Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870
Worship Sunday at 10:30
June 2017 - Every year in May, the Northern Great Lakes Synod holds its annual assembly. Some years, apart from uplifting, inspiring worship services and the opportunity to see people from around the synod who you don’t see very often, the assembly can be relatively uneventful; informative, as important information is shared, but uneventful. Every six years though, a bishop is elected which always makes things more interesting. This year, with the retirement of Bishop Tom Skrenes after eighteen years of service, things were even more interesting as a new leader for the synod would be elected. By now, most of you know that the bishop-elect is Pastor Katherine Finegan who has served as assistant to Bishop Skrenes for the past five years. During that time she and her family have been members here at Bethany so I know that all of you join me in congratulating Katherine!
The election of a bishop is different from other elections as an ecclesial ballot is used. On the first ballot a vote can be cast for any pastor in the ELCA and to win one would have to receive 75% of the votes cast. It’s possible, but not likely as many names are brought forward. For example, a few years ago I received one vote for bishop of the North Carolina Synod. (I still have no idea who might have cast that vote!) Anyone who receives even one vote though is eligible to be on the second ballot but many remove themselves.
The second ballot then consists of the remaining names and 75% of the votes are still required for election. Occasionally that does happen, but more commonly things move to a third ballot consisting of the top seven vote getters each of whom has had the opportunity to offer a short introductory statement. On this ballot 66.6% of the votes are required for election. Short of that, things move to a fourth ballot with the top three names on it and prior to that vote there is a question and answer period among the candidates. On the fourth ballot, 60% of the votes are required. If there is still no election, the top two vote getters appear on a fifth and final ballot with a simple majority required for election.
With this kind of election the process is important. I always think it’s good if it goes to at least a fourth ballot because that ensures a good conversation among the candidates. For any synod that is a healthy and helpful conversation. That’s why I allowed my name to go forward six years ago. I didn’t want to be bishop but I thought the conversation was important; the Spirit moves through the conversation.
The Spirit was moving in this year’s process as well. Pastor Katherine was elected on the fifth ballot with Pastors Peter Jonas and Keith Kolstad as the other finalists. I was pleased that there were such good people open to what is a very difficult call. The Spirit was moving, and I am confident that in Katherine Finegan we have the right person for our synod at this moment in time.
Congratulations to her and may the Spirit continue to work through her leadership!