Why the ELCA Needs to Start a Reparations Process: Part 2

Why you should defund your denomination

Why the ELCA Needs to Start a Reparations Process: Part 2

Dear Church,

Y’all are amazing. 

Not you who are building your little empires in the sand, but the rest of y’all. 

The dispossessed of this church. The Black mamas and aunties who have called me to thank me. The Queer anarchists littered throughout the Churchwide organization. The rostered ministers who have always been wary of me, but feel called to this and reached out. The lay folx who are fed up and ready to follow this thing all the way to the top and back. Those of you now sharing the #defundchurchwide hashtag. I never did it once. But ya’ll are.

Even white cis male ministers I have openly called names and had spats with have reached out and asked me if I have set up an endowment yet. They are ready to invest in this endeavor. Their church’s money. Their councils are behind them. 

Y’all are amazing, and I want to answer some of the questions I received this week as  Part 1 rolled out.

First, if you are finding value in this discussion on reparations, please read this post first: #BlackWritingMatters

We use a reparations model to support this community and my work.

Next week in Part 3, I want to talk to you about the Confronting Racism webcast I was on with Bishop Eaton, ELCA VP Bill Horne, and other ELCA members who I believe were victims of our white supremacist system. You may remember this was how I was introduced in-house as everyone’s favorite light-skinned, palatable, felon negro! The felon part was important. I was invited because I was a victim. I will share about how we treat vulnerable victims and the long-term effects of the extreme tokenization in this church. How my Black skin was used to wipe up the blood Dylan Roof spilled, and how as I mourned that night alone in my hotel room, I built the beginnings of the plan I will be sharing with you.

You see, I waited until I was safe enough to tell these stories or to publicly share the plans I have been privately sharing with my close friends for years now. Ask anyone who has ever really known me. This was always the plan, if it proved to be necessary. And it has.

So, to that end, some Q & A and housecleaning: 

Lenny, are you happy as a pastor? Are you leaving us in January?

I am in an incredible call. Seriously, dream-call shit. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted and more. My family and I plan on staying in Vancouver, WA and serving the people of Jubilee Collective until we die or this church does. We are buying land and building a life here. My co-pastors are the mentors I always dreamed of, in all the ways that count for me, and I have much to share with them. It’s a great relationship, and my sending church Messiah Lutheran loves me as I love them. 

My Bishop, while concerned for me,  is loving, supportive when appropriate, and really just wants me to be ok. Like literally everything you could want in a Bishop. Caring, but leaves you alone. My DEM is the best in the ELCA. Full Stop. Fight me. This is all inside Lutheran baseball, but, to answer your question, I will be a pastor in this church until they defrock me. 

Lenny, I was moved by your first post and I am organizing/gathering/doing something in response, can you help? 

Yes, I am: this. I am publishing a live account of me burning bridges behind me on the way to collective liberation. I’m sorry, team, but that’s the point. I am a Black queer writer with a Twitter, an ok book, and some passion. I shouldn’t be in charge of any of this. That’s why we have bishops. It’s why have I personally talked to more of you, one on one, about dismantling white supremacy in this church and country than our presiding Bishop has. Why did I criss-cross the nation for all of 2019 to discuss this with all of you? It’s not the book royalties, trust me. Bishop Eaton is certainly more resourced than me. This discussion is about resources and how they are used. Her silence and pretense that she or anyone else at Churchwide is above reproach on this is sinful. It is actually demonic. Every time we call her out and she is silent, it is the demon of white supremacy muzzling her. It is the job of Bishop Eaton, the Conference of Bishops, and the Churchwide offices to lead us, not mine. I use my meager resources to contribute to liberation at every opportunity. Why won’t they? Because they are more concerned about preserving their power than serving humanity at a critical juncture in Salvation History.

Lenny, you have always been either supportive or tepid toward Bishop Eaton. Why are you calling her out now? 

True. Publicly; strategically, yes, I have been.

I have also always privately been pushing for these things and have either been laughed at, ridiculed behind my back, or ignored. I have been treated like an arrogant young cocksure, or just straight up blocked by the powers of this church. I’m handled like a darling when it looks good for us, for example, the NPR articles etc, but then treated like an insolent child needing to be brought to heel by our leaders on questions like this. I am not their pet negro anymore. I’d rather die free than live as a slave.

But you are right. I have never this openly confronted churchwide. To be honest, I’m terrified of them. They are a cornered and craven predator, and that doesn’t bode well for you or me, Beloved. But it was really one tweet that finally broke me; that finally stopped my love for the people of this church from blinding me to the reality of this church. 

A screenshot of a cell phone

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Let me put this in context for you. I now live outside of Portland, Oregon. About ten minutes from where it’s all happening. You know, where the fight for your republic is? Where the 400-year struggle for Black liberation has reached a breaking point. For the last over 100 days, my neighbors and I have been gassed, shot, and beaten by the state for declaring #BlackLivesMatter. Where was our Presiding Bishop when her rostered leaders where being targeted by federal agents? Like, targeted because we stood with the ACLU as witnesses. They targeted us—clergy! Shot some of us in the head, gassed rabbis in the streets, beat mothers, shot vets, targeted press. Where was she then? 

They still are doing all of these things here to this day. 

When she tweeted this “both sides-ism” nonsense, my heart broke somewhere deep down inside. I can’t take anymore hurt from this church, Beloved. I can’t survive it.  

 Dear Elizabeth, one side responded with state violence, terror, and fascism to the cry #BlackLivesMatter. There is no middle ground anymore.

Do you have a plan? 

Yes. I will share bits and pieces; suggestions; projects you may want to try; a few model resolutions for next year’s Synod Assembly seasonAnd as we talk more, I will share my whole plan. I’m open to you having a better one.  And yes, I am having accomplices look at setting up an endowment in Jehu Jones’ name for Black Peoples. I don’t know what that means yet, and we are in the early stages. If you want to join this effort there will be a place to divert funds. For now, the plan is to tell the whole truth. The only thing at risk is my deep shame at how complicit I was for so long. I will share every place I compromised and failed you. Every single heartbreaking time I believed the powers of this church and not the instincts I honed in solitary confinement as a child. I only have my own embarrassment to face. They have to face all of you.

Beloved, please give me space. Every time I write about Black trauma, the anxiety in my body is so bad I have to hide and self soothe all day.

Do you know a ton of us at Churchwide are with you, and have been for years? 

Yes Beloved, I see you. The first post wasn’t for you. You know who you are and how much you have sacrificed for this church. Well done, good and faithful servants. I love you.

Now this November the Conference of Cowards and Bishop Eaton are probably going to fire you. Rest, Beloved, we’ve got it from here. 

Remember. I won’t stop until the Churchwide organization complies to the demand of setting up a 32 million dollar endowment in the name of Jehu Jones for reparations of Black Peoples in this continent, and to supplement the retirement of elder African descent rostered leaders. After January, I will start implementing my plan. 

#BlackLivesMatter.

They can die mad about it. 

I have the honor to be this church’s obedient servant

Lenny Duncan +