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

4.70  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  38 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, 138 pages
Published July 2nd 2019 by Fortress Press
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4.70  · 
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 ·  117 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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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.
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
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!
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 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.
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
Carrie L.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read for those who lead and love the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Pastor Lenny Duncan preaches God’s truth, hope and love that our church desperately needs.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At times in his earlier life homeless, a drug dealer, a sex worker, a prison inmate, Lenny Duncan found a revolutionary, life-changing welcome into the Lutheran Church (ELCA). He writes to the Church, “You showed me that my past didn’t make me unworthy to receive the nearness of God in the elements. I could stand before the table of grace a whole person—deeply flawed and still incredibly valued, handmade by a loving God.”

Having experience a grace and love that saved his life, Duncan writes: “De
Jennifer Grumbling
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an epistle for a time such as this! Rev. Lenny clearly gives a deep and clear picture of his experiences in and with the church. We are in a time in our culture, our lives, and our churches where we need to shrug off our own agenda and open our hearts. This stern, but tender and absolutely loving letter reveals the opportunities we have to be church, to be community, together. Healing is an integral part of this process, and Rev. Lenny shares the ways we can begin to move in the right di ...more
Bob Koshin Hanson
Wonder, Strong, Truthful, a missal for the front lines of the Revolution

Wake Up!
Dam, I am awake now.Pastor Lenny has blowed the trumpet and we need to be ready for the march. I have been ordained over fifty years. I served African American Lutheran Congregations for most of my ministry, oh that the sick mother church could have heard Thais prophet then. But we set the foundation of revolution
Not just nice renewal. I will be reading this one again, alone, with my congregation and pastor and othe
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a witness! The time has come for the church to rise up and take their place, loving the world....all of it...the way that Jesus did. We need to stop asking who deserves to be at our table and invite all who will come. Jesus never judged another’s worthiness before He sat with them, healed them, ministered to them or loved them. So why do we feel that it is our job to judge? Lenny Duncan says, “we are entering an incredible period of rebirth and growth. When I say growth, I don’t mean seeing ...more
Yolanda Denson Byers
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In exchange for an advance copy, I have agreed to write an honest review.


In an age when we desperately need good news, these epistles from prophet, and pastor, Lenny Duncan are a challenging, and yet hopeful, message to the church he loves.

If you have ever wondered how we could “be church together” in a way that would make a difference in regard to racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and/or other discriminatory and sinful practices, you must read this book. If you want to know ho
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. Cle ...more
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rev. Lenny Duncan's Dear Church is at once a stark challenge to the leaders and congregants of the whitest denomination in America and a hope filled love letter reminding us that yes the work is unquestionably possible! As a queer identifying leader in the ELCA I resonated with many of the struggles found in this book, and was faced with the complicity found in my silence for others.

Lenny, thank you for writing such a deeply prophetic letter and providing a wake up call to a denomination that I
Lee Ann
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written book by a Black Lutheran pastor outlining many of the faults in the country's whitest denomination. But Lenny Duncan also lays out tactics large and small that parishioners, lay leaders, and pastors can take to change the church to be truly inclusive as is our* commandment from Jesus. Duncan has also written an unexpected love letter to the Lutheran church. While aimed at the Lutheran church, I suspect every denomination in the US could learn something from this book.

*I am a lifelon
Aldon Hynes
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: racialjustice, faith
Lenny Duncan talks about his experiences as a black priest in the ELCA. He probably be speaking to many mainline protestant churches. He calls us to address issues of racial justice. At one point he says, "If you are reading this book, I have bad news. You are the leader you have been waiting for."

Well, if you are reading this review right now, I have bad news. You are the reader this book is waiting for. Please read it. Now.
Linda Rosche
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I hardly know where to begin. Pastor Lenny Duncan has written a beautiful, haunting love letter to me and my church. I am in tears as I write this, yet hopeful that we as the church will rise up and do the work that Jesus Christ calls us to do. And, I cannot wait for this book discussion at my parish.
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.
Ryan Panzer
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What if, instead of a sermon, pastors just read aloud one chapter, and facilitated a discuss of this book next Sunday? How much richer would our tradition be? This book is the ultimate wake-up call - and call to action for church in the 21st century. It is simply a must read.
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.
JJ Simpson-Keelan
Dear Church... my church, listen to the words of Pastor Lenny Duncan. We need to have a conversation about being Christ's church. Pastor Lenny's perspective is honest, vulnerable, and speaks truth. A story to be shared!
Challenging in sometimes difficult ways, but a must- read for the church. Rev. Duncan is articulate and passionate about justice, and concrete about how we can get ourselves pr if the way for God's justice to ful our lives and maybe even the church.
Jennifer Baker
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great sermon
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Necessary - completely necessary - and Holy - completely Holy.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing! I loved it and it challenged me with words I as a white pastor needed to hear. This is exactly what the church needs to hear (and to be and to do) right now!
Jenna Leazott
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This should absolutely be required reading for every Christian, Lutheran or not.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must read!

This book is a must read for every Lutheran and possibly every Christian. I appreciated Duncan’s words on the Church and its vitality.
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