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A Letter from Synod Vice President, Gail Kiyomura

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

June 7, 2022

Dear Siblings in Christ in the Sierra Pacific Synod,

The events of the past week have left many of us emotionally drained, physically exhausted, spiritually fragile and administratively perplexed. We’re not quite sure where we’re at, we don’t quite know how we got here, and we’re unsure about exactly where we’re heading. The leadership void caused by Bishop Rohrer’s resignation has created significant anxiety in our synod — and it’s leaving many of us wondering what is next.

As we have been reminded by Presiding Bishop Eaton, talk of healing is premature. But the promise of Pentecost is that we are still church together. We are gifted and empowered to support one another, to live into the promise of the mutual consolation of the saints, and to continue to be about the work of making Christ real to the last, the lost, the little and the least.

To help with what occurred over the last few days, I offer the following:

On Saturday, June 4th, after prayer-filled discernment and robust conversation, the Sierra Pacific Synod Council voted that they had lost confidence in the bishop and their ability to lead and called for their immediate resignation. A request was made by Bishop Rohrer for a separation agreement between the Bishop and the Synod. As part of the negotiation of that potential agreement, a draft resignation letter dated June 4th was provided but was not to be released until the separation agreement was finalized. Meanwhile, news was released that Bishop Eaton would start the formal disciplinary process and Bishop Eaton would be meeting the Conference of Bishops the evening of June 5th.

On Sunday, June 5th, negotiations of the separation agreement continued and per our agreement, the resignation letter was not released. At 6:00pm PT, the Conference of Bishops gathered via Zoom as Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton shared “that she is initiating the discipline process immediately, including suspension of Bishop Rohrer, based on new information that has come to light that is beyond the scope of the Listening Team report.”

On Monday, June 6th, the following statement from Bishop Eaton was released and distributed accordingly to members of the Sierra Pacific Synod:

The Conference of Bishops met Sunday evening; Bishop Megan Rohrer chose not to attend. The Presiding Bishop shared with us that she is initiating the discipline process immediately, including suspension of Bishop Rohrer, based on additional information that had come to light. The COB strongly affirmed her decision to do this. This process will take time, and Bishop Eaton will provide updates as appropriate. We remain committed to praying for this church.

Presiding Bishop Eaton then initiated the discipline process and placed Rev. Dr. Rohrer on suspension, per the ELCA constitution. Later that day, Rev. Dr. Rohrer posted the resignation letter on various social sites with no separation agreement signed. Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer has formally resigned as Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod.

The Synod was working under good faith and holding the draft resignation letter and kept its part of the agreement.

The Sierra Pacific Synod Staff is exhausted and hurting, many individuals will be taking vacation time this month. Our synod staff members will be asked to continue in their positions and responsibilities amid this initial leadership transition and apologize for any slow responses.

To make the following months easier, here are our steps:

  • We will be looking to our Conference Deans to be primary resources for spiritual counsel and congregational support until such time as the interim bishop is appointed.

  • The Synod Council will work diligently to support both the deans and the synod staff in the day-to-day operations of the synod amid this leadership transition.

  • We do not yet know the timeline leading up to the election of a new Synod bishop, but it will – at the earliest – be at the 2023 Synod Assembly.

As you may be aware, I was not re-elected to serve as Vice-President of the Sierra Pacific Synod at our recent Synod Assembly, however, my term as Vice-President continues through the end of July 2022. As I understand it, that means the lot falls to me to assume primary responsibility for the leadership of the synod during these moments of transition*. Supported by the Synod Council, our Synod staff and our Conference Deans, I will necessarily be taking the reins of leadership until such time as our interim bishop is identified and appointed. I covet your prayers and support in these duties.

Please pray for Jeff Pennington, our Synod Secretary, who suffered a heart attack last night. He is doing well and is recuperating.

This is uncharted territory for all of us – and for our church more generally. We need to be church together at this time. I would humbly ask that you do what you can to affirm our work together, to support one another and not lose sight of the mission that we share.

In the promise of a brighter tomorrow,

Gail Kiyomura

Sierra Pacific Synod, Vice President

*†S8.54. Should the bishop die, resign, or be unable to serve, the vice-president shall convene the Synod Council to arrange for the appropriate care of the responsibilities of the bishop until an election of a new bishop can be held or, in the case of temporary disability, until the bishop is able to serve again. Such arrangements may include the appointment by the Synod Council of an interim bishop, who during the vacancy or period of disability shall possess all of the powers and authority of a regularly elected bishop. The term of the successor bishop, elected by the next Synod Assembly or a special meeting of the Synod Assembly called for the purpose of election, shall be six years with the subsequent election to take place at the Synod Assembly closest to the expiration of such a term and with the starting date of a successor term to be governed by constitutional provision S8.52.