Friday, February 10, 2012

Bishop Election, Part Two

As I mention here, our synod will be electing a new bishop in a couple months. So far, over 60 people were potentially nominated. Of those, seventeen potential candidates have not withdrawn their names from potential nomination.  (I say potential, because nothing official can happen until the April assembly.)

The next step in this potential process is for the remaining potential candidates to submit biographical information and their ideas about the office of bishop.

Those were published earlier this week, and I've taken a little time to glance at what these folks have written. I have to admit, I'm disappointed in what I see.

Of course I'll have to make a closer reading before too long, but the vision I see articulated by most of these potential candidates is a continuation of the status quo. “Let's do what we've been doing, let's just do it better.” And anything beyond what's always been is wrapped in church bureaucratic jargonistic language that doesn't really mean anything.

The world is shifting and changing all around us, and the church seems to be mired in a thought process that was successful at one point in history, but no longer makes sense.

Before you, my seven readers, throw up your hands in frustration, please understand that I'm not advocating that we eschew the essentials of our faith. Word and Sacrament should continue to remain at the center of who we are. Our Lutheran perspective on Christian theology is indispensable to the future of the church. The rest, though, should be up for negotiation.

See, if we don't begin to recognize that the world is changing, we'll remain stuck in the cultural trappings of the past.

What I don't see is any one of the potential bishop candidates voicing an articulate alternative to business as usual. Further, I don't hear any one of the potential bishop nominees talking about their actual shortcomings.

What we need, in my opinion, is a bishop who is solidly rooted and grounded in the essentials of our faith. What we need, in my opinion, is a bishop who is humble enough to recognize their own shortcomings, and who is willing to build a staff to fill those gaps.

What we need, in my opinion, is a bishop who recognizes the reality that the world is shifting and changing all around us, and who is willing to push the church into the future ~ not simply for the sake of change, but because the roots and foundation of our faith has an important Word to speak into the changing world.



  1. It would take a younger bishop to adopt your view but as long as there is a generational gap between younger ministers like you and the typically older bishops then you are stuck with the status quo.

  2. Age has nothing to do with it. I'm really tired of the ag discrimination I encounter from some sectors of the church. Generalizations and distinctions based on a person being over a certain age are every bit as reprehensible as distinctions based on gender, sexuality, or ethnicity.

    1. Thanks for reading, Kevin. I assume you're responding to the previous comments, since I don't mention age in the post.

      I agree that the issue of age, in certain areas of the church and the world, has been overplayed. Further, I fully recognize the truth that age is not a decisive factor in how one views the world.

      At the same time, I do sometimes wonder how the church (particularly the ELCA) would be different if some of our bishops were younger than 50. Watch (or don't), in the next couple days, for a blog post on age and church leadership.

  3. Thanks, Matthew. Good stuff you're offering.

    I'm one of those older pastors who's been smacked in the face over the past 15 years or so with the reality that the same old, same old doesn't work anymore.

    David Lose, in a workshop I attended at Luther Sem Convo last week, proposed (borrowing from Alan Roxborough and a co-author I can't remember) that institutions have a three phase life-cycle: emerging, performative, and reactive. Mainline church is in a reactive phase--trying harder and harder to do the things that used to work, and finding it doesn't work anymore. So--what's our option? Innovate and re-imagine church. Just what you're proposing.

    Keep thinking and writing!

    Rick Thompson (on Facebook, not blogging yet)

    1. The other co-author is Romanuk, and the book is "The Missional Leader." It's a good read.

  4. Thanks for your comments Matthew. It certainly is not a matter of age, as some of the previous comments have assumed. I get quite concerned in my congregation when people comment that we've brought so much energy, and younger families are coming, because I'm young. I think to myself (well, usually I ask aloud), "what does that mean for us as I get older?

    It is a mindset, something that sees the world differently, and thus sees that the church also needs to be different. And it's not something that's happened over night. The world has been changing for quite some time, but the church has not. Many people who have been Christians their entire lives don't know how to see God working in their lives and in the world. But I'm hopeful because of what I see in certain corners of the church, regardless of who the bishop is. Here and there, we see people awakening to what's been in front of them the entire time, and as they do, the WORD is getting out.

    So while I agree with your posts about our bishop's election, and I'm fearful that this process that was meant to be more inclusive and get us thinking ahead and out of the box is actually doing just the opposite, your concern is just as importantly directed toward congregational ministries (as I know you're fully aware). I am often disappointed by clergy colleagues who are perfectly happy keeping status quo.