In my denomination, ELCA Lutheran, the months of May and June include conventions called synod assemblies. Each year a portion of those assemblies include elections of bishops. In 2019, there will be approximately 20 elections across the 65 ELCA synods. Those elections process include questions prepared for the candidates open to serve as a synod bishop. I’ve been watching these questions for several years now, and noticed the similarity as well as the naivety of the Q and A process. This year several organizations with specifically issue oriented focus publicly issued statements that included their own suggestions for questions. As is often the case, these kinds of questions tell us about the one posing the question. As I’ve worked in this call as a bishop for nearly seven years, I’ve now realized that all the questions asked have nothing to do with the actual work one does in this office. Therefore, I came up with my own list of ten questions. In my opinion, these questions more accurately capture the real work of a bishop. (Please note, I’m under no illusion that these will nor should become a part of any synod’s election process. My intention is to try to help people get a more accurate view of what a bishop does, and the qualities he or she must possess to tackle this call)
Questions for Bishop Elections
1. Given the fact that an incoming bishop faces multiple constituencies, all pulling for his or her time and energy, how will you choose and prioritize your work knowing that no matter what you choose, you will disappoint some or even many?
2. Do you like to travel? Do you like meetings? Do you like sitting for long periods of time?
3. Since all bishops are expected to enter into this office with a vision or plan that will cure the 40-year decline in worship attendance and financial support, how will you handle this expectation when you realize what you are up against?
4. Do you like conflict? Between people, organizations, factions. Both the petty kind and the significant.
5. As a bishop, you will use maybe 30% of what you learned while serving as a pastor in this office. How will you discover the other 70% you need to know?
6. Where do you get your identity and purpose for life?
7. Do you know how to take care of yourself? Eat well, exercise, and brush your teeth? If not, how do you expect to make it through your first term?
8. Do you like to ask people for money?
9. How will you handle the fact that some of the friends you now have as colleagues in this synod will soon or someday become the people that seek to undermine you? In other words, what's your plan for dealing with sabotage?
10. Someone once said this office is the most rewarding and most challenging call in the church, while another said, it is just relentless. In light of those statements, how is your stamina?