The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Turning a page in ELCA history

Eaton pick affirms event's theme

The theme for the 2013 Churchwide Assembly lived up to its billing: "Always being made new" (see page 20).

Voting members turned to Elizabeth A. Eaton, bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, to lead the ELCA for the next six years. After 12 years as presiding bishop, Mark S. Hanson's chapters of service came to a close. The question that buzzed through the assembly and throughout the church following Eaton's 600-287 election in a fifth round ballot with Hanson was "Why Eaton?"

I'm guessing that voting members came to much the same conclusion I did when meeting her for the first time in 2007. Eaton is one of those people whom you know within 10 minutes is smarter than you. She also has a quirky sense of humor that serves her well.

She delivered a speech on the future of the church that hit a sweet spot with many: Lutheranism is not a mainline denomination and should not strive to be; we offer a theology of the cross in a culture drenched in glory; we proclaim law and gospel in a nation looking for accountability and grace at the same time; and we need to be more intentional about listening to and hearing from those who remain in the ELCA but are hurt by the sexuality decisions of 2009.

Eaton, along with Bishops Jessica R. Crist of the Montana Synod and Ann M. Svennungsen of the Minneapolis Area Synod, didn't withdraw their names during the election process. Many other leaders did, with Eaton explaining she wanted the election to generate a conversation about the status of our denomination.

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