Bishop chosen, Lutherans face busy summer

Religiously Speaking

With the Rev. Bob Humphrey of Harrisonburg  now the choice for the next bishop of the predominant group of Lutherans  in Virginia, the office on the Roanoke College campus in Salem will be a busy place in coming weeks. Retired Bishop Jim Mauney, now with the honorary title of “emeritus” on his name ,will be around until Humphrey moves in at the end of the summer.

Humphrey’s ceremony of installation is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 9 . It’s expected to take place in his home community of Waynesboro.

Many from throughout the synod will be back in Salem  July 14-16, for the annual Power in the Spirit conference  for education, worship and fellowship.

When the election took place on Sunday morning, June 11, in Bast Gym at the college, I was among the 400 or so present who waited in suspense at 9:50 a.m. for the tellers to return with results of the fifth ballot. The voting had narrowed down the possibilities to Humphrey, 61, a long-established leader in the Virginia Synod with special interest and training in counseling, and the Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick, pastor of St. Philip Church at Hollins.  At 37  she represented a younger element in the synod  as well as leadership from a woman.

In the end,  of 384 votes cast- with 193 needed for election- the younger woman picked up  163 to the 217 for Humphrey. All those who were finalists in the voting over a 24-hour period were applauded.  Tears were in Humphrey’s voice as he accepted “the great honor” and recalled that he had known Derrick when she was a child .

For the annual assembly the keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. Rafael Malpica Padilla, a clergyman of Hispanic background; he is the executive director of Global Missions for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with its national headquarters in Chicago. Padilla came as a representative of the church on the national level to oversee the election of the bishop. He also updated the delegates with the work of the church around the world.

Using Power Point, Padilla presented remarks by the ELCA’s Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton who has been in Salem for previous  gatherings. As was true in the Old Testament times when the Book of Esther was written,  recent events call upon Christians to take stands for respect and justice “for such a time as this,” she said with Padilla in full agreement.

He noted that despite trends to encourage natives of formerly non-Christian nations to assume leadership of their own churches, the ELCA still supports 224 missionaries in 44 countries. He mentioned especially work the Lutheran group has done in war-torn Southern Sudan alongside Episcopal mission personnel. Padilla himself was preparing to visit Nepal and invited any at the assembly to accompany him. The Virginia Synod takes special interest in the Pacific country of Papua-New Guinea.

A current ministry is AMPARO which is assisting refugee children who need translators and help with school adjustments.

Padilla emphasized especially the need to find young men and women  to be trained  for ordination.  He warned that as the church, like most others familiar to Americans , is still solidly supported by those of senior adult years, younger people seek  less organized ways to  show their concern  for others.  Whatever the  style, committed leaders are needed, he said.

Notable at the assembly were the many delegates using canes and walkers and trying to master the electronic voting machines.

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