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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Grand Canyon bishop resigns over sexual misconduct

Michael J. Neils resigned as bishop of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod and as an ELCA pastor, effective Jan. 24, after admitting to sexual misconduct with an adult woman during his call as a bishop.

Neils, 56, was elected at the synod’s 2001 assembly to serve a six-year term.

In a Jan. 26 memo to the ELCA Church Council and Conference of Bishops, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said Neils resigned after reporting his misconduct to Hanson. “Michael will not remain on the ELCA clergy roster,” Hanson wrote, sharing his “sadness” and asking for prayers “for all whose lives have been affected.”

Kathie Bender Schwich, ELCA executive for synodical and constituent relations, traveled to Phoenix to help the synod council and staff deal with the “difficult situation” and “issues of transition,” Hanson wrote. “Ongoing support and care,” he added, will be provided to synod staff.

An interim synod bishop had not yet been appointed when The Lutheran went to press. Hanson said he planned to visit the Grand Canyon Synod Feb. 5-6 “to have worship and conversation with synod council, synod staff and rostered leaders.”


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