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Students attend Decolonizing Lutheranism conference

Logo+of+the+Decolonize+Lutheranism+movement.
Logo of the Decolonize Lutheranism movement.

Logo of the Decolonize Lutheranism movement.

Photo courtesy of decolonizelutheranism.org

Photo courtesy of decolonizelutheranism.org

Logo of the Decolonize Lutheranism movement.

Natalie Nelson and Ana López

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A group of Luther students attended the Decolonizing Lutheranism Conference in Philadelphia on Nov. 3 and 4. This is the second year the event was held. The goal of the conference was to increase inclusion within Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) churches.

The conference focused on decolonizing the structure of the Lutheran Church. According to the Decolonizing Lutheranism website, the group’s beliefs focus on four types of decolonization.

The first belief of the movement is decolonizing justifications, which draws on the principle of justification in the Lutheran church. This states that everyone’s faith is justified, thus prompting the movement to include everyone.

Their second belief focuses on decolonizing leadership, which strives to include minorities in leadership positions within the ELCA.

The third belief focuses on providing alternative cultural narratives and incorporating them within the church. The fourth belief of the movement focuses on decolonizing Evangelism. The aim of this belief is to move away from white European dominance and the use of “evangelism as a tool for oppression and violence.”
Corinn Schmieg (‘18) a student who attended the conference, said the event was important because it focused on the role of the Lutheran Church in social justice.

“I think that, in every form, social justice is really important, but the church doesn’t seem to be the place most people think about first when they think about where social justice needs to happen,” Schmieg said. “We need to make sure we’re including all groups of people.”

Schmieg said that she would recommend the event to anyone interested in promoting inclusion.

“If you are involved in the church and you want more people to get involved in the church who have felt excluded in the past, I think that this would be a very good place for you to go and start learning how to make that difference instead of just hoping that your church leaders do it,” Schmieg said.

Schmieg added that a lot of what the group from Luther did at the event can be accessed through online research. Students who were unable to attend the event are still able to participate in the movement.
Student attendee Alex Sekora (‘19) said that the most important thing he gained from the event was a new perspective.

“I think it was really cool to go to an event like this, coming from a majority white congregation,” Sekora said. “ It was really cool to see a much more diverse people and to see that we’re excited to get more people of diversity involved in our church.”

Sekora said that focusing on ways to promote diversity in ELCA congregations is important because it is the second least diverse denomination in the country. It was one of the main focuses of the event and the reason that Harleigh Boldridge (‘18) chose to attend.

“As a person of color, church has always been a space where I was always the ‘odd one out,'” Boldridge said. “After talking to some of the Luther students who went last year and some friends who help organize the event, I thought that this would be a great way to experience a church more representative of what I consider to be the actual body of Christ. There are a lot of ways that powerful western countries, especially the U.S., are still colonizing indigenous people. Every U.S. citizen needs to be aware that colonization didn’t end in our history books.”

Boldridge also said that a major part of the conference was determining whether or not the conference will continue, change, or end entirely.

“At the conference, we talked about dissolving this ‘conference’ model and moving to a community-based model in order to reach more people, especially those who don’t have the resources to travel,” Boldridge said. “Hopefully this event ceases to exist. I think that decolonization has greater applications than just in the ELCA, and it is worth mentioning that the act of decolonizing society is not just the work of minorities.”

Schmieg is also hoping that the need for the conference will lessen in the next year.

“We hope the conference is not necessary next year,” Schmieg said. “Of course, I’m sure that it will be because that would be a lot of change to take place in one year.”

The conference will continue next year in Los Angeles on Oct. 19 and 20. No decisions have been made about whether it will continue after that.

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