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Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US
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Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  174 reviews
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 t ...more
Paperback, 158 pages
Published July 2nd 2019 by Fortress Press
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Start your review of Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
In his book Dear Church, Lenny Duncan has written an epistle to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA), which he calls the whitest denomination in the United States. He is quick to say that its whiteness is not defined by its sociology, but its theology and he pushes the denomination to change how it addresses social issues such as racism, white supremacy, toxic masculinity, sexuality, nationalism, etc. Duncan has written this book to the ELCA but after reading it I, as a Baptist, can ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished-2019
I finished Dear Church by Pr. Lenny Duncan and what can I say?
As I was reading it, I had a strong desire to prove myself- I’m not like that because I do this, this, and this. That desire was coming from a place of denial. My church couldn’t be like this, is. I can’t be like this, but...I am.

Every year, at any Synod Assembly, there will be several videos and reports reporting how diverse the ELCA is or how LGBTQIA+ friendly it is or how much things are progressively moving forward. Dunca
Tracy Murphy
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Dear Church, this book is a love letter to you. I know at times it hasn’t felt that way.” -Rev. Lenny Duncan. Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S. is coming out into the world real soon, so I wanted to take a few and let you all know some thoughts I had while reading it. To begin with: if you are white and you identify as a Christian or part of the Jesus movement in any way, I recommend this to you. Duncan’s voice is a strong invitation to acc ...more
Chris Halverson
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read it, be inspired, shift your focus in ministry, be the body of Christ.
Carol Brusegar
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This passionate love letter to the church -specifically in this case to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - is also a manifesto for the church. It challenges church members and leaders to be a Jesus-following church in a crucial time in our nation's history. That Jesus, as he describes, was divisive, named and confronted radical evil, was political, a teacher, a preacher, a revolutionary, was killed by the police, and never asked for a copay! This book is a rallying cry for a church tha ...more
Jul 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eye opening, yet obvious!

- Lack of understanding of church history & how it connects with the present/future,
-excessively harping on his race.
-He’s not the only minority to have racial issues in the church.
-Now that he’s boldly complained about the ELCA. What are his solutions without alienating everyone who doesn’t agree with him?!
-I strongly advise a trip to Germany to see WHERE the church started out of rebellion.
Savannah Phelan
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
Read this book. Especially if you are part of the ELCA, please read this book.
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can’t believe I put off reading this book for a year. I don’t know that anything else I’ve read - beyond the word of Jesus - has made me feel so loved, challenged, and empowered.
Erin Thomas
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dear Church is a hard read, but most genuinely prophetic words are. Lenny Duncan weaves personal testimony with historical & systemic truths as his wake-up call to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. We Lutherans are rather proud of our inclusive stance towards all people, & yet we continue to see cultures of racism, homophobia/transphobia, ableism, & sexism in our congregations. Lenny tackles these realities head-on, calling for radical transformation past reconciliation. Clergy need to ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is going to make a lot of Lutherans uncomfortable. Good! It's time for us to get uncomfortable. It's time for us to answer the call. Duncan holds a mirror to our trauma, our failings, our sins, our beauty, our needs, and our community through this beautifully written piece. Read it! Read it in your church study groups. Read it by yourself. Give a copy to your pastor, your youth leader, and your church president. Cry through the pages (I know I did). Pray through the discomfort and the ...more
Joshua Stager
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A difficult book, and one the church needs RIGHT NOW! I disagree with Rev. Duncan perhaps 10% of the time, but that means that 90% of the uncomfortable things that he has put before me I have to deal with... God, grant me the serenity to accept the difficult truths I have been presented with, the courage to act in ways that pursue your justice, and the wisdom to know how and when to do it!
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
As an atheist, I’m definitely not the target audience for this book, but I thought it was a powerful read. Duncan’s love for his church is clear, and he makes so many compelling points about how the essence of Christianity is loving, political, and radical. I’m looking forward to discussing this book with others.
Kristi McClellan
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book hurt my feelings, made me think, and want to do better all at the same time. The author issues a call to action that all Christians need to hear. There are discussion questions for each chapter that would spur great self-reflection or group discussion.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book for church leaders - lay and clergy - (especially ELCA) to read. This should be the start of your work on anti racism not the end of it.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This book takes an epistolary approach to conveying some of the thoughts, feelings and experiences of a recently-ordained Black man, Pastor Lenny Duncan, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The book is a plea and challenge for the denomination to eliminate white supremacy and its related structures of capitalism, toxic masculinity, and nationalism. In terms of genre, the book is a combination of memoir, sermon, and analysis of the ELCA, a denomination that I am convinced Pastor ...more
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Wanting to Learn More about Promoting Diversity in the Church
Recommended to Julianna by: Foothills Book Club
Reviewed for THC Reviews
Dear Church was chosen as our latest book club read. It’s part love letter to the church and part clarion call for change within the church on issues surrounding diversity. When I saw that Nadia Bolz-Weber had blurbed the book and that her quote on the front cover was, “I dare you to read this book,” I was immediately intrigued. Having just recently read one of Rev. Bolz-Weber’s books, I knew that if she was endorsing Dear Church, it most likely had to be good and I wasn’
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In light of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis, our congregation offered a Zoom discussion of this book. A book written a year ago, before the Floyd uprising, yet written as if it was inevitable that this moment in time would come. Duncan is not your typical Lutheran (or any denominational) pastor. He is a black man in the whitest denomination in America. He is Queer. And he loves the Church as he loves his Lord. And he has written this book as a letter to the larger Church, challenging it t ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pastor Duncan challenges us in the ELCA to follow Christ. Christ who is a radical, political interrupter. As his disciples we are to champion tirelessly for love of all God's children. Who better than the whitest denomination in the US to do the "white people" work of systematically dismantling racism and seek forgiveness and grant reparations for the harm of colonization. Racism is a sin. To fail to take action makes us complicit. Lenny proposes a radical path forward following teaching of Jesu ...more
Rory Powell
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
STOP and READ THIS BOOK NOW. An insightful and challenging perspective for this white Lutheran reader from a black Lutheran pastor. This book, as well as the opportunity to hear Lenny Duncan speak in person, has helped me begin to open my eyes to the truth of white privilege and how I can create change. There are so many great quotes. One of the most memorable for me “the world needs fewer church people and more Jesus people” - one of the most impactful “Jesus is Trayvon Martin, armed only with ...more
Maren Corliss
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a love letter, but it's that "hard truth" kind of love letter. This is a book that is a must read for anyone who is a part of the ELCA that holds a vision for what the future of the church should and can look like. This book was easy to read because there was so much that I liked about the content and connections that Pastor Lenny Duncan made. However, that didn't mean that this book wasn't hard to read. In the sense that, there is so much that I thought the church was doing good on, but ...more
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Passionate and uncompromising in its indictment of the church's passivity and its vision for what needs to change.

“Jesus is Trayvon Martin, armed only with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea against an entire world that would rather hang him from a tree than love him. Until we see this, we are lost.”

“The church is political. Feeding the homeless is radical. Marriage is radical when it’s offered to everyone and blessed by clergy. God’s justice is radical. Centering the oppressed is radical. Our t
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a powerful book! And I'd say a must read for everyone in the church; and not only in the US.
Bob Green
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A short, passionate book calling for an end to white supremacy, homophobia and transphobia in the Church. But also a call to arms for all of society. Lots to think about and revisit again and again.
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ps2019
Wow in my soul
Wow we have work to do
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You can scarcely walk into an ELCA church in my community without it being brought up (in fairness, sometimes I'm the one bringing it up). It's a challenging book, but in a way that's vital and necessarily for the denomination and for the church as a whole.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An absolute MUST read for everyone in the ELCA, and an important book for all Christians. Duncan balances encouragement and condemnation better than anyone I've ever read. His love for the church is palpable, and rather than adopt a "burn it all down" mentality he shows us a dozen new ways to build and move forward.
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
I am a Christian. I was raised in the Lutheran Church, as a member of a loving, caring community from long before I can even remember. Church members were our family, and still are to this day. My sister and I went to church for my mom’s prayer groups, we were in plays (once, I was a very wise King Solomon), we danced, we sang, we made strong attempts at learning to play instruments. We went to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, sleep-away church camp. We sold empanadas from the church’s kitc ...more
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read, but one that challenges conventional, comfortable American Christianity. This is definitely a book worthy of discussion, and the questions at the end make it easy to use this book in a study group. Duncan's sincere love for the church and his articulation of the gospel can make the rest of his message more palatable for "status quo" Christians. We must acknowledge, though, that many of those status quo Christians are the very ones who passed the faith on to those who are now called ...more
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Every White Christian should be reading this, regardless of denomination/tradition.

If I could rate it 10 stars, I would.
Morgan Tranmer
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A challenging book that makes clear where we as the church have fallen short. It confronts the church's tendency to act more like country clubs and less like the ministry Jesus calls us to. It confronts the statistics that the ELCA is the whitest denomination in the US and why that is. It confronts the fact that the church still does not radically welcome LGBTQIA+ folks. But, it also brings to light the true meaning of Christ's ministry in this world - to welcome the stranger, to love the sinner ...more
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Lenny Duncan (he/him) is a follower of Jesus Christ and is in a passionate love affair with grace. Lenny spent most of his teens homeless after leaving home at age 13. He has spent time in all 48 contiguous states, sleeping by the side of the highway or in penthouses along the way. He has been a prisoner of war in the so-called war on drugs. After systemic oppression or drugs didn't kill him, Lenn ...more

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53 likes · 21 comments
“Dear Church, it’s time to stop prioritizing tradition and civility over the lives of the marginalized. Our well-meaning desires to be tolerant and welcoming have left us ill equipped to face radical evil.” 1 likes
“Dear Church, I’ll say it again: systemic racism, white supremacy, and the whiteness of the ELCA constitute a theological problem, not a sociological one. And theological problems are often rooted in the symbolism of our liturgy and ritual. After all, we access God primarily through symbols and ritual.” 1 likes
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