Secretary Nominee Questions

Edited only very lightly … taken from the caption feed.  There are typos and gramatical mistakes, but that is the nature of this feed.  This is a different process than I thought would be happening when I described it in an earlier blog.

Pondering Pastor 

The responsibilities of the Secretary of this church are substantive and widely varied. What in your past experience has prepared you for the responsibilities of the Secretary? What gifts do you bring to this position?

First nominee is Glenndy Ose.

Glenndy Ose: Thank you, Vice President Pena, my name is Glenndy Ose, I’m associate to the bishop of the Minneapolis area Synod. It is a deep privilege to stand before you this day. I think that I hear Bishop Hanson’s words in that first question when I was on his staff. That was a question that we were asked often: What has prepared you for this? And many days we said: Nothing. But I think that I have a variety of experience in the church. And in my life. In the church, I have worked in the department for Synodical relations in the ELCA where I did work with long-range planning with Synod conflicts. I did a lot of planning activities. In my ministry on a Synod staff, I have worked with our constitutions and with the constitutions of congregations. I’ve worked in conflicted situations, and in situations that are highly anxious. None of those things actually appear in the body of the text of what the Secretary is called to do, but I think that the tasks before the Secretary are tasks that call for us to understand and to inhabit our life as a church. To understand and inhabit the role of Secretary as we inhabit the role of the clay jars in which the presence of God and the glory of God is held. Those are the tasks of the Secretary. And my work in the church has given me the privilege to carry them out in many ways. Thank you.

Carlos Pena: Thank you. Next nominee is David Swartling.

David Swartling: I’m David Swartling from Seattle, Washington. I’m anxious to talk to you about mission and ministry and not Robert’s Rules of Order. [Laughter] I have spent 30 years as a practicing lawyer. I do trial work. I represent people in court. I advocate for them. I advocate for plaintiffs and defendants. I write. I craft legal documents. But that’s not the vocation I’d like to talk to you about. For many of these 30 years I’ve worked with this glorious church we call the ELCA in each of its expressions. I started out as a congregational officer, a president. I then when to the Senate planning group and helped plan this wonderful church we know as the ELCA. I worked on the constitution of the northwest Washington Synod. I was elected to the first Synod council and then I became a Synod Vice President. I chaired the regional council at the region 1 level. I then went to the ELCA foundation and was the chairman of its Board of Trustees. In each of these positions, I learned to appreciate the unique polity of the ELCA. It is unique, sometimes difficult to explain, but from a lawyer’s perspective it is elegant. The Secretary of the interpreter of those documents. The Secretary can’t interpret those documents without a basic understanding of what the role of this church is. And I want to work with you in developing that mission in ministry.

Carlos Pena: Thank you. Next nominee is Ken Ruppar.

Good afternoon, I’m Ken Ruppar, pastor of Lutheran church of our savior in Richmond, Virginia. I’ve about been in ministry now for just over 35 years, but it has not been All stateside nor all within the ELCA. My journey began early in I think it was the ULCA church then an ALC. And then it went to Missouri and AELC and finally came home to the ELCA. And in all of those sorts of places, I think that I shared some positions of great responsibility, particularly in Concordia seminary in exile [unknown], I created the office without a financial background we were very successful with that. I joined the United States Army as a military chaplain, if you’ve been in that position before or connected to the military, you know that you deal with a variety of policies, procedures. You deal with sensitive issues. You deal with not so sensitive issues. And you deal as a chaplain with very pastoral issues. All of those kinds of experiences don’t necessarily relate into the church, at home in terms of various committees. But they do take a strong sense of pastoral ministry and a sense to be able to take a task, whether you understand it or not, and be able to get through it by calling upon good people to assist you in that process. And I think I can do that.

Carlos Pena: Thank you. Next nominee is Michael Cooper-White.

I am Michael Cooper-White. I serve as president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. It’s a great honor and privilege and I’m humble to stand before you today in the company of these extraordinary servants of the church who are my colleagues. It’s been my privilege for the past 31 years to serve as an ordained pastor of our church in a wide variety of ministries. I began as a parish pastor in the urban city of Los Angeles, working in a bilingual ministry. I’ve had the privilege of serving as an assistant to two Synodical bishops and to our first two Presiding Bishops for seven years I was the director of Synodical relations for our church chief staff person for the conference of bishops and for the past seven years it’s been my great privilege to serve as the 12th president of our oldest and most historic seminary at Gettysburg. I’ve been able to serve from coast to coast to see this great church in its length and breadth, to serve in each of the expressions, congregational ministry, Synodical, Churchwide and now in one of our historic, marvelous institutions. I would bring fluency in Spanish, a bilingual capacity to this office. It has been my privilege to serve in administrative capacities, to write and consult throughout our church.

Carlos Pena: Thank you. Next nominee is William Chris Boerger.

My name is William Chris Boerger but William is not used because my parents thought that Billy Boerger would be hard to take. I’m not sure is Chris is any easier. I serve as of the northwest Synod. I served within the northwest having graduated from Christ seminary in 1975 and starting what was then an independent Lutheran congregation, which later became part of the American Lutheran church. At that point, we started from scratch. We had no models. We had to write the constitution from the beginning. We did. And the congregation was eventually accepted into the ALC. That’s how I come into be a part of this church body. I was a speech and drama major in college and had to take a class in parliamentary law. Why? I didn’t know. But as a result of that class, I served as parliamentarian for District conventions for years and for the Synod assemblies until I was elected bishop. I served in the Synod planning group. I’ve been involved in conflict management both before my election as bishop and in the past six years I’ve served as bishop of the northwest Washington Synod, serving primarily with congregations, dealing with issues of how are we a part of this larger church? We in the west like to be independent. And the question of how our polity works both Synodically Churchwide and congregation to the expressions of one church is constantly before us. That would be the task of the Secretary, to hold the polity under our mission and to help our congregations, Synods and Churchwide.

Chars Pena: Thank you. Next is Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl.

I am Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl. I serve as bishop of the South Dakota Synod. I have a cross stitch hanging in a room in my home that says “I can handle any crisis. I have children.” [Laughter] One of the gifts that have been given to my husband and I is the parenting of three young adult children. That trains you in a variety of ways. I’m good with hospitality. I bring the gift of planning children’s birthday parties as well as Synod activities to any endeavor I take part in. I’ve been involved for 12 years as Synod bishop and prior to that as an assistant to the bishop for five other years and have been deeply involved in the life of the church, in problem solving and in relationship building. But I think more importantly involved in change. In casting a vision for the mission of this church and for building the strategies and the goals that would be needed to carry out that vision for the future. I would look forward to continuing to do that in my next call.

Charles Pena: Thank you. Next is Mark Grorud.

God’s peace to all of you. My name is Mark Grorud, I am the ELCA director for relationships with large membership congregations. I live in Freemont, Nebraska. I work in Chicago. How can that be? My wife asks that a lot. As do my superiors here in Chicago. And that comes to the point where some of my gifts life. I am neither place probably often enough. I’m on the road. I’m visiting congregations and Senate offices and bishops and utilizing the gifts have given me with groups of congregations and visiting with pastors across this great country and across this great church. The gifts I bring to this opportunity have much to do with my past experience. I was 26 years pastor of a large congregation. In that position, I worked with a large staff and I organized the details that go with that position, as many of you know. Congregations are the lifeblood of the church. In our congregations, things happen. Programs develop. Decisions are made. We need to understand our congregations. That’s not congregationalism, that’s just a celebration of who we are. We need to appreciate and know and give thanks for the gift of all of our congregations. I do believe that that experience will support me in this future work. Thank you so much.

Charles Pena: And Paul Schreck.

Paul Schreck: I’m Paul Schreck, executive assistant to the Secretary for rostering and constitutional interpretation and oversight. And I’ve served in the office of the Secretary for the past 9-1/2 years. I’ve had an excellent mentor, and I’ve been paying close attention. [Laughter] During the course of that 9-1/2 years, I have prepared minutes for the Churchwide Assembly, the Church Council, the conference of bishops, the cabinet of executives and sundry other meetings at the Churchwide organization. I’ve drafted new policy for roster manual matters and shepherd them through the adoption and implementation procedures. I regularly am involved in consultations with congregations and the bishops and Synod staff members about interpreting the constitution, helping to resolve conflict in congregations. I also for a number of years was — to the ecumenical affairs department as it was then and staffed a number of ecumenical dialogues. And so I would also bring that component of experience. Among my gifts, though, I would say relationship building, collaboration and an impulse to team building are the chief gifts I would bring.

Charles Pena: Thank you.

Question number 2. The principles of organization in chapter 5 of this church’s constitution lifts up servant leadership as one of the high expectations that this church places on its leaders. What does that mean to you as you would assume this office? And we’ll begin with Glenndy.

I think servant leadership is on the one hand an easy principle to grasp and on the other an incredibly difficult principle to grasp. I believe that we work carefully to hold those two realities together in a kind of leadership. So certain vent leaders lead. They don’t wait and follow the flow and hear what everyone is saying and decide, but they listen carefully. . And they hear what everyone is saying. And they decide. Both of those things are critically, critically important to us in leadership in the church. I exercise those roles of servant and leader in my ministry now on the Minneapolis area Synod staff. I exercise those roles on the Churchwide staff. I think that we are servant of all and slave to none. We are called by God to serve one another, to be caring and tending our relationships, to understand and to hear. But we are also called to lead, to speak with boldness and passion and vigor about the work of this church, about the work that God has placed before us, about these clay jars that we hold for ourselves that contain the surpassing glory of God. Servant leadership is what it is about for us.

Charles Pena: Thank you. David?

Each morning, I drive to the ferry terminal and I get out of the car and I have the luxury of getting on a ferry boat. And before I do that, I stop and I pause and I pray to God for the gifts of the spirit. For wisdom and understanding and counsel and might and fear of the Lord and joy in his presence. And I try to take that attitude to work with me and I try to take that in the beingative advertise that I participate in with the church. It does involve both a servant model and a leadership. To me a servant means treating people with dignity and respect. And as Glenndy said, listening, really lessening to what they have to say. But it also involves leading by example. I was hoping I would get a chance to say this to you. Do you have a will? I do. [Laughter] I have an estate plan. I have a directive to physicians. I can be your servant and communicate those things which are so important to us. I believe in collaborative leadership. I believe that when you mine down that concept, the collaboration part means facilitating wise decisions. Facilitating wise decisions. That means not always agreeing with those that you are in dialogue with, but it means seeking wise decisions. An once you make those decisions, you move forward faithfully to carry them out.

Charles Pena: Thank you. Ken Ruppar?

KENNETH RUPPAR: Thank you. I believe at the heart of leadership within the church is a strong sense of calling and pastoral ministry for the church. I believe that leadership in the church in the ELCA requires an understanding of the three expressions of the church and a willingness to walk between those and among those expressions, sharing information, stories, encouragement and so forth. I believe that leadership in our church also involves representing the whole church, listening to the whole church, and being able to tell the stories within the context of our church and across the globe into other churches, as well. I believe I model this in part in my work in the congregation as I continually share the stories of the Churchwide and the Synod and the congregation up and down that chain. I share the stories of my congregation with my colleagues on the Church Council and others. I share what’s going on across the globe with the Synod and with the congregations, as well. I believe we need the leadership that continues to do that. I also believe that my experience the past six years on the Church Council have given me a deeper understanding of not only the documents of our church but the wonderful leadership that we have in our Churchwide offices and the caring for the church across the globe.

Thank you. Michael?

Michael Cooper white: St. Paul calls us to the ministry of encouragement. He says encourage one another in the Lord. I think that servant leadership involves the constant effort to encourage to give the encouraging word. The pat on the shoulder, to engage each person 1 to 1 with a cord of encouragement and support and hope. I think servant leadership is carried out collegially and, yet, finally, there comes a time when leaders often must make tough decisions, make the tough calls. And do so in a timely way so that the rest of the community can get on with its work. A seminary president learns quickly servant leadership. When he or she sits before a faculty of tenured faculty members, you don’t have command and control, didn’t choose most of those, can’t release them. The ministry is one of encouragement, of serving, of recognizing the rich gifts that each person brings to the table and working together to deploy those for the sake of the mission of all.

Thank you, Chris. Chris?

The question of servant leadership first asks the question servant of whom? We are servants of God first. And as servants of God, those who are called into leadership then are to be servants of the servants. We are all involved in service. And the question now is: How do we enable everyone to use their gifts in that service of God? It strikes me that the office of Secretary is one who records the story of how we have done it in the past and what we’ve decided for the future and then begins to ask the question: What gifts exist in our congregations and amongst our rostered leaders and how might they mutually be used to buildup the body of Christ? It is always a question of whom am I serving? Am I serving myself? Am I serving the church? Am I serving my God? And it’s in that last question, how am I serving my God? That a leader then can begin to point the way to say “here’s where we’re going. God is calling us in this direction. God has given us these resources. God has enabled us to do these things together.” Oftentimes the leader has to stand up and point when everyone else is running the opposite direction. It’s important for us to remember whose we are and whom we serve. We serve each other in the name of Christ. And even in parliamentary procedure and constitutions, how do we serve Christ? That is our question. That is our challenge.

Thank you. Andrea?

The question about servant leadership reminds me of a word I have sought to instill in our staff as I’ve worked in Synodical ministry, and that word is ensemble, working together, each having a particular instrument, if you use it in a musical connotation. Each having a particular note and line to play. But when all the instruments are playing in tune and on the same rhythm, then you have a beautiful piece of music. That kind of ensemble experience as a team and a staff is what I think of when I think of my own experience of being a servant leader. To try to stand where people are, to listen for each of the instruments, the voices, the gifts that they bring, to try to find the music that best lifts up all of those gifts and can be played at a rhythm that all of us can find the beat for and move forward with. Being a servant leader is certainly being a servant to Christ in that leadership, but it is also listening well to where Christ’s voice and presence is among those that we serve with.

Thank you. Mark?

Servant leadership, it’s an oxymoron. It’s something like dry ice. Or a few years ago, Nebraska football. They just don’t go together. [Laughter] At least not the way we’d like them to. But the connecting point, the connecting point in servant leadership, for me at least, is the word relationships. Because regardless of which direction you work as a servant or as a leader, it’s built on relationships. For me, being a servant is to be in relationship with those around me, building teams, building trust. For me, being a leader is being in relationship with those around me. Building the trusts and the community to the point where I am allowed to make those steps forward that can be followed as a leader. And through it all, servant leadership, there is the relationship both as servant and as leader to Jesus Christ. We are servants, Christ’s servants. We are called to lead in the name of Christ. That’s the task for each and every one of us.

Thank you. Paul?

Paul Schreck: You have heard much wisdom. I hope you’ve been taking notes. I have. And will add only one perspective. And that is the unique perspective of being in the office of the Secretary. The motto not only of the Secretary but. Entire staff is that we are the servants of the servants of Christ. The telephones call all day. Emails arrive day and night. And it is chiefly from you, not you maybe individually, well some of you, but you as a representative body. And the office of the Secretary is there to facilitate your mission and ministry and sort things out that you find to be difficult. The Secretary is there to assist the Presiding Bishop, who casts a vision for this church and maybe needs consultation on how to utilize the constitutional policies and governance patterns to make that happen. Synodical bishops, circhs of bishops, Church Council meetings are all facilitated in many ways by the office of the Secretary. I’d love for you to see behind the curtain sometime and the hours and sweat that are poured out so that this meeting can be facilitated as you serve Christ.

Thank you. Third and final question: During this Assembly, we have heard from several people about dwelling in the word. What has the Word of God meant to you in your life? How have you dwelt in the word? We’ll begin with Glenndy.

Thank you. That’s the best question yet. Easiest. I was privileged to be in Dr. Road’s class who did Galatians for us the first year that he taught at LSTC the text — Scripture by heart, the course was called. We memorized Scripture. Now I did that as a small child, because I grew up (whispering) Pentecostal. So I memorized Scripture as a child. But I convinced myself as an adult that it was probably convinced myself that it was beyond my abilities to do it. But I was persuaded that I could not. In my class I memorized half of John 14 and 15. I can’t tell you how those words, having taken root in my life have changed it. You believe in God, Jesus says, believe also in me. In my father’s house there are many dwelling places. Dwelling in the Scriptures is a daily piece of my life. And it is not only reading the word and being fed by the word, but it is letting that word dwell in me so that in me it lives and from me it comes. It sustains my life and it sustains my ministry. And then it allows me to help others sustain their ministry. It is so critical, this Word of God to our lives of faith.

Thank you. David?

Two weeks ago I was in San Diego visiting my 91-year-old father who lives in a retirement community of the covenant church. And you walk in after having not seen him for a month and the first words out of his mouth are “rejoice in the Lord I say rejoice” he is a frail 91-year-old person and whenever I talk to him, he grounds me in what is important. For more years than I’d like to remember I was worn these funny glasses that have two parts on them. As you can imagine, most of my workday is spent looking out of the bottom part of those glasses intensely at document after document. And you can become even more myopic doing that. The Word of God provides an opening, a way, a method for me to look through the top of my glasses and remind me that I am part of a Christian community, a child of God, someone who is loved and is required to love those around him. It’s a difficult, difficult task sometimes, given the requirements of daily life. But even my glasses, the ability to look out the top of them lets me ground myself in the Word of God so that I might be his disciple.

Thank you. Kenneth?

KENNETH RUPPAR: Thank you, Carlos. I think for those of us who preach the word, sometimes dwelling in it is difficult. And so it has to take a conscious effort to say “this is a word I need to listen to. This is a word I need to meditate on” and not just because it might come up as a sermon text one day, but listen to the word. I frankly found for myself that the best way for me is reading portions of the Scripture through the use of a wonderful series of booklets called “for all the Saints.” it’s a daily devotional booklet. It provides readings from the Scriptures and from contemporary literature as a way to share insights into that and then to sit quietly and to think about those. I also believe that I receive the gifts of God in dwelling in the word as I sit with other pastors and we read Scripture together every other week and we talk about it, not to design a sermon but to ask: How does this word touch your life and how does it touch mine? I believe that dwelling in the word is a gift I receive from others as I visit them in their homes and they share with me what the Scriptures meant for them over 80 or 90 or 60 years or so. And I believe that all of those ways we come to dwell in the Word of God as we listen to that word wherever God places us.

Thank you. Michael?

Some of my earliest memories of reading the Scriptures are terrifying memories because I sat alone in my room on the farm in Minnesota and read some of those an pock an liptic texts in the Gospel that talk about the coming of the end of the world and I looked around me in the 1960s in the height of the nuclear crisis and thought it was all going to end. And there was no one beside me to comfort me. So I’ve valued, in the course of my life and ministry, working with the Scriptures together, coming to the Word of God with guides, seeking to be a guide so that other young people will not experience the Scripture as a terrifying word but rather as a word of comfort. Some of my richest experiences delving into the Word of God were when I did so the years I served in Latino Ministry and regularly read and proclaimed the Word of God in Spanish. I came face-to-face with the otherness of Scripture as I read, as I proclaimed it in another language. Scripture points us to the ultimate Word of God, which is Jesus Christ. He interprets it for us, for us as a church it stands as our rule and norm for faith and life.

Thank you. Chris?

I live in the Pacific northwest. Biblically it literate. 94% of the people in Seattle do not attend church on Sunday morning. So when we say “the word”, we’re talking about more than just throwing the Bible down in front of someone. We’re talking about how do we live the word? Dwell in the word? When I was confirmed in immanual Lutheran church, river view, Michigan, my pastor gave me a verse, for by grace you have been saved through faith, it is a gift of God, not of less the anyone should boast. I’m not sure which translation I’m using because there have been so many. I still remember the content. The content is for by grace you are saved. That’s what makes us Lutherans, understanding the grace note amongst all the other notes in the Christian symphony. That’s the one we need to play. And so as I begin studying the Scriptures, I’m always asking: So where is the grace of God? And when I find that grace, it’s usually in response to something that is God’s pointed to me, there’s where you’re failing, Chris, this is the law of God, and that’s her you need the forgiveness of God. That’s a daily process, a daily process of saying: What is God up to and how is Christ’s grace sufficient for me and for those who I I will see this day? That verse from pastor Righterling has shaped my life and my ministry. That’s what I believe it is to dwell in the word.

Thank you. Andrea?

Thank you for that question. It reminds me as a young girl of my dad being asked to be a Bethel Bible series teacher in our home congregation. And that Bible study class came with a two-year commitment and with concepts to learn and to mark in your Bible. And these marvelous, intense pictures that showed symbolically the main concepts of those Biblical stories. And I would get to quiz my dad on how well he had memorized those concepts. It’s a great way to turn those relationships around between a father and a daughter, to see my dad learn the faith in those ways as he had certainly known it before but in that new way. And to learn it along with him as a student just past confirmation. And then as a seminarian, another vivid time about the word dwelling richly within me. I confess to hearing upper classmen, all of them, talking about important Biblical passages from the book of hez e ky an. — Hezekiah. And going back to my dorm room and searching for Hezekiah. I bought a new Bible. I thought I lacked the process. There is no Hezekiah. In case you will go back to your room and look for it. The concept is thatith both off the page and rises off the page. The dwelling is dwelling in the person of Christ as the word in the flesh. That was a powerful lesson to learn about that kind of dwelling in the word, as well.

Thank you. Mark?

I hope you are pleased and amazed at these people up here. The church is going to be very well served. I’m a Lutheran pastor. I did not wear my clerical collar today. I wore a blue tie. I’m not angry. I’m not protesting. I’m not making some statement about child labor practices in the plastics industry. [Laughter] This was a little surprise to me. This was God saying “oh you of little faith, put on the blue tie.” This was God saying you forgot your confirmation verse, didn’t you? Put on the blue tie. But for me, dwelling in the word is a surprise. That’s what it’s all about. Being constantly surprised by a God who loves us, who graces us, who gifts us with that love and that forgiveness and that salvation. I am surprised by God constantly. I told my congregation when I arrived that I would be there three years. 26 years later, I told myself that I would be there till retirement. That was the year I took a call here at Churchwide. Dwelling in the word for me means being surprised by the constant presence of God, who lives, who breathes, who works among us, who calls us into life together. Dwelling in the word, that’s what makes us alive.

Thank you. And Paul?

I wish I could say I read Scripture daily. I’m an extrovert, however, and the thought of sitting alone anywhere and by myself reading is excruciating. So I thank God that so much of our liturgy comes from the Scriptures, not just the Episcopalian hymns but ours as well but the texts of our liturgy, because when I am in the gathered community, I truly feel I am dwelling in the word, or, rather, that the word of Christ dwells in me and I give thanks for that opportunity. And I hope the book of faith initiative people will remember us extroverts and not design everything to be on your own, quiet and in a room.

Thank you. That concludes the question and answer session. Let us stand and together thank the nominees for responding to our questions. [Applause.] I now turn the chair back to Bishop Hanson, you may be seated.

BISHOP HANSON: We did veto Secretary Almen’s request that we ask each of the nominees: Do you smile frequently? And if so, why?


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