At the end of this week, we (in the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA) will know who our new bishop will be. This week we meet together in assembly, the business of which will be the bishop's election.
I'm a little surprised by the agenda for this event. In the weeks before the assembly, we usually have a handful (or more) resolutions to read through and prepare to deal with. Often the resolutions are relatively innocuous; sometimes they're potentially contentious. I'm always interested to read them beforehand ~ partly so I can think and pray about how I might vote, and partly so I can try to predict who will be arguing for & against the proposal, and to guess about how long the fighting will go on.
This year, though, there is not one single resolution that's been submitted ahead of time. This is a really unusual situation. I wonder if we're all so preoccupied with the election of a new bishop that we're not considering what other changes to our life together that we might talk about.
On the one hand this makes sense. It seems appropriate to see who the new bishop will be, let that person take on that leadership role, and then determine the necessity for communal discernment about the direction of ministry in the synod.
On the other hand, this seems to me to be a cause for concern. Yes, it's important to see what kind of leadership a new bishop will provide. At the same time, the ministry of our synod is not all about the bishop. In fact, the polity of the ELCA seems to identify the congregation as the primary locus of ministry.
As I've stated before, I believe the primary role of the office of the bishop should be to facilitate connections between congregations, and after that to be mostly invisible. If we really are a priesthood of all believers, then the identity of the person being elected to be our next bishop should not stop us from considering the rest of the ministry of our syond.
In my opinion, we ought to be discussing resolutions this week, along with the election of a bishop. Of course, I didn't submit any resolutions, either.
For those who are interested, I'll be doing my best to offer my reflections on the election process. You can find them here at this blog, or you can follow shorter, more pithy comments on twitter and facebook.