The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Black & white in the ELCA

An e-mail conversation about race

They’ve been friends for more than 25 years, since they were students at the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia: Mary W. Anderson, pastor of Incarnation Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C., and Julius Carroll, director for ELCA African descent ministries with Multicultural Ministries for six years who in July joined the faculty of Lutheran Southern Seminary, Columbia.

Responding to the national debate arising from the preaching of Jeremiah Wright, retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Anderson wrote a column in Incarnation’s newsletter that drew comments of appreciation both from her white parishioners and from her African-American friends who encouraged her to send it to the city newspaper.

The Lutheran invited her to explore some of her ideas and questions with an African-American Lutheran pastor, she immediately turned to her computer—and to Carroll. Here is their e-mail conversation, edited for length.

Mary W. Anderson<BR><BR><BR><BR>
Mary W. Anderson
Mary Anderson: The words [in my newsletter column] that drew the most attention were: “White folk, having lived a good life, often put their pastors in the role of teacher and chaplain. The African-American community, often living at the brink of death, puts their pastor in the role of prophet and emergency-room physician. Black pastors take on the pain of their people in the sermon and subdue it with God’s word of hope and promise so the flock can live well in the word, even if they don’t live well in the world.”

Julius, in your ministry, especially with Multicultural Ministries, how do you interpret the role of the church in traditional black congregations? Is it different in majority black Lutheran congregations? Different in multicultural congregations?

Julius Carroll: As you know, Mary, African-American people in general and Lutherans in particular are not culturally monolithic. That being said, however, I believe there are two touchstones within the traditional black Christian faith tradition and the black Lutheran faith community that are instructive.

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