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Bishop’s Report to the Synod Council

September 6, 2021

The following is a summary of the activities of the Bishop and Synod Staff since July 1, 2021. This report uses the list of responsibilities outlined in the Synod’s Constitution to organize the many tasks of the Synod. While the Bishop has oversight over these tasks, the work detailed below is only possible because of the faithful work of the Synod staff, council members, committee members and volunteers. We are grateful for the mission support of congregations throughout the Synod and churchwide. This work would not be possible without their generosity.

Serve as the Synod’s Pastor

Preach, Teach and Administer the Sacraments

· I visited 38 congregations, mission partners and organizations and livestreamed prayer each Wednesday (except one which was led by Catherine Slabaugh).

· Pr. Hazel Salazar-Davidson and I will preach at the San Francisco Night Ministry’s Open Cathedral on Sept 9th.

· The Bishop Installation (planning led by Pr. Manda Truchinski) will take place on Sept. 11th at Grace Cathedral.

Synod Resource Center

· Strategic Plan: Catherine Slabaugh has been working with the Synod Resource Center (SRC) volunteers to create a strategic plan to guide their work in the future.

Primary Responsibility for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Synod

· Professional Leaders Conference: Despite budgeting $30,000 in income and only $20,000 in expense, nearly $40,000 in contracts had been signed (in 2019) for the 2021 Professional Leaders Conference (PLC). The contracts do not have an option for canceling due to COVID or wildfires. We are working to minimize deficits as much as we can, by expanding who is considered a professional leader and planning for additional retreats for lay leaders in congregations.

The theme for this year’s retreat is Wellness. In addition to the traditional pre-gatherings for Women and Deans, there will also be pre-gatherings for people identified as BIPOC and LGBTQ. Presenters include: Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell, Pam Rocker, Ashli St. Armant and Judith Dancer.

· First Call Theological Education (FCTE): Our November FCTE will be led independent of our Region 2 partners. This change is due to a revamping and revisioning of FCTE and discernment about the needs of each of our Synods. We are planning to have our next event at our new Milbrae office and to focus on executive leadership and risk management skills. Conversations continue to see if future FCTE will be held independently or with our Region 2 partners.

Ordination and Calls

· The ordination of Deaconess Cora Rose was held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco on July 25th.

· The ordination of Carol Brodt will be held at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection on Sept 25th.


· The Installation of Pr. Shaun O’Riley was held on August 4th in Reno, NV.

· The installation of Pr. Julie Vice was held on August 5th in Elko, NV.

Exercise Leadership in the Mission of this Church

Interpret and Advocate Theology of the ELCA-

· Theologians in Residence: I am working to identify individuals and raise funds to support theologians in residence who will support the Sierra Pacific Synod in anti-racism efforts, to expand our welcome and to care for creation. Theologians in Residence will be available for preaching and teaching at congregations and participate in online and in person Synodical events. Theologians in residence will simplify planning future events because presenters will participate in multiple events over a year.

· Rev. Paul Chung and I spoke on livestream about Luther and Buddhism

· I will be delivering the Georgia Harkness Lecture for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the Pacific School of Religion on October 14th. $1,000 will be donated to the Synod as an honorarium.

Lead in Fostering Support For and Commitment to the Mission of This Church Within the Synod- The current mission and vision of the ELCA is expressed in the following priority areas (

· A Welcoming Church: Engaging new, young and diverse people

· A Thriving Church: Rooted in Tradition and Radically Relevant

· A Connected, Sustainable Church: Raising the Bar Together

The ELCA’s current goal is to grow the church by 1 million members, with outreach and evangelism targeted toward young people, racial and ethnic diversity and LGBTQ individuals.

· 1,190 media sources around the world have reported news about the Bishop election, travel to visit congregations and the upcoming installation.

Children, Youth and Young Adults

· Attended the Sierra Pacific Synod Youth Committee (SPSYC) meeting to elect new leaders and blessed the outgoing leaders.

· Some of the children of Synod Staff are in conversation with Catherine about creating online content in support of children, youth and young adults.


· I will be attending a reception for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries on September 10th.

· I participated in an Instagram live with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and participated in several interviews with LGBTQ newspapers.

Ethnic Specific and Multicultural Ministry

· Strategy Toward Authentic Diversity: Because anti-racism work is the job of all Synod staff, Pastor Hazel Salazar-Davidson will be working with synod staff to create a vision and benchmarks for our anti-racism efforts. Additional efforts, in accordance with the churchwide documents for creating a strategy toward authentic diversity include:

· Theological Framing and Equipping: I have begun a book club to encourage the Synod to learn together. Books will be selected by members of the Synod staff. The first books will be:

o If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I?: Black Lives Matter & Biblical Authority by Angela Parker

o Sustaining Spirit: Self Care for Social Justice by Naomi Ortiz

· Healing Action: I wrote a blog to apologize for the imagery on an old Synod logo that tried to celebrate Pentecost with imagery of a fire on a cross.

· Structural Accountability: I had several conversations with the churchwide about the pay structure for DEM’s and how it leads to inequitable pay in our Synod. To provide equitable pay, our DEM will be called by the Synod (rather than churchwide) so they can be paid according to local standards of living.

· Theological Education and Leadership Development: The Synod will no longer promote or seek out presentations by individuals who do not have embodied experiences in the topics they are presenting on. You can read more about this on the Synod’s blog:

Just Lutheran ( conversations center the voices of LGBTIQ, racially and ethnically diverse individuals and communities. These conversations seek to let those with the most at stake speak first, last and longest. Some of these conversations include:

1. Arab and Middle East: Pr. Tita Valeriano and I meet with the ALAMEH board andvisited sites in Carmichael, CA for the Synod’s newest Mission Development for Middle Eastern and Afghan outreach. I also hosted a live stream conversation with Charbel Zgheib who is in the candidacy process with the hopes of serving as the pastor of this community.

2. Asian and Pacific Islander: I met with the Asian Lay Evangelism Program and spent 7 hours listening at Good Shepherd South Asian Ministry SAWC.

3. American Indian and Alaska Native: I hosted a livestream conversation with Vance Blackfox. Vance will be joining us at the Bishop Installation and helping our Synod develop relationships with tribes residing in our Synod

4. Latinx: I met with some of the pastors leading Latinx congregations to talk about signs and symbols of the bishop that are important to their community. A miter and stole were commissioned in response to their conversations. The stole tells the journey of migration from the South, community building and connection and urban and rural ministries. The items are made from fabrics from not only Latinx congregations, but from congregations from around the Synod.

· Partnership With Full Communion, Ecumenical and Interreligious Partners and Related Organizations: I preached at two services at Glide Memorial in San Francisco, to encourage congregations to form meaningful relationships with historically black churches in their communities.

Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR):

· I had several meetings with LDR about emergency chaplain support, fire recovery and wellness resources for our Synod.

· A two-part webinar is being scheduled to provide training and resiliency support for our synod. The trainings will be led by LDR in November of 2021.

· I met with several congregations and their leaders about the effects of the ongoing wildfires on congregations in our Synod. I continue to check in on pastors to provide support.

Coordinate the Use of the Resources Available to this Synod as it Seeks to Promote the Health of the Church and Witness in Areas Served by this Synod

Finances & Stewardship: As previously described, the restructuring of the Synod office is expected to decrease long term administrative costs. Additional cost savings will come from ending the Synod’s $20,000/yr tech support.

Mission Funding from Churchwide: Pr. Tita Valeriano oversees the distribution of mission support from churchwide. The Synodical call of Pr. Tita will lead to an additional $90,000 in pass through mission support. The effects are budget neutral, but the restructuring will make our total mission support to and from churchwide more transparent.

New and Additional Funding:

· Income from preaching and teaching stipends are being designated for the Bishop’s Discretionary Fund.

· The Welcome Ministry (a non-profit that raised mission support for projects I’ve worked on with the homeless and LGBTQ community) decided to cease operation. The board voted to allocate the non-profit’s remaining funds the following way: $10,000 to Lutheran World Relief for Haiti; $3,000 for the bishop’s discretionary fund to be used for ADA improvements in congregations; and $4,258.17 to support a LGBTQ Theologian in Residence.

Advise and Counsel the Synod’s Institutions and Organizations

· I visited Lutheran Social Services’ San Francisco project sites along with the board.

· I visited Mt. Cross with my family and attended their board meeting.

· I visited the San Francisco Night Ministry and several staff members have met with them.

· I have had multiple meetings with leaders from California Lutheran University and PLTS and attended a meeting for Convocators.

· Met with Regina Banks of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy (LOPP) in California

· Catherine Slabaugh met with leaders from Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy (LEAN) and Farming Hope

Practice Leadership in Strengthening the Unity of the Church

Resolving Controversies and Overseeing Discipline-

· To support congregations in conflict before issues escalate, upon the recommendation of Churchwide, the Synod will no longer limit communication to pastors and council presidents. I have been working to support several congregations and Synodically Authorized Worshiping Communities (SAWC) as they work through issues. To support these efforts, all Synod staff will be trained in the methods of resolving church conflict developed by Lombard Mennonite.

· Discipline – information is confidential and only shared in the Executive Session of the Synod Council meetings

Chief Ecumenical Officer of the Synod

· I will be presenting on Disaster Chaplaincy with members of the San Francisco Interfaith Council at the World Parliament of Religion.

Participate in the Conference of Bishops & Consult Regularly with Other Bishops

· I attended online Bishop Formation in July. The next gathering for Bishop Formation will be held online at the end of September.

· I met online with the Conference of Bishops (COB) most Thursdays. The COB will be meeting online the first week of October.

· I have been appointed to the COB’s Roster Committee.

· I met with the Bishops of Region 2 most Fridays. We had additional meetings to speak about special subjects.

Foster Awareness of Church in the Lutheran World Communion

· The Salvadorian Lutheran Church is electing a new Bishop who will be installed on August 6, 2022. I hope to attend the event and learn more about our Sister Synod the week before the installation.

· I have been invited to speak at the Church of Sweden’s Transblessing conference in October.

Cultivate Relationships with Christian Judicatory Leaders Within the Territory

· Pr. Manda Truchinski and I met with the Presbytery of San Joaquin to learn more about our joint ministries and the spaces where our work and mission differs.

Oversee and Administer the Work of the Synod

Ensure the Following of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod and Churchwide are Being Followed

· We are working to bring the Synod Resource Center into compliance with Policy 89-003 Guidelines for Financial Accountability for the Divisions, Commissions, and the Committees of the Sierra Pacific Synod.

Coordinate the Work of Synod Staff-

· Staff Retreat- Synod staff will be meeting at the new Milbrae office for three days to plan, calendar and get to know each other better.

· Transparency and Modeling Discipleship – Each new staff member shared, via livestream, about their experiences and hopes for their work on their first day. Staff will continue to share about the work of the Synod through livestream conversations. We also hope to have opportunities for council members, committees, discipling teams and others to speak about the work and mission of the Synod.

· Human Resources – The Synod’s employee handbook has not been updated since 1989. Due to the significant number of employment law changes that have taken place since then, a first draft of a new employee handbook was given to staff on July 1st. Pr. Manda Truchinski will work with volunteers who have experience and training in Human Resources to create a final draft of the handbook. The new employment policies address several issues that significantly impacted the Synod budget this year, including:

· Switching from vacation and sick days to paid time off (PTO)

· Capping accrued PTO

In addition to the budgetary implications, the change helps encourage all staff to utilize their vacation time yearly to model the wellness we believe is important for congregational leaders.

The use of online timesheets will also allow the Synod to follow some of the more complicated employment laws and begin best practices to help decrease liability. Some of the changes include:

· Using online timecards to track non-exempt employees work and breaks.

· Tracking the total number of hours worked in a year by non-exempt employees who are part time to ensure they are receiving the proper level of benefits

· Synod Offices: Seeking to downsize our office expenses, we are closing two of the Synod’s offices and keeping one office in a congregation in Milbrae. Pr. Manda Truchinski and I moved the items from the office at Christ the Good Shepherd in San Jose. That office is now closed. The Sacramento office was sold by the Presbytery (due to an assault and ongoing safety issues).

We received keys for our new office at Unity Lutheran’s Millbrae campus on Sept. 1. The Synod’s rent will help the congregation become more financially self-sustaining and increase their mission support. Pastor John Kuehner put in countless hours helping to get the space ready for the Synod and even installed our new lighting.

To downsize from three offices to one, a substantial amount of work was needed to research record retention requirements, to identify documents that could be sent to archive to arrange for scanning over 100 boxes of files. Special thanks to Pr. Manda Truchinski who led most of the moving logistics, including preparing documents for scanning. Thanks to Diana Barrios, Miguel Barrios and other members of Diana’s family who helped with packing, lifting and transporting items. And a big thank you to Sara Erickson who volunteered to help with packing files for scanning.

One-time moving costs: scanning will cost about $10,000, moving will cost about $5,000, painting and repairs at the Milbrae office will cost about $10,000. Savings expected from the move include: $6,000/yr janitorial; $8,750/yr for security, $10,000/yr for utilities and the increased mission support donated by Unity Lutheran.

· Outgoing Staff: Deacon Margy, Debbie Cook and Laurie Gaumer gave notice that they were ready to leave their positions in the Synod. We give thanks for their service.

Committees and Organizational Units-

· Some of the meetings I’ve attended, include: Synod council, the candidacy committee, the intentional interim committee, mission discipling, stewardship, professional leaders conference planning team, Congregational Vitality, Synod Resource Center, Systems Academy, Lutheran Disaster Response, ALAMEH, PLTS/CLU, LOPP and many others.

Leadership- Led by Pr. Manda Truchinski

· Roster Management: The Synod has been using three different databases for their work. As a result, each of these databases have up to date information and other information that is woefully out of date. Pr. Manda Truchinski is working with staff to select a new data base that can handle all our roster management and financial documents. Pr Manda, Diana Barrios and Catherine Slabaugh have met with several venders and hope to select one soon. After the new database is selected, the tedious work of updating the roster of professional leaders and congregational officers will begin.

· On-Leave-From-Call (OLFC): We have identified several individuals who were not notified that they needed to request OLFC status at the end of their calls, or to serve in an interim capacity. A process has been created to ensure that the proper notice if given to Pastors and Deacons when they leave a call before they receive a new call.

· Transfers to Other Synods:

· Retired Pr Nancy Feniuk Nelson transferred to the Pacifica Synod

· Pr. Heidi Hester has received a call to Hope Lutheran in Bozeman, Montana and will be transferring.

Maintenance of the Roster of Congregations and Their Officers: Synod Vice President Gail Kiyomura has been meeting quarterly with congregational leaders and has a spreadsheet of the leaders who have participated. When our new database is selected, we will keep the roster of congregations and their officers on this platform.

Appoint a Statistician: We met with churchwide about how demographic information and statistics gathering are used to promote diversity and discuss how data collection can support our synod’s anti-racism work. This information will be used to create a strategy and to create a team to support ongoing demographic collection and reporting.

Appoint Lawyer: Mark Watson was appointed to be the lawyer of the Synod. He expects to complete the requirements to join the Nevada Bar in January.

Archive Documents:

· About 20 boxes of files have been identified for the Synod Archive.

· About 30 boxes of files have been identified for the churchwide archive.

· The next step is to ship the documents or identify volunteers to drive them to the respective archives.

· Special thanks to Gail, Diana, Miguel, Manda, and Sara for their help with research, organizing files, lifting and transporting boxes.

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