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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

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  1,207 ratings  ·  225 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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Average rating 4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,207 ratings  ·  225 reviews

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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.
Morgan Rukstales
All Christians should read this book. As a white person who grew up in a predominantly white church, I had never thought about the issues that Lenny Duncan presents. There is so much about the Lutheran church that is whitewashed, and if the church is going to be a place for all, which it should be, so much needs to change. If we want to be a church that loves and supports all of God’s children, there’s a lot that needs to change! We shouldn’t wait for it to change - as the body of Christ, it is ...more
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
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.
Patrick Funston
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: race, theology
This book was incredible. Powerful, revealing, needed words. I was surprised by how easy it was to read such difficult content, I think it’s a function of the deep love that Pastor Duncan has for his people and the Church: he wants to tell it like it is, but wants to bring us along... not just for his own sake, but for ours as well.

I cannot recommend this highly enough to leaders of the White Church.
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.
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.
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a good book. I’m very glad I read it. I’m especially glad that I read it with my best friend, Claire, who is on her way to ordination in the ELCA. It’s helpful to know that Rev. Lenny Duncan is writing sort of for everyone but particularly for leaders and pastors in the Lutheran Church. He especially shines when he articulates his vision for the future of the Church and when he lays out his (often very concrete) plans for what can be done *this very day.*

I did wish sometimes that it read
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a difficult but very important critique of the ELCA, though I suspect it would be helpful for many denominations. There is a lot here that challenged me and I am so glad I read it.
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
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
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!
Dec 15, 2020 rated it liked it
There were things about this book that I loved (sound Lutheran theology) and things that I struggled with ( a pessimistic view of race relations). I would still advise reading it only to have your own beliefs challenged and wrestle with the conundrum of race that still vexes America.
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow in my soul
Wow we have work to do
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.
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
Feb 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-justice
Fantastic, fiery, defiant. Lenny Duncan grabs the Evangelical Lutheran Church by the shoulders and tries to shake some sense into everyone. Be the Revolution!, he declares to all Christians, but particularly to the ECLA, which he claims is the whitest denomination in America. He isn’t speaking to virulently racist communities, but to well-intentioned people who do nothing about the many systemic hatreds in our general US culture. The book tumbles along with a fevered intensity, just like the Com ...more
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. ...more
May 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is not for the faint of heart, but it is something we need to hear. I finished this book and then immediately started to re-read it. There is so much to take in. Rev. Duncan pulls no punches and he tells it like it is. It is raw. It is hard to read at times. It is necessary. What I really appreciate is that Rev. Duncan is a minister fighting for his denomination and to help it change from the inside. He didn't leave and write this book to tell the church all they've done wrong to him a ...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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Secrets between siblings, grandparents with grievances, parents with problems. If you're looking for serious drama, check out these new...
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“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, hand-made by a loving God” 2 likes
“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
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