Preparing for the Election of a Bishop

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The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod will be electing a new bishop at the 2018 Assembly.

This year’s election process adds some new steps, designed to help the whole synod to prayerfully discern the gifts and talents needed for leadership in our present context and pre-identify some individuals who might possess those gifts. Those individuals, however, are not nominated for the office of bishop.

The actual balloting sequence at the Assembly is unchanged. Any ordained clergy person in the ELCA may have their name entered during the first ecclesiastical or nominating ballot. Those who allow their names to go forward will proceed through the election process outlined in the Synod Constitution (S9.04). When a candidate exceeds the required number of votes, she or he will be elected our next bishop. The 2017 Assembly approved this three-stage process for this election.

Stage One — Preparation of Synod Mission Profile

The Transition Team prepared a survey open to all members of the synod and shared via website and e-news. Congregations received information to share with members, including how to fill out and return paper surveys. The survey closed Dec. 8 and the ELCA Department for Research and Evaluation is now compiling results. The Synod Mission Profile, including demographic information about our communities, congregations and rostered ministers, is now online.

Stage Two — Prayerful Discernment

To help the synod reflect on the gifts needed to lead us going forward, the Discernment Team has developed a process of dwelling in the Word, prayer and conversation. There will be a Bible Study and Conversation held on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, from 10 am to noon. The event will be held at 11 locations around the synod simultaneously, and live-streamed. (The live stream will be a one-way broadcast and not interactive.)

At these conversations, participants will be be guided by the Word and Spirit in recognizing the gifts needed for our next bishop and begin to reflect on individuals who may possess those gifts.

Following these conversations, participants may contact individuals they identify as potential candidates and ask them to prayerfully discern their sense of call to the office of bishop. After confirming their willingness to serve to the Vice President of the synod, these pre-identified individuals will be asked to fill out the required forms, including a biographical information form, disclosure form and authorization to perform standard background checks.

These forms are the same as those that individuals nominated at the Assembly will complete, and include several open-ended questions about the individual’s vision and sense of giftedness for the office of bishop. Blank forms will be available on the website for any eligible clergy person to review and consider.

Responses from these pre-identified individuals will be posted on the synod website as they are received and reviewed, and will remain there until April 5, 2018. They will be removed to avoid publicity for these individuals for 30 days prior to the Assembly.

Stage Three — Balloting and Election

The Committee on Bishop Elections will oversee the process of ecclesiastical ballot at the Assembly.

In the first (nominating) ballot, voting members may enter the name of any clergy person rostered in the ELCA. Note that individuals pre-identified during the process are NOT automatically nominated, but must be nominated via ballot. On the first ballot, 75% of the legal votes cast are required for election. After the results of this ballot are announced, persons may remove their name from consideration. This is the only point at which names can be removed.

The second ballot will list all candidates nominated on the first ballot who did not withdraw. On the second ballot, 75% of the legal votes cast are required for election.

The third ballot includes the seven persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of legal votes on the second ballot. These seven candidates will be asked to answer a series of questions before the Assembly prior to the ballot. On the third ballot, two-thirds of legal votes cast are required for election.

The fourth ballot includes the three persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of legal votes on the third ballot. These candidates will have the opportunity to address the Assembly for up to five minutes. On the fourth ballot, sixty (60) percent of legal votes are required for election.

The fifth ballot is limited to the two persons (plus ties) who receive the most legal votes in the previous ballot. On the fifth ballot, a simple majority of legal votes is required for election. (Should additional ballots be required, they will follow the same procedure as the fifth ballot.)

The process is outlined in detail in S9.04, S9.04.A94, and S9.04.B17 of the Synod Constitution.

In Christ,

Tracey A. Beasley

Vice President