When I was installed as the first openly transgender Bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I knew that there would be some difficult roads to navigate. I did not expect that our friends at the Presbytery of San Joaquin would be among those seeking to distance themselves from the Sierra Pacific Synod.
The Principles for Orderly Exchange document that guides our ecumenical relationship states: “The synod bishop is responsible for appropriate pastoral care and leadership for all ELCA congregations, including those served by ministers of Word and Sacrament of other church bodies.”
The Presbytery has disagreements about the pastoral care I provided to an ELCA congregation. On September 12th they notified me that the Presbytery’s Council and Commission on Ministry approved a moratorium on the placement of any additional PC(USA) clergy (Ministers of Word & Sacrament or Commissioned Lay Pastors) in an ELCA call until further notice.
I believe that the framework of “affirmation and admonition” in the Principles for Orderly Exchange document, call us to continue in consultation and discussion: “The working principle of "mutual affirmation and admonition" allows for the affirmation of agreement while at the same time allowing a process of mutual edification and correction in areas where there is not total agreement. Each tradition brings its "corrective witness" to the other while fostering continuing theological reflection and dialogue to further clarify the unity of faith they share and seek. The principle of "mutual affirmation and admonition" views remaining differences as diverse witnesses to the one Gospel confessed in common. Whereas conventional modes of thought have hidden the bases of unity behind statements of differences, the new concept insists that, while remaining differences must be acknowledged, even to the extent of their irreconcilability, it is the inherent unity in Christ that is determinative. Thus, the remaining differences are not church-dividing.”
I wrote the Stated Clerk/Executive Presbyter to formally request dialogue, because: “no document can convey the complexity of ways that the procedures of each church are lived out, and a commitment to help one another in honoring the diversities of each tradition is part of the meaning of living in communion.”
The relationship between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) is special and important. The Sierra Pacific Synod remains committed to this important ecumenical relationship and I hope you will join us in conversation. I continue to value and support the Presbytery and will hold my siblings in Christ in prayer.
The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer
Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod