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Published: Saturday, 5/29/2004

Bishop sets his agenda for second ELCA term

BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Rev. Marcus Lohrmann Rev. Marcus Lohrmann
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BOWLING GREEN - Six years ago, the Rev. Marcus Lohrmann decided "with a great deal of reluctance" to make himself available as a candidate for bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

He knew the Christian church in general and the ELCA in particular were headed for a tumultuous intersection with culture, specifically on issues of sexuality, and he dreaded the impending collision.

"I don't like dealing with conflict," he said. "I'm a middle child. I try to pass it by."

Although he harbored doubts about whether he had the "gifts" for the office, he said, he has faith that "God moves through the calling process of the church" and that inspired him to allow his name to be placed on the ballot.

He won that 1998 election, and last week was re-elected by a wide margin to a second six-year term as bishop of the ELCA's Northwest Ohio Synod, which has 103,000 members in 188 congregations.

"I invite, request, and beg for your prayers," he told the 500 pastors and lay delegates participating in the synod assembly at Bowling Green State University, saying their prayers had helped him make it through the first term.

A gentle and reverent leader with a self-deprecating sense of humor, the 53-year-old bishop called his entire support staff onto the platform and thanked each one individually.

Bishop Lohrmann also apologized to his wife, Heidi, and three children - Adam, 23; Rachel, 21, and Rebecca, 17 - "for what this has done to our family life" because of all the travel and hours the job demands.

"My daughter said, 'Dad, it's harder on you than it is on us,'●" Bishop Lohrmann wryly recalled.

He said he was greatly inspired by the late Bishop James Hoffman of the Toledo Catholic Diocese. He said Bishop Hoffman was a friend and mentor who once told him that, as bishops, "It's not about us, it's about the church."

Bishop Lohrmann, who lives in Sylvania and works at the synod office in Findlay, said one of the challenges ahead includes reversing a decline in financial support.

Last year, synod contributions dropped 3 percent, he said, predicting that layoffs would be necessary if donations don't increase.

He cited Grace Lutheran Church in Toledo as an example of a congregation that made a notable effort to contribute more, increasing its support by 30 percent last year.

Bishop Lohrmann also urged area Lutherans to tithe - the biblical principle of giving 10 percent of one's income to the Lord - and to participate in Bible studies. He personally will lead a Bible study on the Book of Acts on four Wednesday nights this summer at Grace Lutheran, 4441 Monroe St.

Bishop Lohrmann, a native of Waterloo, Ia., who earned a doctorate in divinity from Christ Seminar-Seminex, St. Louis, said he has three priorities for his second term:

w●"Keep the church and its debates coming back to the good news of the crucified and risen Jesus."

w●"Incorporating faith and passion into leadership and promoting leadership that is centered in Christ."

w●"Equipping and training the congregations to be missions to the world."

In the ELCA, bishops are elected to six-year terms with no limit to the number of terms that can be served.

At the annual synod held last week in Bowling Green, delegates approved a motion to close Christ Lutheran Church in Toledo.

That North Toledo congregation, at 825 Brickner St., was founded in 1923 and will hold its final service at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

The Rev. Daryl Hanson, Christ's pastor for five years, said in an interview that it's been "a very grief-filled time, although the people have overwhelmingly supported the process."

He said attendance was down to about 40 on an average Sunday, and "we felt our resources could be used better in other areas."



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