Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

ELCA Racial Justice

Juneteenth: An Intergenerational Conversation by Guest Blog Auther Dr. Dianne R. Browne

In honor of Juneteenth, ELCA Racial Justice Ministries invited Dr. Dianne R. Browne, Ph.D., CFLE, CSE, Chair of the ELCA New Jersey Synod’s Anti-Racism Team to share some thoughts about this federal holiday that many mark as the official end of legalized human enslavement in the United States. For more information on Juneteenth, visit What Is Juneteenth? | HISTORY.


I am from the Northeast, so I never celebrated Juneteenth as a young person. I knew about it because my maternal grandmother was from the South. My grandmother and mother shared stories about our history and their lived experiences. At first, I was disinterested, but their conversations helped me to understand and appreciate the ongoing struggle for racial justice and equity.

Let us talk about Juneteenth in that context. The Emancipation Proclamation was enacted in 1863. On June 19, 1865, two years later, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, the army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free by executive decree.

Younger generations may dismiss Juneteenth as history—it happened in the past, so why is it important? Share with them that it is sankofa. That word, which comes from the Akan people of Ghana, means learning from the past to move forward in the future. We are still learning from that dream deferred in 1865. We learned to have hope, to keep moving forward and not to be deterred in our efforts for racial justice.

Talk about Juneteenth! These conversations give fodder for the never-ending quest for a sometimes elusive racial justice and equity. Know that Juneteenth was freedom overdue; that the color red, including red food on Juneteenth, is significant, as it represents the blood shed during the transatlantic slave passage; that barbecues at Juneteenth celebrations offer foods that may be representative of what was brought to Texas by the enslaved Yoruba and Kongo people in the 19th century. Keep learning and preaching to folks younger than you!

On Juneteenth, as during the Jim Crow and civil rights eras, folks had to wait. In their waiting they were compelled to do something: to keep on pushing and to act by motivating others until the dream deferred was expedited.

The Bible encourages us in our actions. Micah 6:8 calls to us in this quest, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).

We know that racial justice is good and that action is needed to bring it to fruition. Encourage younger generations to press on. We are still in the struggle against a socialization that has embodied both personal and public white supremacy for generations. We are still questing for racial justice and equity, a dream deferred. We can get closer to that justice and equity through courageous intergenerational conversation.

A quote from James Baldwin sums it up: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”


Dianne R. Browne, Ph.D., CFLE, CSE, Chair, ELCA New Jersey Synod Anti-Racism Team

Dianne Browne is a retired educator and trainer. Her work has focused on racial and reproductive justice, family life, and equity and inclusion. She is chairperson for the New Jersey Synod’s anti-racism team and facilitates discussions for its Transforming White Privilege curriculum. She is a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Willingboro, NJ.



References:  National Museum of African American History & Culture

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 (

See also:  Establishing_June_17th_as_Emanuel_9_Commemoration_and_Day_of_Repentance.pdf (

Worship Resources:  Prayers_Litanies_Laments_Emanuel_Nine_Commemoration.pdf (

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

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

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.