Being Stewards of ... a Call Process

One of the more frequent questions being posed to me in recent days has been … who are the candidates for the position of Bishop?  In fact …by following an ecclesiastical process there are no candidates for the Office of Bishop of the Allegheny Synod! 

Now, do not panic!  Just because there are no candidates for the Office I presently fill, that does not mean you are stuck with me!  Trust me … the Holy Spirit is at work, even as you read this article, stirring and opening the hearts and minds of ordained persons to consider the possibility of a call to serve in the Office of Bishop through our call process of an ecclesiastical ballot.

That stirring was a part of my experience twenty-one years ago, as I read Scripture, reflected, prayed, and had a variety of pastors, associates in ministry, occasional lay members of other congregations of our synod, and members of St. David’s in Davidsville where I was called as pastor, inquire if I would be open to a call to the Office of Bishop of the Allegheny Synod.  Those voices were some of the elements at work within me as the Holy Spirit guided my discernment to accepting that indeed God and the people of this Synod might be calling me to be open to serving as their Bishop.  So in June 1993 when my name appeared as one of the nominees in the report of the first ballot of the ecclesiastical ballot for Bishop of the Allegheny Synod I prayerfully allowed my nomination to move forward to the second ballot.

So … what will this ecclesiastical ballot call process look like on June 6 and 7? 

The first ballot of an ecclesiastical ballot is considered the nominating ballot.  Any ELCA rostered pastor is eligible for nomination on that ballot.  To be elected on this first ballot a nominee must receive at least 75% of the votes cast.  This ballot, according to the assembly agenda, is to be taken Friday morning, June 6, during our opening Prayer in the Morning liturgy which begins at 8:30 a.m.  All voting members planning to vote during that first ballot MUST be registered by 8:30 a.m. because registration will be closed at that time until after the first ballot is cast.  So voting members be sure and arrive at the assembly and register before 8:30 a.m. 

If there is no election on that first ballot, persons named on that ballot have the right to remove their name before a second ballot is brought before the assembly.  The second ballot, then, will consist of all nominees from the first ballot who have not removed their names from consideration.  The Rules of Procedure for the Call of a Bishop specify that the first page of a two page biographical form for each of those persons nominated and listed on the second ballot be made available to all voting members.  After a time of reflection on those biographical forms and prayer, a second ballot for Bishop will be cast mid-afternoon on Friday. 

The results of the second ballot are to be announced prior to Friday’s dinner.  Election on the second ballot will require at least a seventy-five percent vote.  If there is no election the assembly will begin to prepare for the third ballot.  The top seven persons on ballot two will become the final nominees.  The second page of the biographical form which provides each nominee’s answers to designated questions will then be made available to all assembly voting members.  Following dinner the final seven nominees will each have an opportunity to speak before the assembly for five minutes.  Time for reflection, conversation, and prayer will be given prior to the casting of the third ballot.  Election on this third ballot will require at least a two-thirds vote of all ballots cast. 

Upon hearing the results of the third ballot, if there is no election, the top three nominees will have opportunity to respond to six questions before the assembly on Saturday morning, June 7.  Following that Q & A, voting members will again have time for reflection and prayer before casting the fourth ballot.  Election on the fourth ballot will require at least a sixty percent vote.

After the results of the fourth ballot are announced, if there is no election, the top two nominees will become the final two nominees for the fifth ballot.  Again there will be time given for reflection and prayer before the fifth ballot is cast.  A majority of the votes cast on that fifth ballot would declare a person elected and a call extended. 

Thus, though we have no candidates today for Bishop of the Allegheny Synod, by faithfully following the ecclesiastical balloting process the Holy Spirit will provide us a new shepherd and Bishop on Saturday, June 7.  What can you do until then?  Pray for those who will be voting members that the Holy Spirit grants them wisdom and discerning hearts and minds; and pray that the Holy Spirit encourages and inspires pastors to be open to our call to them to become Bishop.  Come June 7, then, together we can celebrate that we have been good stewards of a call process.                                                                                              

                                                                                                +Bishop Gregory