Board Profiles

EDLARJ Board Members 

DonnaMatteis
Donna Matteis
Philadelphia, PA
President

Donna is currently enrolled in a PhD program at Drew University in New Jersey in Christian Social Ethics. She has a particular interest in exploring how power is manifested in religion and how those manifestations have privileged certain groups of Christians over others. Prior to moving to New Jersey, Donna was a member of Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church in Livonia, Michigan for over 40 years and was the Southeast Michigan Synod’s Director of Justice and Advocacy concerns between 2009 and 2011 and was active on the Synod’s anti-racism task force during that same period. She attended the University of Michigan, Wayne State University Law School and the Ecumenical Theological Seminary.

revdrrussellmeyer180

Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer
Tampa, FL
Vice-President

   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! 

Crimi

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.

Dirkin

Ms. Beverly Dirkin
Kalamzoo, MI
Treasurer

   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.

Mark

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.

 

Julie Hettig
Julie Hettig
San Francisco, CA

   I have been aware of white privilege since graduate school while working in LA Catholic Worker Health Clinic and seeing the disproportionate number of homeless people of color also being inhumanely treated on the streets.

   In 2013,  I witnessed a young Hispanic woman, being verbally and physically harassed for 10 minutes after she walked across a street in North Long Beach.  When I approached to ask law enforcement what she had done to be  body searched,  there were tears in her eyes.  After being told she had jaywalked, I encouraged her, she was allowed to leave the corner and walk away. 

   After attending a Anti-Racism Training at Hope Lutheran in the spring 2015, I went on to co-facilitate two anti-racism workshops in rural Northern California and join an Operation Ceasefire walk in Richmond, California.  The harassment, incarceration and killing of people of color is a travesty.  I look forward to supporting development of Operation Ceasefire in our community and doing advocacy work with EDLARJ informing our efforts locally and in the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA.  Having been a Lutheran since 1976, I celebrate Bishop Eaton's initiatives  for holding nationwide  anti-racism conversations and encouraging congregations to engage in this critically important work at this time in our nation.

Sandy

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.

Amy Wiegert 
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Pastor Amy Wiegert did most of her growing up in Loveland, Colorado.  Amy did class work at Iliff School of Theology in Denver and received a Master of Divinity degree from Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago in 2002.  She has served congregations in Iowa and Illinois.   She has been published in several magazines including The Christian Century and is currently focused on growing kids, learning and teaching anti-racism,  and writing a book.
She currently resides on Chicago’s southside with her husband, Doug Kenshol, and their two children, Faith and Carter.   As a white mom to black children, creating space for everyone’s gifts and abilities to be recognized, realized, and shared is at the top of her list.

Andrew Tengwall 
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Rev. Andrew Tengwall has served as pastor of Lutheran Church of the Savior in Kalamazoo, Michigan since 2009. His wife, Rev. Sarah Friesen-Carper, serves as Assistant to the Bishop for Congregational and Leadership Excellence in the North/West Lower Michigan Synod ELCA. Their children are Micah, in kindergarten, and Stellan, who just celebrated his first birthday.  Andrew served as Vice President of EDLARJ (then EALA) from 2010 to 2015. He recently served as a transitional leader of the NWLM Synod Anti-Racism Team, and currently serves on the planning group for Bridge Builders, the award-winning youth anti-racism leadership program of Living Water Ministries, an ELCA / TEC outdoor ministry in Michigan. Andrew received his M.Div from Yale Divinity School through the Institute of Sacred Music, his B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College, and fulfilled his Lutheran Year requirement at LSTC. His hobbies include announcing Roller Derby since 2008 around the U.S. and for the 2016 Swedish National Championships, making Spotify playlists of the Psalms for each lectionary Sunday, and scheming to bring forth the Reign of God in unexpected ways.
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I want to re-join the EDLARJ board because my recent involvement has convinced me that this group is poised to greatly increase our capacity to create substantive cross-cultural and anti-racist change in the church. Our cultural moment looks very different from when I left in 2015, and I am excited about the new energy I have already experienced with EDLARJ as I helped recruit new board members in recent months. Racism is a complex, multifaceted evil that impedes the work of the Spirit and the sharing of the gospel, and as Lutheran Christians we  have seen the enormous damage done when good people stand by and wait for God to act. EDLARJ is ready to emerge from the shadows and boldly confront white supremacy, white privilege, and systemic racism in our historically-white church and our nation built on racism. For the sake of the gospel, the church, and all the people God loves, God has set us free to do this work.

C.J. Clark 
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https://youtu.be/kdhAV-0t8BI


C.J. Clark is husband to Amanda and father to Logan.  He also serves as Executive Director of Living Water Ministries in New Era, MI, an ELCA and Episcopal organization that provides youth ministry and summer camp experiences primarily in Michigan for all of God’s children with a focus on faith formation, service, leadership and community. He is a graduate of Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, IN where he received a BA in Art with a minor in Physics and enjoys both the creative and analytical. Currently, C.J. also serves as a board member for Rescue, Release, Restore (Chicago, IL), the multi-synodical candidacy committee in the lower peninsula of Michigan (ELCA), and as president of church council at Trinity Lutheran Church in New Era, MI.
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I value words matching actions.  As the Executive Director of Living Water Ministries it is my goal for the organization to simply live into our mission and vision. It is my opinion that the church needs assistance with and a system of accountability for matching the words we say on Sunday morning, and the words that are expressed from the Churchwide expression with actions that prove our convictions.  The EDLARJ seems to be well poised to stand in the gap of words and actions to promote meaningful change.
I believe that diverse communities of people within the church are possible and that the future of the church hinges on our ability to create authentic places where those communities can be formed.  It is my hope that the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice can serve as a powerful platform to educate, advocate, and hold accountable the greater church in this pursuit as we walk along side (and take our lead from) our siblings of color.
My specific gift set is in partnership/relationship development, and public speaking.  I believe I can also offer strategic thinking to the EDLARJ about how to maximize the access the organization is given to leverage impact.

(Danielle) Elle Dowd 
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Elle Dowd is a seminarian at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago (LSTC) and a candidate for Word and Sacrament endorsed through the Pacifica Synod. She is a bisexual activist, an executive team leader of Thesis 96 - the LGBTQIA+ student group at LSTC, and a member of Proclaim - a professional group for rostered leaders and seminarians in the ELCA. Elle is a founding member of the movement to #decolonizeLutheranism where she currently serves as the Social Media Coordinator and also organizes with Seminarians for Justice and the progressive political collective, The People’s Lobby. Much of Elle’s public ministry revolves around writing about her interests in body theology, sex positivity and body acceptance, feminist and queer theology, liberation and postcolonial theology. Prior to attending seminary Elle worked at a combined Lutheran-Episcopal church family in California (2010-2013) where she served as a Christian Educator at their alternative junior high, wrote curriculum for the youth and children’s ministries, helped out in the church office, and planted a church service in the bar of a local Mexican restaurant. Elle split her time between California and Sierra Leone, West Africa, where she served on the leadership team of Jonathan’s Childcare Center, the orphanage where she met her two adopted children (Alice and Jessica, both age 11). From 2013-2016 Elle served as the Youth Missioner in the bishop’s office for the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri where she was active in racial justice work and served as a street protest chaplain and activist during the Ferguson Uprising in St. Louis. When she is not working in churches, participating in activism and organizing, or writing, Elle enjoys touring brunch spots with her friends in search of the best Bloody Mary.
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I am interested in joining the EDLARJ board primarily because I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the various ethnic associations and multicultural ministries in the ELCA. I hope that becoming more involved with EDLARJ I will have the opportunity to build connections with people of various ages and backgrounds that have been doing anti-racism work for a long time. So often in the ELCA we are isolated in silos, even when we are doing similar work and share similar visions. By networking radical groups made up predominantly of Gen Xers and Millennials (such as #decolonizeLutheranism) with more institutionally connected groups like the ethnic associations and ministry, we can not only become more strategic and effective, but encourage one another and learn from each other. I believe I can help in some of this holy match making because of my established connections as well as my gifts and experiences in social media.

Jason Chesnut
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The Rev. Jason Chesnut, ordained in the ELCA, created and developed The Slate Project, an innovative Christian worshiping community that gathers both online and face-to-face in Baltimore, Maryland. He is a videographer, mission developer, and certified biblical storyteller who also founded ANKOSfilms, a company dedicated to (a) (n)ew (k)ind (o)f (s)torytelling. A native of San Marcos, Texas, Jason graduated from Texas Lutheran University and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He loves riding motorcycles and watching movies when he...umm...has time?
I'm interested in the work of anti-racism, especially as a white person, because white supremacy takes away my humanity, too (in vastly different ways than people of color, of course). I care deeply about "getting my own" and have led workshops and conversations with white people around the reality of racism and the work of dismantling/interrupting white supremacy. I talk about race a lot, and I think it's up to white people to recognize our responsibility in today's highly racialized environment. I hope to add to the Board of EDLA if selected.

Kathy Long 
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I am a lay person and cradle Lutheran.  I learned about white privilege and racism 25 years ago which opened my eyes to the America I live in.  I struggle to force myself to see the struggles my brothers and sisters of color face every single day.  I was the founding president of the EDLARJ in 2008 but left after my first four year term due to a change in employment.
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I seek to rejoin the board because the past five years I have been an executive director for a small nonprofit and have much more experience in advocacy, board responsibilities and time.  I continue to work to shed light on the ongoing sin of racism and white privilege.

Kelly France 
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I am seeking a position on the EDLARJ board because I am committed to the cause of anti-racism work and feel that it should inform how we as the church understand our participation in the mission of God. It is my belief that the work white people need to undertake in our denomination needs to emphasize relationship building though action and using the privilege we have to give platform to our sisters and brothers of color. I particularly have a passion to do this work in small town and rural areas.
I began to take seriously the call to antiracism work during my time in Lutheran Volunteer Corps. There I was introduced to the accompaniment model of mission supported by the ELCA. In my volunteering context that accompaniment took the form of antiracist activism. I served as a site supervisor for Habitat for Humanity where I entered into relationships with People of Color who faced discrimination particularly in housing and transportation. In my free time I helped advocate for more fair housing practices in the county as well as working at a bike shop that sought to make transportation access more equitable.
My Anti-Racism work continued in Seminary where I worked in the multicultural congregation of Christ Lutheran in St. Paul MN. My involvement again took the form of relationship building and advocacy against policy discriminatory towards people of color. During Seminary I also became involved in ISAIAH, a PICCO organization in Minnesota and the VOCA social justice group on campus. During Seminary I also received community organizing training though SCUPE.
On my internship in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis, my participation in antiracism work included education on, and facilitating conversation about privilege and the role that white people play, intentionally or otherwise, in the oppression of People of Color.
I am currently in my first call in Atwater, a town Kandiyohi County located in Southwestern Minnesota.  The Antiracism work that I am involved in currently includes discussion in my congregation about privilege. I am involved in building cross cultural relationships and speak out against oppression of our Somali Muslim neighbors who face racism and religious prejudice. Furthermore I am also involved in organizing and advocating around issues the growing population of People of Color are experiencing in partnership with Isaiah.
I hope that I will be an asset to the board. I believe in building support and taking action on behalf of our brothers and sisters of color. I feel that my experience of building awareness of privilege and white roles in oppression to places where that conversation is not currently happening will be an asset to this organization.
Anti-Racism Training
Crossroads Antiracism Training: 2010-2012
Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education: 2013
Black Lives Matter Solidarity for White Clergy Workshop: 2014
Center For Prophetic Imagination Rural Justice Intersectionality Workshop: 2017

Shari Seifert 
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I am a lay person and a life-long Lutheran currently living in Minneapolis (Originally from Texas).  I work as a Realtor where I am thrilled to have an extremely diverse clientele - the tag line on my business card is "Change Agent" because being a Realtor and a social justice activist are both integral to who I am.  I wrestle with navigating capitalism and being in the business of selling stolen Indian land and have begun making a small per-transaction donation to a local Indigenous led organization as a small start on reparations.  Locally, I am part of Multi-faith Anti-Racism Change and Healing (MARCH) where I have come to know amazing Jewish, Unitarian, and UCC leaders as well as leaders of the local Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.  I am fortunate to be in accountable relationships with POCI (people of color and indigenous) folks that have transformed me.  I am also active in the Race Equity Committee of my local congregation Calvary Lutheran Church and am a devoted supporter and participant in #declonizeLutheranism.  I have participated in the congregational racial justice liaison meetings within my synod.  
I got radicalized when in college and at a Lutheran Student Movement conference when several days were devoted to Micah 6:8.  I was thrilled with the plenary process and passing resolutions that had actual relevance to the world.  I served on the national council where someone authored a resolution on Racism in the US, which resulted in a national LSM conference on racism at which C.T. Vivian was the keynote speaker over a few days.  When I transferred to a college without Lutheran Campus Ministry, I started my own!  
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I seek to be a part of the EDLARJ board because I am passionate about moving forward conversations about the problems of centering whiteness in the ELCA.  I seek to make the ELCA a place that stops doing harm to my brown and black friends - to truly be a place that proclaims the gospel for everyone - with no asterisk!  I believe that there are many structures in place that can be tapped and used more effectively and being part of EDLARJ would likely give more access to those structures.  I believe that many are also hungering to engage in this work and providing some basic resources can go a long way towards transformation our church.  
I bring to the table a lot of passion, connections with many "con-spirators”, experience in organizing and a history of intense involvement in a statewide campaign for marriage equality in which we had one million conversations including "Lutherans calling Lutherans".  I was part the documentary "How Love Won" about this campaign.  I play well with others and have a low tolerance for nonsense.