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Always being made new, indeed!

Eaton.Elizabeth.2008It may not be what churchwide assembly planners had in mind when the theme of this year’s churchwide assembly—“Always being made new”—was selected, but few things can embody that theme better than the history-making, Spirit-infused election that occurred yesterday in Pittsburgh. Forty-three years after women were first ordained in the American Lutheran tradition, a woman was elected presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Eaton, the next presiding bishop of our church!

Elizabeth and eight other women serve as bishops in nine of our 65 synods. The chair of the Conference of Bishops is the Rev. Jessica Crist, one of those nine. As the presiding bishop election process winnowed down nominees, three of the final four candidates were women. Approximately 3,300 pastors, or nearly 32 percent, of our ELCA roster are women. Indeed, our beloved church has been made new in many ways over these last 43 years. The facts clearly reflect that.

As I’ve written before in several venues, including this blog, it’s not just about numbers. To respond to the needs facing the church and society in the 21st century, a collaborative leadership style is needed, and studies show that women more naturally use this form of leadership. “Women employ a more participative leadership style, are more likely to share information and power, and have strong relational skills that make them seem empathic to their staffs,” writes Carol Kinsey Goman, in The Washington Post.

I pray that Elizabeth, Wilma, Marie, Ann, Jessica, Suzanne, Shelly, Tracie, Claire, their 3,300 sisters and all the lay women leaders of our church, standing on the shoulders of so many who have gone before, lean into that participative leadership style for the benefit of the church. May it be so!

Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.

The photo is of Elizabeth Eaton preaching at the closing worship of the Seventh Triennial Gathering (2008) of Women of the ELCA, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Comments (9)
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Debbie Viele says:
Aug 15, 2013

Linda,
For our generation this is thrilling, I had goose bumps when I saw the ballot results yesterday. I remember when women first became ordained in our church. I was VERY young 😉 but it made an impression on me. Recently a young boy at our church overheard a remark about a woman being allowed to be a pastor and he responded “Why couldn’t she be a pastor?” So with this election for that generation it will be the norm not such an event as I feel it is for me.

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LSB says:
Aug 15, 2013

Thanks for remembering those of us who have “gone before” and paved the way for such a wonderful turn in leadership, Linda!

It makes me glad that Elizabeth has been brought to leadership at such a time as this. Prayers for her as she moves toward this new role.

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Linda Post Bushkofsky says:
Aug 15, 2013

Thanks for your comments, Debbie and LSB. Many are reflecting on this significant change, and I’m enjoying reading all the essays and posts. Here’s a particularly good piece from, I’m assuming, a relatively young adult: http://jfalkmangrangaard.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/please-dont-tell-me-its-a-good-day-for-my-daughter/?utm_content=buffer6f978&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer.

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Dawn Talley says:
Aug 16, 2013

I remember what many of the groups at one this year’s conference of presidents sessions predicted as news for the women of the elca in the twenty-five years. A women presiding bishop. Well, it certainly didn’t take another twenty-five years. We should all say thank you to Bishop Hanson for his service to the ELCA and congratulations to Bishop Elect Eaton in her new position and for a smooth transition in the office of the presiding bishop.

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Dawn Talley says:
Aug 16, 2013

I was also telling my sons how their grandmother wanted to acolyte as a child and wasn’t allowed because only boys were, then I told them how when I was young, I acolyted, but wanted to be an assisting minister and an usher and wasn’t allowed because I wasn’t a boy. Well, well, well, look how the Lutheran church has changed!

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Kathleen Hurty says:
Aug 26, 2013

Thanks, Linda for sharing your excitement and our common joy! I was thrilled to hear the news, and since I wasn’t at the assembly I followed on the daily live broadcasts, watching the amazing work of the Spirit “making all things new”!! I am thankful for all the work being done by women on the essentials of collaborative leadership growing out of our faith perspectives. Blessings!

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Margaret Thatcher says:
Aug 26, 2013

I was at church wide and the theme Making all things new ” was a wonderful way for our first ELCA female Bishop is take on the reins. I great big thanks to Bishop Hanson and hats off to our new leaders.
God bless each of them.

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Judith Berry says:
Aug 26, 2013

I remember back in 1956 when my husband was a freshman at Wartburg Seminary. There was a group of seminarian wives, called the Seminettes, that had monthly meetings that I attended. I was very young at the time, and all I really knew was the Bible stories I was taught as a youngster. I felt out of place because so many of the wives were college graduates. The only graduation I had was the birth of three of my five children. So to speak, I was pretty naïve about this whole Christian thing. It was Mrs. Bodensick’s (her husband was a professor at the seminary at that time) presentation at one of the meetings that inspired me and I will never forget her. She made mention of the fact that women have always played a most important part behind the scenes in the world, not just in the church, so I’ve kept that thought in my mind for over 55 years. In fact, I think the world would be in more of a mess than it is, if it wasn’t for women. May God continue to bless women in leadership roles as well as behind the scenes.

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Connie Puls says:
Aug 30, 2013

I was raised a Catholic, watched my 3 brothers be part of worship, no girls allowed
My 5th child was a girl, by then I was Lutheran member,she got to alcolyte, in 2002 to 2006 I did the 4 year study in Episcopal Church called Education for Ministry. My Pastor, Pam Smith of Grace Lutheran in Clearwater got me to submit the materials to the Bishop here in Florida and now I’m a Deacon for our Synod. At 78 years I do it for woman and for the glory of God.

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