Johnson elected ELCA Minneapolis Bishop
Gustavus Adolphus College church relations officer defeats Minneapolis pastor
The Rev. Craig Johnson, Director of Church Relations at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, was elected bishop of the ELCA’S Minneapolis Area Synod (MAS) on June 2. Facing him on the fifth and final ballot was a single candidate, the Rev. Christopher Nelson, senior pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 4100 Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Voting members chose Johnson over Nelson by a margin of 432-275.
Because there was no incumbent in the race, there was no clear favorite when balloting began on May 31. Johnson, who will succeed retiring MAS bishop David Olson, emerged from a field of 66 candidates and survived a wild ride that saw a new leading candidate emerge on each of the first four ballots. Leading at the end of the first ballot was the Rev. Jonathan Preus, teaching pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church, Golden Valley, Minnesota. After the second round, the Rev. Ann Svennungsen, senior pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Moorhead, Minnesota, emerged at the top. Following the third ballot the lead went to Nelson. Johnson was ahead after the fourth ballot, and stayed on top to win.
Greeting the assembly following his election, Johnson said, “What unites us – Jesus – is stronger than what divides us. We need to move forward together, really together, to do God’s work together.”
Gracious in defeat, Nelson said, “I’m thrilled for Craig – and I think maybe even happier for me – because I get to go back to Bethlehem [Lutheran Church].” He promised to give the newly-elected bishop “my unqualified support.”
Johnson, whose term begins on September 1, was previously senior pastor at Transfiguration Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Minnesota (1991-1996) and associate pastor at Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis (1977-1991).
Voting members at the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly also thanked retiring bishop Olson for 14 years of leadership; passed a resolution encouraging the ELCA to provide flexibility in the way pastors will be ordained under the new agreement with the Episcopal Church; and another recommending the ELCA Church Council change its pattern of representation, so that each of the denomination’s 65 synods would have one voting member.