Bishop Election

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod will be electing a new bishop at the 2018 Assembly.

After 12 years of service, the Rev. Claire S. Burkat has decided not to stand for re-election to a third term.

The Assembly is held at Franconia Mennonite Church, 613 Harleysville Pike, Telford, PA 18969 ( map ).


Preparing for the Election of a Bishop

This year’s election process adds some new steps, designed to help the whole synod to prayerfully discern the gifts and talents needed for leadership in our present context and pre-identify some individuals who might possess those gifts. Those individuals, however, are not nominated for the office of bishop.

The actual balloting sequence at the Assembly is unchanged. Any ordained clergy person in the ELCA may have their name entered during the first ecclesiastical or nominating ballot. Those who allow their names to go forward will proceed through the election process outlined in the Synod Constitution (S9.04). When a candidate exceeds the required number of votes, she or he will be elected our next bishop. The 2017 Assembly approved this three-stage process for this election.

Stage One (Completed) — Preparation of Synod Mission Profile

The Transition Team prepared a survey open to all members of the synod and shared via website and e-news. Congregations received information to share with members, including how to fill out and return paper surveys. The survey closed Dec. 8 and the ELCA Department for Research and Evaluation is now compiling results. The Synod Mission Profile, including demographic information about our communities, congregations and rostered ministers, is now online.

Stage Two (Completed) — Prayerful Discernment

To help the synod reflect on the gifts needed to lead us going forward, the Discernment Team has developed a process of dwelling in the Word, prayer and conversation. There will be a Bible Study and Conversation held on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, from 10 am to noon. The event will be held at 11 locations around the synod simultaneously, and live-streamed. (The live stream will be a one-way broadcast and not interactive.)

At these conversations, participants will be be guided by the Word and Spirit in recognizing the gifts needed for our next bishop and begin to reflect on individuals who may possess those gifts.

Following these conversations, participants may contact individuals they identify as potential candidates and ask them to prayerfully discern their sense of call to the office of bishop. After confirming their willingness to serve to the Vice President of the synod, these pre-identified individuals will be asked to fill out the required forms, including a biographical information form, disclosure form and authorization to perform standard background checks.

These forms are the same as those that individuals nominated at the Assembly will complete, and include several open-ended questions about the individual’s vision and sense of giftedness for the office of bishop. Blank forms will be available on the website for any eligible clergy person to review and consider.

Responses from these pre-identified individuals will be posted on the synod website as they are received and reviewed, and will remain there until April 5, 2018. They will be removed to avoid publicity for these individuals for 30 days prior to the Assembly.

Stage Three — Balloting and Election

The Committee on Bishop Elections will oversee the process of ecclesiastical ballot at the Assembly.

In the first (nominating) ballot, voting members may enter the name of any clergy person rostered in the ELCA. Note that individuals pre-identified during the process are NOT automatically nominated, but must be nominated via ballot. On the first ballot, 75% of the legal votes cast are required for election. After the results of this ballot are announced, persons may remove their name from consideration. This is the only point at which names can be removed.

The second ballot will list all candidates nominated on the first ballot who did not withdraw. On the second ballot, 75% of the legal votes cast are required for election.

The third ballot includes the seven persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of legal votes on the second ballot. These seven candidates will be asked to answer a series of questions before the Assembly prior to the ballot. On the third ballot, two-thirds of legal votes cast are required for election.

The fourth ballot includes the three persons (plus ties) who received the greatest number of legal votes on the third ballot. These candidates will have the opportunity to address the Assembly for up to five minutes. On the fourth ballot, sixty (60) percent of legal votes are required for election.

The fifth ballot is limited to the two persons (plus ties) who receive the most legal votes in the previous ballot. On the fifth ballot, a simple majority of legal votes is required for election. (Should additional ballots be required, they will follow the same procedure as the fifth ballot.)

Mission Profile and Discernment Resources

“The next bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod should focus on being a “caster of vision” and relationship builder. Additionally, the new bishop should have wisdom, vision, knowledge, and patience, be a pastor to pastors and be a consensus builder. For the synod to show “love of neighbor,” it should make efforts toward “anti-racism,” focus on issues around hunger and homelessness, and economic justice. Success in the synod in three years’ time would manifest as congregations growing in average worship attendance, becoming more diverse, and working for social justice.  Finally, for the synod to be a cohesive Christian community is important as well.” — From the Mission Profile

In the summer of 2017, the synod council of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod appointed a group of active lay and rostered leaders to develop a Synod Mission Profile that focused on the mission of the Synod to help prepare for the election of a Synod bishop in May 2018.

Drawing upon individual and Synod resources, demographic data from MissionInsite, the ELCA Office of Research and Evaluation (ORE), this transition team developed a questionnaire made available in November and December. It asked respondents about their congregations’ successes and struggles, what skills and gifts the next bishop will need, and what role will be most important for the new bishop to fulfill. The survey received 270 responses from rostered and lay congregational leaders. This profile contains information from the questionnaire and from other sources.


Prayerful Discernment

On Feb. 10, more than 200 people participated in discernment meetings and Bible studies. These Bible studies, taken directly from the ELCA Toolkit for Election of a Bishop, focused on Exodus 18 and were designed to allow rostered and lay leaders to discern together the gifts needed in a bishop. (Scroll down for video highlights.)


Here are some gifts and observations lifted up at the Bible studies:

  • Pastoral Presence – Understanding of parish ministry – someone who has been in the “trenches.”
  • Courage to speak through the lens of Jesus Christ.
  • Sense of where church has been and where it is going.  Is not prone to write-off past practices (don’t throw out the baby with the bath water).  This really pertained to multi-point parishes.
  • Visionary – Not someone to leave congregations on their own.
  • Partner People – Action Steps – How to speak to limited resources congregations have.
  • A true recognition of the church and how it looks now and into the future.
  • Do not elect someone “new” just for the sake of newness – (spoke to  current political situation where inexperienced people are put in positions of power or that people put someone new in a position hoping for radical change.)
Video Highlights

Introduction to the process by Vice President Tracey Beasley:


Bible study reflection by Seminarian Lenny Duncan (approved for ordination and awaiting call). Keep watching for discussion of Bible study questions:


Explanation of next steps by Vice President Beasley:

Questions? Contact Vice President Tracey A. Beasley at

Congregational Involvement

The Discernment Team seeks to engage women, men, children, youth and young adults in a prayerful and creative process as we seek God’s direction as we select a new Bishop for our Synod.

“Come, Holy Spirit!” is the theme for this process.  We would like everyone who is interested and willing to consider creating bracelets to be worn by delegates at the Synod Assembly May 4-5 in Franconia.

These bracelets need to be sizable so that they can be tied or adjusted to fit the wrists of all people.  The bracelets can be made of beads, fabric, printed on, leather, crocheted, quilted, knitted, etc.  They should be at least 10 inches long to accommodate all sizes.

Those choosing to participate in this way should be reminded that while making these bracelets they should be praying together and/or individually that God will lead us, speak to us and give us counsel who our next Bishop will be.

It is suggested you make as many bracelets as you can.  We will need around 800 just for the Synod Assembly.  It is hoped we will have sufficient so that each delegate and visitor at the Synod Assembly will have a bracelet made with the prayers of the creators and the saying,  “Come, Holy Spirit!” printed on it.  It is also hoped that others will be made available to be taken back to each congregation as a reminder of this historic event.

Once you and/or your congregations has completed as many as God calls you to make, please package them and send them to the Synod Office NO LATER THAN APRIL 30th.

Please mark on the package, “Bracelets for the Synod Assembly.”

Send it to:  Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, 7241 Germantown Avenue, Wiedemann Center, Philadelphia, PA  19119.  NO LATER THAN APRIL 30th.