EALA Board

EALA Board Members were asked to respond to two questions:  "Describe when you first become aware of your white privilege" and "What was the attraction for you to join this organization?" Get to know them through their responses.

Fred

Rev. Fred Thomas Breitfeld
Milwaukee, WI
President

   A desire to work for racial justice was always an outgrowrth  of my faith, and had both personal and professional dimensions. But it was not until I experienced antiracism training that I became more aware of my white privilege and how my use of it(sometimes knowingly, sometimes not)  just continued to feed a system that brought harmto myself and my brothers and sisters of all racial backgrounds. I knew I had to work tochange the system, for the good of all of us.
    My attraction to the European American Lutheran Association grew out of this learning.I saw the organization as a group that wanted to work with others in the church to createa more just, antiracist, crosscultural church, that honored all of God's children.

Andrew

Rev. Andrew Tengwall
Vice President
Membership Advancement

   In high school I was aware that I was privileged, but did not yet know that word. In college I learned how to articulate my experience of various kinds of privilege, but it was not until I served with Lutheran Volunteer Corps after graduation that I began to respond to the place of white privilege in my life. Since then I have continued to learn the depth and pervasiveness of my own white privilege, and have been intentional about naming my privilege and have become more comfortable in explaining white privilege to others.
    I heard about the formation of EALA when I was back working as a recruiter for Lutheran Volunteer Corps while awaiting a call to pastoral ministry. The weekend of EALA’s founding I was leading an introduction to racism and anti-racism for a group of Lutheran college students, and I felt a connection between the work I was doing and this new possibility for the ELCA. When Lutheran Church of the Savior in Kalamazoo called me to serve as pastor, I found that one of my parishioners was a founding board member of EALA. In Kalamazoo I began to participate in the highly-developed local anti-racism scene. When my parishioner asked me to replace him on the EALA board, I accepted. All of which is to say that I believe God had been leading me to participate in the work of EALA, building an anti-racist, cross-cultural church.

Dirkin

Ms. Beverly Dirkin
Secretary
Kalamzoo, MI

   At the first 2.5 day Training by Crossroads that I attended, I learned about white privilege and became aware of how much I benefited as a white person in this country from it.  I joined the Anti-racism Team for my Synod in 2000 and took the 2.5 day, 4 day and Team Training as a part of the Anti-racism Team.
    In Kalamazoo, on behalf of the N/W Lower Michigan Synod, I was a founding member of ERAC/CE (Eliminating Racism and Claiming/Celebrating Equality).  I served the ERAC/CE Board for eight years as Board Member and Secretary.  Using $180,000 obtained from a local church closing due to a changing neighborhood, the Synod founded ERAC/CE and dedicated resources to this work.  We were soon joined by several other denominations and churches in this work. In the last ten years over 1000 community leaders have been through a 2.5 day Crossroads training and you can see the impact of this training in the changes in community leadership and practices.  Because of the reality of this impact and the growing awareness in the church-wide organization of our need to grow in our diversity, and my work on the Anti-racism Team of the Synod, I engaged in the conversations regarding the need for a focal point for anti-racism work in the ELCA and a “white” person ethnic association to carry out this work in this Church.  As this EALA became a reality, I became a charter member.

Wayne

Rev. Wayne Shelksohn
Peoria, IL
Treasurer

 

kathylong

Ms. Katherine Long
Seattle, WA
Collective Presence

   In first grade I was aware of my white privilege but took my first anti-racism training in the fall of 1996 and have since taken at least 6 other trainings and am a trained anti-racism facilitator.
   I’m a lifelong Lutheran and have seen how very unlevel the playing field is for all folks of color in the country and in this church.  I was a part of the coordinating group to create this association.

 

Krey

Rev. Peter Krey
Albany, CA

   When I attended Hamma Seminary in Springfield, Ohio I attend a course in a Black college in Dayton. That semester opened my eyes. After that life became a struggle. I worked in the Basin Area in Cincinnati with Les Schulz and Lilian Smoot, who integrated First Lutheran Church on Race Street in the late sixties. I pastored St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coney Island for about 16 years. When I would rent a public school for our Vacation Church School, the custodians would love me and welcome me and sign the eight week contract. When the school arrived with Black and Puerto Rican teachers and children they could have killed me.
   But honestly, I know that I can escape into Whiteness and avoid a great deal of suffering, but on the other hand, and only partly, I have also experienced disadvantage,  because I have been associated with a long time with the Black church.
   After my seminary training I ministered in Berlin, Germany for four years. Following Dietrich Bonhoeffer made it possible for me to affirm my being German again after Hitler, German Anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust. Coming back, I dedicated myself to minister against prejudice, bigotry, and racism that the EALA helps me continue.

Crimi

Ms. Cathy Crimi
Franklin, TN

   I first truly became aware of my white privilege when I was attended the anti-racism facilitator training.  Growing up as a child of an immigrant, and struggling through young adult years (and still) for women’s rights, it was easy to believe many of the distortions our society would have us believe.
   I was invited by churchwide to participate in the formation of this association.  I am interested in remaining a part of the organization because it provides an opportunity to work together with others across the country, and be a part of change in our society.  I am so blessed by the friendships I’ve made across cultures, what I’ve learned, and how my life has changed for the better.  I wish everyone in our society and church could be so richly blessed.  It is hard work to look at the truths of our society, but our church and society will be better places as we work to break down the barriers that divide us, so that we are able to truly love, care about and include all people.

Mark

Rev. Mark Cerniglia
Greenville, SC

   I took anti-prejudice training with an ecumenical group in Montgomery, AL in 1999, before I became pastor of Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Greenville SC.
   I joined EALA when it started up in order to be an equal partner at the table with the five other ethnic associations in the ELCA.

Sandy

Rev. Sandy Jones
Aurora, IL

   I grew up in Southern California and learned early that even though I was in the minority in my school, as far as numbers, I definitely had privilege that many of my classmates lacked.
   I have long been very disappointed at how this church does not work well in ethnic ministry.  I was living in a small town in North Carolina where the demographic of the population as about 65% African American, 35% Anglo, and 5% a mix of Latino and Asian.  Our Lutheran Church in the midst of this boasted of only 3 African Americans in our congregation and no one from any other ethnic background.  I knew then that I wanted to be a voice for change in our church.  The EALA appeared on the scene at about the time I graduated from seminary and was searching for my voice to speak out for change and for that I am very thankful.

RosemarieDoucette

Rev. Rosemarie Doucette
Philadelphia, PA

  I believe I first became of my white privilege was in grade school. My grandfather had a company in Chicago and sometimes my dad would take us there to visit. I noticed there were only white men in suits in the front office, calling each other by first names, speaking in muted tones. There were only African American men in the dock and warehouse area, wearing laborers’ clothing, addressing the whites by titles and last names. I noticed when the white people came to the dock area the whites they would change their tone and speech pattern.  They spoke loudly, speaking to the African Americans as if they were children, or less important. I always felt awkward there, knowing I was a child, but was spoken to and about with more respect than was accorded these men.
   I taught at a historically black university for seventeen years before being called to ordained ministry.  Through close relationships and honest conversations with African Americans in both my university and residential communities I became aware of myriad ways in which my white privilege blinded me to injustice, racial tensions, and alienation. I joined the EALA to be a part of the effort of the church to open hearts and doors to educate, embrace difference, and to promote healing and unity.

Harlan.jpg

Mr. Harlan Johnson
Rockville, IL

   I became aware of my “white privilege” in 1963 when I was going to Augustana College and spent the summer in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, and prior to that in that year when working with the American Friend’s Service Committee, working to promote freedom of residence. Housing discrimination prevented African Americans from being able to buy homes without having to pay a premium and buying in neighborhoods that were segregated or being turned by Block Busting, a practice in real estate in which white property owners sold their houses at depressed rates and Blacks then bought the houses at inflated rates.
   The following summer I recognized the mortal danger to Blacks in Mississippi – and to white people working with them for racial justice.  I spent the summer o 1964 writing feature stories for newspapers on the Mississippi Summer Project – voter registration, freedom schools, etc,  It was an incredible experience that I was able to share with my readers.
   Since the early 90’s, I’ve been serving on the Anti Racism Team of my synod – and over the years I became disillusioned with the marginalization of the work of synod Anti Racism Teams to overcome racism witnin the ELCA with these teams of a few people working to facilitate change.  The EALA has the potential to become a mass movement of White Lutherans – thousands of people who may become involved to work for racial justice and multiculturalism that respects everyone.

Bauman

Rev. Paul Bauman
Milwaukee, WI
Enhanced Communications

   During our training by Crossroads Organizing and Training as part of our Greater Milwaukee Synod Anti-racism Team in 2000,  I had never understood that my skin color brought with it a privilege which was not true for the people of color on our team.  I began to understand that being an European descent person brought with it certain advantages rooted in privilege.
   Because of my work with our synod antiracism team, I became frequently aware that those who shared European descent origins with me, were neither aware of their white privilege or the presence of the systemic racism in which we are all awash.  When I learned that this association was being created, to help us as members of this church to understand and claim both as a step in becoming a church which will be more cross cultural, I decided to join it.  

Meyer

Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer
Tampa, FL
Public Witness

   From pretty early on, I became aware of bias, social prejudice, and the privileges some get that others never receive. Growing up in northern Nebraska made it hard to see the racist roots of prejudice and privilege, but I certainly remember confronting my Dad over his "Archie Bunker" comments. The concept of white privilege really did not begin to sink until I committed to anti-racist work. Privilege is like water to fish, those who swim in it don't really recognize it as privilege. You have to mentally and emotionally "get out of the water" in order to see privilege itself.
   I'm quite grateful to Mark Cernglia for contacting me when EALA was launched and pressing me to join the board. At first I resisted. Who needs another assignment? Yet this work is the most basic labor any of us can do to welcome the way of God into American society and our community. It truly is gospel work. The more I do, the more I find my life integrated and approaching holiness/wholeness. May the Spirit be upon all!

Welcome

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Welcome to the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice website. We are Lutherans of European descent committed to living out our Gospel calling to end the hold racism and white power and privilege have on the ELCA. Please browse our pages for resources (for individuals and groups), events, and support. You can also reach here at www.crossculturalchurch.org.

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The EDLARJ is one of the ELCA's six ethnic associations. Our sister associations focus on strengthening their ministries and communities. In the EDLARJ , as inheritors of privilege, we focus on giving a visible and nameable witness to an anti-racist, cross-cultural church. The EDLARJ's ethnic associations accompany each other on the journey to Jesus' vision of a church of all peoples.

Please feel free to contact me anytime for questions or concerns.

Pr Russell Meyer
President
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Faith Journey

My Faith Journey by Kathy Long

kathylongThe Holy Spirit started very early in me by sending me new black neighbors when I was about 10. Our neighborhood in a small industrial city in southeast Texas was redlined. Our mother insisted we play and take the little neighbor boys trick-or-treating while we lived next door.

When I was a junior in high school, we moved again to just outside Austin, TX where I went to school with Latinos and more African Descent students. One of my best friends was a Latina. I also started taking Spanish lessons and I seemed to have an “ear” for the language.

I met my husband at a tiny Lutheran church in Corpus Christi, TX and we were on the call committee to find a Latino pastor for the new Hispanic Lutheran Church. We met Hector & Mirta Vasquez, two of the most amazing Christians I’ve ever met.

Jim & I moved back to Houston in 1997 and taught English and Citizenship classes for a year and a half to help Latinos move faster through the “system” in response to the 1988 Amnesty Act. It was a fabulous growing experience for the two of us.

We then moved to El Paso, TX where we adopted our son, Daniel. Daniel is Mexican-American boy with cerebral palsy. I also joined Cristo Rey Iglesia Luterana and was one of the guitar accompanists for the misas. I took the Crossroads A-R training in November of 1996.

In 2001, we moved to Redmond, WA and I guess the Holy Spirit decided I had had enough time off, because I met Sharon Lone Browder and she told me that the NW Washington Synod was starting up the A-R Committee again. I’ve been on that committee since then, became a LHRA/ELCA A-R Facilitator. I’ve also taken the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites 18 hour training in 2003. I’ve facilitated the Troubling the Water’s curriculum with University Lutheran Church in Seattle.

I currently serve as the office manager of the Lutheran Public Policy Office of WA, an advocacy ministry supported by people of faith to advocate for the poor and environment in the halls of power.

In these past 15 years of being a white American woman who is aware of the white power & privilege I and other white American receive, I see the need for the work of the EALA more ardently than ever before.  Systemic racism abounds and separates us from being the world our Lord Creator envisioned

My Faith Journey by Bruce Brenn

faith clip image002My journey seeking justice began in my teen years although I was unaware of what impact I would have. I worked as a respiratory therapist and later as a registered nurse. I became a caregiver. Regardless of who individual was, I was an advocate.  In the early 1990s I began volunteering in a local “soup kitchen” and became friends with a cook who was African American. When we went out socially, he would ask how safe the place was. I didn’t understand what he was getting at.

Then at the Northwest Lower Michigan Synod assembly in 1996, I went to a breakout session on the subject of white privilege and I became committed to work on anti-racism. But I had no clue where it was going to take me.

A year later I was involved in the closure of a Lutheran church.  The synod would take on the responsibility of the sale of the church and for paying off the debt.  Congregation members were hurting and asked the synod to use whatever was left over to go back into the community. We thought about a new mission church on the other side of town but God had a different idea.

The synod leadership offered the money to the community via a ministerial alliance that was comprised of mostly black churches. The alliance told the synod they wanted to utilize the money for anti- racism work with Lutherans.  Intense meetings with the synod, local churches and community advocates took place for about a year. All of which I had the privilege to be part of. During the MLK celebration in Kalamazoo in 2000 the announcement of the formation of ERAC/CE (Eliminating Racism and Claiming / Celebrating Equality) was made.

I also deepened my understanding of racism by attending Crossroads trainings and working with the NWLM synod anti-racism team. After the formation of ERAC/CE, I became a board member for the next 7 years.

I am currently involved with organizing, doing presentations and workshops with the synod team.  In ERAC/CE we were able to identify five targeted systems/institutions in the community that we wanted get the message to. We were successful with those targets and ERAC/CE continues to work with many of the institutions yet today. I have been involved with video productions involving ERAC/CE and the synod’s anti-racism team.

At work I helped get our management team to anti racism workshops along with many of the staff. We have an active diversity team. I participated in the formation of the European American Lutheran Association (EALA) and am a board member. My anti-racism work continues through my membership with the Synod’s anti-racism team, my activity in my workplace, ecumenical and evangelical work with my church and the EALA.
Newsletter Version (365)

My journey seeking justice began in my teen years when I worked as a respiratory therapist and later as a registered nurse. I became a caregiver. Regardless of who individual was, I was an advocate.  In the early 1990s I began volunteering in a local “soup kitchen” and became friends with a cook who was African American. When we went out socially, he would ask how safe the place was. I didn’t understand what he was getting at.  Then at the Northwest Lower Michigan Synod Assembly in 1996, I went to a breakout session on the subject of white privilege and I became committed to work on anti-racism, not knowing where it was going to take me.

A year later I was involved in the closure of a Lutheran church. Congregation members asked the synod to use the money left over from the sale of the church and paying off the debt to go back into the community. The synod leadership offered the money to the community via a ministerial alliance that was comprised of mostly black churches. The alliance wanted to utilize the money for anti-racism work with Lutherans.  Intense meetings with the synod, local churches, and community advocates took place, and I was privileged to be a part of them..

During the MLK celebration in Kalamazoo in 2000 the announcement of the formation of ERAC/CE (Elimin-ating Racism and Claiming / Celebrating Equality) was made. I was a board member for the next 7 years. In ERAC/CE we were able to identify five targeted systems and institutions in the community that we wanted get the message to. We were successful and ERAC/CE continues to work with many of the institutions yet today. I have been involved with video productions involving ERAC/CE and the synod’s anti-racism team.

At work I helped get our management team to anti racism workshops along with many of the staff. We have an active diversity team. I participated in the formation of the European American Lutheran Association (EALA) and am a board member. My anti-racism work continues through my membership with the Synod’s anti-racism team, my activity in my workplace, ecumenical and evangelical work with my church and the EALA.


My Faith Journey
By Reverend Sandy Jones

sandy jonesAlthough I was born in Denver, Colorado I grew up in Southern California where the racial make-up in my high school was about 80% Hispanic, 10% African American, and 10% White.  So my formation happened in a very diverse environment.

Over the years I have visited various Latin American countries many times.  Even though I did not know the language I experienced the warmest welcome and the most wonderful people I have ever met.  In 1975, I spent one month living and traveling around Mexico where I was taken in and cared for by friends and strangers alike.

In 2000 I moved to North Carolina.  There I noticed that the African American and the Anglos had come to an unspoken apparent truce.  However, the overt racism, exhibited by both the African American community and the Anglos was directed at the increasing Latino population.  This being my first time to live in the South, it was my first experience with such overt racism.  I began to feel that God was calling me to serve this under served people.

In 2005 I served my internship in a small town outside of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina; where no one spoke English. I experienced first- hand what it feels like to be on the outside; to live in a place where I was not part of the dominant society; where there was a distrust for anyone and everything North American; and where a person is considered unintelligent simply because they cannot communicate in the dominant language.  It was there that I knew for certain that God was calling me to serve the Spanish speaking community in the US.

This community, the Latino community which is relegated to living in the margins, has built the most opening and welcoming church community I have ever experienced.  They are a wonderful gift to the church if the church can find a way to welcome them without demanding that they “become just like us.” My father used to use this tape that was indestructible; it just could not be torn.  The reason is that the tape has fibers running through it in both directions; running both up and down and from side to side rather than all in one direction.

God has called me to serve this under served community and it is in this place where I experience God’s love.

EALA

The European American Lutheran Association is one of six ethnic associations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I know, it seems strange, for white folks to think of themselves as ethnic.

 Perhaps you remember the days of German, Swedish and Norwegian associations - now that's ethnic. Finish, Slovak, Lithuanian. And of course, Polish, Italian, Irish. But white isn't ethnic, is it?

Read more: EALA

Site Map

By putting all of your content into nested categories you can give users and search engines access to everything using a menu.

Being Liked to Change the Narrative

Our commitment to racial justice and witness to an anti-racist, cross-cultural church is coming out of the box. Our name change shows that. On Facebook, we gained 20 withschmitt2new likes with the announcement of the new name and saw an increase of activity – at one point reaching over 600 people. I’d like to see us hit a goal of 500 likes by the year end. We’re at 351 today.

Why push Facebook likes? Because media influences the national narrative. As Robert Redford said in an interview about his new movie “Truth”, “It’s about the story.”

The truth that the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice is telling is a classic coming of age story. For far too long European descent Lutherans have naively enjoyed their cultural privilege, missing how the Gospel powerfully frees our imaginations and fears to embrace the experiences of those who lack the privileges we enjoy. In my experience, once one discovers this gospel freedom, there’s no going back to naiveté. The baptismal call of rising to newness of life reinvigorates our passion and clarifies the faith to which we witness. The Spirit brings us into new community, into ongoing relationships with people who have seen our privilege long before we recognized it for ourselves.

In social media, we can share our stories of discovery widely. They all add up over time to help shape a new emergent narrative of being church: they who lift up those who have been bowed down and welcome that which was once feared.

According to Facebook, our likes come from major cities and rural areas around the U. S. and among numerous countries (our global mission!). I ask each one of us to actively recruit at least one new friend to like our Facebook page this month. We’d hit that 500 goal this month, and we would sow seeds that will “grow a hundredfold”.

Then next month, we can turn to Twitter!

It’s an honor to serve as president of the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice. Please name the EDLARJ in your prayers and ask that its board, partners, mission receive power from on high to fulfill its part of God’s mission in this world.

Grace and peace,
Russell

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Pastor, New Parish Tampa
Executive Director,
Florida Council of Churches