Across the Pastor’s Desk: Search begins for a new bishop

Published 6:30 pm Thursday, May 2, 2019

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Eileen Woyen

Eileen Woyen


This May 31 through June 1, the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA will be in assembly. We meet every year, however, this year will be much different and slightly more exciting.

Email newsletter signup

We will be electing a new bishop to lead our synod for the next six years. Our current bishop, Bishop Steven Delzer, has led our synod excellently in his tenure. He does not plan on seeking another term and will be retiring.

So what is a bishop? I looked at the Bible to see what guidance I could find. Here’s what I found:


Qualifications of bishops

“The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher,  not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way — for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

“For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain;  but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.” (Titus1:7-9)

It doesn’t sound like an easy job. It’s certainly one I wouldn’t strive to attain. Modern bishops put out a lot of fires. I pray for all our bishops in their position and ask God to guide them.

There are three characteristics I desire from our future bishop.

1. Be a pastor of the pastors. I realize that many times bishops need to use the discipline or admonishment arm of their office. However, pastors need someone to be their pastor. I desire my pastor to pray with and for me, support me and guide me just like you desire that from me. It is a blessing and a joy when this kind of relationship occurs.

2. Feel comfortable in both rural and city settings. The SEMN Synod of the ELCA is primarily a rural synod. I desire a bishop who understands the joys and struggles of the rural/small town church. Rural/small churches are struggling to survive today. We need a bishop who will walk with us, help when it’s time for a church to merge or close, and provide resources to be the best rural/small town churches we can be.

3. Be the synod’s theologian. Our bishop needs to lead us in God’s will and in the word of God. We live in an ever-changing world. We need our bishop to direct us on how to be Christians in post-Christendom and help us see what this means in our relationship with God and with our neighbors.

If you are interested in learning more about the bishop candidates or the process of electing our new bishop, go to You may also go to a discernment conversation. They are:

• From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 13 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Waseca

• From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 14 at United Redeemer Lutheran Church in Zumbrota

• From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 16 at Zion Lutheran Church in Stewartville

As always, we can pray. Holy God, stir up in us the insight and imagination we need, that we might listen to your spirit and together discern which woman or man you would have us call into the role of bishop, through Jesus, our good shepherd. Amen.

May God guide us in our discernment.

Eileen Woyen is a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.