Last September the ELCA celebrated the election and installation of its first transgender bishop,
Meghan Rohrer of the Sierra Pacific Synod. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton served as the lead consecrator and preacher at the service. Bishop Eaton had a very interesting and typically ELCA way of twisting the Bible and distorting theology in order to justify what her presence and actions were legitimizing. In her sermon message, Bishop Eaton noted that Jesus Christ’s identity as both fully human and fully divine were not an “either/or” but a “both/and”. It is absolutely astounding to me to think that a church leader would believe that the two natures of Christ – His being both fully divine and fully human – are somehow support for transgender and non-binary ideology.
It gets even worse. Bishop Eaton went on to challenge those attending – both in person and remotely – to continue watching in the months ahead. “You’re going to see a grace-filled, Gospel preaching, Jesus-loving servant of the Word serving everyone, all people. You’re going to see someone and a synod being transformed in order to invite people into the complete, the infinite, and the intimate love of God. We’ll continue to work for those on the margins. We do it surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses and we do it by a God who was not either/or but both divine and human.”
But all that changed, and it changed dramatically and rapidly within three months. On December 12, 2021 – the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a very special day within the Latino community – the synod council of the Sierra Pacific Synod took action to remove Pastor Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez from his position as mission developer of Mision Latina Luterana in Stockton, California.
Lutheran CORE very intentionally and deliberately takes no position on these actions. It is not our place, nor would we make any claim to know all the facts. Rather what we want to do is to point out the significance of this entire event. For those who would like to know more, here is a link to an article written by a friend of Pastor Rabell. At the end of the article you will find links to more articles. It is obviously written by a person who strongly favors one side in the struggle.
For the first several weeks it appeared that Bishop Eaton was hoping that the whole thing would just blow over and go away. As presiding bishop she claimed that she has no authority to interfere in the actions of a synod council. But as the turmoil continued to spread and as the crisis continued to escalate, she eventually took action to appoint a three-person listening team, which would help her in determining what to do. In the first link she tells about forming the team. In the second link she gives an update.
What was supposed to be so wonderful very quickly became not wonderful. What was supposed to be continuing to work for those on the margins became accusations of severe discrimination against those on the margins.
What is the significance of what is going on here? The ELCA is experiencing the consequences of what it has been enabling, encouraging, and empowering. Or, to put it another way – in terms of Galatians 6: 7 – the ELCA is reaping what it has been sowing.
What else would you expect to result from the ELCA’s full embrace of critical theory? What else would you anticipate when everything is viewed in terms of power/abuse of power, oppressor/oppressed, victim/victimizer, and privileged/marginalized. It is only a matter of time until something blows and/or a single spark sets the whole forest aflame. Please see below the review by Dr. Robert Benne of the book by Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. This seems like a most appropriate time to have a review of a book like that.
One of the things that is interesting here is that ELCA congregations in the Sierra Pacific Synod are taking action against the synodical bishop and synod council. I am aware of congregation councils that are passing resolutions to have no dealings with the synod until and unless the synodical bishop and synod council all resign or are terminated. And if they do not resign or are not terminated, these congregations will initiate the process to leave the ELCA. One such resolution can be found on the website of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Fresno.
There are a couple very interesting things going on here. First, it is not – as in the past – orthodox, confessing congregations that are leaving the ELCA. Instead it is among the most actively, aggressively, and outspokenly progressive congregations that are threatening to leave the ELCA.
Second, the recently approved version of the ELCA’s document, “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline,” provides for the discipline of rostered ministers who “actively and affirmatively incite, initiate, or encourage a congregation to leave the ELCA” (page 11). Since the ELCA is saying that it could discipline an orthodox, confessing pastor for encouraging a congregation to leave the ELCA, should not the same standard apply to a progressive pastor? And if it does not, then is the ELCA not guilty of discrimination and “discipline inequity”? (Which is one of the things that the ELCA is being accused of because of the Sierra Pacific synod council’s removal of a Latino mission developer.)
If progressive congregations in the Sierra Pacific Synod are “able to get away with” no longer functioning as part of the synod, then should not the same standard apply to confessing congregations that no longer function as part of their synod? (Which is the approach that some confessing congregations are taking because they are not able to “get enough votes” to leave the ELCA.)
And if the Sierra Pacific synod council disciplines a pastor for inciting a congregation to leave the ELCA because the bishop and synod council have neither resigned nor been removed from their positions, how will all that play out? I also am aware of confessing congregations that were forced to repay their synods large sums of money in order to receive permission to leave (which is required of ELCA mission starts and was demanded of some former LCA congregations before they received the required permission to leave). Will the Sierra Pacific Synod congregations that leave the ELCA if the bishop and synod council neither resign nor are terminated be treated in the same way? And if they are not, would that not be another example of discrimination and “ELCA inequity”? Oh, what a mess!