Voters at the 2013 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly on Aug. 14 elected the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton on the fifth ballot to serve as the church body’s presiding bishop.
Eaton, the first woman to be elected to that position, is currently bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod and previously was pastor of ELCA congregations in Ohio. She is married to the Rev. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopal priest in Gates Mills, Ohio.
ELCA synods are comparable to districts in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Eaton’s installation as presiding bishop is set for Oct. 5 and she is scheduled to begin work in that position Nov. 1.
On that final presiding-bishop ballot — with 445 votes needed for election out of 889 cast — Eaton received 600 votes and incumbent Presiding Bishop Rev. Dr. Mark S. Hanson received 287.
The chief legislative authority of the ELCA, the 2013 Churchwide Assembly is meeting Aug. 12-17 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. The ELCA News Service reports that 952 voting members are registered for this year’s assembly, which marks the 25th anniversary of the 4-million-member ELCA.
Hanson has served two six-year terms as the ELCA presiding bishop.
Under his leadership, the ELCA churchwide assembly in 2009 approved allowing non-celibate homosexuals living in “committed relationships” to serve as pastors and other rostered leaders in the church body. Earlier at the same assembly, voters approved a resolution committing the ELCA “to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”
Since that time, the ELCA has struggled with considerable membership losses.
According to statistics compiled by the ELCA Office of the Secretary and available on the church’s website here, ELCA congregations lost 483,252 members in 2010 and 2011 (the most recent year for which such figures are available). Also in those two years, the number of ELCA congregations dropped by 710.
Click here for more news from the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
Updated August 16, 2013