Dear Church (A Book Review)

As part of my effort to educate myself so that I can be a useful ally in the anti-racist conversation, I bought several books. One of those books was a short love letter written by pastor Lenny Duncan to his denomination: the ELCA.

I was, simply put, blown away by this book.

While this book was specifically addressed to the ELCA, a denomination I have not personally spent much time in, I could immediately see the similarities between what he described as stumbling blocks to racial reconciliation and inclusion of the LGBTQIA community in the many churches I have spent time in over my lifetime.

Duncan did not mince words when describing how he personally has felt impacted by being part of what he calls, “the whitest denomination in the U.S.”

He addresses the problematic history of the ELCA in regards to racism and how the attitudes of the past towards Black men and women and People of Colour persist even to this day. He calls out the fact that Dylann Roof, the shooter in the Charleston Church Massacre which left 9 African Americans dead, was a Lutheran just like himself and attended an ELCA church. The same system that allowed a troubled 21 year-old to seek out and indulge in his White Supremacist leaning was also the spiritual home that allowed Duncan, a Black man, to flourish in his faith to the point of ordination.

Not limiting his letter to just racial issues, Duncan turns his focus to sexuality and the LGBTQIA community. It is his contention that the church needs to do more to create a sex-positive environment that embraces its LGBTQIA members. He says,

The reason we are so afraid to admit the church is queer has everything to do with our theology of sex. The leaders of the church have failed you. We have made sex dirty and have reduced human wholeness and love to the physical act of sex. We no longer see our sexuality as God given and therefore good. We have adopted a view of sex handed to us by Paul­­ – a man who thought the apocalypse was imminent and who urged celibacy in preparation for that event. We have a puritan view of sex, as if pleasure and the flesh are evil. Yet we worship a God who was physically resurrected- flesh and blood.

Lenny Duncan (Dear Church)

Towards the end, Duncan makes sure to emphasize that he is not speaking in condemnation towards to church. Indeed, he asserts, he is so irrevocably in love with his church that he can’t not speak up when he sees it falling into error.

It was a very short read. The book itself is only 166 pages (just under 4 hours if you get the audio book like I did). I felt like I learned a lot from it. I see how the Christian Church at large, even outside of the ELCA, could greatly benefit from reading it.

I truly believe that every White Christian out there who is serious about racial reconciliation, particularly inside the Church, should be picking up a copy of this book.

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