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Lutheran bishop publicly apologizes to Latino congregation

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The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Deepa Bharath And Holly Meyer

FILE - Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, left, listens as Bishop Megan Rohrer speaks to the media before their installation ceremony at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Rohrer is the first openly transgender person elected as bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, issued a public apology Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, to members of a majority Latino immigrant congregation for the pain and trauma caused after Rohrer unexpectedly fired their pastor.
Files - Bishop Elizabeth Eaton (left) listens to Bishop Megan Lawler speaking to the media before the installation ceremony at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Saturday, September 11, 2021. Eaton, the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, officially addressed members of the majority Latino immigrant congregation on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, about the pain and trauma caused after Laura unexpectedly fired her pastor. issued an apology. Photo Credit: John Hefti /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Elizabeth A. Eaton, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America On Tuesday, members of the majority Latino immigrant congregation publicly spoke about the pain and trauma they endured after the first openly transgender bishop of a predominantly white denomination unexpectedly fired a pastor.

Speaking at the 2022 Churchwide Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, Eaton apologized to members of the Iglesia Lutherana Santa Maria Peregrina in Stockton, California. and described what happened as follows: It is a violent attack on your dignity.

The chain of events that led to the apology came after the Reverend Megan Lawler, the denomination's first transgender bishop, who oversaw one of the Church's 65 synods, announced to the congregation on December 12 that their pastor Pastor Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez has been dismissed over allegations of verbal harassment and retaliation. Lawler oversaw his nearly 200 congregations in Northern California and Northern Nevada.

Rohrer's shocking announcement upended the congregation's long-awaited feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The community had planned an elaborate program for the day, including performances by mariachi singers, traditional dancers and children, all led by a pastor. After the pastor was fired, the congregation lost the sect's financial support, was forced to evict the building, and worship in the parking lot.

Rohrer resigned in his June and was subject to church disciplinary proceedings the following day.

In Tuesday's public apology, Eaton said how egregious it was that the announcement of the pastor's dismissal coincided with a holiday that has grown in importance within the Latinx community. Eaton said he was working with church leaders to make amends to the congregation and was considering the case of LaBelle Gonzalez.

It exposed the depth of systemic racism grappling with society," Eaton said.

"This is not the end, but an important step in our ongoing journey toward our goal of becoming a more loyal Church in response to the plague of racism," Eaton said. I pray that the power of God will make these words of apology and approval possible as a step toward concrete repentance.”

Eaton also traditionally marginalized I promised to listen intently to the voices of those who have been. She spoke in English and was translated in real time into Spanish.

Her Jovita Torres Perez, a congregation of the Church of California, delivered a moving speech in Spanish, saying it was not easy for her and other church members to be "here" .

"These nine months have been difficult and painful for our community," she said, adding that their pastor and community have been criticized for various acts of racism on the part of the larger church. added that they are victims of

Perez accepted Eaton's apology on behalf of her church, saying the congregation believed in forgiveness, reconciliation and reparation.

Perez said the congregation still supports the pastor. rice field.

"We believe in his honesty and integrity," she said.

Another congregation choked, translating Perez's words into English. Eaton hugged Perez and the rest of the congregation, and the crowds that were listening rose to their feet in applause.

Rohrer, who uses the pronoun "they," said they were traveling through Israel. In a direct message to her Associated Press on Tuesday, Rohrer expressed support for "all efforts to provide care, healing and reconciliation for all affected people from 2019 to the present." did.

"At the General Assembly, our beloved ELCA had the opportunity to prayerfully enact legislation in favor of greater acceptance of God's beautiful creations and in favor of diversity. ', she said Rohrer. "In a way that intersects, I pray that they will."

Rohrer said they were in Israel, and that "peace-building efforts in Israel and Palestine and her LGBTQ people's I'm learning more about helping."

"I also discern God's call to the next chapter of my life," he said Rohrer.


AP's religious coverage is supported through partnerships with AP and The Conversation US and is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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