PITTSBURGH (ELCA) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Northeastern Ohio Synod, was elected Aug. 14 presiding bishop of the ELCA at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. She was elected on the fifth ballot. There were 889 votes cast, and 445 votes were needed for an election. Eaton received 600 votes and the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, received 287. Eaton is the ELCA’s first woman presiding bishop-elect.
The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, is meeting Aug. 12-17 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. The theme for the triennial assembly is “Always being made new.” This year marks the 25th anniversary of this church.
“We are a church that is overwhelmingly European in a culture that is increasingly pluralistic. We need to welcome the gifts of those who come from different places, that is a conversation we need to have as a church,” Eaton told the assembly shortly after the election.
Eaton expressed some surprise at her election, telling the assembly that she had allowed her name to be put forward because “I just wanted there to be a conversation. I didn’t think it would get this out of hand.”
At a news conference, Bishop Eaton elaborated on the need to recognize and heal divisions. Lutheran theology is filled with paradox, she said, so that it would be a truly Lutheran witness for people to agree to disagree after “maybe being a little bit molded by an unfortunately very fractious and divided civil discourse.”
Current Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has served two six-year terms in the office.
“When I stood before you twelve years ago, I told you this is not an election won, this is a call received. And now this call has been extended to Bishop Eaton,” Hanson told the assembly. “This is a humble and a holy privilege to serve the Gospel as the pastor of this whole church.”
Prior to becoming synod bishop, Eaton served as pastor for ELCA congregations in Ohio. She earned a Master’s of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and a Bachelor’s degree in music education from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. Bishop Eaton’s husband, the Rev. Conrad Selnick, is an Episcopal priest. They have two grown daughters.
Bishop Eaton’s weblog for the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the ELCA can be found here: http://bishopeaton.blogspot.com/