This past weekend I had the opportunity to be in WaKeeney, KS to attend the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Pastor Randy Gibbs’ ordination and then preach the following morning at St. John’s Lutheran, north of Ellis. It seemed so appropriate that my first public “gig” as Bishop-Elect would be in WaKeeney and Ellis since this is where I began my journey as a pastor. Who would have thought that this young (and I was young being one of those pipe-liners who went straight from college to seminary!) fresh out of seminary, thinking she knew so much more than she actually did, when in fact she had a lot to learn, would after all these years now be called to be the Bishop of the Central States Synod. The words “humbled and honored” keep coming back to me, feelings reinforced by the outpouring of support, prayers, and affirmations since my election at synod assembly. Now, a little over a week later, I can add the words “excited and (a bit at times) overwhelmed.” But don’t those words describe what it can feel like in a transition, excitement about new possibilities but overwhelmed at times with the unknown? And we are in a time of transition. So let’s talk about that.
I will officially take office on September 1 which means that Bishop Gustafson continues in his role and with his responsibilities as Bishop until then. It also means that I will continue in my position as Bishop’s Associate and Director of Evangelical Mission (DEM) as well as work with Bishop Gustafson, the Executive Committee and a transition team to make this transition as smooth as possible.
I will be working with the executive committee to make decisions regarding staffing positions for the synod, decisions I will communicate with you as soon as they are in place. I will also be working with a committee to plan my installation. That installation will take place late afternoon (exact time to be determined) on Sunday, October 20 at Atonement Lutheran, Overland Park.
The first part of July, I’ll be taking time to “breath” and rest, go on vacation with my family and attend the Bishop’s Formation Academy, or what I think of as “New Bishop’s School,” in Chicago. Then August 4-9 I will be attending the Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee as the Bishop-Elect along with Bishop Gustafson and the other voting members from synod.
In navigating this transition, It certainly helps, I would think, that I have been on synod staff for almost six years, know the congregations and ministries of this synod, understand the constitution and the workings of the synod office, and in my role as DEM, also have experienced working with the churchwide organization. But I have already been told by more than one bishop that things are different between being on the bishop’s staff and being the bishop. And while we are all working to make this transition as smooth as possible, this is a transition and there will be changes.
So this is what I would ask of you during this time of transition. Talk to me. If you have questions or concerns, suggestions or ideas send me an e-mail or call me. I want to hear from you. I want to listen. I will also talk to you, keeping you as informed as I can about what is happening. This call and I do understand it as a call, not simply winning an election, comes from the Spirit and from all of you. I want to be open to letting that Spirit guide the decisions I make. That doesn’t mean that I won’t make mistakes along the way. But (I hope you don’t take this the wrong way), so will you. None of us has all the answers. What we do have is a relationship, a relationship with Christ, a relationship with one-another and a relationship with the world around us.
Thank you again for the honor of being in a relationship with you as your Bishop-Elect, to explore the possibilities, both exciting and challenging, that are ahead for us as the church in this place. And thank you for your patience, your grace, your honesty, your commitment as we move through this transition together. I am truly humbled and honored.