Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Elizabeth Eaton unseats Hanson as ELCA Presiding Bishop

A surprise answer... A surprise election in the ELCA

Over in Pittsburgh where the ELCA is having a church wide assembly, an election for Presiding Bishop is taking place in which it seems the current incumbent, Pr Mark Hanson, is having some trouble.  He has served in this capacity for 12 years and the voting seems to imply some are re-thinking his future, once considered rather secure.

What I found completely surprising is one answer by one of the other candidates for the office.  They were given time to respond on a couple of questions and one question pointedly asked about the ELCA's drift and troubles.

Next question: What do you see as the major challenges in the ELCA and what gifts would you bring to this role?Elizabeth Eaton, Bp. of NE Ohio synod (College of Wooster, Harvard Divinity. Ordained 1981): My fear is that lately we've been sliding into being generic Protestant denomination. Our challenge is to regain our distinctive Lutheran voice. My gift right now is that I'm clueless and I'm in God's hands.

Now that is unusual... a candidate for Presiding  Bishop of the ELCA suggesting that their slide into generic Protestantism is a real problem and that the church body needs to regain its distinctive Lutheran voice...

I would hesitate to call this a sign of confessional rebirth in the ELCA but I do appreciate hearing words like that, even if they don't quite mean what I hope they would and even when they come from sources still a great deal of distance from a credible Lutheran confessional identity.

FWIW  Most of the other answers were typical fluff about listening more, about the gifts the ELCA has to offer, and the other drivel that is the stuff of Miss America style questions.  At least no one answered "World Peace" as their goal, hope, and desire for the future.  That said, the Presiding Bishop's job in the ELCA pays well and has a good title but ELCA is sinking fast.  Those who pay less attention to Higgins Road are doing better than those who mirror the national office's themes of diversity, social justice, and the gospel of nebulous love but they are only a little bit removed from silly stuff that masquerades as church.  With the election of a gay Bishop (who, surprisingly, did not get votes for Presiding Bishop), the ELCA has more and more institutionalized its stands on gays and lesbians and distanced itself further and further from honoring the bound consciences of those who disagree.  I do not see how those not on this band wagon can stay in this denomination but then the impetus is always with the mass at rest.  Inertia is hardly good for a church body but it seems the only thing keeping many within the ELCA.
Update... Hanson is now second in balloting... behind... are you ready... behind Eaton?!?!

Update... Elizabeth Eaton has been elected Presiding Bishop... the first woman, the first non-Minnesotan, and the first non-Scandinavian...  And she wants the ELCA to grieve over those who left... And she wants the ELCA to be more "distinctively Lutheran".... what might this mean?  I am not under any illusions about the ELCA turning back from its progressive movement into the mainline liberal Protestant camp but it may slow the slide away from Lutheranism...

BTW I believe her husband is an Episcopal priest... right?
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