiné representada en su sínodo e iglesias locales?

Soy muy afortunado de trabajar con el obispo William Gohl. Él me ha dado la oportunidad de ocupar una posición de liderazgo dentro de nuestro sínodo. Me encantaría ver que esto sucediera en otros sínodos. Me encantaría ver a más ministros latinés en la lista como pastores principales o como diáconos a cargo de programas sólidos dentro de congregaciones y sínodos. Directores juveniles, directores musicales.

¿Qué le da esperanza?

Hay comunidades y ministros en la lista que, a pesar de los retos (inequidad, falta de recursos, racismo), se despiertan cada mañana para trabajar duro y prosperar. Ellos y sus comunidades están marcando una gran diferencia en esta iglesia y esta nación. Tengo esperanza al ver a niños y jóvenes diciendo que aman a la iglesia, y se identifican como cristianos luteranos.

Sé de familias que se suben al automóvil y conducen varias millas solo por la oportunidad de reunirse en torno a la palabra y el sacramento porque sienten que pertenecen. Madres que vienen con sus hijos porque necesitan ser nutridas por el amor de Dios hecho realidad a través de la comunidad. Dios nos ha inspirado a seguir adelante, a nunca echar para atrás, sino a levantarnos si caemos. Y nos levantamos más fuertes, porque no estamos solos.

¿Por qué cosas ora usted?

El fin de la mentalidad patriarcal, de supremacía blanca y despreciativa con la que muchos están acostumbrados a mirarnos. Oro por oportunidades para que nuestras nuevas generaciones sean quienes son, que promovamos el bilingüismo, que fomentemos el aprendizaje de otros idiomas, que nuestras iglesias sean espacios seguros, no para asimilar la cultura dominante, sino para afirmar que la diversidad es uno de los dones más preciosos de Dios y la esencia de Dios.



In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 we are speaking with Lutherans of Latiné descent to amplify voices of our siblings in Christ. Today we are speaking with Rev. Alejandro Mejia, director for evangelical mission with the Delaware-Maryland Synod.

Responses have been edited for publication.

How are you connected to the ELCA?

I was born and raised in Colombia, South America. My family has always belonged to the Lutheran church. I remember being present at conversations in which the name “ELCA” would be mentioned. When I became more active in the church, I learned about the strong ties between the Iglesia Evangelica Luterana de Colombia and the ELCA. I remember seeing or hearing about leaders such as Mary Campbell, Rafael Malpica Padilla, just to mention some who are well-known and still among us. Later, when I was already serving a congregation, an invitation came from the ELCA South Carolina Synod in the United States to serve among the growing Latino community as a mission developer.

All of that is to say, the ELCA was always part of my faith journey, thanks to its partnership with the church in Colombia. Of course, our connection has become direct and stronger since I moved to this country.

How do you believe the ELCA can better amplify Latiné voices?

I think putting faces and stories together, explaining the strengths that our people have. We need to promote mindfulness and empathy among our church toward the needs and realities of our Latiné siblings, but we also need to put stories out there about the abilities, the strengths, the power that exists within our people. We are fighters; we never step back. That is something that has to be mentioned. Of course, there are so many needs still to be satisfied. However, there is so much that we can offer to make our denomination a stronger one. As we are contributing to the greatness of this country, we are also able to do it within our denomination.

What are ways in which the ELCA can be more inclusive for the Latiné community?

It is important to open spaces at the decision-making table where the powerful sit. But it is not about bringing a Latiné person because there is the need for some diversity. It is about bringing enough people from a particular community, in this case the Latiné community, in order that there is a stronger and assertive voice. It is intimidating for one person of color being at the table with probably another two or three but where, still, we are a minority.

It is also important to keep in mind that the Latino America is made of several countries, each having so many different cultures that make us unique. Leaders from our church need to trust us, listen, and learn with us and from us. We can thrive if we do it together.

Being mindful of our presence by providing ways in which we can feel we belong is essential. Not because we need help, but as equals. One example of that approach could be offering simultaneous interpretation to Spanish at gatherings such as a churchwide assembly, among other important spaces for our life as a church; making available worship, faith formation material—just to mention a few—in Spanish, written by Latiné leaders.

We need more and more  Latiné leaders ready to serve; therefore, we need to create ways to train and equip people from our communities by facilitating access to education. And not only seminaries—there are other professions that are needed within our church that can work for the sake of our  Latiné community.

There are many opportunities and ways that our church could implement in order to put into practice the fact that all are welcome, so that we can feel in our bodies that we are indeed seen and appreciated.

How do you see the Latiné  community represented in your synod/local churches?

I am so fortunate to work with Bishop William Gohl. He has given me the opportunity to occupy a position of leadership within our synod. I would love to see this happening in other synods. I would love to see more Latiné rostered ministers as senior pastors or as deacons in charge of strong programs within congregations and synods. Youth directors, music directors.

What gives you hope?

There are communities and rostered ministers who, despite the challenges—inequity, lack of resources, racism—wake up every morning to work hard and thrive. They and their communities are making a huge difference in this church and nation. I have hope by seeing children and youth saying that they love the church, identifying as Christians Lutherans.

I know about families who get in the car and drive several miles just for the opportunity to gather around word and sacrament because they feel they belong. Single mothers coming with their children because they need to be nurtured by God’s love made real through community. God has inspired us to move forward, to never step back, but rather to rise if we fall. And we rise stronger, because we are not alone.

What do you pray for?

The end of the patriarchal, white supremacist, patronizing mindset from where many are used to looking at us. I pray for opportunities for our new generations to be who they are, that we promote bilingualism, that we encourage learning other languages, that our churches are safe spaces not to assimilate the dominant culture but by affirming that diversity is one of God’s most precious gifts and God’s essence.

National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools

The following message is shared on behalf of Vance Blackfox (Cherokee), Interim Senior Director, Ministries of Diverse Cultures and Communities.

Indian Boarding Schools: ELCA Truth-Seeking and Truth-Telling Initiative

During September, we remember the survivors and descendants of U.S. Indian Boarding Schools. On Saturday, Sept. 30, we observe the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools. You can participate by wearing an orange shirt and posting a photo of yourself or members of your congregation or community on social media. Use the hashtags #ELCA #TruthAndHealing and #DayOfRememberance. If you would like to support the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), you can purchase an orange shirt with their logo. However, any orange shirt will work.

Throughout September the ELCA’s Truth and Healing Movement has provided opportunities to learn about Indian boarding schools, including conversations with boarding school survivors and descendants of survivors, advocacy opportunities and more. 

The ELCA is committed to understanding our role in the tragic and sinful history of Indian boarding schools so that we can begin to heal together. Further, our learning and advocacy related to Indian boarding schools will not end September 30. Our journey toward healing will continue through the Truth and Healing Movement and beyond. To learn more and get involved, visit

Next week there are two free online classes: “Introduction to the Truth and Healing Movement” on Tuesday, September 26, and “Indian 101” on Thursday, September 28. This will be your last chance to attend these classes during the Truth and Healing Movement. For more information and to join the classes, visit


For more information on the ELCA’s Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations, visit: Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (

Resounding Call from March on Washington Then and Now

Cross posting from ELCA Advocacy blog.

Resounding Call from March on Washington Then and Now

By guest blogger Jennifer DeLeon, ELCA Director for Racial Justice [more]

As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, the resounding importance of that pivotal event echoes powerfully into the present day. The factors that propelled the March, including ending racial segregation, fighting for economic justice and securing voting rights, remain as urgent and relevant as ever.

The struggles of the past continue to surface in challenges of the present. The legacy of segregation persists, reminding us that the fight for equality is far from over. The enduring outcome of redlining, a systemic practice that denies access to loans, insurance and other financial benefits to residents of mostly BIPOC communities, continues to fragment our society along racial lines.

In addition, although the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 represented progress, we find ourselves confronted with a disconcerting reality: a surge of legislative efforts aimed at curtailing voting rights that disproportionately affect BIPOC communities continuing to uphold racial divisions. According to the League of Women Voters, “In 2023, at least 322 bills restricting voting access were introduced in state legislatures nationwide.” This alarming trend underscores the need to draw a direct line from the struggles of the past to the challenges of the present, emphasizing the crucial importance of understanding history and rallying against injustice to ensure a more equitable future for all.

In our church, we continue to work towards living out the commitments we made in 1993 when we passed our social statement, Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture. “The Church that confesses Christ in public demonstrates its commitment through involvement in public life—globally and locally, nationally and in neighborhoods,” it reads (p. 6). It continues: “This church will support legislation, ordinances, and resolutions that guarantee to all persons equally: civil rights, including full protection of the law and redress under the law of discriminatory practices; and to all citizens, the right to vote” (p. 7)

In recent years, we have supported and will continue to advocate for the passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 and other similar legislation. As we commemorate this historic day, we invite you to join our advocacy network and work towards making the dreams expressed in the March a reality.


Learn more about ELCA Racial Justice Ministries at 


ELCA’s Truth and Healing Movement calls us to learn about MMIW by Women of the ELCA

You can’t change what you don’t know. So how much do you know about the impacts of colonization on Indigenous people in past generations and in the present? What does “MMIW” mean to you?

When we know the truth and embrace it, we begin the process of building and strengthening right relationships with our Indigenous neighbors. To that end, last month the ELCA launched a Truth and Healing Movement. Watch a video of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton announcing the creation of the movement.

As explained in a news release, “[t]he ELCA’s Truth & Healing Movement will enlist and empower members to become involved in the[se] areas of focus … :

[1] development of appropriate settler narrative from a Lutheran perspective;

[2] encouraging the ritual practice of land acknowledgement;

[3] understanding Lutheran participation in Indian Boarding Schools; and

[4] support for communities impacted by murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.”

Many resources are available to assist you and your congregational unit as you work on these four areas.

Let’s focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) as this Friday, May 5, is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Depending upon where you live, you might not be aware of the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls. The MMIW movement advocates for the end of violence against Indigenous women and draws attention to the high rates of disappearances and murders of Indigenous women and girls. The root causes lie in colonization and historical trauma, racism, and sexual objectification.

“Women of the ELCA has been involved in the anti-trafficking effort for nearly two decades. It is only natural, then, that we continue this important justice work with a focus on MMIW,” says Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director.

To learn more about MMIW, start with the Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium that occurred last November, hosted by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Several videos are available online so you and the women of your congregation can better understand the issue and begin to bring awareness to the broader church. A simple Internet search will provide many additional resources.

Plan to attend the Just Love Gathering this September where you can learn more about the ELCA’s Truth and Healing Movement and the MMIW movement.

Redemption Song; Episode 2 of the series, Talks at the Desk

As we continue to celebrate Black history month we invite you to watch episode 2 of the series, Talks at the Desk, season 2:

In this episode we travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and visit several of the oldest Lutheran churches in the Western hemisphere. This episode explores the history and impact of colonialism both past and present. We meet wise and courageous people of faith who remind us about sacred struggles of the past and the presence of God and ancestors today in the work that remains to be done.

African Descent Ministries of the ELCA celebrates Black History Month Talks at the Desk, a four-part video series that will explore diverse expressions of the church.

A new video will premiere each Wednesday in February at 7:30 pm Central time. Watch them live on YouTube or download them here.