During this season of Lent I have been worshiping with congregations throughout the Sierra Pacific Synod. During one of the Wednesday evenings in Lent, I visited Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Concord, CA. Each week in Lent, Pastor Jeremy Serrano preached about A Church Called TOV: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing.
Pastor Jeremy's sermon inspired me to listen to the book while driving through the Synod to visit other congregations. A Church Called TOV calls all who are able to change church culture and create an environment that believes women. The book argues that our journey to follow Jesus must included caring for and protecting those who are abused by others in power. Just as Jesus regularly advocated for women, widows, lepers and others on the margins, we need to care for those who are vulnerable in our communities.
This holy week, as congregations throughout the Sierra Pacific Synod are reading the story of the passion, the history of God's creation and will ultimately proclaim the good news of Jesus' resurrection. As you read these stories, dwell in the ways that these sacred texts center women. The women saw and shared what they witnessed (except in Mark's version). They did not believe the women, but we should.
Jesus believed women.
Jesus spoke out in support of the widow whose last coins were put into the temple boxes.
Jesus spoke about the widow who was denied justice by the judget.
Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, offering her living water.
Jesus restored those who were unable to enter the Temple, so they could participate in the full life of worship.
Jesus suffered to destroy the suffering of others.
Similarly, we are called to speak up, support and participate in the restoration of all who have been harmed by what we have done and left undone in our sacred communities. ELCA Lutherans believe that all individuals who experience violence or abuse deserve care. This is especially true for victims of misconduct that happens in the church. We strive to be a zero tolerance church in matters of sexual misconduct.
Living in an intersectional world, sometimes what we have done or left undone, will cause harm even when we seek to do our best. In these moments, A Church Called TOV offers models for seeking forgiveness, repenting and doing better in the future. Like most institutions, we are not perfect. I definitely am not perfect.
Still we strive to care for each and every victim who is brave enough to come forward. I believe that the worst day to respond to misconduct is the day after more people are harmed. Thank you to all the brave individuals who have reported misconduct.
If you have experienced harm, the information below provides important information about how to report clergy misconduct.
All individuals can report Clergy Misconduct
to Barbara Keller at 773-380-2568 or email,
and/or Bishop Megan Rohrer at 415-999-5818 or email@example.com.
Important Note: Barbara Keller is an independent contractor who provides support to victims and provides them with information about the various ways misconduct can be reported. All reports to Bishop Megan will be investigated for possible discipline.
Reporting child abuse In the United States most states require allegations of abuse against a minor to be reported immediately to state authorities. The ELCA encourages immediately reporting to the civil authorities all instances of child abuse regardless of personal confidentiality issues. Each state has a different mandatory reporting process. You should call local law enforcement authorities or go to your state government website and find the appropriate office for reporting child abuse. Reporting sexual misconduct in the ELCA Sexual misconduct committed by congregational employees should be reported to the pastor, council president, or other congregational officer. Congregations are encouraged to have policies in place for addressing allegations against church staff and to respond with compassion and care to anyone reporting abuse by clergy or lay leaders. Synods of this church usually have responsibility for addressing allegations of clergy sexual abuse, administering appropriate discipline, and responding to those who have been harmed. Procedures and policies in place in the synods of this church provide for compassionate and resolute response to those wounded by clergy sexual misconduct, and appropriate discipline for those who offend. What is misconduct? Sexual misconduct: Federal and state laws make distinctions among various types of sexual misconduct, such as “sexual harassment,” “sexual abuse,” and “sexual assault.” Similarly, the governing documents of the ELCA define what types of sexual misconduct can result in a pastor or other rostered person facing ecclesiastical discipline. These distinctions should not concern a person who is troubled about the sexual conduct of a pastor or rostered layperson. This church is concerned about all types of sexual misconduct by these individuals, regardless of whether or how the misconduct is characterized by the law or by the governing documents of the ELCA. Any time a minister uses his or her position in the church for personal sexual gratification it is a misuse of the pastoral office and a betrayal of the nature of the pastoral relationship. Any sexual misconduct committed by a rostered church leader should be reported to the appropriate synod, including, but not limited to, any sexual contact between the rostered person and a congregant, counselee, employee or volunteer. It should be noted that the synod may not be able to assume primary responsibility for addressing all allegations of sexual misconduct. For example, law enforcement authorities would have responsibility for investigating and addressing criminal allegations, while congregations would have to deal with accusations of sexual harassment by the congregation's employees. Nevertheless, the appropriate synod office should be notified of all cases of inappropriate sexual behavior in the congregation. Any suspected sexual contact with a minor must be reported to the appropriate governmental agency as required by state laws concerning reporting of child abuse. You can find more Resources here.