Earlier today I sent this letter to the community I have had the honor to serve, I share it with you as a hint at things to come here. Thank you for sticking with this newsletter through a rough period!
Greetings in the name of the one who calls you my Beloved, the radical rabbi put to death by the very same systems we have resisted together in true faith. I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the one who knew no home, not even the tomb, Amen.
I write you a letter I never expected to write for decades, and say words I hoped never to say. Effective July 30th 2021, I am resigning my call as Mission Developer Pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church and as Pastor of Jubilee Collective. I will not be pursuing another call.
I want to start out by saying this decision is in no way a reflection on the Messiah Lutheran Church Family of Churches, its incredible members, the Rev. Kathy or Peter Brafflaadt, or more importantly the incredible community of Jubilee Collective. I also want to take a moment to thank Bishop Jaech and the Southwest Synod for walking me through this time of transition.
This is the result of a long period of discernment that started one evening in July of 2020. That was the first time I had to drive my van with its lights off, down the wrong way of the streets of downtown Portland Oregon with a colleague strapped into the passenger seat. We were avoiding federal agents who had just gassed us and other groups of ordinary citizens. We heard a rumor they were kidnapping people like us, so we took off to get home to our families. During that ride as I watched this scene from my worst nightmares play out on the streets of the republic, I had never felt so defeated. The Rev. Ron Warner and I both got home safely that night but I feel like I never really made it back.
That evening I watched a wall of military veterans and the mothers of Portland form human shield lines to protect Black organizers asking for Justice for George Flyod. I watched the State shoot, gas, and beat them with glee.
My prayers were not enough that day to stop what happened. Nor my sermons. Nor any liturgy I ever led. Starting with my first book, I had just spent three years telling everyone I could in the Church that a day like this was coming. But the truth is I had made no difference at all in the battle for the soul of this Republic.
I never felt more useless or powerless than those weeks last summer.
That crack in my otherwise unassailable confidence grew. It started to run through how I saw the world, the good I thought I was doing in it, and my place in it. That little crack of doubt soon became a fissure. In fact the gap between the call of being a Congregational Pastor and the larger urge I was feeling, outside the church, had become a chasm. This cash has grown beyond my ability to cross on my own or as a pastor.
I cannot unsee that scene in my mind or more importantly in my heart, and it has led to a lot of changes spiritually, emotionally, and vocationally. I will be pursuing my PHD at Graduate Theological Seminary in the new year and realigning the way I interact with institutions, my role if any in them, and my work. This feels like my last call in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I can no longer pretend my work hasn't grown beyond the church, or that the Divine isn’t asking, pleading, begging for something new. Something more. Something beyond our traditions, theologies, or confessions. I will spend the next 6 years trying to figure out what that is. I will most likely fail. I’d rather fail spectacularly for liberation than continue on the more sure path of professional ministry.
I want to thank you all so much, for the people of Jubilee I want to say that I care for and believe in you. Our shared vision is real and my sincere hope is the leader who will help you continue that journey becomes readily apparent in the weeks and months ahead. Rev. Kathy and Peter Braaflaadt will be working with the Synod to care for you, and help you decide on next steps. Know you walk with my prayers and love. Always.
Written in Love and Liberation
The Rev. Lenny Duncan +