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.