BOWLING GREEN - Bishop Marcus Lohrmann was re-elected by an overwhelming margin to a third six-year term in a vote held during the annual meeting here of the regional Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The bishop was elected by 80 percent of the assembly's 515 voting members.
Prior to the vote, Bishop Lohrmann said in his annual report to the ELCA's Northwest Ohio Synod Assembly that it has been "a very challenging year within many of our lives, within our congregations, within the synod," and within the denomination.
"On the one hand, these are difficult days. But I think that we've also established some good trust within the synod," he said.
Bishop Lohrmann cited economic struggles and the loss of jobs that have impacted church giving and, consequently, funding ministries in the synod, which has 90,000 members in 185 congregations.
The bishop also acknowledged the controversy that has followed in the wake of resolutions made by the Churchwide Assembly last August that allowed ordination of gay clergy and support for same-gender unions.
He said there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue, but he believes "God's promises given in the crucified and risen Christ" are "sufficient to bind us together in the most difficult of disagreements."
Of the four resolutions submitted for votes by the three-day synod assembly, three dealt directly with church policies on homosexuality.
Three of the resolutions, including one asking the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to rescind the resolutions approved last year, were defeated and the fourth resolution was withdrawn as the regional conference concluded today, according to Sherry Krieger, synod administrator.
In an interview, Bishop Lohrmann told The Blade that, aside from the sexuality debate, the "pivotal issues" he wants to address in his next term include nurturing Christian education at home and in the congregations; helping churches become more involved in their communities, and continuing the ELCA's ecumenical relationships.
He cited a study saying that "the most significant factor" on whether young adults attend church is the model of their parents, "so I think we need to really give attention to nurturing the faith within our homes."
Bishop Lohrmann said many Lutheran churches are in "changing communities" and those congregations need to reach out to the people living nearby.
He said he has been encouraged by the growing number of churches in the synod that offer free weekly meals and are making other efforts to help the needy.
The bishop, 59, a native of Waterloo, Iowa, said he was happy serving as a parish pastor before he was nominated the first time for bishop in 1998. After much prayer he decided to allow his name to be on the ballot again.
"This was never a call that I sought," he said, "and yet there is the sense that if this is what God is calling me to do, then how do I say no to that?"
- David Yonke