Time is an interesting thing.
I have been on leave from my call for the past five months.
I had to step away from the harm and trauma of the church and its leaders in order to process what God is calling me to. I made the choice to take this time intentionally. I talked it over with professionals, my family, colleagues and those I respect before I decided that the best thing for me to do in all the hurt was to take time.
I have had to process deep hurt not only for me personally, but with my family and community as well.
And, in the midst of great contemplation, I, along with many others within this denomination, have been made to wait by the Church.
It is moments like today, these past few weeks, and these past few months that I know what I am called to do and who I am called to be. Even in the midst of trauma and attempts at healing, I am called to be a voice that calls public attention to injustices that happen in our communities and shine a light on ways that we can move toward healing with one another.
This morning after many months of waiting, we have received Presiding Bishop Eaton’s response to the injustice done to the Latiné community of Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina (formally known as Misíon Latina Luterana) on December 12, 2021 – Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe), when an ELCA rostered pastor was removed from their call.
When I first became a widow, one unwanted comment that was repeated to me over and over again was, “Time will heal.”
Immediately after hearing the first comments like that, I knew, “No, it doesn’t.” Time allows the sudden shock of the pain to subside and sometimes numbs the pain, but it never heals.
Within the first few days of the events of December 12th, marginalized communities within the ELCA were told the same thing: “Time will heal.” I sat in a room with churchwide representatives that told me that “eventually the next big crisis will come and folks will forget.” This will blow over. We will bounce back.
On a day that holds great significance for the Latin community, we were told to wait. This too shall pass.
And now today, just days after one of the worst mass shootings in US history, days before we celebrate LGBTQIA+ pride month, on the last day of the week of a long weekend when many people will be disconnected from their emails, social media and the like, we are told to wait as we prepare to hear how, if at all, the first openly transgender bishop will respond to the presiding bishop’s call for their resignation. Another community, of which I am a part, has been harmed. It is a time of deep grieving.
This kind of time has caused deep harm within Black/African-descent, Indigenous, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latiné and LGBTQIA+ communities for generations.
The harm inflicted upon black and brown LGBTQIA+ communities by law enforcement eventually led to riots. They had grown tired of waiting for actionable change.
The harm inflicted on a Latin faith community on a high holy day led to a young community leaving the denomination all together and forming something new. They had grown tired of waiting for actionable change.
We have grown tired of waiting. And some within our communities have left without turning back. But miraculously, there are those within our communities who, even in our exhaustion, reclaim our own time and continue to call for action.
I grieve over the timing of today’s statement from Presiding Bishop Eaton. I recognize there is no “right” time to acknowledge suffering and provide clarity, but I believe there are certainly wrong times. Churchwide (the headquarter offices for the ELCA), like most large institutions, takes their time and utilizes every intentionality when crafting a statement. Everything has to be cleared by a lawyer or a team.
It is highly insensitive to make this post today – 80 days after announcing the formation of the panel. Our pain over losing 19 Latiné American children and two Latiné adults to gun violence is still raw. The Latiné culture is a familial one, one that is rooted in community and when we lose one in the community it is felt by all. And yet the churchwide office decided to release this decision today.
I believe it is because the institution is steeped in white supremacy, operating on a timeline that benefits the institution rather than community.
White Supremacy tells us that if and when we need to share difficult news, to do so when other news is distracting folks from seeing the truth. White Supremacy has us tell news when it is also linked to other marginalized communities and pits one community against another.
It is a way to push things under the rug.
It keeps us from not being able to focus on the injustice because “they will be busy” with the other thing. As a culture, our hearts have been breaking over the news of December 12th and we continue to grieve the loss of life in New York, California and Texas. In the midst of grief, many are preparing for celebrations next month. In the midst of this news of inaction, news of handing the power over the perpetrator, slides in under the radar, and we are expected to continue to wait. Many of us are too distracted by our already compounded grief that, had we not been alerted to this, we may have missed it.
It is harmful. It is in these moments that try to divide us that we remember: our liberation is bound up in the liberation of others.
Many of our colleagues are marching against violence today and yet spiritual and psychological violence is being caused by those in positions of leadership. Those leaders are not being held to the standards that others were.
Why has it taken so long?
I’ve been thinking of time a lot over the last 166 days.
In Greek, the word kairos means “right, opportune time.” It is used 86 times in the New Testament whereas chronos, which is characterized by a specific amount of time, is used 54 times.
Kairos is more fluid. The call to respond to how creation experiences divinity is urgent. It requires more attention. If you miss the moment, there could be serious consequences. Whereas Chronos is linear. The call to respond to tasks is also urgent, and yet, predictable. You can expect a similar chronos time to reappear if you missed one.
In scripture, kairos is often associated with God’s kingdom coming near. It is filled with a sense of urgency toward action. In Mark 1:14-15, while Jesus was in Galilee, he proclaimed, “The kairos has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Kairos is a call toward immediate action to witness and respond to the Divine.
There are no timelines when it comes to responding to the call of action.
Time. The time has come. It is time to repent. It is time to believe.
Nowhere in kairos are we called to wait.
The concept of a chronological day is a concept not originated within indigenous cultures.
Kairos is cyclical, rather than sequential. It responds to the human experience as it is happening.
Chronos is linear. It responds to the task, before the human experience.
In chronological time, there is no room for the Divine.
The Divine is asked to wait.
And waiting is what we have been doing.
Our time has been colonized. The church has been made to wait and wonder if justice will ever come. We have been made to wait for lawyers to approve statements, for committees to review wording. In fact, we have been made to wait long enough to prepare our hearts and spirits for absolutely nothing to be done.
But…Pastor Hazel…Wait a minute…Bishop Rohrer has been asked to resign. Isn’t that something?
However, this action is actually putting the power back into the perpetrator’s hands. It’s their choice whether or not they submit their resignation. It’s their choice whether or not they hold space with their constituents. They were never asked to step away while the process unfolded.
They were allowed to remain fully in their role this whole time.
They were allowed to continue using their power and voice while Latiné leaders were silenced, and one of them removed from the whole denomination.
The leaders who engage in Latiné ministries called for conversations, publicly documented results, and instead, were told to wait.
The Latiné bishops, who are experts in their own culture, who have been elected to work on these matters on behalf of all faithful congregants have been told to wait and to abide by the timelines of other bishops who are majority white, privileged and have been colonized by the institution.
Other staff of color at the Sierra Pacific Synod have had to continue to work even after experiencing the trauma of December 12th. They’ve had to work with the perpetrator of that harm. All staff have had increased workloads due to my leave-taking. And during that time, I have not actually had any moment to rest due to the constant need to advocate for myself within various systems, as well as navigating disability and health systems.
There is no time for rest in chronos. Only labor.
There was GREAT harm caused to the Latiné community on December 12, 2021 and there has not been a response toward action until today – 166 days later. And that response isn’t even action. It is placing the call for action into the hands of the one who caused the harm.
This response is not action. It is complacency.
I have written at length about these issues. I have used my role and my position as a called and ordained minister of God’s Word and Sacrament to speak to these truths. I have done this with the belief that in hearing my words, leaders of this church would act.
There has been great action. Much by leaders from the margins.
But today, we have been met with this.
This decision is hurtful and perpetuates the harm that was caused. It does not allow for transparency or healing.
On March 8, Bishop Eaton appointed a listening panel “to review the interactions of Bishop Megan Rohrer with Misión Latina Luterana leading up to and on Dec. 12, 2021.” 86 days after the traumatic incident. Although some were vocal on not agreeing with the process, we trusted that this work would be done by appointed individuals to represent all of us, the church. The work of the listening panel was on behalf of the entire church and their work was not just for the presiding bishop to receive, but for all of us.
Seeing how the results of the panel’s findings, the actions of Bishop Rohrer and the aftermath of December 12th impacts the whole church, I have wondered since first speaking with the panel: will these findings be made public?
Will there be a call to kairos?
Or will we be made to follow the timeline of those who hold more power and more privilege?
I am disappointed to find that we have landed amongst chronos again.
The decision to cause harm was ultimately up to one person on December 12, 2021 and now the decision to resign or not resign is given to the one who caused the harm.
That is my one question.
Why are we allowing harm to continue in the Sierra Pacific Synod? In this church?
Why are we allowing the perpetrator of the harm to decide whether or not they remain in their position? Knowing that they have caused significant harm to so many, why are they being allowed to continue in their role while we all await their decision?
Why are the victims of the harm the ones who are speaking to these injustices?
Why are we still being asked to wait for things to unfold in a Synod Assembly? Why are no disciplinary actions being called for?
The perpetrator has been given power and we are being told: “Time will heal.”
No, it won’t.
Church, this is our kairos moment.