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!



23 thoughts on “On Coming in Second…

  1. Thank you for your openness and willingness. Thank you for being such a role model for the youth and women of our synod.


  2. Tiffany, what a gift you are to our church and thank you for you willingness to serve but more importantly your leadership and vision you shared throughout the process. It was a soul searching, emotionally draining, and physical marathon and for that alone our church owes you a debt of gratitude. Knowing your passion for the ministry of Jesus Christ and the love of the church the vision and leadership you shared will not be lost but as you said last year in your sermon “Now what” – now we keep being church together, we keep sharing the good news, we keep striving for justice and peace, we keep gathering at the table to be fed. But for today – we rest and again I say thank you.


  3. I didn’t go the full five rounds, but truly resonate with the gratitude you are expressing as well as your thoughts on “rising” and “climbing.” You said it so beautifully. After the election I experienced I told all of my friends that if they were invited to this process, do it! The affirmation and specific naming of gifts is a huge gift that we often do not experience in ministry. We hope we are being faithful and impactful, but rarely hear how we are. I add my name to the many do not know you but who watched the Southeastern synod’s election from afar and was convinced that in the end Tiffany or Kevin would be a huge win for the ELCA. So thank you, Tiffany. I hope our paths cross at some point. And God bless you!!


  4. Thank you for being such a great role model. Thank you for sharing your truth. You inspire me to be better and to step out on faith. God bless you.


      1. @impapad, thank you for your email last night! I was too tired to respond last night but I did read your message. It was right on time! I will definitely be following up when I get back to email.


  5. Pastor Chaney,
    Thank you for this stellar reflection. I have followed your ministry from a distance. Both of you are gifted pastors. The closeness of the vote affirmed that. Whatever the future holds, thanks be to God for the the treasure you are to the church. May you continue to be led and encouraged by the Holy Spirit as you go forward in faithful service.
    +Bishop Abraham Allende


  6. Thank you so much for your witness of grace, first in being willing to serve, and secondly for your thoughtful reflection on the experience. May God continue to bless your ministry.


  7. Tiffany,

    I’m disappointed for you and the church, but I am delighted so many people in the Southeastern Synod recognized the incredible gifts for leadership and ministry we experienced in your time with us in Quincy, Dorchester, and the New England Synod.

    Personally, I must admit, I’m also disappointed for myself. As your former Internship Supervisor, I was looking forward to bragging and saying, “I taught a bishop everything she knows!” Hahaha

    Regarding your question about other #2’s … I remember an interim pastor (of blessed memory) in my home congregation, retired at that point but instrumental in helping me recognize my call to ministry, sharing with me his own second place finish for bishop by just one or two votes earlier in his ministry. What struck me in our brief time with him years later, was that he remained a pastor of grace, love, and compassion through whom the Spirit continued to work in amazing ways. Disappointed, but undeterred, he kept living out his call as an amazing pastor of the Church.

    May the Holy Spirit who has so clearly equipped and called you, sustain you in this time.

    In gratefulness for you, your gifts, and your leadership – past, present, future,



    1. Thank you so much, Nathan! One of the best parts of this process is that it requires you to think through all of your ministry experiences to prepare. I have had so many wonderful New England memories this weekend! In our Q&A, I talked about our Tuesday pericope group, what it was like to be in an area with so many mission developers, and the very first thing I told the assembly was a story about a little girl from The Intersection. Indeed, New England was with me!

      Though the opportunity to brag about all the amazing things you taught me is a dream deferred, know the lesson/modeling most helpful to me this weekend was how to be a leader with a poised, grace-filled, non-anxious presence under pressure! Thank you!


  8. You and I shared the same experience. I, too, came in second after five ballots. I am grateful for what I have experienced. I was relieved that I don’t have to say goodbye to a congregation and a city I love. Truthfully, I have been a bit sadder about the loss now than when I initially lost. I totally agree that there was nothing in this process that was about “climbing.”


    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I, too, am grateful for what I experienced. I would do it all over again, even if I knew the outcome would be the same. Thank you for making yourself available in this process and for sharing your experience with me. I really appreciate it. Peace and healing continue to be yours as this ministry journey continues.


  9. Not quite the same result, but I unexpected ended up 5th in my Synod’s election about a month ago.
    My experience and reflection has been quite similar to much of what you described.
    I’d love to connect and chat if you are still looking for similar experiences.


  10. A fellow 5th round, second placer from NWWA. Your words resonated and I would welcome conversation and wonderings.


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