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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Secretary Swartling:
Seattle attorney elected on fifth ballot

Holding Robert’s Rules of Order in one hand and the Bible in the other, David D. Swartling, a Seattle trial lawyer, accepted his new position as ELCA secretary on the final day of the assembly.

Succeeding Lowell G. Almen (see "A final report: Almen filled with gratitude, grace as he says goodbye"), he is the second secretary of the ELCA and the first layperson to hold the position. Swartling, 60, who served as assembly parliamentarian, received 611 of the 977 votes cast.

David D.Swartling (front) and Paul
David D.Swartling (front) and Paul A. Schreck (left) await the final vote totals for ELCA secretary to appear on screen.
Paul A. Schreck, an executive with the Office of the Secretary, received 366 votes on the fifth and final ballot.

On the fourth ballot, Swartling had 528 votes to 304 for Schreck and 211 for Michael L. Cooper-White, president of the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.). Cooper-White had led on the first three ballots.

Swartling held Robert’s Rules of Order before the assembly and vowed to be “scrupulously fair to everyone in this church.”

He called the Bible the more important of the two books, saying he takes great solace in the people and stories—including the many who changed their geography and vocation late in life.

Swartling and his wife, Barbara, are members of Bethany Lutheran Church, Bainbridge Island, Wash., and will relocate to Chicago for this six-year term.

He has also worked half time as director of the Lutheran Planned Giving Consortium of Western Washington.

Speaking to the assembly, Swartling gave a glimpse of his working style: collegial and collaborative, analyzer and advocate, faithful servant. Telling of his time in the Navy on a submarine, he said, “We worked in close quarters and I learned to get along. I work very, very hard at relationships and team-building.” Regarding other staff, he added, “I work with them. They do not work for me.”

The top eight candidates from the first ballots addressed the assembly. In addition to the top three, they were: Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, outgoing bishop of the ELCA South Dakota Synod; Kenneth M. Ruppar, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, Richmond, Va.; Glenndy Ose, a bishop’s associate with the Minneapolis Area Synod; Wm. Chris Boerger, bishop of the Northwest Washington Synod; and Mark Grorud, ELCA director for relationships with large membership congregations.

The secretary is responsible for ELCA rosters and interpreting governing documents such as the church’s constitution.


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