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By Rev. Deb Stehlin, Director for Evangelical Mission

I’m still a little bit surprised that a) I am Lutheran, and b) I’m a pastor. When I was planning out my life as a young adult, my goal was to climb the corporate ladder as high as I could as a woman. An office on executive row was the goal because, from early childhood, my mother told me that I could be anything I wanted.

I believed her.

Half-way up the ladder, my neighbor Char Anderson invited me to her Lutheran church, and everything changed. It was there that I was introduced to a God of grace. I didn’t need to climb a ladder to make my way up to God; God came down in Jesus and claimed me as God’s beloved child. My little world was blown apart, and I was drawn deeply into the blessing of congregational life and, eventually, to seminary.

All because I learned who God is.

That might be enough for any one person, but my life in the Lutheran church has continued to draw me out of my bubble into relationships I could never have imagined. If I wasn’t part of the Lutheran church, I doubt that I would have engaged in issues of racial justice. And I highly doubt that I would have bumped up against my white privilege.


LAST WEEKEND, I WAS one of 450 people at the “Journeying Toward Justice” retreat at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. To put it bluntly, the scales have fallen from my eyes.

Now, I’m learning that parts of me need to die in order to fully live into the implications of being white. I’m learning that this country was founded on white supremacy, that I am a beneficiary of racist systems and structures, and that I am complicit. There are lots of things I need to unlearn, too. It’s challenging. I’m still not clear about what it all means, but my little world is being blown apart again.

I had no idea that this life with God would both deconstruct and reconstruct me over and over again.

Here’s the thing: I had no idea that this life with Lutherans would lead to such liberation. I had no idea that this life with God would both deconstruct and reconstruct me over and over again.

I wonder if Char Anderson had any idea about this on the day she knocked on my door to invite me to her Lutheran church. And, if you were part of the event last weekend, what did it do to you?