We cannot say that Luther, Calvin, Wesley and other prominent representatives of the Church’s tradition were limited by their time, as if their ethical judgments on oppression did not affect the essential truth of their theologies. They were wrong ethically because they were wrong theologically. They were wrong theologically because they failed to listen to the Bible—with sufficient openness and through the eyes of the victims of political oppression.” James Cone, God of the Oppressed
As Lutherans, our greatest gift to the world is our theology – the recognition of human beings as simultaneously sinner and saint, the theology of the cross, and our holy insistence upon the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But most importantly, Luther’s ultimate contribution to the Christian world is his insistence on justification. If Article IV of the Augsburg Confession is the article by which the church stands or falls, if all and any are “freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith,” then this means that Christ has justified everyone and everything before God. And hence, if this is so, then no one is to be excluded – indeed, cannot be excluded – from the love and power of God: human beings, nature, earth and all stars, indeed all of the created cosmos. Attempts to do so are not only impossible, but are even a most foolish attempt to thwart the holy will of God. Therefore, Justification lays at the center of all that #decolonizeLutheranism stands for, and all that we hope to accomplish.
The time has come for marginalized communities to lead our church into the 21st century – people of color, the disabled, all genders (women, trans, and gender nonconforming), sexualities, ages, incarceration or immigration or citizenship status, and others. Since early Christians were never bound to respectability and social perceptions of right behavior, and often boldly contradicted these standards by lifting up the lowly and the down-trodden, #decolonizeLutheranism believes that we must all do likewise. Because of this, every member of the church is to be aware of and respect all of the voices in the room, not just the most evident or numerous, for each sings a part in God’s chorus. And though we do not question the need for good order and accountability in the church, we also know that “keeping order” has often contributed to – both ignorantly and willfully – the banishment of prophetic voices from the church, and the stifling of the Holy Spirit. This must change.
As Lutherans, we cannot be defined solely by northern European, cultural identity markers. Therefore, as a movement, #decolonizeLutheranism also seeks to raise-up alternative historical and theological narratives to take center stage in our church’s culture – its liturgies, hymns, polity, worship, food, poetry, art – even ways of life together and pastoral care. By doing so not only do we hope to counter notions of Lutheranism that are weighted by White Eurocentric models and theologies, but also to revitalize how we collectively express our confessional identity – thereby breathing new life and vitality into Lutheran communities across United States.
As members of the church of God, with humble courage and contrite hearts we repent of the ways that evangelism has been used as a tool of violence and oppression. Yet at the same time, if we refrain from proclaiming the story of Jesus because of the sins of the past our repentance is woefully incomplete. Though still covered in dust and ashes and tears, God has ever promised and ever to raise us up, dust us off, dry our tears, and send us back into the world to proclaim Jesus and the Resurrection more boldly than ever before. The greatest gift that God has ever given to the Church – the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and power and hope in this life – is the very thing by which we live and die and love. And by thus rapturously reclaiming the apostolic mantle from the clutches of White European dominance, we may then return to the world with the same zeal as the Apostles – throwing ourselves passionately and foolishly into the world for the sake of the One whom we love so much: Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Risen One, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and raises the cosmos to new and eternal life.