Candidates unwilling or unable to serve had been instructed to remove their names from the list, and had done so, with one exception -- a popular former bishop's assistant, now living out of town. We were told officially that she missed the deadline, but passed on a message that voters should not consider her. We have since been told, unofficially, that she later changed her mind, and asked that this message be disregarded. It wasn't, and so her named appeared on the ballot and voters were told to ignore it -- even though she had a right, and actually had expressed a desire, to be considered. We aver no hanky-panky of any kind here; it seems that the message was cut off. But this does remind us of the key point: our process, for all the solemn care given to its administration, just doesn't get the job done.
Anyhoo, here are the top 7, after the third ballot:
- Wollenburg 170
- Rimbo 79
- Mills 73
- Kolbo 64
- Loufman 51
- Baum 50
- Tiemeyer 22
We should say that this is a hell of a line-up. Almost any of them might make a good bishop, and several of them probably will, someday.
These poor devils were invited to give brief speeches, letting the assembly know what they were about. They were all interesting, each in their own way. Interestingly, the two female candidates preached, really, while the men spoke. There is a difference.
But of the seven speeches, only one struck home with us. William Baum is a pastor from Queens and a native of upstate New York. He is also, so far as we can tell, the only one of these seven to have conducted his entire ordained ministry in the Metro New York Synod. He is also, and perhaps not coincidentally, the only one to address head-on the issue of congregational decline. He talked about the experience of his home town, once a healthy manufacturing center, where houses now sell for $10,000 on eBay. He described the years of pointless dithering as town leaders blamed each other and sought quick fixes. And he challenged us to give up the business of blame and denial, and to begin thinking creatively about a future in which less time and money is spent trying to resuscitate dying churches, and more is spent on Spirit-led mission work. He described a synod with fewer churches, but a richer spiritual life.
We at the Egg were practically on our feet cheering. Baum was telling the truth, and we are big fans of the truth. But we also remembered Bishop Olson's solemn admonition at the Ministerium, that nobody could speak that much truth and hope to be elected.