Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007 will be Rev. Susan Johnson's first business day in office as National Bishop-elect. On Saturday, September 29, 2007, she will be ordained a bishop and take up the office of the National Episcopal minister of the ELCIC. Presiding at that ordination will allow my departure to be a gratefully joyful experience.
Rev. Johnson's work history and her subsequent election provide a good example of preparing people for leadership succession. Her background includes parish ministry, assisting a bishop, advising the LWF Council, a term as national vice-president, a sabbatical in an Anglican diocese and an earlier vocation as a teacher and musician. She has developed particular expertise working on recruitment, candidacy and preparation of rostered leaders. She has noteworthy skills in worship leadership. These past months she has served as commissary while the Bishop of the Eastern Synod has been on sabbatical.
The role of a bishop is not an entry-level position. The person coming into such a role will have been identified by others as having gifts for leadership, given a variety of experiences, enjoyed the mentoring of peers and have developed the ability to maintain self-esteem apart from the approval of others. Leadership requires organization and methodology, but more important, it requires vision, imagination, courage, loyalty and faithfulness. These are character attributes that grow in the course of one's journey along the gospel road. The occasional utterly devastating fiasco adds steel to the mix.
It is important that we see these gifts for senior leadership among our members and begin to cultivate them. Not only do we need intentionally to prepare people for a vocation as bishops, but we need also to help people grow into elected positions on our senior councils. Such councils require skill sets including legal capability, accounting, governance practices, theological disciplines and constitutional capability. The ability to debate, exchange ideas and together give mission shape to the church are key roles for council members.
Susan Johnson comes prepared on many fronts. This is as it should be. This church has given her the opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge that she needs in order to be our national leader. My hope is that we will remain as intentional in cultivating and preparing others as we have with Rev. Johnson.
I hope our congregations pray weekly for our bishop-elect. She brings us her gifts in order to inspire us to be In Mission for Others. This is a role she fills on behalf of us all, a pastoral ministry to a corporate body of Christ. Such work requires the prayers of the whole body for support and encouragement.
And now, goodbye. I leave in peace knowing that this church is in the hands of good-hearted people and a good-hearted leader.
Blessings on you Susan, and on you all.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, July/August 2007