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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.



We invite you to join us in celebrating Black History Month

The African Descent Ministries of the ELCA is celebrating Black History Month with season two of Talks at the Desk, a video series that explores 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  Click here to watch now.

Join us to hear youth, young adults, rostered leaders, elders and friends of our communities share their own sacred stories.

For more updates, follow @ELCAADM on Twitter and Instagram or check out

Prayers for the Fulfillment of King’s Dream by Rev. Dr. Andrea L. Walker

I was 4 years old when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I was too young to understand the import of his words while he lived. Yet I remember the importance of those words, his struggles and his assassination to the Black community as I grew up in Chester, Penn. The community felt he was one of theirs. Not only was he a marvelous young African American preacher and civil rights leader, but he was also educated at Crozer Theological Seminary, just up the road in Upland, Penn.


In the late 60s and the 70s a framed picture of the civil rights leader hung in almost every Black home — at least in every one that I entered. His picture hung in a prominent place in Granny Bettie’s kitchen. There was a picture in Granny’s best friend’s home, in my Aunt Lucille’s home and in all the homes of my family members. King’s words and legacy were celebrated in our community long before his birthday was designated a national holiday.


Many in the community took to heart the words he preached, the speeches he made. I especially remember hearing the words “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” on my grandmother’s television. I sat on a stool in a corner of the kitchen as Granny and her friends sipped instant coffee and talked about the possibilities. What would it look like for Blacks to be seen as brilliant and beautiful and capable — as equal to whites? My granny wanted King’s words to be true for me and my siblings.


Granny Bettie was born in the 1920s, when Calvin Coolidge was president. She grew up in the South at a time when grown men were referred to as “boy” and grown women could only be “gal.”  Her mother, whom I called Grandma Essie, was the daughter of a slave. My granny picked cotton when she was a young girl and had only a sixth-grade education.  When she moved north, she did domestic work. Often referred to as “gal” well into her 50’s,  she did not know what it was like to be judged by the content of her character.


When Barack Obama was declared the Democratic nominee for president, many believed that Martin Luther King’s words had come true. I was so hopeful and yet afraid to believe. Some 45 years after MLK’s speech, on the night of the 2008 election, I sat alone watching the results. When Obama was declared president-elect, with tears in my eyes I thought, “I wish Granny were here to see this.”


The community was so hopeful; I was so hopeful. Many would say that as pastor of a white congregation I am evidence of the dream becoming real. Yet at the dawn of 2023 Martin Luther King Jr.’s words have yet to be realized. After all these years mothers of Black children still worry about how their children are perceived. I worry as my 16-year-old grandson gets his driver’s license, as he travels with his track team, as he walks in this world; will the prayers of his pastor grandmom be enough to keep him safe? My grandson stands six feet tall and has an athletic frame, and though he has a baby face and the cutest dimples, I do not know if he will be judged by the content of his character or be thought of as a threat because of his beautiful brown skin.


My prayer for all children in 2023 is that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream will soon be their reality.



Rev. Dr. Andrea L. Walker is pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Washington, DC. Before her current call Pastor Walker traveled extensively as ELCA Global Mission Area Director for Madagascar West and Central Africa. She was touched by the lives and stories of the women she met, who reminded her of the community of women in her life- her grandmother and aunts. Ordained for twenty-two years in the ELCA she has a heart for justice and wants to always lift the stories of women.



Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day by Vance Blackfox

It is my prayer that each of you had a wonderful Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and that as you looked around you saw more and more non-Indigenous people observing this holiday in ways that lifted up the gifts and beauty of the Indigenous people in what is presently known as the United States.


For those of you who are not counting, it has been just over a year since the position titled Director of Indigenous Ministry and Tribal Relations for the ELCA was created.  And while it is positioned in the Service and Justice home area, it is no longer considered an ethnic specific ministry and is now aligned with the international ministries of Service and Justice.  This move was requested by the leaders of American Indian and Alaska Native communities many years ago, and finally in this last re-organization of the ELCA the change was made.


This change helps the ELCA better understand its relationship with tribal sovereign nations, Native organizations throughout the United States, and Indigenous people globally.  This while continuing to journey with the 24 Indigenous ministries in the ELCA.


In 2016 the ELCA Churchwide Assembly memorialized the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery claiming this action for implementation across all expressions of the church. While some congregations and several synods worked hard to learn about and live out what it means to be a church repudiated, there was very little initiated by churchwide or comprehensively.  In 2021, at the insistence of Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo and Rev. Jessica Crist, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton appointed the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery Task Force, and the work on living as church repudiated officially began.


The efforts include:


  1. Sub-task force groups: Churchwide Assembly, Settler Narrative, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and Declaration of the ELCA to American Indian and Alaska Native People.  Sub-task force groups will change and develop responsively as the work continues.
  2. In September of 2021, the ELCA Church Council adopted the Declaration of the ELCA to American Indian and Alaska Native People and announced it on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  It can be read at
  3. The ritual and practice of Land Acknowledgement is being developed and initiated by many congregations and synods across the ELCA.  We are encouraging all synods, congregations, and churchwide leaders to begin practicing this important ritual at the beginning of every church meeting or gathering.
  4. The Director of Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations is working with churchwide and synod staffs to care for Native congregations and ministries and innovate new ways to ensure appropriate support and right relationships with Indigenous siblings who are citizens of sovereign tribal nations.
  5. The Director of Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations is collaborating with the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation to learn how best to support the growing epidemic of homeless, houseless, and displacement on the reservation.  To address this tragic growth and build new relationships, ELCA World Hunger has committed $2M to address the needs of the tribe and its people.  An initial portion of the funds will be used to design a homeless shelter that will be constructed with 3-D technology and complete within a year.


This is only a brief list of all the work happening over the past year.  Further, I hope that each of you are ready for the work ahead, as the work does not just belong to me, Bishop Eaton, the Task Force, or churchwide staff, this work belongs to each of us who confess our love for Christ and who confess as members of the ELCA our commitment to justice.  Here is our chance once again to lead in building better, right, and just relationships with Indigenous peoples.

BIO: Vance Blackfox is an Indigenous Theologian and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is the founder and director of Other+Wise, a multi-site cultural education and cultural immersion program for youth and student groups from across the country. He serves the churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as the Director of Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations.