Immortalizing the White Fragility of (Re)Tired Bishop Martin Wells

Immortalizing the White Fragility of (Re)Tired Bishop Martin Wells April 13, 2021


I kind of wish I didn’t have to write this, but I feel some level of responsibility to attempt, in spite of clear evidence concerning the intractability of the re-tired bishop, to offer a bit of explanation, one white pastor to another, on the profoundly unpastoral and frankly clueless nature of the response.

So here goes. Let’s start with the very simple fact: Lenny Duncan in his tweet is expressing lament. You can start there. I shared his tweet in our denominational Facebook group primarily for that reason, so that our church might hear the voice of lament from one black pastor within it.

Lenny Duncan is also angry. He’s angry at the leadership of our denomination, the conference of bishops in particular, because of their repeated failure of leadership to really be the faith voice in these tragic moments. I mean, he’s not wrong.

There’s probably no big city in America more Lutheran than the Twin Cities. And it’s here that the police are crucifying black men. So where are the bishops? But apparently, Martin Wells thinks it is Lenny Duncan’s job (or mine) to go to the bishops and ask them directly where they are.

Well, I have a few thoughts on that.

1. Why aren’t the bishops in the largest social media ELCA group on the planet?

2. Are the bishops not on Twitter?

3. Martin, have you not read Lenny’s stories of going again and again and again and again and again and again and again to the bishops and getting the cold shoulder and worse?

4. Why is it the job of the people to prod the bishops to be bishops? Why in the world aren’t they just being bishops?

5. Did you see the whole ELCA Journal of Lutheran Ethics fiasco where, when they published a bunch of white male authors about Black Lives Matter, and people asked where the POC voices were, so many ELCA leaders said, “Why don’t the POC authors volunteer to write?”

6. Do you understand the messed up power dynamics you are demanding Lenny and others would have to overcome (and Lenny because he’s bad-ass often does) in order to do what you ask?

7. Why the fuck aren’t you talking to the bishops? Why the fuck aren’t you in Minneapolis, Martin? Lenny isn’t alone in his lament, not by a long shot. Here’s another prominent POC voice in our denomination.

There’s the lament again. And also, indication of how long, how very long, these voices have been crying out for real leadership from the bishops, and it never comes.

Most importantly. Why does Lenny have to do your work for you, Martin? Why does he have to do the work the bishops should be doing?

I mean, I’m just a pastor out here in Arkansas doing various things, and I have enough time to follow the most prominent Twitter authors and writers in our denomination.

Don’t the bishops? If the (re)tired bishop would consider it, I recommend he learn how to use Twitter, go visit Lenny’s thread, and there he’ll have the chance to see these follow-up tweets.

Perhaps we don’t go to the bishops anymore because mostly what we get is the kind of gaslighting bullshit Martin Wells is throwing down.

Martin, here’s what you can do. You can read a tweet like Lenny’s, and then say to yourself, “You know what, I can do some work. I’ll read some on what POC pastors have been recommending, and I’ll choose a few of those actions to undertake myself.” And in the meantime, at the very least, I’ll #SayHisName, I’ll lament our church complicity in the violence of the police in the Twin Cities, and I’ll start at the same place my namesake suggested.

After all, the whole Christian life begins with repentance. Why am I demanding more work from the weary when I won’t do the work on my own?

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