2020 Bishop Election

South-Central Synod of Wisconsin Bishop Election

2020 is a year in which we elect a bishop. Even this is different from how it has been done before. Over 300 people were involved in Town Hall meetings resulting in a profile of the bishop we seek; hundreds more gathered in nominating caucuses to lift up names. A Call Committee has put in countless hours over the past weeks, all to bring to you the four nominees that have emerged from repeated interviews, reference calls, written material. These are gifted people, and one will become our bishop. Study, pray, talk with others, and sense the Spirit’s leading as we enter into this process.

Below you will find detailed information on our election process along with updates and information in ascending order with the most current updates at the top of this page and information on the beginning of the process and FAQ’s towards the bottom of the page. Take note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic some of the process and timeline were modified as were deemed necessary due to state and county emergency orders.

Report of the Synod Bishop Call Committee
Introducing the Nominees for Bishop
Click on the link to the right to read the full report of our Bishop Call Committee.

Special “Equipping the Saints” Webinars
We have hosted two special webinars with special emphasis on the upcoming election. On Tuesday, July 28 Bishop Rogness hosted a webinar entitled: “What I Know That I Think You Should Know- Seven Both-And Traits to Look For in a Bishop” and on Tuesday, August 11 we enjoyed a conversation with three former ELCA synod bishops who offered their insights into the role of bishop.

These webinars can be watched on our webinar page by using the link to the right.

May 5, 2020 Update from Bishop Rogness Related to Election

  • The Call Committee is now preparing to give a report of its work and announce the 4-6 nominees they have been charged with bringing forward to the congregations. They expect that announcement to go live at 4:00 p.m. on May 15. At the conclusion of that report, several things will be posted to the Synod Website: (1) the text of the report given by the Committee; (2) a five-minute introductory video from each of the nominees; and (3) written material produced by each of the nominees with their education and work history, and their responses to a number of questions posed by the Bishop Candidate Profile they completed for the Call Committee.
  • The Bishop Election Task Force will conduct two on-line forums with the nominees. The first will come a week after the announcement and will be posted at 11:00 a.m. Friday, May 22. The Task Force will focus the questions for the first forum on issues raised by the Synod Profile and Bishop Profile that came out of the January-February Town Hall Meetings.  People from around the synod will be invited to submit questions for a second forum, to be held a month or so later.
  • In the interest of having a fair and even process, the Task Force discourages people from the synod having other communications with all or any of the nominees apart from the public interactions available to all.
  • At the Assembly (see specific information here), there will be a series of three ballots, with speeches or Q&A before each. ELCA Secretary Sue Rothmeyer or an appointee will run the election.

March 21, 2020 Update from Synod Council Related to Election – Subsequently Updated May 2 to Reflect Date Updates (underlined below).

At it’s meeting on Saturday, March 21st, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and associated social distancing orders, the Synod Council made several decisions regarding the 2020 Assembly, the Bishop Election Process and other Synod events in 2020.

  • The council cancelled the May 1-2 Synod Assembly. Arrangements will be made to refund registration fees that have been paid. At this time, Synod Assembly registration is closed. At such time that the new date is scheduled, a new fee will be applied to those registrations which can be paid when registration re-opens.  Those who have registered as voting members will be considered the voting members at such time as an assembly is held.
  • The Bishop Call Committee expects to be able to continue its work on its current timetable, which leads to a posting of 4-6 nominees for the synod’s consideration at 4:00 p.m. (CT) on May 15, 2020. Subsequent forums may be held virtually instead of in-person.
  • We will look at rearranging the June 20th Assembly to include essential business from the May Assembly.  This includes things like the election of council members, task forces and committees; and passage of the 2021 – 22 Budget, although, the ability to hold a one-day assembly on June 20 is questionable. The Council anticipates holding a one-day assembly as soon as it becomes possible for a large group to gather; we will work on combining the election of a bishop with the several other business items necessary to pass at an assembly.

The Bishop Call Committee, the Council and the Synod Staff have discussed how to keep the Call process moving forward on schedule.   The assessment of those involved feel that with the use of telephones, electronic meetings, interviews, and forums; the process will be able to stay on schedule.  

From March 10 to April 24th, the Bishop Call Committee receives and researches the names coming from the Conference Nomination Caucuses.  It will receive information, conduct interviews, and do background and reference checks.  It is charged with bringing forward 4-6 nominees for consideration by the synod for the election of a bishop.

  • May 15, (4:00 p.m.) – Announcement of 4-6 Nominees
  • May 2- June 20 – Four (4) Forums are held involving nominees.  All voting members are encouraged to attend at least one of these.  Alternative formats are being discussed. The Bishop Election Task Force will determine the format for these forums.

March 10, 2020 Bishop Election Process Update

The next part of the new bishop election process includes the work of the Bishop’s Call Committee.  From March 10 to April 24th, the Bishop Call Committee receives and researches the names coming from the Conference Nomination Caucuses.  It may receive information, conduct interviews, do background and reference checks.  It is charges with bringing forward 4-6 nominees for consideration by the synod for election of a bishop.

  • May 1: Nominees Identified – The nominees are introduced.
  • May 2- June 20: Nominee Forums – Four (4) forums are held involving nominees.  All voting members are encouraged to attend at least one of these (see below).
  • June 20: Synod Assembly – Assembly to be held for the sole purpose of electing our next bishop. Remember that all voting members from the May Synod Assembly will also be the voting members for this Assembly.

Between May 2 and June 20, four Nominee forums will be held around the synod. The Bishop Election Task Force will determine the format for these forums.

  • Thursday, May 21, 10:00 a.m., Oakwood Village Prairie Ridge (this is also the meeting of retired rostered leaders, but the forum section of the gathering is open to all in the synod.)
  • Thursday, May 21, 7:00 p.m., Grace Lutheran, Dodgeville
  • Saturday, May 23, 10:00 a.m., Trinity English Lutheran, Fort Atkinson
  • Thursday, June 18, 7:00 p.m., Bethlehem Lutheran, Portage

February 2020 Message From Bishop Peter Rogness
Introducing our Synod & Bishop Profiles

On October 1, 2019, I began as the interim bishop, to serve during the transition time leading to the election of the synod’s new bishop, scheduled for June 20, 2020.  We put in place a process intended, as stated at our recent Town Hall meetings, “to lay the strongest possible foundation for the successful tenure of our next bishop.”  That foundation depended on broad input from around the synod.  The result of that input is the two profiles that are presented HERE.

Additionally, here is some basic information about this synod, and note the process that follows, based on these profiles:

Basic Information describing the synod in 2020.

  • Size and Location: Our synod, located in the 12 counties in south central Wisconsin, is the 12th largest of the 65 synods in the nearly 3.5 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
  • Statistical Data and Trends. To both cite statistics and note trends, we offer the following statistics from 2018, with the comparative statistic from 10 years earlier (2008) in parentheses, and 30 years earlier [1988] in italics and brackets:
    • Congregations: 138 (150) [153] with 86,911 (109,138) [110,272] baptized members
    • Average weekly worship attendance = 130 (169) [218]
    • Average congregational mission support to synod/ELCA = 3.1% (3.7%) [6.6%], with a total percentage of giving beyond the congregation to all causes of 7.3% (10%) [13.6%]
    • Demographic of synod congregations = 94% white (98.67%) [98.3%]; demographic of the twelve counties = 85% white.

To summarize: this synod is following the general trends of our denomination and religious life in the country, a pattern of slow/steady decline. The one statistic that is different is the growth – still slight, but comparatively significant – in the percentage of persons of color in our congregations, moving from 1.3% to 6% in 10 years.

The Process.

  • Between January 5 and February 9, 2020, over 300 people gathered in six Town Hall meetings, from over 90 congregations across the synod, over 70% lay people. Five scribes took nearly 100 pages of notes. The Profiles that follow reflect this broad input.
  • Conferences will gather in Nominating Caucuses between February 22 and March 8. Those who will attend should be guided by these two profiles as they consider nominations for bishop.
  • Similarly, the Bishop Call Committee will do their work guided by the “Profile of the Bishop We Seek.” They will recommend to the synod 4-6 nominees for consideration and election.

I am grateful to all who attended the Town Hall meetings, and to the scribes, Rev. George Carlson, Mary DeYoung, Rev. Dan Feaster, Rev. Dick Inglett, and Ken Streit, who have taken the insight of the Town Hall attendees and moved it into these Profiles. I trust the Spirit, who has guided the life of the church, is present in this work, and in our movement ahead.

December 2019 Message From Bishop Peter Rogness
About the Election of Our Next Bishop

I am glad to be here, to be encountering many fine people doing faithful work in quite varying settings. My call is to assist in laying a strong foundation through this time of transition for the next chapter of this synod’s life. Much of that task is now laid before us in the adoption of the Process that will lead us to the election of your next bishop in June.

As part of the discernment process for potential candidates and conferences; there ere are two pieces of information that are being provided here and are are able to be filled out and submitted electronically:

  1. The first, “Initial Consideration of Call as Bishop” is intended for initial discernment of people who have been sought out as possible nominees for the office. It contains the constitutional language setting forth the responsibilities of the bishop, and an affirmation of openness that is to be signed by both the person under consideration and a colleague with whom she/he has been in discernment. Should the person be put forward by a Conference Nominating Caucus, the Conference Dean will also sign and forward it to the Bishop Call Committee.
  2. The second is the “Bishop Candidacy Profile.” Rostered leaders will recognize it as similar to the Rostered Leader Profile, filled out as pastors and deacons are open to a new call. This form contains both information that is intended only for the use of the Bishop Call Committee and information that would be shared with the entire synod if the candidate is one of the 4-6 candidates the Bishop Call Committee sets before the Synod Assembly.

Town Hall Meetings to Take Place January and February, 2020

The foundation begins to be laid by first naming where we are as a synod, and, from that, what kind of leadership skills we need to seek in the next person to serve as our bishop. This is fundamental to a good call process in any congregation and just as fundamental for us as a synod.

We encourage broad participation in this step. We will center on two descriptions: (a) this synod – its strengths and challenges, what makes it unique, what is it facing at this moment in history; and, from that snapshot, (b) the skills and characteristics that would serve us well in the person of the next bishop. That emerging “bishop profile” will be the lens through which further consideration of potential nominees will happen. I will have a team of scribes to gather the observations of all who attend. They will then condense what has emerged from those meetings into a profile of the synod, and a profile of the bishop we seek.

We suggest that those who will ultimately be present to represent your congregation in the assembly that will vote for the next bishop would be logical attendees. But these meetings are not legislative, and any interested members of our congregations are welcome to come.

Below is the schedule of Town Hall Meetings. No registration is necessary. Ideally, we would like you to attend the conference in which your church is assigned. Links to bulletin inserts that may be shared in congregations and other information is located to the right.

Please join us at any of these forums to give voice to conversations on the strengths and challenges of this synod and what we need in a bishop.

Forums are approximately 90 minutes in length. Find out which conference you are in HERE. We hope to see you there.

Following these Town Hall Forums voting members of the Synod Assembly from each conference will gather in late-February/early-March for Nomination Caucuses. Participants are rostered leaders and lay voting members of the 2020 Synod Assemblies (or ’19, if you haven’t selected 2020 voting members yet). Each Conference may identify up to five Ministers of Word & Sacrament in the ELCA for consideration for nomination as bishop. The schedule for these caucuses are as follows:

Find out which conference you are in HERE.

The Process

This process has arisen from consideration by the Bishop Election Task Force, the Synod Council and Executive Committee, and was originally drafted by Interim Bishop Peter Rogness. Over time, as it was reviewed and discussed, changes were made. It has been reviewed and affirmed by staff at the Office of the Presiding Bishop; it has been presented verbally to the Bishop’s Convocation October 6-8, verbally and in writing at the November 2, 2019, special Synod Assembly. It was formally adopted as presented here at the November 9, 2019 meeting of the Synod Council.

The focal elements of the process are as follows:

  • Lay a foundation based on careful and broad input from around the synod, a foundation that describes the synod and develops a profile for the bishop being sought.
  • Invite participation at the Conference level for careful consideration of possible nominees for bishop.
  • Charge a Bishop Call Committee with responsibility for conducting interviews, background and reference checks on proposed candidates, forwarding a slate of 4-6 candidates for the synod’s consideration and election.

Timeline and description of the Process:

  1. October – December – Bishop Rogness holds informal conversations with rostered leaders at Conference gatherings.
  2. January 1 – February 15 – 6 Town Hall Meetings – for rostered leaders and Assembly Voting Members (either ’19 or ’20) – These will be structured, 90-minute gatherings for (a) gathering input describing the strengths, challenges, hopes, issues that best describe our synod at this time, and (b) building a profile describing the needs we have in the person to be elected bishop of the synod.  (Questions to be posed in this structured process may be sent in to Bishop Rogness between November 10 and December 10).
  3. February 15-20 – summary of the Town Hall meetings and resulting “Bishop Profile” produced and distributed
  4. February 20 – March 10 – Conference Nomination Caucuses are held. Participants are rostered leaders and lay voting members of the 2020 Synod Assemblies (or ’19, if you haven’t selected 2020 voting members yet). Each Conference may identify up to five persons* for consideration for nomination as bishop. The schedule for these caucuses may be found HERE.
  5. March 10 – April 24 – The Bishop Call Committee receives and researches the names coming from the Conference Nomination Caucuses. It may receive information, conduct interviews, do background and reference checks. It is charged with bringing forward 4-6 nominees for consideration by the synod for election as bishop.
  6. May 1-2 Synod Assembly – the Nominees are introduced to the gathered Assembly.
  7. May 2 – June 20 – (3) Forums are held involving nominees.

June 20 – the members of the Synod Assembly reconvene for the Election of the Bishop.

*Nominees for bishop must be on the roster of Ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament in the ELCA. They need not be from that conference, or from this synod.

Bishop Call Committee

On Saturday, January 11, 2020 the Synod Council appointed the members of the Bishop’s Call Committee.  The Executive Committee had a large pool of recommended committee members and we are grateful to everyone who was willing to serve.

Front row left to right: Jerry Tews, Helen Sheahan
Back row, left to right:  Don Glanzer, Dan Ruge, Holly Slater, Emily Tveite,  Cindy Wuttke, Peter Antonie, Rich Dhyanchand

This is your Bishop Call Committee:

  • Holly Slater / St. Paul’s Liberty, Deerfield
  • Don Glanzer / St. Peter’s LC, Loganville
  • Jerry Tews (Retired) / Member of St. John’s Evansville
  • Emily Tveite /Lutheran Campus Ministry
  • Peter Antonie / Member of Vermont LC, Black Earth
  • Rich Dhyanchand / Member of Christ LC, Lancaster
  • Helen Sheahan/ Member of Good Shepherd, Madison/Verona
  • Cindy Wuttke / Member of Christ Ev.L.C., Sharon
  • Dan Ruge / Member of Luther Memorial, Madison

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we making changes to the process of electing a bishop?  It’s not the first time. For the first several elections, there was no pre-work at all, only a nominating ballot at the assembly. Later we followed what a number of other synods had done, which was to identify nominees beforehand and hold forums for those willing to be in the election. We continue to seek improvement.

Are the changes at this time because of our track record?  Yes and no. Many synods tinker with changes to the process. In our case, we recognize that only two of our six bishops have left office at the conclusion of a term.  There’s no one single reason, but it does suggest we could make changes that would allow for more thought and consideration to candidates prior to the election.

So what are the key differences being introduced this year?  There are several:

  1. Town Hall meetings will draw on broad input from around the synod to describe the synod and what we need in the person elected to be the bishop. We’ll develop a “bishop profile,” that should guide our thinking about who best could serve.
  2. Conferences will be asked to convene and discuss possible nominees. Names may still be put forward by individual persons or congregations, but would need to be supported by a conference to be sent on further into the process.
  3. A Bishop Call Committee will do the work similar to a Congregational Call Committee – gather personal and background information, do interviews, and pass on to the synod as a whole 4-6 names of persons they consider the best fit for the synod’s needs. By the time nominees are presented to the synod assembly, there will have been thorough vetting and support.

Who will be on the Bishop Call Committee? The members of this committee will be appointed by the Synod Council in January. It will be separate from the existing Bishop Election Task Force, which deals only with the process. Deans are invited to suggest persons to serve by December 10.

Isn’t every synod supposed to use an “ecclesiastical ballot?” The model constitution for synods describes an election process via the “ecclesiastical ballot,” which means the first ballot is a nominating ballot. But it is not a required provision, and the constitution of the South Central Synod of Wisconsin says “The Synod Council shall be responsible for determining the process to be used in the election of a bishop.” (S9.04.01)

Have other synods used a process like this?  Yes. To cite some neighbors: the Lacrosse Area Synod begins the process by involving assembly voting members at a “conference nominating caucus,” that raises up nominees; no further nominations are allowed at the Synod Assembly. Northeast Iowa elected its current bishop using a Synod Call Committee that gathered nominations, did work similar to what we propose, and forwarded five names to their assembly. In recent elections, both Northwest Washington and Eastern Washington-Idaho synods had a pre-nomination process and no floor nominations.  These are only a few examples.

Doesn’t this call for much more involvement by people throughout the synod? Yes. Especially if you are a rostered leader or a lay member identified as a voting member of the synod assembly.  You should plan on participating in (a) a Town Hall meeting; (b) a Conference Nominating Caucus; (c) two synod assemblies (the regular May 1-2 Assembly, and the one-day June 20 election assembly); and (d) a forum in your area to become familiar with nominees.


Town Hall Meetings in Conferences

February 15-20
“Bishop Profile” Produced & Distributed

February 20-March 8
Conference Nomination Caucuses

March 10-April 24
Bishop Call Committee Receives & Researches Names Coming from the Nomination Caucuses and Brings Forth 4-6 Nominees

May 15, 4:00 p.m. (CT)
Nominees are Introduced Online

May  22, 11:00 a.m. (CT)
First Digital Forum Released Online

June 29, 6:00 p.m. (CT)
Second Public Forum Held Digitally

August 29, 2020
Digital Synod Assembly for the Election of the Bishop