National Lutheran News

Six Lutheran groups elect leaders

Three denominations picked new faces, three affirmed incumbents

The planets in the U.S. Lutheran galaxy came into alignment this summer so that seven separate Lutheran groups held national gatherings within three months. (The Evangel-ical Lutheran Church in America and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod meet every two years, while the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod holds national conventions every three; smaller groups meet annually.)

At six of the seven meetings this summer, leaders were selected. Two small Lutheran groups selected new presidents while one re-elected an incumbent; a mid-sized denomination picked a new president; the largest two returned their incumbents to office.

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Delegates to the Association of Free Lutheran Congre-gations (AFLC) annual conference met June 12-15 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While there they elected the Rev. Elden Nelson to lead the 34,000 member denomination based in Plymouth, Minnesota.

Nelson was previously vice president of the AFLC and had served as assistant to the previous president, the Rev. Robert Lee. Finishing a 15-year tenure, Lee chose not to stand for re-election. He will join the faculty of the denomination’s Bible school.

Nelson earlier served as AFLC home missions director and had been a Lutheran pastor in Eugene, Oregon, Dickinson, North Dakota, and St. Paul and Willmar, Minnesota.

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Voters at the convention of the Church of the Lutheran Breth-ren (CLB) gathered in Marysville, Washington, June 17-20, re-elected their incumbent president, the Rev. Joel Egge, to another three-year term. While not unanimous (the editor of the denomination’s magazine, Bruce Stumbo, was also on the ballot), Egge’s re-election was by an overwhelming margin.

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Meeting at Bethel University, Arden Hills, Minnesota, June 20-22, voting members at the American Association of Lutheran Congregations (AALC) 20th anniversary convention elected the Rev. Franklin E. Hays as its new president. Previously the president of the denomination’s theological seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hays succeeds the Rev. Thomas V. Aadland, who is stepping down.

Hays begins his term leading the 14,000 member Bloomington, Minnesota-based denomination on October 1.

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The re-election of the Rev. Gerald Kieschnick to lead the 2.5 million member Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was reported in a page 1 story in the August issue of Metro Lutheran.

Kieschnick was returned to office for a third three-year term, in a contest that gave him slightly more than the 50% needed for a first-ballot election. LCMS conservatives had hoped to unseat Kieschnick, whom they consider too moderate for the country’s second-largest Lutheran church body, but failed to muster a majority. Voting members had a field of five candidates from which to choose.

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Delegates to the 59th biennial convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) gathered July 30—August 3 at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn-esota. They elected the Rev. Mark Schroeder to lead the 400,000 member church.
Schroeder, 53, is currently president of Luther Prep-aratory School, Watertown, Wisconsin. Previously he served pastorates in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and Mait-land, Florida. He succeeds the Rev. Karl Gurgel, whose term has ended.

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Gathered in Chicago, August 6-11, voting members attending the every-two-year Church-wide Assembly of the nation’s largest Lutheran group, easily re-elected their incumbent presiding bishop, the Rev. Mark Hanson.
The ELCA presiding bishop failed re-election on the first ballot by two votes, just a whisker short of the required 75%. On the second ballot he achieved 86%, well ahead of the second-place candidate, Dr. Karl Donfried, a conservative favored by The WordAlone Network. The ELCA met on Navy Pier in Chicago.

In addition to his duties as leader of the ELCA, Hanson also serves as president of the 62-million-mem-ber Lutheran World Feder-ation (LWF).

The first-ballot slate for presiding bishop began with over 100 names.