why I support #decolonizeLutheranism (and why you should pay more attention to people other than me)
If you don't know what #decolonizeLutheranism is, the first thing to do is head over to their website and check out their beliefs section, at the very least. Even better would be to read a few of the listed articles to get a sense of how the leaders want to reach the goals they've laid out.
That's a necessary prerequisite for the conversation because part of colonization's fallout is that white, male voices are typically given more privilege than the voices of women and the voices of people of color (POC). I'm an advocate for #decolonizeLutheranism, but I'm not a leader. I'm following the lead of those whose opportunities to lead have been inhibited by the legacy of colonization. That's the first lesson in why I support #decolonizeLutheranism: We need the leadership perspectives of all sorts of people in the Body of Christ, not just white dudes. If there's neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, then we need to stop affording places of privilege primarily (if not solely) to people from typical places of power.
Of course, you might suggest that part of this is due to Lutheranism's origins in Germany. You're right! However, the cultural origins of a particular movement doesn't mean that it should remain captive to that culture. Western Lutheranism often views our denomination as one with a primarily white, European cultural location. Yet, there are as many Lutherans in Africa, Asia, and Latin America as there are in Europe and North America. Further, the faith is growing in the Global South as it shrinks in the Western world. The cultural importance of Lutheranism now far exceeds its Northern European origins. We need #deconolizeLutheranism because millions of the world's Lutherans would consider Namibia the center of Lutheran power, not Germany, nor Minnesota.
Reasons to support don't end there, though. In fact, the movement's Lutheran character is just downright, well, right! The focus begins with justification - Luther wrote just a bit about that - and the focus that, before God, we're all equally justified. The movement recognizes the story of Lutheranism began with Martin Luther but has been shared, amended, and lived out in myriad ways that reveal a rich tapestry of faith that simply can't be contained by a single cultural location.
Perhaps the most strikingly beautiful commitment is that #decolonizeLutheranism supports an evangelistic fervor, believing that the story of Jesus still needs to be told! In their words, they're working on "rapturously reclaiming the apostolic mantle from the clutches of White European dominance, [so that] we may then return to the world with the same zeal as the Apostles." Rather than see colonization's sordid use of missionary's as a reason to avoid evangelism, #decolonizeLutheranism sees a deep value in our call as witnesses to the story of Jesus Christ, not as a disembodied tale secluded to a text written thousands of years ago, but as an incarnational narrative of a life God revealed first in Jesus and now lives through each of us in our varied cultural positions. As we witness, we witness to a Jesus comes to our tables and doesn't just eat lutefisk, but also chows on pozole, matzah, chakalakah, and bibingka. We witness to a Jesus who doesn't just speak German, but the native tongues of all our peoples. We witness to a Jesus who might look nothing like us and yet came to love us just the same. The Gospel story shouldn't be ruined by cultural appropriation, but instead frees us to see how God remains active across all nations, redeeming all of creation.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the heart of #decolonizeLutheranism isn't to supplant the assumption of one dominant culture with the assumption of another dominant culture. The leaders come from varying cultural backgrounds, varying racial makeups, and varying histories in the ELCA. This isn't about making a Black Lutheranism, or a Latino Lutheranism, or a LGBTQ+ Lutheranism, because there's already many Lutherans who are African American, African, Latino, Hispanic, LGTBQ+, as well as Filipino and Indian and Native American and all sorts of other varying national, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities. The beauty I see in #decolonizeLutheranism is the desire to lift up the various ways that our shared faith is lived out in unique ways across our nation, across our world, and across our church.
That's a cause worth supporting because these people, our friends in Jesus, our siblings in Christ, are worth supporting.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.