EALA Board Members were asked to respond to two questions:  “Describe when you first become aware of your white privilege” and “What was the attraction for you to join this organization?” Get to know them through their responses.


Rev. Fred Thomas Breitfeld
Milwaukee, WI

   A desire to work for racial justice was always an outgrowrth  of my faith, and had both personal and professional dimensions. But it was not until I experienced antiracism training that I became more aware of my white privilege and how my use of it(sometimes knowingly, sometimes not)  just continued to feed a system that brought harmto myself and my brothers and sisters of all racial backgrounds. I knew I had to work tochange the system, for the good of all of us.
    My attraction to the European American Lutheran Association grew out of this learning.I saw the organization as a group that wanted to work with others in the church to createa more just, antiracist, crosscultural church, that honored all of God’s children.


Rev. Andrew Tengwall
Vice President
Membership Advancement

   In high school I was aware that I was privileged, but did not yet know that word. In college I learned how to articulate my experience of various kinds of privilege, but it was not until I served with Lutheran Volunteer Corps after graduation that I began to respond to the place of white privilege in my life. Since then I have continued to learn the depth and pervasiveness of my own white privilege, and have been intentional about naming my privilege and have become more comfortable in explaining white privilege to others.
    I heard about the formation of EALA when I was back working as a recruiter for Lutheran Volunteer Corps while awaiting a call to pastoral ministry. The weekend of EALA’s founding I was leading an introduction to racism and anti-racism for a group of Lutheran college students, and I felt a connection between the work I was doing and this new possibility for the ELCA. When Lutheran Church of the Savior in Kalamazoo called me to serve as pastor, I found that one of my parishioners was a founding board member of EALA. In Kalamazoo I began to participate in the highly-developed local anti-racism scene. When my parishioner asked me to replace him on the EALA board, I accepted. All of which is to say that I believe God had been leading me to participate in the work of EALA, building an anti-racist, cross-cultural church.


Ms. Beverly Dirkin
Kalamzoo, MI

   At the first 2.5 day Training by Crossroads that I attended, I learned about white privilege and became aware of how much I benefited as a white person in this country from it.  I joined the Anti-racism Team for my Synod in 2000 and took the 2.5 day, 4 day and Team Training as a part of the Anti-racism Team.
    In Kalamazoo, on behalf of the N/W Lower Michigan Synod, I was a founding member of ERAC/CE (Eliminating Racism and Claiming/Celebrating Equality).  I served the ERAC/CE Board for eight years as Board Member and Secretary.  Using $180,000 obtained from a local church closing due to a changing neighborhood, the Synod founded ERAC/CE and dedicated resources to this work.  We were soon joined by several other denominations and churches in this work. In the last ten years over 1000 community leaders have been through a 2.5 day Crossroads training and you can see the impact of this training in the changes in community leadership and practices.  Because of the reality of this impact and the growing awareness in the church-wide organization of our need to grow in our diversity, and my work on the Anti-racism Team of the Synod, I engaged in the conversations regarding the need for a focal point for anti-racism work in the ELCA and a “white” person ethnic association to carry out this work in this Church.  As this EALA became a reality, I became a charter member.


Rev. Wayne Shelksohn
Peoria, IL



Ms. Katherine Long
Seattle, WA
Collective Presence

   In first grade I was aware of my white privilege but took my first anti-racism training in the fall of 1996 and have since taken at least 6 other trainings and am a trained anti-racism facilitator.
   I’m a lifelong Lutheran and have seen how very unlevel the playing field is for all folks of color in the country and in this church.  I was a part of the coordinating group to create this association.



Rev. Peter Krey
Albany, CA

   When I attended Hamma Seminary in Springfield, Ohio I attend a course in a Black college in Dayton. That semester opened my eyes. After that life became a struggle. I worked in the Basin Area in Cincinnati with Les Schulz and Lilian Smoot, who integrated First Lutheran Church on Race Street in the late sixties. I pastored St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coney Island for about 16 years. When I would rent a public school for our Vacation Church School, the custodians would love me and welcome me and sign the eight week contract. When the school arrived with Black and Puerto Rican teachers and children they could have killed me.
   But honestly, I know that I can escape into Whiteness and avoid a great deal of suffering, but on the other hand, and only partly, I have also experienced disadvantage,  because I have been associated with a long time with the Black church.
   After my seminary training I ministered in Berlin, Germany for four years. Following Dietrich Bonhoeffer made it possible for me to affirm my being German again after Hitler, German Anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust. Coming back, I dedicated myself to minister against prejudice, bigotry, and racism that the EALA helps me continue.


Ms. Cathy Crimi
Franklin, TN

   I first truly became aware of my white privilege when I was attended the anti-racism facilitator training.  Growing up as a child of an immigrant, and struggling through young adult years (and still) for women’s rights, it was easy to believe many of the distortions our society would have us believe.
   I was invited by churchwide to participate in the formation of this association.  I am interested in remaining a part of the organization because it provides an opportunity to work together with others across the country, and be a part of change in our society.  I am so blessed by the friendships I’ve made across cultures, what I’ve learned, and how my life has changed for the better.  I wish everyone in our society and church could be so richly blessed.  It is hard work to look at the truths of our society, but our church and society will be better places as we work to break down the barriers that divide us, so that we are able to truly love, care about and include all people.


Rev. Mark Cerniglia
Greenville, SC

   I took anti-prejudice training with an ecumenical group in Montgomery, AL in 1999, before I became pastor of Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Greenville SC.
   I joined EALA when it started up in order to be an equal partner at the table with the five other ethnic associations in the ELCA.


Rev. Sandy Jones
Aurora, IL

   I grew up in Southern California and learned early that even though I was in the minority in my school, as far as numbers, I definitely had privilege that many of my classmates lacked.
   I have long been very disappointed at how this church does not work well in ethnic ministry.  I was living in a small town in North Carolina where the demographic of the population as about 65% African American, 35% Anglo, and 5% a mix of Latino and Asian.  Our Lutheran Church in the midst of this boasted of only 3 African Americans in our congregation and no one from any other ethnic background.  I knew then that I wanted to be a voice for change in our church.  The EALA appeared on the scene at about the time I graduated from seminary and was searching for my voice to speak out for change and for that I am very thankful.


Rev. Rosemarie Doucette
Philadelphia, PA

  I believe I first became of my white privilege was in grade school. My grandfather had a company in Chicago and sometimes my dad would take us there to visit. I noticed there were only white men in suits in the front office, calling each other by first names, speaking in muted tones. There were only African American men in the dock and warehouse area, wearing laborers’ clothing, addressing the whites by titles and last names. I noticed when the white people came to the dock area the whites they would change their tone and speech pattern.  They spoke loudly, speaking to the African Americans as if they were children, or less important. I always felt awkward there, knowing I was a child, but was spoken to and about with more respect than was accorded these men.
   I taught at a historically black university for seventeen years before being called to ordained ministry.  Through close relationships and honest conversations with African Americans in both my university and residential communities I became aware of myriad ways in which my white privilege blinded me to injustice, racial tensions, and alienation. I joined the EALA to be a part of the effort of the church to open hearts and doors to educate, embrace difference, and to promote healing and unity.


Mr. Harlan Johnson
Rockville, IL

   I became aware of my “white privilege” in 1963 when I was going to Augustana College and spent the summer in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, and prior to that in that year when working with the American Friend’s Service Committee, working to promote freedom of residence. Housing discrimination prevented African Americans from being able to buy homes without having to pay a premium and buying in neighborhoods that were segregated or being turned by Block Busting, a practice in real estate in which white property owners sold their houses at depressed rates and Blacks then bought the houses at inflated rates.
   The following summer I recognized the mortal danger to Blacks in Mississippi – and to white people working with them for racial justice.  I spent the summer o 1964 writing feature stories for newspapers on the Mississippi Summer Project – voter registration, freedom schools, etc,  It was an incredible experience that I was able to share with my readers.
   Since the early 90’s, I’ve been serving on the Anti Racism Team of my synod – and over the years I became disillusioned with the marginalization of the work of synod Anti Racism Teams to overcome racism witnin the ELCA with these teams of a few people working to facilitate change.  The EALA has the potential to become a mass movement of White Lutherans – thousands of people who may become involved to work for racial justice and multiculturalism that respects everyone.


Rev. Paul Bauman
Milwaukee, WI
Enhanced Communications

   During our training by Crossroads Organizing and Training as part of our Greater Milwaukee Synod Anti-racism Team in 2000,  I had never understood that my skin color brought with it a privilege which was not true for the people of color on our team.  I began to understand that being an European descent person brought with it certain advantages rooted in privilege.
   Because of my work with our synod antiracism team, I became frequently aware that those who shared European descent origins with me, were neither aware of their white privilege or the presence of the systemic racism in which we are all awash.  When I learned that this association was being created, to help us as members of this church to understand and claim both as a step in becoming a church which will be more cross cultural, I decided to join it.  


Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer
Tampa, FL
Public Witness

   From pretty early on, I became aware of bias, social prejudice, and the privileges some get that others never receive. Growing up in northern Nebraska made it hard to see the racist roots of prejudice and privilege, but I certainly remember confronting my Dad over his “Archie Bunker” comments. The concept of white privilege really did not begin to sink until I committed to anti-racist work. Privilege is like water to fish, those who swim in it don’t really recognize it as privilege. You have to mentally and emotionally “get out of the water” in order to see privilege itself.
   I’m quite grateful to Mark Cernglia for contacting me when EALA was launched and pressing me to join the board. At first I resisted. Who needs another assignment? Yet this work is the most basic labor any of us can do to welcome the way of God into American society and our community. It truly is gospel work. The more I do, the more I find my life integrated and approaching holiness/wholeness. May the Spirit be upon all!



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