Archived Sections, Commentary

‘Catsing’ lots

And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And [the disciples] prayed, and said, ‘Lord, who knows the hearts of all, show which of these two you have chosen, so that he may take part in this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.’
And they cast their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the 11 apostles.
Acts 1:23-26
Three of the five largest Lutheran church bodies in the United States elected new leadership this summer. The Rev. Lyndon Korhonen was elected president of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (see “AFLC elects new leadership, decides to study deaconess role and support teachers,” page 7, August 2013, Metro Lutheran); the Rev. Matthew Harrison was re-elected president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (see “LCMS re-elects Harrison as Synodical president,” page 6, August 2013, Metro Lutheran); and the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton was elected presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (see “Always being made new … again and again,” page 6 of this issue).

Bob Hulteen

Compelling arguments can be made about which electoral style fits best with a particular ecclesiology.

Each church body used a different method of electing its primary leader. In each instance, some participants questioned the process of electing its leaders.
I am of the opinion that there is no perfect way. I have listened, in each situation, as people have said that this way or that (for example, ecclesiastical ballot vs. a nominating ballot) does or does not allow the Holy Spirit to work.

How does the Spirit work?

Certainly, I think compelling arguments can be made about which electoral style fits best with a particular ecclesiology. The theological and historical distinctions lend themselves to specific means of selection for leadership.
Some bodies, especially smaller ones, value election styles that prioritize relationship. Others emphasize transparency in the voting process. Still others prefer to “test” their leaders’ skills and gifts in preaching or offering a public face.
But can’t the Holy Spirit work within any of these proceedings? Doesn’t she have the possibility for just as much influence in an ecclesiastical ballot process as one that allows numerous panel discussions/”debates” before an assembly.
I have preferences in the processes for electing leaders, but I don’t see those as the only way the Spirit can work. And, if we needed to adopt a singular style, I suppose it should be the casting of lots.
Then there was the one voting member at the recent ELCA convention who suggested that all the candidates sit in a circle, and a cat be placed into the middle of the group. Whomever the cat approaches is appointed the leader.
A cat personifying Holy Spirit; now that I cannot abide.

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