2018 Annual Conference/Revival Update

Why #decolonize18 is Postponed: An Explanation

When #decolonizeLutheranism started its first conversations last year with the Lutheran communities in Los Angeles about plans for our annual revival/gathering for 2018, we were very excited – not only because of the incredible variety and depth of their ministries, but mostly because Southern California isn’t a place that most people think about when they think “Lutheran.” In an effort to model horizontal leadership, the central leadership team made space for the voices on the ground in LA to plan the event. These initial conversations were exciting and invigorating, and as 2018 progressed, our third national gathering was looking to be the most dynamic yet.

We started running into some significant challenges, as we reached the final stages of our planning in August, revealing that the implementation of horizontal leadership was messier than imagined. In many ways this was an exciting discovery of new questions, ideas and visions for mission. However, what was concerning is that we began to see that there was a disconnect between the central leadership team and the on the ground planning team. While there is no hesitation in working through this discomfort, it became clear that the breadth and variety of ideas and visions were not going to be easily reconciled in time for the October gathering. The communities which had agreed to contribute to #decolonize18 are communities whose concerns and questions are often sidelined or ignored in the broader church, so it was imperative to the mission of #decolonizelutheranism that we put on the brakes and take stock. We on the central leadership team have work to do in relationship-building to make sure that everyone participating not only felt heard but was fully engaged in the process.

So, rather than throwing together something in haste, the central leadership team, in partnership with the presenters in Los Angeles, agreed that we should postpone #decolonize18. On Thursday, September 13, we quickly announced the change on social media, in order to prevent further people registering, as well as immediately refunded the registration fees over everyone who had signed up. Though that task is completed, we also know that some of you have purchased plane tickets and made hotel accommodations before the event was postponed – fees that cannot be refunded. To make amends for this, #decolonizeLutheranism will be offering reimbursements for non-refundable expenses up to $300 for anyone who was registered before the event’s postponement. If you incurred financial harm because of us, we need to make amends, and are happy to do so. Feel free to email us at decolonizeLutheranism@gmail.com and we will begin the process immediately.

While we deeply regret and apologize for any inconvenience this change in plans has caused, please know this wasn’t an easy decision to make, but we feel it was the right one. It is giving all parties involved a chance to reassess, recommit, and re-imagine what a revival celebrating the diversity of Lutheran communities in LA needs to be. Subsequently, members of the Decolonize central leadership team will be meeting with the LA-based planning teams in October to get to know one another as well as do some collective dreaming, and we will be announcing the new dates for the conference/revival by November 1, 2018.

Both teams are still very dedicated to what comes next, are excited to be collaborating, and we will be making the best use possible of this pause.

But despite the disappointment that postponing #decolonize18 may have created for all of us, having this pause has been something of a blessing for #decolonizeLutheranism as well. This whole situation has also presented us with an opportunity to confront another challenge the central leadership of #decolonizeLutheranism has faced in recent months.

It is no secret to anyone that we have undergone a significant leadership drain in the last year. Though some of these leaders left the group because of changes in their career, the trajectory of their ministries, or in order to make room for new leadership, others left out of concern for the way that the group itself was functioning – its mission, how decisions were made, and how members of the leadership treated each other. To address this we began working with a private consultant in the spring, which included a powerful face-to-face group meeting at the end of this past June.

It was during this meeting that our consultant suggested that for all of our energy and enthusiasm, all of our passion and the good work we were doing, we needed to really sit down and think about how the ways we related to each other were still ‘colonized’ – as well as how to develop an organizational structure that was healthy and sustainable. Trying to decolonize anything is hard work – but if you haven’t done the individual and collective work of decolonization before embarking on ever more expanding and challenging projects you run a serious risk of undermining all of your efforts.

What’s more, though always keen to emphasize intersectionality in our work we never really sat down and mapped out precisely what that meant to us, as individuals or as a group – and what we were going to do to make sure that the vivid chorus of overlapping, and often struggling, voices within the church would always be heard. It is this difficult but crucial organizational and heart work to which we will be committing ourselves in the coming months.

As we move forward, beloved friends and supporters, we ask for your fervent prayers. Prayers that members of the central leadership of #decolonizeLutheranism have a healing and productive time in Los Angeles this month, that the work with the LA Cohort on the ground and our separate work with the consultant continue to be fruitful, and that the Holy Spirit be just as clear as she is shocking and energizing.

We thank you for the support and love we have received from each of you, and hope to continue to grow in our mission to be an organization that is committed to serving those who are marginalized by the church.

Blessings and peace to you all in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and the resurrected one.

Amen