The Rev. Dr. S. John Roth, pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, Jacksonville, Illinois, was elected the fourth Bishop of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at its annual Synod Assembly this morning in Springfield, Illinois. He received 218 votes in that final ballot, with the Rev. Robert Rasmus, Senior Pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Urbana, receiving 101.
Bishop-elect Roth will succeed the Rt. Rev. Warren D. Freiheit, who had earlier announced his resignation effective June 30 to accept a call to Christ Lutheran Church, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. Bishop Freiheit would have been entering the last year of his second six-year term as the Synod's Bishop. Bishop-elect Roth, who has served the Jacksonville parish since 1983, will take office September 1. The Rev. Gary L. Hansen, Bishop of the ELCA's North/West Lower Michigan Synod 1995-2007, will serve as Interim Bishop in July and August.
Pastor Roth has been serving on the Synod Council as the Dean of the West Central Conference since 2006, and has been Chair of the Synod's Finance Committee since 2007. Among the challenges faced by the Synod are the departure of 11 congregations since the ELCA's 2009 Churchwide Assembly (with another half-dozen reportedly in the process to consider departing) and a 20% reduction in income in the last two fiscal years. Earlier the Assembly approved several by-law changes enabling the restructuring of the Synod's program committees.
Pastor Roth is also well-regarded in the Synod as a theologian and biblical scholar, most recently having prepared biblical interpretive reflections for the Assembly's focus on 1 Peter 2:1-10 to explore its theme, "God's Work. Our Hands: God's Building Blocks." Pastor Rasmus and the Rev. Dr. Michael C. Hoy, pastor at First Lutheran Church, Decatur, Illinois, who made it to third place in the election's fourth ballot, were two of the Assembly's three presenters on its theme.
Te Deum laudamus...