2020 Bishop’s Election

Bishop's Election

This year, the Synod Assembly will elect a bishop to serve the Saint Paul Area Synod. The election of a bishop is a key responsibility of the Synod Assembly.


The election of a bishop is both an election and a call process. A bishop is called to be a leader not only in our synod, but within the wider church. We will encourage prayer and reflection throughout our Synod Assembly as we deliberate on this important decision together. As at any Synod Assembly, we have our regular elections to attend to, which will be run by our Nominating and Election Committees; the process of electing a bishop has a committee designated only for this purpose, the Bishop Election Committee (or BEC). This separation is both to ensure that the BEC can focus on their task, and so that our election of a bishop can be conducted with the utmost integrity.


Our bishop election process will be chaired by our churchwide representative, Lori Fedyk, ELCA Treasurer.


Who is the current bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod?

The current bishop is the Rev. Patricia Lull. Bishop Lull has served this synod for the last six years. Her first term was scheduled to be completed on July 31, 2020, but was extended due to the postponement of the Synod Assembly. The start of the new term for the synod bishop will be Dec. 1, 2020.


Are there term limits for the office of bishop?

Yes. The bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod may be elected to two consecutive terms of six years each. Bishop Lull is eligible to stand for re-election. Due to the postponement of the Synod Assembly, the next term of bishop begins Dec. 1, 2020.


Since we have an incumbent bishop that can stand for re-election, how does that impact this election?

In 2014 there was no incumbent eligible and a conference nominating process was used to bring candidates before the Synod Assembly for consideration. The synod’s constitution provides for a more streamlined process when an incumbent bishop is eligible and available to serve a second term. Since Bishop Lull announced her willingness to stand for re-election, this modified process will be used at the Synod Assembly. Since we have an eligible and available incumbent interested in serving a second term, the synod’s constitution provides that “...the election by the Synod Assembly for the next term shall be by ecclesiastical ballot, without a conference nominating process.” (S9.04.)


Who is eligible to be bishop?

Our constitution requires that the bishop be a minister of Word and Sacrament of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (S8.11.)


What is an “ecclesiastical ballot” and how will the election take place?

The first ballot for bishop will be an ecclesiastical ballot. An ecclesiastical ballot is a blank ballot that a voting member of the assembly can use to place the name of any eligible individual in nomination for the office of bishop. An individual can be elected on the first ballot if they receive three-fourths of the legal votes cast. If no one is elected, the first ballot is considered a nominating ballot. The ecclesiastical ballot takes the place of nominations from conference assemblies, the floor, or nominating speeches.


Who are the voting members?

Voting members are lay members elected by the congregations of this synod together with rostered ministers under call, retired rostered leaders elected in caucus, the officers of the synod, and voting members of the Synod Council.


What happens after the first ballot if no one is elected?

If no one is elected on the first ballot, a second ballot will be taken. The second ballot is limited to the seven persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of legal votes on the first ballot and who have not withdrawn their names. Before the second ballot, the Bishop Election Committee will confirm an individual’s eligibility and if the individual is available and wishes to stand for election. Individuals that are nominated have the right to withdraw. Once the candidates are confirmed, biographical information will be obtained and distributed to the assembly. For the second ballot, three-fourths of the legal votes cast shall be necessary for election.


What happens after the second ballot if no one is elected?

The synod assembly will continue to cast ballots until an individual is elected. Our constitution (S9.04.) requires the following:

  • The third ballot shall be limited to five persons (plus ties) who receive the greatest number of legal votes on the second ballot. Two-thirds of the legal votes shall be necessary for election. Before the third ballot, each candidate will have up to five minutes to address the assembly.
  • The fourth ballot shall be limited to three persons (plus ties) who receive the greatest number of legal votes on the third ballot. Sixty percent of the legal votes cast shall be necessary for election. Before the fourth ballot, candidates will participate in a question-and-answer period. The Bishop Election Committee will prepare a list of questions, including questions pre-submitted by members of the assembly (Submit your question by Sept. 21 to https://tinyurl.com/y3sszzop.) The ELCA Churchwide representative will moderate.
  • On subsequent ballots, a majority of the legal votes cast shall be necessary for election. These ballots shall be limited to the two persons (plus ties) who receive the greatest number of legal votes on the previous ballot. Candidates will have an opportunity to address the assembly for up to five minutes before any subsequent ballots.


Will the Synod Assembly hear from the candidates?

Yes, using the process described above.


Bishop Election Committee

+Jason Langworthy – St. Anthony Park, St. Paul
Kelly Birkmaier - Mount Calvary, Eagan
Sue Fairchild - Shepherd of the Hills, Shoreview
The Rev. John Froiland - Retired
Katie Hendrikson - Augustana, West St. Paul

+ committee chair