ELCA NEWS SERVICE
October 12, 2006
ELCA Presiding Bishop, Secretary Announce Future Intentions
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), announced he will be available for possible election to another six-year term as presiding bishop. Hanson, who was elected presiding bishop at the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, made the announcement as part of his report to the ELCA Conference of Bishops meeting here.
The Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary, told the conference he will not be a nominee for another six-year term. Almen is the only person who has served as ELCA secretary, a role to which he was first elected in May 1987, seven months before the ELCA was formed through a merger of three Lutheran church bodies. He has been re-elected three times.
The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church, consisting of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary. It met here October 5-10.
The 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly will meet Aug. 6-12, 2007, at Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. That assembly will elect both a presiding bishop and a secretary to terms through the 2013 Churchwide Assembly. With the ELCA vice president and treasurer, the presiding bishop and secretary serve as officers of the church.
Key responsibilities of the ELCA presiding bishop are: serving as president and chief executive officer of the corporation and overseeing staff, budget and overall administration of the church; chairing the churchwide assembly; preparing agendas for the assembly, ELCA Church Council and Conference of Bishops; serving as chief ecumenical officer of the ELCA; providing leadership and care for synod bishops, and serving as preacher, teacher and administrator of the sacraments.
Key responsibilities of the ELCA secretary are: maintaining official church records, minutes of meetings of the churchwide assembly, Church Council, Conference of Bishops and other meetings; receiving minutes for all meetings of boards and committees of the churchwide organization; maintaining official rosters of professional church leaders; preparing and researching possible amendments for the ELCA Constitution, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions, as well as the Constitution for Synods and Model Constitution for Congregations; interpreting the ELCA Constitution; publishing official documents and policies of the ELCA and other informational and statistical material; receiving annual congregational reports; coordinating use of legal services; maintaining the church's archives; arranging and managing meetings of the churchwide assembly and Church Council; and providing library and reference services for the churchwide office.
Hanson reflects on elections process
In 2007 there will be at least 25 elections for synod bishops, and at least 11 will be for new bishops, Hanson said. Next year many current bishops are retiring or moving on to other possible calls in the church. Like his wife, Ione, and him, Hanson said he knows many current bishops have been thinking about their future plans.
"We have been praying about this call," Hanson said. "We have been talking about its joys and it challenges for us personally and for us as a family. I think you know how much I feel called to this office, how challenging this office is and what joy I find in this office."
Hanson, 59, said he believes he has "the best call" in the church because he gets to see so many of its ministries at work.
"If it's good to the spirit and the will of the voting members of the 2007 Churchwide Assembly, I would be available to continue to serve in this office for another term," Hanson said. His comments were greeted with applause from the conference, churchwide staff and guests who were present.
Before he was elected presiding bishop, Hanson was bishop of the ELCA Saint Paul (Minn.) Area Synod. He had just been re-elected to that role a few months before the 2001 Churchwide Assembly.
The re-election process in the synod was a "low point" of his ministry, he told the bishops. That process was troubling because of how "rancorous it became, how divisive it became, how politicized it became," he said.
"I would pray that these next months not be that for this church," he said. "I don't view that I have just declared myself a candidate for re-election. I have said, 'I'm a pastor that has a call from this church to serve in this office, and now I invite the church to be together a call committee -- praying, discerning the context of mission, discerning together the gifts this church needs in whoever serves in this office.'"
The 2007 Churchwide Assembly should think of itself as a call committee when it considers who should serve as the ELCA's presiding bishop, he said.
"I said when I was elected, 'I don't view it as an election won but as a call received.' And I trust that the work of the Spirit will be in this call process in the coming months," he concluded.
Almen notes historic experiences, gives thanks
Almen, 65, said he will mark his 40th anniversary as an ordained Lutheran pastor in June 2007.
"As of next June, I will have served for more than half of my ministry as a Lutheran pastor under call as secretary of this church," he told the conference. "This has been the type of pastoral ministry that I could never have imagined four decades ago in my senior year at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul (Minn)."
Almen's current term as ELCA secretary ends on Oct. 31, 2007, at which time he will have served more than 20 years as secretary, he said. At that point, it will be time to pass his responsibilities to a successor, Almen said.
"By the grace of God I will complete this term with abiding gratitude for the privilege of serving throughout this historic era in the cause of greater Lutheran unity," he said. To be part of this chapter of U.S. Lutheran history has been "an unbounded blessing," Almen said.
"I have had a first-row seat for many of the major events in the ELCA and its predecessor churches in the final quarter of the 20th century and the early years of this century. In several instances I have experienced more than a close view. I have been on the platform both figuratively and at times actually contributing to the shaping of those significant developments," he said.
Almen expressed appreciation for his wife Sally, son Paul and daughter Cassandra; for the ELCA's congregations, synods, the ELCA Church Council, Conference of Bishops, presiding bishops, treasurers, vice presidents, churchwide staff and colleagues in the ELCA Office of the Secretary.
He noted special interests such as military chaplaincy, synod staff, ecumenism, full-communion relationships, meeting patriarchs, popes and many other church leaders, ecumenical organizations, witnessing first-hand the birth of the Republic of Namibia, and relief and development efforts.
He cited as a "continuing challenge" the ELCA's relationship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, saying<