Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bishop's Election, Part Ten

When we first started the process to prepare for the election of a new bishop in our synod, I was skeptical. I was primarily worried that the people who were lifted up early in the pre-process would have greater name recognition once the process actually started at the assembly.

I'm still skeptical, since there seems to be some confusion about the process we're going to undertake in the very near future.  

See, here's the deal. About six months ago (maybe longer, but I can't remember), people in our synod were invited to submit the names of pastors who they thought might be a good bishop. The current synodical leadership tried to make it clear that those individuals weren't actually nominated ~ they were simply identified as potential candidates.

These potential candidates were invited to submit biographical information, and were invited to answer a number of questions about their vision for ministry in the synod. Seventeen potential nominees submitted information responses, and this was published. I believe that the synodical leadership was interested in trying to make the process as clear as possible.

Unfortunately, though, it seems to me that many people believe that they have seventeen people to choose from; namely, the seventeen who submitted biographical information and answers to the questions. And, despite the fact that every single time I talked about the bishop's election with people in my congregation, I made the point that these seventeen have not been nominated, and that others who aren't on the list might be nominated ~ despite my repeated reiterations, there are quite a few people from the congregation I serve who are wondering which of these seventeen will be bishop.

People don't seem to understand the process. And it didn't help even a little bit that the biographical information and responses from the seventeen are included in the pre-assembly packet. Including that information simply makes the misunderstanding about the process even more blatant.

The thing is, constitutionally there can be no nominees until the assembly begins. Further, the nominations for bishop are made by ecclesiastical ballot ~ which means that the first ballot is a blank sheet of paper, on which voting members may write down the name of any person eligible for the office (in this case, any ELCA pastor in good standing).

The field is wider open than the seventeen whose names are in the official pre-assembly materials.  I really hope this truth is clearer to most people than it seems to be to me.


1 comment:

  1. Agreed Matthew. I am continually correcting folks who mention the 17 nominees, even after I have explained the process. The communication from the synod office doesn't help. Even though they say "potential" nominees, the emails continue to stress how important it is to read their bios. Why is that so important if they are only potential nominees?

    I still think the deviation in the process was well meaning, but grounded in fear that somehow the Holy Spirit wouldn't be part of this election so we should try to get some names from beyond the synod into the process. We ended up with one name from outside of the synod, and in my opinion people who have a strong sense of call who would make ready good candidates chose not to enter this process in this way. That was the response I got from 3 strong, faithful leaders of thee church from all over the ELCA.

    Thanks for your thoughtful reflections in these past several months. See you tomorrow, God willing.