Augsburg Fortress

Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S.

Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S.

Lenny Duncan is the unlikeliest of pastors. Formerly incarcerated, he is now a black preacher in the whitest denomination in the United States: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Shifting demographics and shrinking congregations make all the headlines, but Duncan sees something else at work--drawing a direct line between the church's lack of diversity and the church's lack of vitality. The problems the ELCA faces are theological, not sociological. But so are the answers.

Part manifesto, part confession, and all love letter, Dear Church offers a bold new vision for the future of Duncan's denomination and the broader mainline Christian community of faith. Dear Church rejects the narrative of church decline and calls everyone--leaders and laity alike--to the front lines of the church's renewal through racial equality and justice.

It is time for the church to rise up, dust itself off, and take on forces of this world that act against God: whiteness, misogyny, nationalism, homophobia, and economic injustice. Duncan gives a blueprint for the way forward and urges us to follow in the revolutionary path of Jesus.

Dear Church also features a discussion guide at the back--perfect for church groups, book clubs, and other group discussion.

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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • ISBN 9781506452562
  • Format Paperback
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 138
  • Publication Date July 2, 2019

Endorsements

Rev. Lenny Duncan is a voice calling in the wilderness

"Rev. Lenny Duncan is a voice calling in the wilderness. I am deeply grateful for the comfort and the discomfort his book brought me. I dare you to read this book, church. I dare you to be open to the repentance it calls for, to the grace it manifests, to the pain it witnesses to. I dare you to be changed by the truth in its pages. I dare you to not look away. It's time." 

Nadia Bolz-Weber | Pastor and Author

I pray we will engage in truth-telling with the same rigor Duncan does

"Marrying stunning, reverberant personal stories with little-known Lutheran history, Duncan makes readers laugh out loud in grim recognition. His critiques of our beloved church strike a tender spot in the heart, not because they are harsh, but because they are true. I pray we will engage in truth-telling with the same rigor Duncan does, because only truth will open the path to justice."

Emily Scott | ELCA Mission Developer

If you don’t come away breathless, hope-struck, and fired up for revolution, check your pulse.

"Lenny Duncan has given us a bold and fearless book filled with unsettling but indispensable insights into the stranglehold white supremacy inflicts upon our churches. At the same time, we feel a holy, ferocious love radiating from every page. This book should be required reading for all who love our church and lament our failures. If you don’t come away breathless, hope-struck, and fired up for revolution, check your pulse. We ignore Duncan at our peril."

Heidi Neumark | Trinity Lutheran Church

The modern day epistle we all need to read.

"May we love the church as much as Duncan does so that we cannot just take his words to heart but also engage to dismantle the powers and principalities that keep us from being siblings in Christ with one another. His words about the whitest denomination in the United States and its relationship to white supremacy are the truths that we need to acknowledge. Duncan’s love letter to the church is the modern day epistle we all need to read."

Tuhina Verma Rasche | pastor and speaker

This is a love letter you have to read—and a proclamation that will leave you convicted.

"Our brother Lenny Duncan has crafted a masterful and heartbroken indictment of where the Lutheran Church could be and where it is instead. He stands fiercely grounded in the Lutheran tradition of revealing our own brokenness, proclaiming our hope in Christ, and challenging us to live into love of neighbor. His individual experiences and our churchwide practices are woven together in an unsettling illustration of how the American idol of white supremacy has laid the foundation for a wide array of vitriol, from Dylann Roof to transphobia to the election of the forty-fifth president. Prepare yourself, church. This is a love letter you have to read—and a proclamation that will leave you convicted."

Emmy Kegler | pastor and author

Duncan's deep commitment to speak the truth to his white siblings in the church reads as a desperately needed clarion call.

"The Reverend Lenny Duncan writes with a searing message urgently rooted in true love. His deep commitment to speak the truth to his white siblings in the church reads as a desperately needed clarion call. Dear Church isn’t just a good idea for a book study—the grace-filled ferocity that overwhelms its pages reminds one of early writings from the Latin American base communities that formed liberation theology as we know it today. Duncan has written a necessary addition to the corpus of Christian writings in the twenty-first century. We ignore his plea at our own peril."

Jason Chesnutt | The Slate Project

Reviews

"This book is the sermon the church most needs to hear and is most afraid to heed."
—The Christian Century 

"An inherently fascinating, inspired and inspiring read from beginning to end...unreservedly recommended and worthwhile reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliations."
—Midwest Book Review 

"There are so many necessary voices leading the charge with creating a shameless view of sex for our society and our church. Lenny Duncan's voice is one of them."  
—Danielle Kingstrom, Patheos Blog

Table of Contents

Introduction: How Did We Get Here?

Part 1: Dismantling White Supremacy is the Way of the Cross

Chapter 1: Dismantling White Supremacy and the Power of the Gospel

Chapter 2: The Roots are Infected

Chapter 3: Repentance, Reparations, Reconciliation

Chapter 4: Dylan Roof and I are Lutheran

Chapter 5: Decolonizing the Liturgy and the Power of Symbols

Part 2: Grace is an Ever Widening Circle

Chapter 6: The Church is Queer

Chapter 7: Toxic Masculinity is Killing Us

Chapter 8: Resisting Nationalism is the Way of Jesus,

Part 3: The Church can Lead the Way

Chapter 9: Dear Church, I Love You

Chapter 10: Stretching God's Tent is Front Line Freedom Fighting

Chapter 11: It's Time for a Revolution

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