Bishop Mark Hanson, the longtime presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, plummeted on the second ballot here as he sought his third term, dropping from 50 percent to 39 percent of the vote.
Support from three-quarters of the 943 voting members is required for an election on either of the first two ballots, but the percentage gradually drops on subsequent ballots as candidates are winnowed. Only seven of an original 122 people whose names were written down on Tuesday's initial ballot remain in contention to participate in a candidate forum today.
Bishop Hanson has led the Chicago-based denomination since 2001, a period of dissension over theology and sexual ethics. Since it was formed in a 1988 merger, the ELCA has dropped from 5.3 million members to 4 million. Losses had been mostly by slow attrition in the aging denomination until 2009, when approval of local option on partnered gay clergy led to a loss of about 500,000 over the next two years.
He has been perceived as a moderate with liberal sympathies who tried to hold the denomination together. None of his six challengers are to his theological right; most are considered more liberal than he is. Four of the six are women, amid reports of an organized effort to elect a female presiding bishop. Some men who had been in the top 10 after the first ballot removed their names from contention.
Bishop Hanson received 440 of 877 votes on the first ballot at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, but just 369 of 943 votes on the second. Bishop Jessica Crist of Montana, currently chairman of the ELCA Council of Bishops, surged from 53 votes to 272, while maintaining second place. Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of Cleveland, considered a moderate similar to Bishop Hanson, was in third place with 87 votes.
Any ordained minister in the ELCA may be elected presiding bishop. The Rev. Peter Marty, a popular writer and radio preacher and the son of renowned church historian Martin Marty, was in fourth place with 45 votes. After him came Bishop Anne Svennungsen of Minneapolis and the Rev. David Lose, a professor of preaching at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., with 36 and 33 votes, respectively. Rounding out the top seven with 15 votes was the Rev. Barbara Lundblad, a professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York, who is now married to her longtime lesbian partner.
The warmest reception given to any bishop -- a sustained standing ovation -- was for a Catholic, auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore, who brought ecumenical greetings. He spoke of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation that Martin Luther launched in 1517.
He proposed that Lutherans and Catholics mark it together "as a celebration of our dialogue, even with our differences" and a demonstration of "our mutual respect, our love for each other."
The Lutherans also heard a presentation on what is intended to be the major social statement to come out of this assembly, on criminal justice. Drafted by a committee that included people involved in many aspects of law enforcement, ministries to prisoners and victims of crime, the policy has been in the works for years. It recommends ending the privatization of prisons, and a major overhaul of sentencing that would include alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders.
"Restorative justice focuses on crime as an offense against human individuals and a community rather than simply as against 'the state,' " the report said. It "encourages victims to take an active role in responding to crime and invites offenders to take personal responsibility. Restorative approaches seek to bring together the victim, offender and other members of the community harmed by crime to develop a plan to try to repair that harm."
Ann Rodgers: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416. First Published August 13, 2013 12:30 AM