A Time for Burning is a 1966 American documentary film which explores the attempts of the minister of Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, to persuade his all-white congregation to reach out to "negro" Lutherans in the city's north side. The film was directed by San Francisco filmmaker William C. Jersey and was nominated as Best Documentary Feature in the 1967 Academy Awards. The film was commissioned by the Lutheran Church in America.
The film is shot in "cinéma vérité" style. The film chronicles the relationship between the minister, the Rev. L. William Youngdahl, his white Lutheran parishioners and black Lutheran parishioners in the community. Youngdahl was the son of a former governor of Minnesota and federal judge, Luther Youngdahl. The film includes a meeting between Youngdahl and a black barber, Ernie Chambers, who tells the minister that his Jesus is "contaminated." At one point another Omaha Lutheran minister, the Rev. Walter E. Rowoldt, of Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, states that "This one lady said to me, pastor, she said, I want them to have everything I have, I want God to bless them as much as he blesses me, but, she says, pastor, I just can't be in the same room with them, it just bothers me." Rev. Rowoldt and other ministers also discuss the concern that blacks moving into white neighborhoods will decrease property values.
The attempt to reach out does not succeed and Youngdahl resigns from his job as minister of the church.
In 2005, A Time for Burning was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The black barber, Ernie Chambers, completed law school and was elected Senator to the Nebraska Legislature in 1970. By 2005 he had become the longest-serving state Senator in the history of Nebraska.