Officer Elections

Information on the Election of the Presiding Bishop and Secretary

The 2025 Churchwide Assembly will elect a presiding bishop and a secretary. The election process has two parts:

  1. An identification process prior to the Churchwide Assembly.
  2. An ecclesiastical ballot process at the Churchwide Assembly.

Below are some frequently asked questions for additional clarification of the officer election process at the 2025 Churchwide Assembly. Following the FAQs are prayers to be used in your local contexts.

In accordance with continuing resolution 19.01.A24., voting members will be invited to identify the names of up to three rostered ministers of Word and Sacrament who might be considered for presiding bishop and the names of up to three persons (either rostered ministers or laypersons who are voting members of an ELCA congregation) who might be considered for secretary. These invitations will be sent to voting members at separate times in early spring 2025.

Voting members may submit proposed names to the Office of the Secretary within the allotted time. The Office of the Secretary staff will contact those people identified and invite them to submit biographical information.

At least 30 days prior to the Churchwide Assembly, the biographical information received by the deadline will be distributed to voting members by the Office of the Secretary through the ELCA Churchwide Assembly Guide.

Voting members may download the biographical information if they wish to retain it. The biographical information of potential nominees for presiding bishop and secretary will be removed from the CWA Guide immediately following the adoption of the Rules of Organization and Procedure at the beginning of the Churchwide Assembly, on Monday evening, July 28, 2025.
The Churchwide Assembly uses an electronic election process of an ecclesiastical ballot to elect the presiding bishop, secretary, and vice president.

Continuing resolution 19.01.C19 defines the process as follows:

Ecclesiastical Ballot. An “ecclesiastical ballot” for the election of officers (other than treasurer) of the churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is an election process:
  1. in which on the first ballot the name of any eligible individual may be submitted for nomination by a voting member of the assembly;
  2. through which the possibility of election to office exists on any ballot by achievement of the required number of votes cast by voting members of the assembly applicable to a particular ballot;
  3. that precludes spoken floor nominations but allows nomination of persons not in attendance at the meeting;
  4. in which those casting ballots have primary responsibility to nominate persons willing to serve if elected;
  5. in which the first ballot is the nominating ballot if no election occurs on the first ballot;
  6. in which the first ballot defines the total slate of nominees for possible election on a subsequent ballot, with no additional nominations;
  7. in which each synod bishop will seek to inform nominees from that synod that they have been nominated and that they may withdraw if they do not seek election;
  8. that allows, after the reporting of the first ballot, the persons nominated to withdraw their names prior to the casting of the second ballot;
  9. in which any name appearing on the second ballot may not be subsequently withdrawn;
  10. that does not preclude an assembly’s adoption of rules that permit, at a defined point in the election process and for a defined period of time, speeches to the assembly by nominees or their representatives and/or a question-and-answer forum in which the nominees or their representatives participate; and
  11. in which the number of names that appear on any ballot subsequent to the second ballot shall be determined in accordance with provisions of the governing documents.
While this is an election process, it also is a call process. As such, we pray that the Holy Spirit will be among us as individuals and within this whole church as we engage in discernment regarding the election of the presiding bishop and secretary. Individual and group reflection, discussion and prayerful consideration are all important parts of the discernment process — both for individuals who may become nominees and for all members of this church, as we reflect on the needs and attributes desired of our officers. The Elections Committee of the Churchwide Assembly will oversee the process of the ecclesiastical ballot.
  1. First ballot: The name of any rostered minister of Word and Sacrament may be submitted for nomination by a voting member; they need not have participated in the identification process. Three-fourths of the votes cast shall be required for election. If no one is elected, the first ballot shall be considered the nominating ballot.
  2. Second ballot: Prior to the second ballot, nominees may withdraw their names by the established deadline. If a minister of Word and Sacrament is nominated and does not withdraw, the person’s name will appear on the second ballot and there will be no further opportunity to withdraw. Again three-fourths of the votes cast shall be required for election. If there is no election, the seven nominees (plus ties) who received the greatest number of votes on the second ballot will complete the Biographical Information Form and the Background Check Disclosure and Release Information Form approved by the Executive Committee of the Church Council.
  3. Third ballot: Voting is limited to the seven persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of votes on the second ballot. Prior to the third ballot, biographical information on the nominees will be distributed to the voting members. In addition, the nominees will be invited to address the assembly, with each speech limited to four minutes. Two-thirds of the votes cast shall be required for election.
  4. Fourth ballot: Voting is limited to the three persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of votes on the third ballot. Prior to the fourth ballot the nominees will be invited to respond to questions submitted by voting members. From the questions submitted, the Executive Committee of the Church Council, excluding the presiding bishop and any nominees, shall select a sample of questions and determine the process to be followed. The nominees shall be asked questions in rotating order, and each response shall be no longer than two minutes. Sixty percent of the votes cast shall be necessary for election.
  5. Fifth ballot: Voting is limited to the two persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of votes on the fourth ballot. A majority of the votes cast shall be required for election. A marked ballot of the treasurer shall be held by the chair of the Elections Committee but shall be counted only when necessary to break a tie.
  1. First ballot: The name of any rostered minister or layperson may be submitted for nomination by a voting member; they need not have participated in the identification process. Three-fourths of the votes cast shall be required for election. If no one is elected, the first ballot shall be considered the nominating ballot.
  2. Second ballot: Prior to the second ballot, nominees may withdraw their names by the established deadline. If a person is nominated and does not withdraw, the person’s name will appear on the second ballot and there will be no further opportunity to withdraw. Three-fourths of the votes cast on the second ballot shall be required for election. If there is no election, the seven persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of votes on the second ballot will complete the Biographical Information Form and the Background Check Disclosure and Release Information Form approved by the Executive Committee of the Church Council.
  3. Third ballot: Voting is limited to the seven persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of votes on the second ballot. Prior to the third ballot, the biographical information of the nominees will be distributed to the voting members. In addition the nominees will be invited to address the assembly, with each speech limited to four minutes. Two-thirds of the votes cast shall be required for election.
  4. Fourth ballot: Voting is limited to the three persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of votes on the third ballot. Prior to the fourth ballot, the nominees will be asked in rotating order to respond to three questions determined by the Executive Committee of the Church Council, excluding the secretary and any nominees. Each response shall be no longer than two minutes. Sixty percent of the votes cast shall be necessary for election.
  5. Fifth ballot: Voting is limited to the two persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of votes on the fourth ballot, and a majority of the votes cast shall be necessary for election. A marked ballot of the treasurer shall be held by the chair of the Elections Committee but shall be counted only when necessary to break a tie.
The following description is from Chapter 13 of the ELCA Constitution:

The presiding bishop shall be a minister of Word and Sacrament of this church who, as its pastor, shall be a teacher of the faith of this church and shall provide leadership for the life and witness of this church.

The presiding bishop shall:
  1. Be the president and chief executive officer of the corporation, overseeing the work of the churchwide organization.
  2. Be the chief ecumenical officer of this church and its primary representative in the national and international interchurch agencies in which this church holds membership.
  3. Preside at the Churchwide Assembly.
  4. Provide leadership and care for the bishops of the synods.
  5. Oversee the work of the other officers.
  6. Provide for the preparation of the budget for the churchwide organization.
  7. Nominate and direct the work of the executive for administration.
  8. Appoint and supervise the executive directors of churchwide units.
  9. Appoint members of all churchwide committees for which election procedures are not provided.
  10. Relate, through the appropriate churchwide unit, to the chaplaincies of this church in federal agencies, institutions, and armed forces.
  11. Serve as an advisory member, with voice but not vote, on all committees of this church and all boards or designate a person to serve as the presiding bishop’s representative.
The following description is from Chapter 13 of the ELCA Constitution:

The secretary, as the recording officer of this church, shall keep the minutes, have responsibility for rosters, records, and reporting of congregation statistics, oversee the archives, attest to all documents that require such signature, be the custodian of the seal, and perform other duties as prescribed by the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The secretary shall:
  1. Be responsible for the minutes and records of the Churchwide Assembly, Church Council, Executive Committee, and Conference of Bishops, and shall receive complete minutes for permanent record of all boards and committees of the churchwide organization.
  2. Maintain the rosters of ministers, congregations, and synods.
  3. Provide for the publication of official documents and policies of this church; assembly reports; assembly minutes; a directory of congregations, rostered ministers, and entities of this church; and other informational and statistical material.
  4. Receive the annual report of the congregations in a form devised by the secretary, summarize the information, and make the summary available to this church.
  5. Oversee the general counsel and coordinate the use of legal services by the churchwide organization.
  6. Be responsible for the archives of this church.
  7. Implement and operate a records management system for the churchwide organization.
  8. In collaboration with the presiding bishop and the leadership of each group, provide for the preparation of the agenda for the Churchwide Assembly, Church Council, Executive Committee, and Conference of Bishops.
  9. Arrange for and manage churchwide meetings, including the Churchwide Assembly, Church Council, Conference of Bishops, and others.
  10. Have custody of the seal, maintain a necrology, and attest documents.
The secretary, in consultation with the presiding bishop, shall be responsible for preparation and research of amendments to the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as well as the Constitution for Synods and the Model Constitution for Congregations, to be proposed by the Church Council for action by the Churchwide Assembly in accordance with provisions of Chapter 22.

The secretary shall prepare interpretations, as necessary, of the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. If a board (including a board of a separately incorporated ministry), committee, or synod disagrees with the interpretations, as rendered, the objecting entity may appeal the secretary’s interpretation to the Church Council.

The secretary may, upon two successive unexcused absences of a member of the Church Council, board, or committee of the churchwide organization, declare that member’s position vacant.

The secretary shall provide staff services to the Nominating Committee of the Churchwide Assembly and the nomination process of the Church Council; shall be responsible for declaring an interim vacancy resulting from the resignation, death, removal, disqualification, or disability of a member of a board (including a board of a separately incorporated ministry), committee, or council; and shall arrange for an election by the Church Council to fill the vacancy consistent with Chapter 14.
Both presiding bishop and secretary are full-time, salaried positions. The presiding bishop and secretary each serve a six-year term. The term begins on the first day of the third month after the election.
Almighty God, by the power of the Spirit you have knit your servants into the one body of your Son, Jesus Christ. Look with favor upon them as they discern a new call in Christ's name. Give them courage, patience and vision, and strengthen us all in our Christian vocation of witness to the world and of service to others, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Gracious God, you bless your people with a variety of gifts. Guide with your wisdom those voting members who will elect officers of this church, that we may receive faithful servants who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.