Lutherans in Minnesota

Nycklemoe named interim bishop of Minneapolis Area Synod ELCA

Bishop's election affects timeline of 2012 Minneapolis synod assembly

The Rev. Glenn Nycklemoe

The Synod Council of the Minneapolis Area Synod (MAS) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America announced July 8 that the Rev. Glenn W. Nycklemoe was named interim bishop. Nycklemoe served as the bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod, headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota, from 1987 to 2001.

Nycklemoe will replace the Rev. Craig Johnson, who has resigned as MAS bishop in order to accept a call as interim pastor at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, the largest Lutheran congregation in the U.S., after the unexpected death of its longtime pastor, the Rev. Paul Youngdahl.

Nycklemoe served as pastor of a number of congregations, both before and after his terms as bishop. These congregations include St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Chicago; Three Point Rural Parish, Taylor, Wisconsin; Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Valley City, North Dakota; Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Milwaukee; Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Beloit, Wisconsin; St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Austin, Minnesota; and Zumbro Lutheran Church, Rochester.

“I was happily retired,” Nycklemoe told Metro Lutheran, “But, when the presiding bishop calls, you can’t turn him down.

“I believe this period requires a ministry of presence, and I bring some skills and experiences that can help with the transition,” said Nycklemoe. “I plan to be present at celebrations, ordinations, and installations; present to congregations when invited and available; and present for the rostered people of the synod.

“And, I believe it is also my priority to stay out of the election process [for the next bishop] completely.”

Nycklemoe will serve as bishop until the next synod assembly, according to Nancy Johnson, synod assembly co-manager and no relation to the bishop. An open bishop’s election for a full six-year term will take place at that time. “The 2012 synod assembly was planned to concentrate on education and inspiration,” Johnson told Metro Lutheran, “but now it will include the business of a bishop’s election.”

Changes in synod assembly

The dates for the MAS assembly have been changed in order to hold the bishop’s election earlier. According to Michelle Reichow, synod vice president, the assembly will now be held February 16-18, 2012, at Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Prior Lake, Minnesota. (If weather precludes an assembly at that time, alternative dates of April 19-21 will be used.)

Under rules passed by the MAS assembly in 2007, nominations in advance of the assembly take place through the 11 synod conferences. Each conference can nominate as many as three persons for consideration. All conferences will meet jointly on November 20, 2011, at a place yet to be determined. (Roland Martinson, professor of children, youth, and family ministry at Luther Seminary, will be the keynote speaker for the conference assemblies’ gathering.)

“Nominations can also still be made from the floor on the first day of the synod assembly,” Nancy Johnson further explained. These names will be added to those presented by the conferences.

“Our constitution mandates that the conference assemblies be held a minimum of 60 days prior to the synod assembly, necessitating the early conference assemblies date,” Reichow wrote in a press release. “Congregations [that], at their annual meeting, elect their voting members to conference and synod assembly may need to make arrangements to select their voting members prior to their annual meeting.”

A synod in transition

While Nycklemoe is the MAS bishop, he wants to “tell the story of the great ministry that goes on here.” He said that it is important to celebrate the mission of the church in the immediate moment, not just the mission of the church in the past. “When you get to the level of the local congregation and see what our pastors and lay leaders are doing, it is easy to see that mission is alive and well in the ELCA.”

Nycklemoe and his wife Ann live in Rochester, but they have rented a furnished apartment in Minneapolis. He plans to be centered here while serving as MAS bishop.

“While the new bishop may be elected in February, she or he might require some transitional time before taking over the office, so I am available to stay indefinitely,” Nycklemoe said. “But it was my experience that the minute you accept the will of the people and step off the podium after the election, the phone calls will start coming.”

Craig Johnson agrees that the synod is in a good situation. “The synod office has worked in earnest at engaging our pastors and congregations in mission in the synod. That will be a great help to the new bishop.” (For more from Johnson, see “Craig Johnson accepts call to Mount Olivet,” left.)

Craig Johnson had been the MAS bishop for 10 years. Reichow expressed support for Johnson’s new call, saying, “Our prayers go with him as he begins his call at Mount Olivet on August 1, 2011.”

Nycklemoe will begin his interim assignment as bishop on August 1 as well.

Craig Johnson accepts call to Mount Olivet

The Rev. Craig Johnson is happy to return to the parish. “To end my ministry in the parish setting to which I was called a number of years ago is very energizing,” Johnson told Metro Lutheran on July 13. “I had two years left on my term [as bishop], and obviously I wanted to finish.

“We had plans to finish well; those plans will continue.

“This ministry has been an enormous privilege and challenge of my life,” Johnson related. “I am most happy that the synod office worked carefully and personally to find the best leaders for our congregations. In fact, we are still working [on matching pastors and congregations] for more than two hours today.”

Johnson acknowledged that this has been a time of struggle for the ELCA. “There has been some level of anxiety for our denomination, as mission support has been on a slow and long slide,” said Johnson. “I hope that the bottom has been reached so we can experience growth.”

As only the second bishop in Minneapolis Area Synod’s history, Johnson is aware of legacy. “We have placed an emphasis on partnership in my decade as bishop,” Johnson said. “Congregations and the synod [office] have been working together for the mission of Christ in this area.”

Bishop Johnson will begin his interim call at Mount Olivet on August 1, recognizing that the congregation is grieving the loss of longtime pastor, the Rev. Paul Youngdahl. “He was a phenomenal administrator,” Johnson said of Youngdahl. “He was a pastor who built relationships with people, making everyone feel like a friend.

“In light of Paul’s untimely death, I realize that my role will be to work with the deep grief this congregation will be experiencing, so that they can recognize their next step in ministry.”

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