Lutheran Voices on Racism

Concordia Seminary Professor Leopoldo Sánchez engaged with two African American Lutheran pastors, Warren Lattimore and Micah Glenn, on how they have processed the events of the past few weeks since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, what are some factors that make it difficult at times for Lutherans to talk openly about racism, in what ways Lutheran theology contributes to our responses to the sin of racism, and what might be some practical ways of making a difference in these troubled times.

Warren Lattimore is pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, New Orleans, LA, and president of the LCMS Black Clergy Caucus. Micah Glenn is director of recruitment at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Both are also alumni of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

RELATED RESOURCES

Warren Lattimore’s recent statement as president of the Black Clergy Caucus, which has also been translated into Portuguese:
https://www.theunbrokencord.com/writings/black-clergy-caucus-statement-on-george-floyd
https://alandiegofurst.wordpress.com/2020/06/14/posicionamento-da-bcc-sobre-george-floyd/
UPDATE: The statement has now been translated into Spanish by Rev. Germán Novelli Oliveros, president of the LCMS National Hispanic Convention: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1h3MUycY9yUippcJhPt5C6sQFkH9BqSga/view

Micah Glenn’s presentation to the 2019 LCMS Youth Gathering:
https://concordiatheology.org/2020/06/do-we-really-need-to-talk-about-racism/

Leopoldo Sánchez’s blog essay, available in English and Spanish:
https://concordiatheology.org/2017/08/racism-dealing-with-it/
https://concordiatheology.org/2020/06/racismo-como-enfrentarlo-a-la-luz-de-cristo/

The conversation discusses the 1966 documentary film A Time for Burning:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujw_KJzTF8k

About the film, Concordia Seminary Provost Douglas Rutt writes:

What first piqued my interest in the documentary, A Time for Burning, was that it featured a young Lutheran pastor, L. William Youngdahl, of Augustana Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE. If you grew up in Minnesota in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the Youngdahl name was well-known. Pastor Youngdahl’s father, Luther Youngdahl, had been governor of Minnesota from 1947 to 1951. Moreover, Pastor Youngdahl’s uncle, the Reverend Ruben K. Youngdahl, was pastor of the well-known Mount Olivet Lutheran and hosted a nightly devotional program, Live Today. I grew up watching those short television devotionals, broadcast at the end of the day, and somehow the name is engraved in my head.

A Time for Burning documents the efforts of Pastor L. William Youngdahl to establish a relationship with an African American Lutheran church in North Omaha, Hope Lutheran Church. Hope is an LCMS congregation now pastored by a former student of mine. Augustana, on the other hand, was previously LCA and is now a member of the ELCA.

This documentary was nominated for an Academy Award and has been selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry by the Library of Congress. What it tells me is that things have not changed much in the intervening years, unfortunately. I recently participated in a webinar sponsored by the Association of Theological Schools, and the feelings expressed in this movie persist. I pray that God will grant a breakthrough to the barriers of race and ethnicity that continue to plague the human race.

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2 Comments

  1. Scott Jonas 25 days ago
    Reply

    Thank you Leo, Micah and Warren for the conversation. I just watched “A Time for Burning” and was mesmerized. I’m showing it to my congregation starting Sunday.

  2. Matthew Bouley 6 days ago
    Reply

    I think one of the reasons this isn’t talked about or speak their feelings about this is because if we have internalized an acceptance of people of all colors and if we are not making stereotypes we do not see this as a racial issue. I see this as an issue of the rampant disrespect for the police and a violent response that occurred as a result of a sinful man giving in to sin. This very type of crime has happened across the board and not just to people of color. I am not going to assume every black person wants to have a conversation on race or has experienced racism themselves. In fact I’m of the opinion that since we are all sons of Noah,race is not real. To me the fact that some people of color think they have more in common with George Floyd because of his skin color than they do with me for example makes as much sense as me believing that people with blue eyes will have more in common with me than those who don’t. Even if you take culture into the picture… you can’t assume people of a given skin color share a culture… they don’t. Now to be sure racism exists, but it’s not based on any factual or actual race differences but rather it’s a misguided construct held by hateful people. My point is, if you judge people on the content of their character and not the color of your skin… you are not going to see this as a race issue. The more race is discussed the more people point out differences and say that it’s race, even with the best of intentions , the more they add to the false belief that we are not one but separate.

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