Letter from the ELCA Authentic Diversity Advisory Team

FROM:            ELCA Authentic Diversity Advisory Team

TO:                  Dr. Jennifer Hockenbery

Journal of Lutheran Ethics, Editor February 18, 2021

Dear Dr. Hockenbery,

I write on behalf of the Authentic Diversity Advisory Team, many of whom also served on the task force that developed the Strategy Toward Authentic Diversity which was overwhelmingly adopted by an 855-13 vote of the 2019 Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee in August of 2019.

Words cannot express the depth of disappointment felt by the members of the task force after reading the article, “Overcoming ELCA Racism with Authentic Diversity,” written by Ted Peters, that appeared in the February issue of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics critiquing the Authentic Diversity Strategy and calling for its redrafting.

To address each of his arguments point by point would make this an intolerably lengthy response, so let me try to be concise. We found the article offensive, demeaning and dismissive of the work of the dedicated servants who labored assiduously over two years to draft and develop a document that raised questions, made recommendations, and encouraged, as well as challenged the ELCA to not only envision, but hold itself accountable to create an authentically diverse church in all three of its expressions.

Those who gave of their valuable time to this effort represent people of color from various ethnicities, races, languages, academic backgrounds, and all units and levels of the church; people whose voices have been systematically marginalized throughout the history of the ELCA. The ELCA Church Council established the makeup of this forum intentionally to give us that voice. It is important to point this out because Peters, in his article, offers the specific advice to, “ask people of color what is needed to go forward.” To this I respond, who are we, if not people of color?

The overall tone of Dr. Peters’ article was presumptive, arrogant, and demonstrated the very issue that the Strategy addresses, that of white privilege – a privilege that renders it deaf to the suggestions and recommendations made within our document. It was evident to our Advisory Team that the author either hadn’t read the Strategy in its entirety, or chose to selectively ignore its contents so as to promote his own ideas and theories. In our judgment, his reasoning was poorly presented; full of false and often contradictory arguments; and showed little, if any, scholarly research into the viewpoints of our document.

It is also important that the JLE’s editorial board be called to task for its lack of oversight and accountability in allowing this article to be published without asking for the opinions of the Strategy’s developers. According to your own “Editor’s Introduction,” Ted Peters’ draft was received in plenty of time to have reached out to any of the members of our task force for a response. We are not invisible nor unknown to many in the ELCA Churchwide offices. A simple phone call or email to a staff person would have put you in touch with any of us long before publication deadline.

It is incomprehensible to us that an issue addressing racism would not include, at the very least, ONE article authored by a person who represents the community affected by that racism. Your omission demonstrates the very point our Strategy addresses. Pointing out all these glaring exclusions is exhausting.

As we approach the season of Lent, which calls us all to repentance and renewal, I pray that our journey to the cross and reconciliation in Christ lead us to a clearer vision of our common humanity and a greater awareness that we are all creatures created by God and loved in equal measure. May this time of reflection give us a greater appreciation of each other.

In Christ,

The Rev. Abraham D. Allende

Authentic Diversity Advisory Team, Co-Convener



Authentic Diversity Advisory Team Members
The Rev. Abraham D. Allende

Bishop Emeritus, Northeastern Ohio Synod

Ms. Jennifer DeLeon

Director for Justice, Women of the ELCA

The Rev. Priscilla Austin

Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church Seattle. WA

Ms. Grace El-Yateem

The Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage (ALAMEH)

Ms. Cheryl Chatman

Retired – Executive VP, Dean of Diversity Concordia University, St. Paul, MN

Mr. Elias Haroun

The Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage (ALAMEH)

The Rev. Joseph Castañeda Carrera

Assistant to the Bishop for Authentic Diversity and Ethnic-Specific Ministries

Southwestern California Synod

The Rev. Dr. Surekha Nelavala

Pastor, Global Peace & Beloved Community Adjunct Professor, Trinity Lutheran Seminary

Kelly Sherman Conroy, Ph. D.

Secretary, American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran Association.

The Rev. Dr. Moses Penumaka

Director of Theological Education For Emerging Ministries TEEM

The Rev. Patricia Davenport

Bishop, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod

The Rev. Lamont A. Wells


African Descent Lutheran Association


Abraham Allende

Abraham Allende recently retired as Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod. He serves as Co-Convener of the Authentic Diversity Advisory Team.