The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Hanson elected: 'Call received'

Mark S. Hanson was elected the ELCA's third presiding bishop Aug. 11. But that isn't the way the 54-year-old bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod described it. "I don't regard this as an election won," he told the 1,039 voting members and hundreds of visitors who had just given him a prolonged standing ovation. "But a call received."

He received 533 votes, or 51.6 percent of the ballots cast. Bishop Donald McCoid, 58, Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, received 499 votes, or 48.4 percent.

Acknowledging his margin of only 34 votes, Hanson reminded the assembly that in congregations a two-thirds vote is required to call a pastor. "This is a stark reminder," he said, "that this church has raised up seven people — all of whom could have served you well."

The bishop is elected by "ecclesiastical ballot." All ELCA pastors are eligible for the first nominating ballot, and 168 people received votes on that ballot — 103, just one vote each. With each successive vote the percentage needed for election drops until the fifth ballot, when a simple majority is required.

Nominees may withdraw after the first ballot, and many did. The top seven (after the second ballot) presented a five-minute address the next day. But this year — by assembly vote — an unprecedented question-and-answer session was held the same evening of the second ballot. For 90 minutes the seven nominees answered voting members' questions about the role of Lutheran confessions in the ELCA, their administrative style, social ministry, evangelism, education, dealing with diversity and controversy — specifically Called to Common Mission and the ordination of gays and lesbians.

In addition to Hanson and McCoid, the other top seven nominees were:

  • • Wyvetta Bullock, Division for Congregational Ministries, an executive director.

  • •Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, South Dakota Synod bishop.

  • • April Ulring Larson, La Crosse Area Synod bishop.

  • • James Nestingen, professor of church history at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.

  • • Peter Rogness, Greater Milwaukee Synod bishop.

    Nestingen advanced to the fourth ballot, along with Hanson and McCoid. The initial vote on that ballot was nullified because of an error with the electronic voting equipment.

    A repeat vote eliminated Nestingen who received 225 votes to Hanson's 448 and McCoid's 362. After the report of the vote, Nestingen expressed his "gratitude" to the assembly and said he accepted the results, adding: "I'm happy as a clam to go back to my classroom."

    On the fifth ballot, which required a simple majority to elect, Hanson prevailed.

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