Being Stewards of Life in the Meantime

            Life has its cycles; yet human life is not simply cyclical.  Oh, occasionally we may sigh and lament that life seems to be just one thing after another; but life is not an endless circle of events happening to us.  Rather Christians believe that life is continually being directed toward completion and fulfillment.  

            Lent, the season of the church year in which we presently find ourselves, calls us to change the direction of our sinful human lives.  Shouts the prophet Joel, “Return to the Lord your God”.  Scripture is clear … God sets the direction for our lives.  Called and set apart in the waters of our baptism we are promised life now and forever with the Almighty.  Therein is the direction!

            The problem is life, right now, is lived in the meantime.  As we full well know everyday life can be harsh, challenging, frustrating, painful, and disappointing.  In the midst of our laments and late winter doldrums Lent reminds us that by returning to the Lord our God we are on course and headed in the right direction.

            I know for me this Lent is different.  In some ways I can feel as though I am losing my direction as I ponder retirement and what that may mean for me.  Likewise, as a synod with a call/election process before us, though excited, we may also have moments when we wonder what direction our synod will be taking with the leadership of a new shepherd.  The Lent and Easter seasons, through which we will be living in the weeks leading up to synod assembly, are powerful reminders that our individual and corporate lives, no matter the circumstance, are solidly grounded and confidently focused because the one who has the last word in our lives is God, … the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

            Because we are using an ecclesiastical ballot for our call/election process there are no “candidates” for the Office of Bishop.  That does not mean, however, that the Holy Spirit is not presently at work in the lives of various pastors of this church, moving them to ponder the possibility of being open to a call to the Office of Bishop in the Allegheny Synod.  From my past experience, I know that these pastors are listening to and pondering the words and thoughts of other persons speaking around them and the Holy Spirit’s nudgings in their lives.

            Meanwhile, the Bishop Transition Task Force is working hard to leave space for the Holy Spirit to do its work within the lives of pastors throughout this church, but the task force is also cognizant that the constitution and the call/election process requires efficient use of our time as we begin the actual June assembly.  Most certainly a bishop will be called through our ecclesiastical ballot process, but in the meantime, persons who may open themselves to possible call to the office of bishop need to know several things. 

            Once the first ballot results are announced, the call/election process will have nominees and the plan is to provide one page of a two page nominee biographical form for voting members prior to the second ballot.  It will require a quick production of completed nominee bio forms for voting.  Plus the final seven nominees, announced as the results of the second ballot, will be required to sign a form permitting constitutionally required background checks (S9.12.) to be completed if they are the one called to become the bishop.  Additionally, the second page of the aforementioned bio will be shared with voting members prior to the third ballot.

            So, in this meantime leading up to the assembly, pastors who are feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit to be open to a possible call to the office of the bishop need to anticipate two things …

            1)  A biographical form (one page, front and back) will be provided in the coming months on the Allegheny Synod website and the task force is suggesting that any pastor who is open to a call to the office of bishop come to the assembly with this form completed.  Individuals can present it at the appropriate time … or they can choose not to be a candidate when the results of that first ballot are announced and not submit the form.  Naturally pastors may wait until the assembly is underway to complete the form, but individuals will have VERY limited time to complete it.

            2) The final seven candidates announced from the results of the second ballot will be required to complete a form permitting background checks to be done following the assembly if they are called to the office of bishop.

            Meanwhile, in this meantime of Lent, I invite these leaders who are pondering the Spirit’s nudgings in their lives, as well as the rest of us to not forget that the Lenten journey directs us to the cross of Calvary and the empty tomb in the garden where all definition and direction is given for our lives.  May the Holy Spirit use Lent 2014 to nudge all of us to return to the God who redeems us in that cross and tomb for eternity and in this meantime of our lives.     

                                                                                                +Bishop Gregory