The following is a summary of the activities of the Bishop and Synod Staff since February 22nd. 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 is made possible by you.
Serve as the Synod’s Pastor
Preach, Teach and Administer the Sacraments
· I have visited 102 congregations and mission partners, driving over 22,000 miles since my election. Visiting congregations is my favorite part of serving as Bishop. The diversity in worship styles and individuals in our Synod is a beautiful view into the diversity of God’s creation.
· I spoke at Rabbi Angel’s University of San Francisco class on LGBTQ spirituality and faith (stipend donated to the Bishop’s discretion fund)
· I gave a keynote address at the OutChristian Conference in Louisville, KY (stipend donated to the Bishop’s discretion fund)
· Chrism Mass is a service where oils are blessed for use in baptisms and to bless those who are ill. The service also provides and opportunity for leaders to reaffirm their ordination and baptismal vows. This year services were held at:
o Bethel Lutheran in Fresno
o Faith Lutheran in Meadow Vista (April 27th)
o I have hosted a livestream conversation on Grief and Tauma in the Season of COVID-19 with Pastor Dale Poland
Synod Resource Center
· During our service day in Fresno, Catherine, Pastor Manda and volunteers from Hope Fresno packed the books from Hope Lutheran. Pastor Sharon Amundson drove the books to the Belfry. Pastor Portia Hopkins met Pastor Sharon at the Belfry and they spent more than 3 hours unloading with student volunteers. Thank you to everyone who helped move the books to their new home.
· After a long interview process and background checks our candidate of choice was unable to accept the position do to changing life circumstances. We are reposting the position.
Primary Responsibility for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Synod
· The 2022 Professional Leaders Conference will be during the week of Oct. 9-14. Pastor Manda is leading the conversations and preparations.
· The Digital Equity Team continues to make it possible for congregations to livestream their services. These efforts are primarily supporting multicultural congregations. You can learn more about progress of these efforts here.
Ordination and Calls
· Katie Holeman has been called to serve as Assistant Priest of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Carmichael, CA and will be ordained on May 7th at St. John’s Lutheran in Sacramento, CA.
· Pastor Mytch Dorvilier accepted a call from Churchwide to the YAGM Senegal Program. Her last day at Bethel in Fresno was April 17th.
Exercise Leadership in the Mission of this Church
Interpret and Advocate Theology of the ELCA-
· We continue to work with the Lutheran publishing companies to showcase diverse books that express Lutheran theology. We hosted the Bishop’s Book Club: Body Becoming with Dr Robyn Henderson-Espinoza
· Catherine meets quarterly with 1517 Media to discuss potential topics for discussion and publications to promote in our synod. She meets with the publishing company next in early May.
· I wrote about gender based violence and the Lutheran understanding about how to respond to clergy misconduct: They Did Not Believe the Women, But We Should
Lead in Fostering Support For and Commitment to the Mission of This Church Within the Synod
· Service Projects: We hope to coordinate a service project in each conference this year to encourage cooperation among congregations and so serve the world.
o Humboldt County Service Day: 6 Congregations worked together to care for the environment, the homeless and support children.
o St. John’s Oakland Service Days: East Bay congregations, PLTS students, a Spanish speaking congregation, Synod staff and their family helped with gardening and repairs that saved the Synod an estimated $20,000.
o Fresno Service Day: We joined our newest mission partner, the Fresno Hunger Network and the members of Bethel, to provide a food pantry for those in need.
· Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias Efforts:
o I visited the groundbreaking for the new Lutheran Home for the Aged Humboldt County in Ferndale, CA. This housing project is a collaborative venture of Lutherans in area.
o I serve on the Homeless Coordinating Board for the City and County of San Francisco that oversees housing, coordinated entry and grants for service providers.
Partnership With Full Communion, Ecumenical and Interreligious Partners and Related Organizations:
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
· I delayed negotiating new mission agreements with Churchwide, because they had not provided any mission payments for our Director of Evangelical Mission (DEM) or diverse worshipping communities since I became the Bishop in July of 2021. Diana and I worked with Churchwide to get the payments processed. Unfortunately, the payments were sent to our old checking account, because of how difficult it is to get banking changes communicated to all the divisions of Churchwide. Now that we have received the payments for the last fiscal year, I will be restarting the conversations to negotiate the current fiscal year.
· Sierra Pacific Outdoors is an effort that seeks to support diverse leaders in our Synod through retreats, camps and development of Synodically owned properties. This project seeks to help repair Synodically owned properties so they can be used to grow new multicultural ministries.
o St. James in Hanford – Pastor Manda and I spent several weeks in Hanford overseeing the transition of the property to the Synod. This included new leases for the current renters, updated contracts for contractors providing care for the site, minimal repairs to resolve safety issues and change of locks and acquiring a few new renters to secure enough income to cover the regular expenses of the property. Renters include a daycare, a Spanish language Presbyterian congregation and a Telugu (one of the many languages of India) community of Lutherans. The Witness Discipling Team is in the process of evaluating the community to make recommendations about the possibility of growing a new Lutheran ministry in the area.
o St. John’s in Oakland: During the time it has taken to get additional quotes for major repairs needed at the site, we removed 8 tons of mold/mildew damaged items, repainted the parsonage and began putting in new flooring, began repainting and replacing the flooring in the offices in the church building and began replacing gravel with drought tolerant succulents.
· Prior to my service as Bishop, an agreement was made to sell the congregation in Hilmar, CA to a Spanish speaking congregation that has been renting the space. According to the agreement, the Synod is the lender, and the congregation will purchase the building over time. Sue Michaelson of the Property Committee and our Synod Lawyer were able to complete the paperwork needed and Jeff Pennington and I signed the closing documents.
· The bishop’s discretionary fund has been used in the following ways:
o To provide Spanish language translation for the online Latinae listening session
o To purchase supplies for building repairs at Mt. Cross
o To purchase supplies for repairing St. John’s in Oakland and for the service day.
Advise and Counsel the Synod’s Institutions and Organizations
· I visited Mt. Cross.
· I attended the worship service celebrating the inauguration of California Lutheran University’s president Lori Varlotta.
Practice Leadership in Strengthening the Unity of the Church
Resolving Controversies and Overseeing Discipline-
· Confidential matters are disclosed in Executive Session
o Synod’s External Review & Report Follow Up: The Synod sought out an external review team of diverse individuals who are connected to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in a variety of ways. This team spent months identifying recommendations for Synod Council, Synod Staff and Churchwide to implement, named some of the complications that the Synod had with the time of transition between Bishops and Councils, and pointed out ways for us to continue to improve. The report named that the allegations against Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez were serious and did not recommend discipline for any individuals involved with the decisions related to December 12th. A draft of this report was shared with the Office of the Presiding Bishop.
o Many of these recommendations have already been put in place, including:
§ The report recommended that the Synod provide staff with additional sabbath and rest for their wellness. Current staff have been given 10 extra days of paid time off for their wellness, that must be used by December 31, 2022. All of the staff has taken personal time to care for themselves spiritually, mentally and emotionally and connected with personal resources for their own recuperation and reconciliation.
§ Changes have been made to staff meetings and staff communications to begin to provide additional support for the diverse intersections embodied in our staff. A staff retreat has been planned for July.
§ The Synod Staff Support Committee has been populated and reached out to staff to provide care. Members of the Synod staff have been invited to bring forth the name of an individual they would like to have serve on the committee.
§ The Synod has met with two outside organizations to continue our intercultural development work and anti-racism efforts. Due to scheduling constraints of the facilitators, these trainings for all Synod leaders will likely begin in late June or July.
§ The Synod continues to honor and move forward with the anti-racism benchmarks that have been set for 2022. See the information above about updates.
§ We met with Reconciling Works to begin conversations about how the Synod can improve its support for LGBTQ individuals in our Synod. Theologian in Theologian in Residence Pam Rocker is leading a conversation with individuals in our Synod to begin assessing our benchmarks for decreasing bias against LGBTQ individuals in out Synod.
§ We participated in Churchwide’s listening session to assess the support needed in our Synod. Three individuals traveled to our Synod and spent April 1 and April 2 listening to individuals they selected throughout our Synod. This process is ongoing and as we are not privy to their entire process, we are unsure where they are at as of today. As Bishop Eaton shared, we are expecting to learn more from the Office of the Presiding Bishop in the days to come.
§ Churchwide created a task force to provide care and concern for BIPOC individuals during discipline concerns. As the memo of the actions from the meeting March 31-April 2 minutes state:
3. ADDRESSING THE DISCIPLINE CONCERNS OF ROSTERED PERSONS OF COLOR AND/OR WHOSE PRIMARY LANGUAGE IS OTHER THAN ENGLISH
Background: Following consultation with the Strategy Toward Authentic Diversity (STAD) Advisory Table and with the Administrative Team, the senior director for diversity, equity and inclusion recommends a task force be authorized to review the current process for discipline and its impact on persons of color and other historically marginalized groups; consider a course of action for community healing and restoration; consider the creation of a staff position within the People Solutions home area and learn best practices from full communion partners. The task force will bring recommendations to the Spring
2023 Church Council meeting.
Church Council action: To authorize the creation of a task force tasked with reviewing the current process for discipline and its impact on persons of color and other historically marginalized groups, considering recommendations for staffing, community healing and restoration, and learning best practices from full communion partners; To authorize the Executive Committee to appoint members to the task force composed of representation from the Strategy Toward Authentic Diversity Advisory Table, Conference of Bishops, Committee on Appeals, ethnic specific associations, and churchwide staff from Office of the Presiding Bishop (i.e., Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, director for racial justice, chief diversity officer, senior director for diversity, equity and inclusion), Office of the Secretary (i.e., general counsel), and Service and Justice (i.e., ethnic specific ministries); and To request a report with possible recommendations be provided to the Spring 2023 Church Council meeting
Chief Ecumenical Officer of the Synod
· I provided a faith reflection for the San Francisco Interfaith Council during their meeting about care for the homeless in the Tenderloin District.
· I have been invited to join an interfaith team to provide support and advocacy for LGBTQ individuals living in Israel and Palestine in August.
· I have been invited to serve as a Keynote Speaker at an LGBTQ+ National Event with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints this fall.
Participate in the Conference of Bishops & Consult Regularly with Other Bishops
· I continue to meet regularly with the bishops of Region 2. We will all be attending the Pacifica Synod Assembly during their bishop election. We will also be retreating together in July.
· There was an online Conference of Bishops meeting that I attended.
Foster Awareness of Church in the Lutheran World Communion
· In January of 2023, I will be joining the other bishops who have been elected since 2019 to learn about Lutheran efforts in Israel/Palestine and Jordan. We will also attend the first ordination of a female Lutheran Palestinian in the Middle East.
· I will be attending the Lutheran World Congregation at California Lutheran University this summer.
Cultivate Relationships with Christian Judicatory Leaders Within the Territory
· Pastor Manda and I met with the new Stated Clerk and Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of San Joaquin.
Oversee and Administer the Work of the Synod
Ensure the Following of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod and Churchwide are Being Followed
· Due to our staffing shortage, we are waiting until the next council meeting to bring the next round of recommended policy changes.
· Pastor Manda worked with the deans to make recommendations about the organization of conferences, because most conferences do not have lay officers as required by the constitution.
Coordinate the Work of Synod Staff-
· We have hired JJ Godwin (they/them) as our Executive Assistant and to help create a Lutheran Chaplain Corp to respond to disasters and other emergencies in our Synod. JJ has 12 years experience as an Assistant to Executives at WAMU and JP Morgan Chase, 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training in chaplaincy and is completing their MDiv studies at Luther Seminary. If approved by candidacy, JJ will be eligible for call as a deacon at our June meeting. JJ will join the Synod staff on May 1st and work in the Milbrae office.
Committees and Organizational Units-
· I meet regularly with the deans, the Synod Assembly planning team and the Witness Discipling Team.
Leadership- Led by Pr. Manda Truchinski
· Transfers to The Sierra Pacific Synod:
· Retired Pastor Martha Butzier moved to the synod from the South Central Synod of Wisconsin.
· Transfers to Other Synods:
· Pastor Pamela Griffith Pond moved to the Southwest Washington Synod
· Pastor Tuhina Rasche has accepted a position with the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program, based in Washington D.C. and is moving to the North Carolina Synod.
· Pastor Greg Schafer was recently married and is moving to Minnesota in June.
Maintenance of the Roster of Congregations and Their Officers: Work continues to get our new database updated with current information.
· St. James in Hanford closed. I participated in the closing worship service on February 27th. The building was given to the synod.
· Our Savior in Santa Clara closed and its members have joined Hope. The two congregations have been worshiping together for two years. The building was given to Hope. The final worship service at the congregation will be held on May 10th.