Editors thought we’d try something different for coverage of the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. We let photographs tell much of the story over 10 pages in this issue (page 16).

Typically, our report consists of four pages of largely text and a few small photos. Many readers appreciated that approach, but a few did not, chastising the magazine for not giving enough exposure to the triennial event. The word “lame” by one reader describing our 2012 coverage still burns in my memory.

So the search began to see how The Lutheran might approach the Gathering differently. Along came the October 2014 issue of Church of the Brethren’s Messenger. It tossed nearly all word accounts of its youth assembly for scores of photos in a multipage collage. We didn’t go that far, but hats off to the magazine of that historic peace church for the general idea.

Disclosure: Two granddaughters attended the Detroit event, while three younger grandchildren went to Camp Lake Luther near Angola, Ind., for a week in June. All thoroughly enjoyed their experiences. We try to do as we say in the editor’s family.

The next item didn’t come as a surprise yet still carried a punch. A chart on the racial diversity of U.S. religious groups (page 8) cites the ELCA as the second least diverse among a list of 29. Only the historically African-American National Baptist Convention is more mono-racial. Little solace comes from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod being only one notch above the ELCA.

Our full communion partners do only slightly better than our 96 percent white makeup. The key figure to grasp is that of the racial makeup of the U.S. as a whole: 66 percent white, 15 percent Latino, 12 percent black, 4 percent Asian, and 4 percent mix/other (figures do not add to 100 percent due to rounding).

How did we get to look so unlike the nation around us? Our immigrant ancestors came from Germany and Scandinavia, which boasted Lutheran state churches and therefore had little reason to evangelize; we’ve clustered in parts of the nation where that lack of evangelism carried over; we created a church culture reticent at witnessing to faith; and so on.

There is good news for the ELCA, as we reported in July (page 8). Some 56 percent of new start congregations are among ethnic-multicultural communities.

The short of it, however, is that the good news and the signature theological point that Martin Luther brought back to the church — we are saved by grace — should be our collective calling card. It’s one without racial boundaries. Remember that gospel/children’s/camp song “This Little Light of Mine”? Let’s not hide it under a bushel.

Daniel J. Lehmann

I am a lifelong Lutheran with decades of experience in secular journalism. Like many of you, I’m interested in the theological and historical roots of our faith and how that plays out in the contemporary world. I want to know what our church members and leaders are thinking, what other Lutherans are doing, how religion in general influences and is impacted by culture.
My favorite reading materials are newspapers, specialty magazines and non-fiction. I work hard, but never skip vacations in order to regroup.
I’ve been blessed with a spouse of 40 years, two children and seven grandchildren. My church is a focal point of life in Chicago. I answer my own phone, and respond to e-mail and letters (but usually not spleen-venting tirades).
And I'm a fan of the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls, as well as the Art Institute, Field Museum, the lakefront and Millennium Park. Chicago's my kind of town.

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