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Exigencies of Our Apostleship
Abstract: San Francisco Conference just says "No, thank you." to bishop.
On January 24, the San Francisco Conference of the Sierra Pacific Synod elected Pr. Steve Sabin to the office of Dean. On January 30, Sierra Pacific Synod Bishop David G. Mullen (pictured) issued a letter in which he cited SB12.01.04 and SB12.01.05 from the synod constitution and declared the election invalid and the deanship of the conference vacant because Pr. Sabin is not on the Synod's clergy roster. (Pr. Sabin is rostered with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.) Copies of the Bishop's letter went to all congregations and pastors in the synod. On February 18,, a letter over Pr. Sabin's signature went out from the Conference Cabinet and clergy of the San Francisco Conference to Bishop Mullen. Copies went to all congregations and pastors in the synod. The letter reads in part:
Since the assembly of the conference has already made known its will and opinion regarding the provisions of SB12.01.04, we the Conference cabinet and clergy are constrained and by conscience bound, respectfully, to decline to regard the election as invalid, to appoint another Dean, or to abide by said provisions.
This refusal is with profound sadness. We had hoped that you would better understand the exigencies of our apostleship in San Francisco. The policies of the ELCA regarding noncelibate lesbian and gay clergy, the heart of this unfortunate episode, are a scandal and grave hindrance to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this city. As Christ himself declares, "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Mt 18:6) We cannot allow the policies of the ELCA, which hardly rise to the level of adiaphora, to hinder the central mission of the Church. In this conviction, we take hope and encouragement from your powerful and inspiring sermon on the Feast of the Presentation. Your sermon that evening was a refreshing example of the true power of bishops as outlined in Augsburg 28. Your call to make present within the Church God's baptismal call to discipleship and service regardless of gender or sexuality deeply moved all who heard your preaching.
We are your flock in San Francisco. Heeding the admonition of Scripture and keeping faith with our Confessional heritage, we desire nothing but to live in obedience and harmony with you, our Bishop. Yet this harmony and obedience is only possible when you, our Bishop, stand in the place of Jesus Christ and mediate to us Christ's gracious and reconciling Word and example. With humility and hope, we urge you to take up the work you so wonderfully outlined in your sermon. Set the example for the reformation and strengthening of Christ's Church by affirming the election of our new Dean. Join with us in taking up the Cross of Christ and enduring the doubts and scorn of this sad, divided world so that the love of Christ, his forgiveness, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit might reach into every heart.