June 2, 2022
Dear Friends and Colleagues in the South Carolina Synod,
Many of you are aware that our church is experiencing significant conflict that arose and went public on social media following events in the Sierra Pacific Synod, and have resonated throughout the whole ELCA. If you have not been aware of this conflict, I regret that I have to bring it to your attention, but transparency is essential for our life together, and we will need the prayers from everyone to move toward healing.
Yesterday our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, released a report of a listening team she sent to the Sierra Pacific Synod. I encourage you to read it, if you have not already done so. This is the link to that report: https://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/ELCA-Listening-Team-Report-053122.pdf . I ask congregations and leaders to reflect on this report and think together about what ideas, prayers, discussion questions and actions this report brings to mind for our context and ministry in our communities, our synod, as well as the wider church.
LISTENING TEAM REPORT REGARDING THE ACTIONS OF THE SIERRA PACIFIC SYNOD
You may wonder what all of this has to do with us in the South Carolina Synod. At the heart of this conflict is racism that is imbedded so deeply within our church system that we often cannot even recognize its presence. This report and the events and circumstances surrounding it indicate that significant pain has been caused within our church body and we have a great deal of work to do to heal the damages done to people who have too often been marginalized even though we claim to be an inclusive church, open to all God’s beloved children. Racism is not isolated in one synod or part of the church, but exists everywhere.
We have strong tendencies to resist conversation and the work that is truly needed to combat the sin of racism because it is uncomfortable and challenging to discuss and work through, but we have a calling as disciples of Jesus to have these conversations and to work together for a more faithful and inclusive community that is welcoming and supportive of all God’s beloved children. We have a calling as disciples today to extend the love of Jesus and to recognize and respect each person as a child of God.
Today, the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly began. I ask for your prayers for those meeting in that Assembly this weekend, and for sisters and brothers across the ELCA who are hurting. On Sunday night, the Conference of Bishops will meet online. I ask your prayers for that meeting as well.
In just a week we will gather in assembly as the South Carolina Synod – ELCA. I look forward to seeing many of you in person for the first time since 2019. In August the ELCA will gather in Columbus, Ohio for churchwide assembly. South Carolina Synod voting members met in late April and will meet again in July to continue preparing for our work at that assembly.
I am praying for you; for your health and well-being, for your congregations and ministries; for the whole church as we seek to be faithful disciples in these challenging times. I want you to know that we have the capacity to make space for conversation about hard subjects like racism. I am willing to make the space and to enter into the work with you. If you would like to talk about any of this, or if you have ideas to share that can help move the South Carolina Synod in the holy work against racism, please feel free to call me. If you are struggling with what you read, and you have no words right now, that is ok; “the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words,” simply join with us in prayer.
+Bishop Ginny Aebischer