Being Stewards of the Next Seven Months

            In case you have not heard I have announced that I will conclude my call in the Office of the Bishop of the Allegheny Synod on September 1, 2014.  I have had several questions posed to me since that announcement … “Why did you announce your retirement so early?” and “So since you will not have completed your term will we be electing someone to fulfill your term?”  The brief answer to the second question is “No, the individual will be elected to a full six year term”, and in answer to the first question … I announced my retirement this early so that the Synod leadership will have opportunity to design a call process.  Please read on as I share more information regarding plans being formulated for the call process leading up to the actual election and call of a bishop in June 2014.

             Following the submission of my letter indicating my retirement at the September meeting of the Synod Council, I immediately offered a resolution authorizing the establishment of a task group to design a call process leading to the election of the next bishop of the Allegheny Synod at the June 5-7, 2014 Synod Assembly.  Vice-President Spence Garvin is chairing that task force.  As I indicated earlier in the article, the person called to the office of bishop will be called to a six year term during the assembly.  The election process will entail using a constitutionally proposed ecclesiastical ballot.  That means there are no nominees declared prior to the assembly election process

             In fact, the first ballot of an ecclesiastical ballot is considered the nominating ballot.  Any ELCA rostered pastor is eligible for nomination on that ballot and to be elected on this first ballot a nominee must receive at least 75% of the votes cast.  If there is no election on that first ballot, persons named on that first ballot have the right to remove their name before a second ballot is brought before the body with all nominees who have not removed their name.  A total of five ballots are possible with the final ballot being limited to two nominees (unless there is a tie for second place, then all names with that second place number would be included on the fifth ballot) and a majority of the votes cast on that fifth ballot would declare a winner of the election and a call extended.  Further details regarding the ecclesiastical ballot during the assembly will be forthcoming once the task force has had time to submit a proposal to the synod council for their deliberation and ratification.

             But the work of the task force is not solely focused on the election during the assembly.  Additionally this group has been given the directive to develop a process of discernment that calls upon the Holy Spirit for guidance and provides opportunities for information sharing and Spirit-fed conversation among all voting members leading up to the assembly in June.  The task force’s first meeting is scheduled for this week in which I am writing, so I have no idea what they might propose.  Certainly I have some ideas as to what I think might be helpful.

             1)  All congregational voting members to the 2014 Synod Assembly would be appointed/selected/elected by their respective congregations by February 1, 2014 at the latest.

             2)  There would be designated times for reflecting by members of the synod on what is needed within the life of our synod in the coming years.

             3)  There would also be opportunities for conversation around what qualities and gifts would be helpful for the synod in our next shepherd.

             4)  I would envision some type of gatherings of pastors, associates in ministry, diaconal minister, and lay voting members from our congregations wherein there would be prayer, conversation about needs, expectations, gifts, talents etc. etc. etc.

             5)  That devotional and prayer opportunities would be developed for use by all members of our synod family in the weeks and months leading up to the assembly and the actual call of a bishop through the ecclesiastical ballot.

             Vice-President Spence Garvin has gathered a collection of other ideas from synods across the ELCA and he has begun to share that information with the other members of the task force:

                         Deanne Armagost       Sam Dunkle                Robert Thomas

                         Casey Colledge            Janet Grassmyer          Sally Williams

             Hold these folks in your prayers as they ponder and propose the process we will use in the coming months to call the next Bishop of the Allegheny Synod.

                                                                                                Blessings,

                                                                                           +Bishop Gregory