Racial Justice Advocacy Network

Encourage and equip leaders to combat individual and institutional racism in their congregations and communities.


The synod’s Racial Justice Advocacy Network was formed in response to inquiries from ministry leaders who were looking for ways to have non-divisive conversations in their congregations about race.

The network has set four goals for the coming year:

    • Support local congregations and leaders to discover ministry opportunities to combat racism and advocate for justice.
    • Support and encourage congregational leaders to educate themselves about the issues surrounding racism and racial justice.
    • Find ways to provide anti-racism training.
    • Research, curate, develop and provide resources to help leaders and congregations talk about race in their ministry settings to build up the body of Christ.



Community Responds to Hate Crime

May 2018

A black church in Clinton, Iowa was defaced with white supremacist symbols and death threats in April. A pastor from Greene, Iowa, suggested that people send cards and money to show their support for the church and to help the congregation with their clean-up. Pastor Daniel Flucke of St. Peter Lutheran Church, Greene, shared on Facebook how a generous waitress inspired a group of pastors to give:

A few days ago, I posted an article about Bethel AME Church in Clinton, Iowa, being vandalized with white supremacist and Nazi symbols. Pastor Catherine Belles from First Presbyterian Church of Greene, IA across the street suggested sending cards and money to help with their cleanup and show support for our sisters and brothers in Christ. 

This morning at Wednesday men’s breakfast, rather than giving tips to her, Susan Heimrich Needham asked that our ecumenical Bible study group of Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Catholics take a collection to send to Bethel. I just had the joy of writing a card to accompany the $145 given to support their ministry.

What a privilege this calling to ministry is!

Here’s the article about the vandalism if you didn’t see it: http://wqad.com/…/black-church-in-clinton-defaced-with-whi…/



The Rally to End Racism

April 2018

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), invited others to join her and ecumenical and inter-religious partners for the Act Now: Unite to End Racism event April 3-5 in Washington, D.C.

The event, organized by the National Council of Churches in Christ in the USA, brought together many ELCA members from across the country. The ELCA is a founding member of the council.

The rally’s call to action emphasized three key points: awaken to the truth that racism is evil and hurts us all; confront racism through truth-telling and action to right the wrong; and transform the hearts, minds, and behaviors of people and institutions.

Presiding Bishop Eaton’s Statement on Racism

Following the “Act Now: Unite to End Racism” rally in Washington, D.C., the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), issued a statement on racism, recommitting this church “to work for racial justice and inclusion, to work against white privilege, and to be a church that truly welcomes all.” 

April 6, 2018

In 2017, we observed the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In 500 years, Lutheranism has grown into a global movement. We worship in every language all over the world. There are now more Lutherans of color than there are European descent Lutherans. But here in the United States, Lutherans are predominantly white.

Lutherans came to this country in ethnic waves in the 18th and 19th centuries. English was not our first language; we kept to ourselves and were mostly outside of the predominant American culture. But Lutherans did share in the dominant culture in that we were mostly white and, therefore, had the privilege of not having to think or talk about the reality of racism in America.

We came to a tipping point in June 2015. There, in Charleston, S.C., a stranger walked into a Bible study at Mother Emmanuel and, after being welcomed by pastors and people, shot and killed nine. The martyrs of Mother Emmanuel. Two of those killed, the Rev. Clementa Pickney, pastor of Mother Emmanuel, and the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor, were graduates of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. The shooter, Dylann Roof, is a member of one of our (ELCA) congregations. One of our own shot and killed two who had adopted us as their own. All of a sudden, and for all of us in the ELCA, this was an intensely personal tragedy. Racism wasn’t something outside of us; it was in us and had been all along.

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It is a funny thing about being confronted by the truth – it can lead to transformation. Our bishop in South Carolina talked with his African Methodist Episcopal colleagues. The shock and grief of the massacre was still raw. But inaction was no longer an option. So congregations, ELCA and AME, started meeting together to share a meal, watch the film “Selma” and then talk about the reality of racism. The youth of our churches met together to share a meal, watch the film “Remember the Titans” and talk about the reality of racism. It is a small step, but it is a start.

We still have work to do. Within the ELCA, we have named the reality of institutional and structural racism. We have begun to pry Lutheran identity away from European descent identity. It is not culture and cuisine that define us but our common witness to the gospel. We recommit ourselves to work for racial justice and inclusion, to work against white privilege, and to be a church that truly welcomes all. We cannot do this work alone. We will work with ecumenical and interreligious partners. We will show up. We will speak up. We will act up.

The martyrs of Mother Emmanuel were not the first victims of violence. Martin Luther King Jr. was not the first victim of violence. Our only hope is in the innocent One who was violently killed on Good Friday, Emmanuel, God with us. He was wounded for our transgressions including the deadly sin of racism. But as he rose from the dead, we are able to rise up.

In Christ,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America




Racial Justice Advocacy Resources


Resources to help individuals and congregations educate themselves around racism. 

February 2021
July/August 2020
October 2020


Resources for Discussing Race in Your Ministry Setting


ELCA Racial Justice Ministries


Schedule a Workshop

Transforming White Privilege Workshop


Network facilitators the Rev. Megan Graves and Reg Green are available to present the “Transforming White Privilege” workshop to congregations, Bible study groups, councils and other groups. The workshop is intended to to help people gain awareness about racial identity perceptions and understand the ways people experience white privilege.


Graves and Green attended two and a half days of ELCA-sponsored curriculum training in Chicagoso that they could share the Transforming White Privilege workshop with  congregations, Bible study groups, councils and other groups for a formal training session or to lead an informal discussion.


To arrange a presentation, call the synod office at 319-352-1414.


Racial Justice Advocacy Network


  • Racism is a sin.
  • The sin of racism damages both the body of Christ and its ministry.


  • Rev. Megan Graves, pastor for Our Savior’s, Waterloo
  • Reg Green, member of Bethlehem Lutheran, Cedar Falls,


Synod Council

Rev. David Nerdig


Synod Staff

Rev. Joelle Colville-Hanson




View ELCA photos from the 2018 March to End Racism.

Learn more about the A.C.T. to End Racism Event.

Read the ELCA’s statement on race, ethnicity, and culture.