To be clear, the Synod Council, Assembly Planning Team, and Bishop’s Election Committee have made no formal recommendations yet about the 2021 NC Synod Assembly, but what I can tell you is that at least a dozen of the 65 ELCA Synods have already decided that their 2021 Synod Assembly will be online only, and many more are likely to follow suit in the next two months. The deeper we get into this pandemic, virus or no virus, with vaccine distribution challenges in mind, and with our current governor’s re-election, the prospect of gathering in person with 600+ people in person in Greensboro, June 3-5, 2021 is diminishing rapidly. As you begin in congregations to select your voting members, keep in mind that first, you need people who can relatively easily move to an all-online format, and secondly, we’ll be electing a bishop, so that adds to the gravity of the assembly regardless of whether in-person or online.
Many have asked me what my availability might be for the 2021 NC Synod Bishop election. As a reminder, I serve in a six-year term call which began August 1, 2015 and which will end July 31, 2021. Constitutionally and theologically, one does not “run for re-election.” Every six years it’s a blank slate, a do-over, albeit sometimes with the known quantity of a bishop who is finishing a term but who is also available for consideration in the new election along with all other Word and Sacrament rostered ministers in the ELCA. The only reason I promised Synod Council and staff that I would announce my intentions by this month is that the calls and jobs of numerous people in the synod office are technically co-terminus with mine. If I know I’ll not be available, in fairness, I need to tell them now.
We all must trust the Spirit in this, all of our collective humanity notwithstanding. A sitting bishop’s being available does not (and should not) imply being elected for another term call. Several former Conference of Bishops colleagues can attest to that. God is always doing a new thing. That said, just like in 2015, I have discerned that though I do not actively seek the office of bishop, I will make myself available on that nominating ballot like all the other Word and Sacrament ministers and let the Spirit speak through you. Let’s all prayerfully consider whom God is calling to this office to lead the NC Synod for the next six years. It could be me. Or one of thousands of other possibilities.