Today, I came in second in the bishop’s election in the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod, losing by 6% of the vote. And, the response from people has been beyond what I anticipated and really fascinating in several ways.
First, I’m having a hard time convincing people that I really am okay. When I decided to leave my name on the ballot, I did so genuinely open to the move of the Holy Spirit, a move that could have resulted in me serving as bishop or a move that could not. Of course, it’s disappointing to have had vision for serving the church in a synod I love, in a particular way that I was passionate and excited about, that will now not happen in this season. But, because I was genuinely open to the Spirit, I really am sincerely okay. We elected a great bishop and I am proud of this synod.
Now, I have, surely, cried a river of tears since this morning; but, none of them are tears of sadness. I am not sad about this outcome – disappointed, but not sad. The tears were a result of two things – first, sheer exhaustion! According to my Fitbit, I slept 5 1/2 hours over the course of the last two days combined! My body had nothing left! But, mostly the tears were a result of overwhelming gratitude for the next thing I did not anticipate – the incredible support from the whole church.
I really cannot count the number of messages I have received across multiple platforms over the last couple of days – messages of prayer, support, and affirmation from people across the whole church – from seminary classmates I haven’t seen since graduation, colleagues and lay people from my current and previous synods, my brothers and sisters in the African descent Lutheran community, people I have served on Churchwide committees with, people I have met in passing, and some people I’ve never met. It’s really odd to come in second for something, yet receive such strong support and affirmation of gifts from such a wide range of people.
The next thing that has been fascinating about coming in second is the kinds of responses I have received. There have been a ton of, “Well, it’s okay, God has something great for you coming” and “Your time to rise in this church is coming.” I found these comments fascinating for different reasons.
Regarding God having something great for me coming, that may be so; but, God also has something great for me now. I am already blessed to serve the church and community in amazing ways and those ways continue tomorrow – actually, not tomorrow, I am not doing ANYTHING tomorrow…it can continue on Tuesday! I digress…
Coming back home to serve in the wonderful bivocational ministry I am blessed to do with Gathered by Grace and Baptist Health is not a consolation prize or a holding pattern – it is the wonderful way God has called me to serve the church and community in this season and I do so joyfully! At some point, sooner or later, God will call me to serve differently. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But, today, the great thing God has in store for me is in Montgomery, AL with a wonderful community of young adults and a leading health system committed to its patients and I’m glad about it!
Regarding my time to rise in the church, these comments caught me most off guard. They caught me off guard because, in leaving my name in to be considered to serve as bishop, my reason for doing so was never to “rise in the church.” I left my name in because I discerned that I had gifts, interest, and vision to be able to serve the synod in a way that moves us in the direction I believe God would have us go and to have a voice at a leadership table in the church where I felt I could be impactful and add more diversity of voice. But, I never thought about it as “rising” because there’s not a particular ladder I feel I need to climb.
Someday, I would love to talk to some other #2s, especially those who had the joy (read “joy” very sarcastically) of going the full 5 rounds like I did and coming in second. I’d love to hear what the experience was like for them. It’s an unexpected, fascinating club to be in!