Dear Siblings in Christ:
I hope this email finds you getting some respite from the summer heat and storms. On behalf of the Synod Council, I write to update you on the election for a new Bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod.
First, please be sure the voting members from your congregation have registered for the October Synod Assembly. Our planning is strengthened by early registration. We expect this to be a well attended Assembly, and hotel rooms are filling quickly.
Second, to aid us in discernment for the Bishop election, a synod profile has been distributed, and feedback is being collected to add to that profile. Together this information will not only give a demographic snapshot of the synod, but also a sense of what we might be looking for in our next bishop. We are being assisted in this effort by the ELCA Office of Demographic Research, and hope to have the completed profile posted in the first week of August. This information will be posted on the synod web site at www.fbsynod.com/bishopelection, along with all other information related to the bishop’s election.
Third, after much prayer, study and thoughtful deliberation, your Synod Council has voted to set up a “Pre-identification Process” to help lift up persons who may have the gifts and skills for the role of Bishop, and who are willing to make themselves available for call at this time. This does not replace our ecclesiastical ballot at the Assembly, so individuals who are pre-identified will still need to be nominated at the Assembly to be considered for election.
Our hope is that a pre-identification process will create a more open environment in which a pastor can discern his/her call and have the conversations s/he feels are needed as part of that discernment process. We also hope that this will provide the non-rostered voting members time to prayerfully consider the role of Bishop, to lift up individuals they believe possess the necessary gifts, and to learn a bit about those lifted up prior to coming to Assembly. But remember: names must still be nominated in the first ballot in order to be considered for election.
This Pre-Identification process will work as follows (and all this is also explained at www.fbsynod.com/bishopelection):
- From August 21-September 1, persons may be pre-identified as having the gifts and skills to be bishop. Anyone can identify any pastor of the ELCA in this process. Self-identification will be allowed. Please contact the individual you wish to pre-identify before submitting their name. To pre-identify someone, you will provide their name and current congregation or other identifying information, as well as any contact information to the Synod Office. A form will be available on the synod website for this purpose. As names are identified, those individuals will be contacted to confirm their willingness to be named in this process. Persons agreeing to be publicly pre-identified must fill out the bishop biographical information form and authorize a background check.
- From September 1-11, biographical information on those pre-identified will be completed. All biographical forms (including photographs) and authorizations for a background check must be submitted to the Synod Office by the close of business on September 11. Failure to submit the forms means the name will not be included in this pre-identification process.
- On or about September 18, all names of persons open to this call who submitted biographical forms will be released and posted on the synod website at www.fbsynod.com/bishopelection.
- On October 9, the names and bios will be removed from the website. This is 3 days before the start of the Assembly and will allow time for reflection on and prayer for the upcoming election.
- The Synod Assembly will be October 12-14. As in the past, the first ballot on the first day will be the nominating ballot. Each voting member will be given a blank piece of paper on which s/he may nominate an ELCA pastor to be Bishop. Just because someone was identified in the pre-identification process does NOT mean their name goes onto the ballot at Assembly. Conversely, even if someone was not identified prior to the Assembly, s/he may still be nominated on the first ballot.
- The ecclesiastical ballot process is set forth in our constitution. It will continue much as it did in the 2013 election. The full election process is explained on the web site at www.fbsynod.com/bishopelection.
The Council decided to try this process for this election only. Many synods have some sort of pre-Assembly process prior to a bishop’s election. We decided that if there was ever a time to “test” a process in this Synod, this would be a good election to do it, since we do not have an incumbent standing for re-election. The Synod Council will take time after the election to review the pros and cons of the process. That review will be available to consider prior to the next election for a bishop. We did not, as a body, commit to this process for any future election.
We realize that this is a significant change in the way we have elected our synod bishop thus far. We know that some of you will be excited to embark on this new process, and that others will do so with some misgiving. What the Council knows is this: God’s got this. We are confident that the Spirit is at work, lifting up the right leader for our Synod in this time. Please continue to pray with us that we all remain open to the guidance of the Spirit in our lives together as the Florida-Bahamas Synod.
Peace and grace be with you,
On behalf of the Synod Council