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Transgender Lutheran bishop resigns over racism allegations

Bishop Megan Rohrer speaks to the press before their installation ceremony at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Rohrer, an openly transgender bishop who made history in 2021 with an appointment as a bishop by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has resigned amid allegations of racism after firing the pastor of a predominantly Latino congregation.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An brazenly transgender cleric from San Francisco, who made historical past final yr with an appointment as a bishop by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has resigned amid allegations of racism after firing the pastor of a predominantly Latino congregation.

The Rev. Megan Rohrer, who makes use of the pronoun “they,” led one of many church’s 65 synods, overseeing practically 200 congregations in Northern California and northern Nevada. They have been elected in Could 2021 to serve a six-year time period as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod.

In a letter to the synod Saturday, Rohrer stated they have been resigning due to “the fixed misinformation, bullying and harassment” they skilled after the synod voted to take away the pastor of Mision Latina Luterana on Dec. 12, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a major vacation for congregants of the Stockton, California, church.

Rohrer fired the Rev. Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez after an investigation by the church into verbal harassment and retaliation allegations in opposition to the pastor, all of which he has denied. The synod council voted on Dec. 11 to vacate Rabell-Gonzalez’s name as a mission developer and to terminate his employment after they stated he refused to satisfy sure necessary necessities.

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Rohrer was not out there to talk with The Related Press on Tuesday, saying they have been “making an attempt to relaxation and be with my household.”

A spokeswoman for the ELCA declined additional remark Tuesday.

After Rabell-Gonzalez’s elimination upset members of the Mision Latina Luterana, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, the denomination’s presiding bishop, appointed a three-person “listening panel” in March to overview Rohrer’s actions.

That report launched June 1 made a number of suggestions to the ELCA, together with publicly apologizing to the Latino church neighborhood for the harm brought about, planning anti-racism coaching for churchwide employees and leaders, paying a “therapeutic go to” to the neighborhood and making a process drive to overview the church’s insurance policies and procedures.

Church leaders initiated the method to self-discipline Rohrer on Sunday following their resignation on Saturday. Eaton posted on Twitter that the Convention of Bishops met Sunday, a gathering she stated Rohrer “selected to not attend.”

“I shared that I’m initiating the self-discipline course of instantly together with suspension of Bishop Rohrer, primarily based on extra data that has come to mild.”

She added that the method will take time and that she is going to proceed “to supply updates as acceptable.”

On Twitter, Rohrer questioned the church’s transfer to proceed with the disciplinary course of following their resignation “with out offering any specifics about what I allegedly did.“

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“That seems to be in battle with their very own procedures,” Roher stated.

Members of the listening panel reported that the Mision Latina Luterana congregation had no thought their pastor was fired on Dec. 12. The congregation comprising principally Mexican immigrants had deliberate an elaborate program that day with mariachi singers, conventional dancers and performances by youngsters, all led by their pastor.

A video, which one of many congregants recorded reside, exhibits distraught congregants voicing their considerations. One girl stated in Spanish: “Pastor Nelson has labored loads for at the present time to occur. He has finished loads for our neighborhood. He has fought for our rights.”

Others stated the transfer to fireplace him was “unfair” and “racist.” The report mentions different congregants requested if the complaints in opposition to Rabell-Gonzalez have been sexual in nature and have been additional upset when they didn’t get a response from Rohrer or different leaders.

The report additionally stated Rohrer threatened a toddler and her father with calling the police if they didn’t depart the vestry – a menace that’s considered as racist by the immigrant neighborhood. Rohrer wore a bulletproof vest in the course of the service, the report stated, as a result of they’d “considerations about their security and well-being.”

Eaton introduced in a Could 27 report back to the church that she had requested Rohrer’s resignation from the synod.

“There are problems with damaged belief in any respect ranges, from particular person members and communities to the broader church, which can want work to restore,” she stated in that report.

She stated she intends to behave on and discover a number of of the listening staff’s suggestions notably the necessity for anti-racism and cultural sensitivity coaching.

The church’s Latino Ministries Affiliation had robust phrases for Eaton in a Could 28 assertion criticizing her for not bringing disciplinary fees in opposition to the bishop for “racist actions” in opposition to the congregation.

The affiliation’s leaders known as Eaton’s assertion “weak and compassionless” and framed racist actions as “unwise choices” and “unlucky occasions.” In addition they stated her message ignored the struggling of a complete neighborhood and gave “a white aggressor the chance to resolve their very own destiny – a call deeply rooted in white supremacy and systemic racism.”

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In a earlier assertion, the synod council stated it determined to terminate Rabell-Gonzalez’s employment after “continuous communications of verbal harassment and retaliatory actions from greater than a dozen victims from 2019 to the current.” However church officers haven’t particularly said what the pastor’s transgressions have been.

Rabell-Gonzalez was one of many candidates within the election for bishop. After Rohrer’s appointment, church officers recognized necessary steps for Rabell-Gonzalez to take, which officers stated he refused to adjust to, on Dec. 9. The council’s motion to vacate his name got here two days later.

The choice to vacate the pastor’s name additionally minimize off funding for the congregation, the report stated, leaving the neighborhood and not using a pastor or a church constructing.

Rabell-Gonzalez, who spoke to the AP from his native Puerto Rico on Tuesday, stated he’s persevering with to guide the congregation underneath a brand new title, Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria Peregrina, on the First Congregational Church in Stockton.

Rabell-Gonzalez stated he by no means declined to observe the synod’s suggestions, and easily desires the chance to make his case.

“I’ve been taken off the roster with out due course of, with none disciplinary listening to and with out being accused of something,” he stated.

Rohrer will now have the chance to mount a protection as a part of a disciplinary course of – a chance Rabell-Gonzalez says he has been denied. He additionally stated he didn’t refuse the synod’s mandate to see a therapist. When Rohrer turned bishop, Rabell-Gonzalez stated he anticipated to get an ally.

“I acquired an oppressor as an alternative,” he stated.

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Related Press faith protection receives assist by the AP’s collaboration with The Dialog US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely liable for this content material.

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