This year, the voting members at the Nebraska Synod assembly will be electing a new bishop for the synod. It is far from a typical “election”, however; and because my name is now associated with the process, I thought it would be good to talk a little bit more about it.
For a list of the ten people nominated so far (additional nominations can happen at synod assembly), plus a document that provides a detailed overview of the process and other resources, visit this NE Synod webpage.
The process itself is unlike the elections we typically have for local or state offices. No one can decide to “run” for the office of bishop. People are instead nominated by others and electing a bishop at the synod assembly typically takes several rounds of voting instead of just one. It’s not a perfect process to be sure but at the heart of it is space for a deep trusting of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct the assembly in its discernment.
So why is my name among the ten? Do I want to leave Saint Michael? Am I seeking the office of bishop? No would be the firm answer to both of those questions! The process doesn’t work that way. I was nominated by several of the ministry clusters within the synod and so my family and I had a decision to make. I could decline and take my name out of consideration or I could participate in the process. I weighed this decision long and hard, speaking with trusted friends and those who have previous experience.
In the end, this thought from someone who had participated in the bishop’s election before resonated with me: “I felt called to be a part of the process even though I didn’t feel called to the office of bishop”. That describes how I am feeling. I have learned that God works in unexpected way when we allow ourselves to be open to the Spirit’s calling.
That’s a bit unsettling though, isn’t it! There is little certainty about where it all ends up. Yet following the Spirit is what led me off the farm, into ministry, and to this wonderful community of faith. Following the Spirit has led Saint Michael from a meeting in a storefront to the place it is today. It’s definitely an exercise in faith for everyone involved but perhaps that is the very thing we need right now.
So I ask for your prayers for our church, our synod, and all of those who are participating in this process. Like everything else, the church is in the middle of an ocean of change and yet we remain rooted to the unwavering grace and mercy of God. May that saving grace spill out of us and into a world that is in desperate need of the power of love.