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Important Announcement from Sierra Pacific Candidacy Committee - July 19, 2023

To the people of the Sierra Pacific Synod, to the Sierra Pacific Synod Council, and to the whole ELCA,


Greetings and grace to you in Christ from the Sierra Pacific Candidacy Committee. Per the recommendations from the report of the Investigation Team to the Sierra Pacific Synod Council, especially #4 and #5, the SPS Candidacy Committee has worked quickly toward the restoration of Nelson Rabell-González to the roster of the ELCA. At the request of Interim Bishop Claire Burkat, an interview panel of four members of the Candidacy Committee came together twice before bringing the issue to all the members of the Candidacy Committee on June 30, 2023. In the first meeting, the panel interviewed a member of the Investigation Team. While we were not permitted to read the report due to ongoing litigation, we had access to the information via interview and conversation. During the second meeting, the panel conducted an approval interview with Rabell-González for his restoration to the roster and decided to recommend Rabell-González for approval. During the third and final meeting, the panel, with the rest of the candidacy committee, engaged in serious and careful discussion, resulting in a vote to approve Rabell-González.


The panel and the Candidacy Committee would like to state for the record that this process should not be a precedent for this synod nor any other synod in the ELCA. This process was completed with a sense of urgency due to the racialized harm caused by the synod and denomination to Rabell-González and his family and to the community of Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina. Additionally, a true appeal process, for which our Church has none, would hopefully not be hampered by ongoing litigation, nor have such a public nature to it, both of which can negatively affect the fairness of such proceedings for all parties involved. It is important to reiterate that neither the panel nor the Candidacy Committee was given access to the Investigation Team’s report. The Investigation Team did not interview former Bishop Rohrer (due to ongoing litigation), nor did they interview the congregation of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lodi. Instead, the Investigation Team read written statements from the Lodi congregation and interviewed some members of the Latine ministry there.


In our understanding, the Investigation Team report made clear the case for racial discrimination against Rabell-González and the community of Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina located in Stockton, CA. The Investigation Team also demonstrated a number of systemic failures in both the synod and denominational processes, especially related to the conduct of a bishop. While the Investigation Team was not tasked with determining the truth of the allegations against Rabell-González, they never found the alleged list of names of harassment victims used to remove Rabell-González from his call in December 2021. Finally, no one that the Investigation Team interviewed believed that Rabell-González was a threat. From our perspective, the weight of the evidence revealed that the misconduct was consistently against Rabell-González. Therefore, the Candidacy Committee approves Nelson Rabell-González for restoration to the roster of the ELCA and the Sierra Pacific Synod without delay, upon the issuance of a call.


The committee would like to share with you the information that we received that helped in our decision that acknowledges our limitations and the limitations of the Investigation Team. We are advised not to do so due to litigation and privacy issues. However, we do see a system that continues to lack the transparency that is needed to build trust. We also see a system whose focus is now still on an Afro-Caribbean man from Puerto Rico and a transgender person, yet misses focus on behaviors of white cisgender people that significantly affected the dynamic of this whole situation. Therefore, we urge the Sierra Pacific Synod and ELCA to take seriously the charges of racism, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and white supremacy, as these were at play in this situation, as revealed by the Investigation Team. As a candidacy committee, we want the diversity of candidates whom God is calling to have a church that is better ready to receive them.


In Christ,

The Sierra Pacific Synod Candidacy Committee

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