February 28, 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to update you on the process of transitioning out of Bishop Schaefer’s term as our bishop. The outpouring of love and concern for Bishop Schaefer and his family is gratifying to see, as are the expressions of support for the Synod Council in this time. Your prayers are felt and appreciated.
As we lean into an uncertain future, I am listening to your voices of hope and fear, confidence and concern. How very “Lutheran”–holding these conflicting voices at the same time! I have not responded to every email, but please know that I am reading them and collecting them for the council’s consideration.
As I mentioned in my previous letter, our first focus is on getting an interim bishop. Here’s what is happening in that effort:
- This past Saturday, the Executive Committee met with Pr. Walter May, the ELCA Executive for Synodical Relations, and discussed a possible candidate.
- The Executive Committee met with the candidate, and the full council will decide on the Presiding Bishop’s nomination.
- Your prayers in these next few days, in particular, are requested.
- Though Bishop Schaefer’s last day in the office is March 5, he will be taking some vacation time and will handle administrative matters as needed throughout March.
I also noted that the Synod Council had decided not to hold the election for a new bishop at the June 2017 Assembly, and that there would “most likely” be a Special Assembly later in the year. There are many factors to balance in making this decision, including contractual obligations for the synod, other scheduled conferences such as the Conference on Ministry and the ELCA Rostered Ministers Gathering in Atlanta, and the financial impact to our congregations. We are diligently pursuing options. It is also important that we have a process that helps pastors discern their openness for a call, and allows us all to think about what we as a synod desire in our next bishop. No matter what path we ultimately decide, we know that some will prefer something different. I ask for your prayers, your patience, and a healthy dose of grace. We will keep you apprised of our progress.
Though there are still questions about our next bishop that we cannot answer, of this we are confident: God’s got this. The Spirit is moving. We take to heart the words from last week’s Gospel: “This is my Son. Listen to him.” May we, as a faith community called the Florida-Bahamas Synod, live confidently in these days, being open to the Spirit and hearing the voice of Jesus in our lives.
Peace and grace,
Your sister in Christ,
Synod Vice President