Saturday, June 03, 2017

The Bishop Is Elected, Again

Bishop John Roth has been elected to a second term as the fourth bishop of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod, ELCA. The vote was 160-123.

Thanks be to God!

Electing a Bishop, Again

Elections are stranger than I once thought.

[The first formal acknowledgement of a significant anniversary.]

The Central/Southern Illinois Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the local church body ("judicatory") in which I serve, gathered in Assembly at 2 pm Thursday, June 1. After about an hour of the usual opening activities, the time came for the election of a Bishop. ELCA Bishops are elected for 6-year terms and, in our Synod, are eligible for re-election. Our current Bishop, John Roth, was first elected in June 2011, a time the ELCA was still in considerable angst. Some of that angst is reflected in posts to this blog.

Bishops are elected by what is called an ecclesiastical ballot. In our Synod there are no candidates or campaigning (at least formally) ahead of time. Sometimes there will be conversations here and there of possible pastors who might serve well, though even that tends to happen only when we know we are electing a new Bishop to replace one who has resigned office or has announced his intention to retire. Rather we gather in the midst of prayer and discussion, and speak of the Holy Spirit doing his work through the election process. Bishop Roth had earlier indicated he was willing to be elected to a second term.

On the first ballot, the eligible voters — the pastors and deacons of the Synod, along with lay voting members sent by the congregations (usually a male and female from each — may write the name of any pastor on the ELCA clergy roster, those in congregations, those serving in other settings, those temporarily not serving somewhere, even those who have retired. If one name appears on 75% of the ballots, that pastor is elected. If there is no election, that ballot serves as a nominating ballot. For the second ballot, voters write the name of one of the nominated pastors, and there is an election if one receives 75% of the votes. If not, the top 7 vote getters appear on the third ballot. (Note that 6 years ago I was the 8th top vote getters.) If one of these receives 2/3rds of the third ballot votes, we have an election. If not, the 4th ballot lists the top three of the third, and 60% are needed for an election. If there is no election, the top two stand on the fifth ballot, the pastor with the majority of votes being elected.

And so we cast the first ballot, and learned the results first thing Friday morning. Bishop Roth received 157 of 291 votes, or 54%. No election, with the next highest number of votes being 26, 22, and 12. All in all, 45 pastors received votes. (I was not among them.) A half-hour was given for those nominated to officially withdraw their names, and shortly after 10 am after doing other business, we were presented a list of 15 pastors remaining; in addition to the Bishop, one who received 4 votes, two who received 2 each, and the rest who'd been named on one ballot. We voted again, took care of other business, and then heard the second ballot results.

No election. Bishop Roth with 193 votes, but that was only 64.5% of the ballots cast, not the 75% necessary. The next highest received 22 votes, the 7th place pastor received 8. The top seven (which, interestingly, included 3 retired pastors) were given time (about 2 1/2 hours over lunch and a time for smaller forums on various subjects, and the approval of the Synod's budget) to fill a form with biographical information and a response to a couple of questions, and for each to prepare a 5 minute address to the assembly before the third ballot. And we voted again, this time using the electronic voting devices.

So we knew after a couple of moments that Bishop Roth had received 174 votes, but that was 61% of the votes cast, short of the 2/3rds needed for an election. Next came Pr. Ryan Anderson, who serves near Peoria (he's part of the weekly pericope study group of pastors who meet weekly at Zion) and who last month was elected Dean of the Northern Conference, with 41 votes, and Pr. Tony Metz of Quincy with 33. (The remaining four received 10-14 votes each.)

And so we listened to the top three respond to a few question that Assembly voting members had submitted, and then we voted for a fourth time. Bishop Roth received 154 votes, about 52%, followed by Pr. Metz with 75, and Pr. Anderson with 68. No election yet, as 60% is needed for a fourth ballot.

And we recessed for the banquet — that's where retirements and significant anniversaries are commemorated, thus my certificate above — and conversation (where many pondered the meaning of these votes) and sleep. And, of course, lots of prayers. The fifth ballot is scheduled for 8:35 inthe morning, after which the Bishop-elect will address the Assembly.

And if you're wondering, I've been voting to re-elect Bishop Roth. He has served the Church faithfully and well.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ascension Day Worship

The Ascension of Our Lord commemorates the risen Christ's ascension to heaven. The coronation of Christ the King is celebrated, but so in him is the enthronement of humanity itself. As Saint John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) declared in a sermon on the Ascension, "Our very nature ... is enthroned today high above all cherubim." Notice how this thought appears in the liturgy, particularly in the both the Collect and Proper Preface historically appointed for this Festival day.
Almighty God, we believe that on this day your only Son, our Redeemer, ascended into heaven.
May we in spirit also ascend to that heavenly home and there forever live.
Through the same Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.
He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

It is indeed right and salutary that we should at all times and in all place offer thanks and praise to you, O Lord, holy Father, through Christ our Lord; who, after his resurrection, appeared openly to his disciples and, in their sight, was taken up into heaven, that he might make us partakers of his divine nature. And so, with the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn...

The Ascension of Our Lord is one of the six principal Festivals of the Church Year celebrating the central events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his Church&mdashthe other five being the days of Pentecost, the Holy Trinity, Christmass, the Epiphany of Our Lord, and Easter.

Following Saint Luke's account in the Acts of the Apostles, the Ascension of Our Lord falls on the fortieth day of Easter, and thus always on a Thursday. This festival day has been included on the Church's calendar since at least the fourth century.

If you are in the Peoria area, you are welcome to worship the Ascended Lord Jesus with us this evening. In addition to Zion's celebration, I am aware of two other Peoria Lutheran churches, Mt. Calvary (whose pastor is also a PLTS alumnus) and Trinity (both Missouri Synod congregations), that offer worship on the actual Ascension Day. St. Michael's and All Angels Anglican Church in Peoria, which offers Vespers and Holy Communion every Thursday, is also celebrating it. In the Catholic Church, Ascension Day is moved to next Sunday.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sometimes This Job* Stinks :'(

It's one of the saddest verses in the Gospels. Jesus, fresh from amazing teaching, healings and casting out demons, and even raising a girl from the dead, comes to his hometown of Nazareth.
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.
                                                 — St. Mark 6:5, ESV
But after what transpired this afternoon (and, yes, given my recent dealings with these particular people, I knew that this may not end well — and, indeed, it didn't), I might rest a bit better tonight remembering that there were times when even the Son of God couldn't help someone.


Pray for them. Pray for me. Pray for pastors who don't always perform miracles.

* – I know, the Holy Ministry isn't a "job," it's a calling from God. Which just makes this feel even worse. Don't worry, though, I'll survive this.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Worried about the West's vanishing Christian character? Go to church!

Melanie McDonagh writes at The Spectator on the conversation of the decline of the Church of England, but it applies here in the US, too:
So, I have a simple proposal for the cultural Christians who agonise about the rise of Islam and the vanishing Christian character of Britain: go to church. Take the place of Generation A. Turn up for Easter Sunday as well as Christmas; keep Pentecost Sunday, because hardly anyone now knows what Whit Sunday stands for, and Ascension Thursday. There are lots of churches out there, you know: Anglicans in cities are spoiled for choice, and you can’t throw a brick in places like Norfolk without landing on something fabulous from the fifteenth century. Anglicans have, moreover, for those that seek it out, the loveliest liturgy, and you don’t deserve it. There are rubbish clergy, of course, but, you know, it’s possible to separate your feelings about the thing that’s being celebrated from the celebrant (Catholics are quite good at this). So, get out there. The numbers attending Anglican services fell below a million at the beginning of last year; they’re still falling.

It’s kind of Matthew Parris to wish the CofE well from outside, but the institution is not going to survive on the basis of the flying buttresses (to quote Winston Churchill) alone; it needs pillars even more. Go and get stuck in, reader, or else abstain from complaining about the cultural atrophy of the West.
Read it all here.

This Sunday we'll be observing the 90th Anniversary of the dedication of the current Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria. It's not from the fifteenth century, but it's still pretty fabulous, with a lovely liturgy, and the clergy... Well, if you're near Peoria, here's a place for you.

Tip o' the hat to Canon Kendall Harmon at TitusOneNine.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Repost: Black Friday

Today is the real Black Friday.

Originally posted here Good Friday 2015.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hey Father!

So after eating, Todd and I are walking up University Street to the parking lot when we hear the shout, "Hey Father!" Todd spots her first, a black woman waiting in the left-turn lane who'd rolled down her window. The corner of University and Main is, especially at Noon, the most congested in Peoria. Hers is the only car with an open window and she's looking our way, waving her arm.

"Hey, Father, can you pray for my nephew? We lost him yesterday, he's 3 months old."

"Absolutely," I shout to her across the street.

"Pray for his family, too, Father" she continues. "His name is L... K.... Pray for them when you pray next."

"I will," I say as we start walking again and she thanks me and the light changes so she'll be able to make that left turn onto Main.

And I have. As I have for C..., who rang up my groceries at the market the other evening. Her request wasn't as specific, but she was appreciative that I would pray the Holy Spirit to watch over her.

This was only moments after Todd and I had prayed,
...I pray that all my intention, actions, and works of this day may be directed solely to the greater glory of God's Divine Majesty....

Does this happen to pastors who wear polo shirts?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Community? Not!

I just heard it used again on a radio broadcast and I've had it. The speaker was representing "the hospital community." A few weeks ago a young woman described trying to break into "the modeling community." The "education community" is upset over the President-elect's choice for their Cabinet post.

Nonsense! These aren't "communities," where people live or have personal relationships with one another like the community in which I was raised or the communities with whom I worship the Lord Jesus. I didn't pass the CPA exam to become part of "the accounting community." These are businesses, trades, professions, industries.

I know. Language changes over time. Words take on expanded, or new, or even very different, meanings. And when that happens to help in understanding or communicating, it can be well and good. But more often than not these new "communities" are just trying to put a human face on something that is often not very friendly or neighborly.

The community doctor of decades ago listened when you weren't feeling well. I remember my dad's doctor -- and we were part of the Kaiser plan, one of the original "health maintenance organizations" -- coming to the house when he had the mumps. Just like Marcus Welby or Dr. Kildare! Recently the local hospital stopped allowing one's family doctor to be one's attending physician. You must be treated by their "hospitalist" and your doctor isn't supposed to even come in through the doors to be part of your care.

But this afternoon on the radio they're "the hospital community," kindly concerned about the repeal of Obamacare. Not the hospital industry having first access to everyone's money. Yeah.