“Dear Church” Book Study Group Follow Up

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Olympia, WA

July 29, August 5, 12, 2020

Thanks so much for being part of the conversation based on the book, Dear Church – A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S.  The book study group met over Zoom for three sessions.  Sixty-six people attended one or more of the three sessions. 

Information below is from Pastor Molly’s slides, definitions and talking points from Leia Johnson, and resources Leia has curated for those wishing further study.

We’d love to hear from you!  What questions and thoughts do you have?  

Email, call, or click the link below to share what’s on your mind.

Many people in Session Three expressed an interest in exploring the topics covered in the book further and what that might mean for Gloria Dei.  If you are a person interested in being part of a Task Force to explore our options, please let us know.

Two of our Faith Practices were specifically mentioned as we look for ways to share what we have been learning:  Encourage and Invite.  Who might you share Dear Church with?  Who can you encourage to grow along with you?

Click here to send us your thoughts, feedback, and/or questions.

Thanks again for being part of the conversation, and we look forward to the future in ministry together.

God’s Peace,

Pastor Doug, Pastor Molly, Deacon Beth, Leia Johnson

Installation Service for Pastor Lenny Duncan at Messiah Lutheran in Vancouver, WA:  August 9, 2020


Chapters 1-5   Part 1: “Dismantling White Supremacy and the Power of the Gospel.” 

Chapters 6-8    Part II: “Grace is an Ever-Widening Circle”

Chapters 9-11  Part III: ”The Church Can Lead the New Way”

Focus Prayer:

God of Grace; God of Wisdom:

We come to this sacred space from various places: of body, mind and spirit.

We ask for you now to center us. Center our hearts and minds in You.

Where we are inspired, give us patience and persistence.

Where we are challenged, stirred, or angered, give us pause. 

Where we are saddened, give us hope.

Where we are divided, connect us through Your love.

Remind us to breathe…breathe in Your Holy Spirit of Life.

We thank You for Your promise to be present among us always, as God’s growing family.  Amen.

Words to Guide Our Study:


Be curious.  It’s a natural tendency, when our values or thoughts are tested, for us to gravitate to judgment of another.  God, as ultimate judge, does so with grace and love.  As we listen and react, we encourage moving from a place of judgment to one of curiosity.  Ask the question why?


Extend the compassion of Christ.  Our world is hurting.  Every single one of us comes with hurts.  Be mindful, and practice self-compassion and compassion toward others.


As we are challenged by new thoughts and ideas, keep in mind God’s ever-creative nature, and our Lutheran church’s foundation of constant re-forming.

In Our Time Together:

We are encouraged to:

• Learn something new

• Share a part of your story or something you learned

• Think about:  In what ways might Pastor Lenny’s story connect with you or with Gloria Dei as a place — a community of faith?


Pastor Lenny was letting himself be vulnerable writing his story.  We pray that we allow ourselves to also be vulnerable in our reading and sharing and learning and growing.

“Out beyond ides of wrongdoing and righting there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”   — Rumi

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”    -– Brené Brown

Quote from Ruchika Tulshyan:

“The problem isn’t men, it’s patriarchy.

The problem isn’t white people, it’s white supremacy.

The problem isn’t straight people, it’s homophobia.

Recognize systems of oppression before letting individual defensiveness paralyze you from dismantling them.”

Source:  Ruchika Tulshyan  Twitter:  @RTULSHYAN

ELCA Social Statements

Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust 2009

Faith, Sexism, and Justice:  A Call to Action 2019 

All ELCA Social Statements  

ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation (non-profit organization) This is a great site for definitions of terms and explanations for LGTBQIA+, and what steps congregations can take to become an inclusive and Queer affirming congregation.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries ELM believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. 

Definitions from Part 1:

White Supremacy

Systemic Racism

Generational Effect

White Supremacy 

White supremacy…capture(s) the all-encompassing centrality and assumed superiority of people defined and perceived as white, and the practices based upon that assumption. (Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

Being complicit only requires a muted response in the face of injustice or uncritical support of the status quo. (Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise

Source: The Conscious Kid 

Systemic Racism 

The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic. (Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility


Ignorant Progressive 

Bigoted Educated

Prejudiced Open-minded

Mean-Spirited Well-intentioned

Old Young 

Southern Northern 

Systemic racism is a machine that runs whether we pull the levers or not, and by just letting it be, we are responsible for what it produces. (Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk about Race

•Wealth Gap
•Employment Opportunities •Housing Discrimination •Incarceration 

History demonstrates that racism never goes away; it just adapts. (Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise


Adapted from “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice” by Wing, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, and Esquillin 007). 

Generational Effects 

To accept one’s past—one’s history—is not the same thing as drowning in it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.
(James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time) 

A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless. (James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

If we own our history and invite the Holy Spirit into our future, then the freedom that was dragged into this world by Jesus’s act on the cross will be what we are best known for. (Lenny Duncan, Dear Church

Small Group Discussion Questions for Part 1:

From Chapter 1:  

1. How do you feel when you hear the ELCA is the whitest denomination in the country?  Does that make you uncomfortable?  Why or why not?

What do you think about this idea of white supremacy being both personal and also communal?

From Chapter 2:

5. “Diversity is not assimilation in the same way grace is not the law.” How have you seen assimilation play out when people of color come to a Lutheran church?

From Chapter 3:

4.  What would reparations look like at Gloria Dei? 

From Chapter 4:

3.  What are ways in which we can “wage peace”?

From Chapter 5:

2. What are the sacred idols in the liturgy here at Gloria Dei that you would never want to change no matter how racist?  

Additional Resources for Part 1: 

Books from the presentation:

The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

So You Want to Talk about Race by Ojeoma Uluo

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Additional books:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race (edited) by Jesmyn Ward

How to Be An Anti-racist by Ibram X. Kendi

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (also a film)

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds (youth version of Stamped)

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

TV & Film

13th: documentary by Ava DuVernay about the American prison system

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross: a six-part docuseries written by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Just Mercy: feature film based on Bryan Stevenson’s book

When They See Us: fictionalized account of the incarceration and exoneration of the “Central Park Five”


The 1619 Project: Pulitzer-prize winning audio by Nikole Hannah-Jones

Code Switch: hosted by Gene Demby of NPR

Historically Black: created in conjunction with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

Humanity Archive: storytelling through biography by Jermaine Fowler

Still Processing: hosted by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris of the NYT

Definitions for Part II:





Internalized Oppression

Toxic Masculinity



Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly ‘feminine’ traits – which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual – are the means by which your status as ‘man’ can be taken away.” 

(Harris O’Malley, The Good Men Project

Suppression of Emotion 

Encouragement of Violence 

Discouragement of Seeking Help 

Perpetuation of Rape Culture 

Homophobia Misogyny
(Suzannah Weiss for Bustle

“While gender identity is a deeply held feeling of being male, female or another gender, people of different genders often act differently, not because of biological characteristics but because of rigid societal norms created around femininity and masculinity.” 

(Colleen Clemens for Teaching Tolerance)

Boys will be boys. 

He does that because he likes you. 

That’s just “locker room talk.” 

Xenophobia: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign (Greek for “stranger/ guest fearing;” first use in 1877 with rise of the nation-state) 

Nationalism: loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations 

Small Group Discussion Questions for Part II:

Chapter 6:  

1. What are your thoughts on Pastor Lenny’s opening line, “Dear Church, you are queer.”?

2.  How have you talked about the ELCA’s decision for inclusion of LGBTQIA clergy?  Has your thinking about that decision changed over time?

Chapter 7:

2. What false ideas about manhood have you had to personally shed or confront?  How do sex, consent, and relationships intersect with ideas about manhood?

5.  How can this church center women/femmes, particularly women/femmes of color, and how can the men of this congregation participate in decentering themselves?

Chapter 8:

5.  How have we tamed Jesus to fit the American paradigm?

On p.105 Pastor Lenny wonders if we are experiencing a great awakening?  If so, how do we stay awake?  What does this moment mean for us as Lutheran Christians?

What other things would you like to discuss or have questions about?

Additional Resources for Part II:


A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski

A Queer History of the United States for Young People by Richie Chevat

What We Will Become: A Mother, a Son, and a Journey of Transformation by Mimi Lemay

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Maurice by E. M. Forster

Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginedes – This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. It is about a character who is genetically male, but because of an enzyme deficiency looked more like a female at birth and was raised that way. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

How Beautiful the Ordinary: 12 Stories of Identity edited by Michael Cart

She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan

The Last Time I Wore a Dress by Daphne Scholinski

The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russell

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl by John Calopinto

The Gender Knot by Allan G. Johnson

Man Up by Jack Urwin 


Still Processing: hosted by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris of the NYT

LGBTQ&A: hosted by Jeffrey Masters of The Advocate

Making Gay History: hosted by Eric Marcus 

Nancy: hosted by Toby Low and Kathy Tu

Americans Want To Go Back To Normal, But ‘Normal’ Is What Got Us Here:  NPR interview with Ibram Kendi and Ed Yong

Online Resources

them. (Check out their website and YouTube Channel!)

ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation (non-profit organization) This is a great site for definitions of terms and explanations for LGTBQIA+, and what steps congregations can take to become an inclusive and Queer affirming congregation.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries ELM believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. 

Jackson Katz’s Ted Talk titled “Violence Against Women–It’s a Men’s Issue”

TV and Movies

All in My Family (documentary on Netflix)

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (documentary on Netflix)

Queer Eye (reality show on Netflix, especially Episode 1 from Season 5 “Preaching Out Loud” featuring ELCA pastor, Noah Hepler, and Episode 1 from Season 2, “God Bless Gay”)

Here’s an interview with Pastor Noah about the Queer Eye Episode from Season 5.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton speaks about the gift of LGTBQIA+ people.  

Pose (dramatic series on FX)

Small Group Discussion Questions for Part III:

Some groups continued the discussion of Nationalism from Part II.  

Chapter 9:  

What do you love about the church?  About Gloria Dei?

What brings you hope?

Chapter 10:

3.  What could be Gloria Dei’s prophetic ministry?

4.  In what ways does Gloria Dei still need to stretch God’s tent to make more room for people in our community of faith?  Where are we at with this work?

Chapter 11:

6.  Is this the greatest time in five hundred years to be a Christian, as Pastor Lenny claims?

How do you feel you are being refined?

What other things would you like to discuss or have questions about?

Additional Resources for Part III:

Anti-racism Resources:

“The Racial Politics of Time”: Ted Talk from Brittney Cooper about race and feminism (12 minutes)

“Your Woke-ness is Not Worship”: episode from The Evolving Faith Podcast by Sandra Maria Van Opstal, pastor of Grace and Peace Community in Chicago. (48 minutes)

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

LGBTQIA+ Allyship Resources:

Transgender History by Susan Stryker (nonfiction)

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (described as a memoir-manifesto)

Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? by Dan Bucatinsky (memoir about fatherhood)

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines (reconciling queerness with Christianity)

The Tradition by Jericho Brown (black queer poetry)

We’re Here: Emmy-nominated six-part unscripted series on HBO about drag culture

“The Urgency of Intersectionality”: Ted Talk from Kimberlé Crenshaw who coined the term “intersectionality,” which encompasses both issues around gender/sexuality AND anti-racism/classicism (18 minutes)