Though the candidacy process has been continually adjusted over the years, the ELCA needs a more robust examination of how it forms leaders for professional ministry. This is to address complaints that have surfaced, particularly an inability in some candidates to articulate basic Lutheran theology, lack of discernment prior to a formal meeting about beginning the process, lack of flexibility to meet the needs of the current candidates, and a bias toward people who are part of the dominant culture.
As these conversations began to bubble up throughout our three expressions, the Conference of Bishops began the process of formal review. Candidacy is a ministry whose reach is far and wide. According to our constitution, it is a process managed by the ELCA churchwide organization’s staff, approved by the ELCA Church Council, and overseen by the Conference of Bishops. With this level of scrutiny, any changes must be as transparent as possible, and we must invite as many voices as possible to the discussion.
In fall 2021, Bishop Susan Candea (Central States Synod), chair of the Leadership Committee of the Conference of Bishops, began working with the Rev. Phil Hirsch (executive for Christian Community and Leadership) and the Rev. Sara Cutter (senior director of operational effectiveness). These three began imagining a process to address the issues in candidacy and recruiting the working group as it stands today.
In March 2022 the Candidacy Leadership Development Working Group convened. This group gathers diverse leaders from across the ELCA. Team members were selected to represent the great variety of stakeholders in the formation of rostered ministers. A richly diverse group was selected: with only 12 people, this team comprises ministers of both rosters, seminary leaders, bishops, Church Council members, non-rostered members, and candidacy experts, and represents a variety of demographic variations.
At the initial meeting, the team discerned its purpose, values, and vision.
Recognizing that candidacy is a process of accompaniment and ongoing discernment that forms and prepares rostered ministers for public leadership, the candidacy leadership development working group will adapt the candidacy process of the ELCA to serve the needs of the current and future church.
To guide our work and the future of the candidacy process, we have discerned these values:
Our vision is to recommend a process for candidacy that forms and supports rostered leaders for the current and future church.
At that meeting we identified six initial projects to move the work forward. They include: exploring the potential of coaching within the candidacy process, making logistical changes to streamline application and approval, researching the needs of the church today and into the future, engaging with ecumenical partners to learn from those outside the ELCA, exploring barriers that have prevented underrepresented populations from successfully completing candidacy, and creating an open and transparent public forum (this website).
Subgroups continue to work on seven identified key projects.
Team members were selected to create the diversity (of age, roster status, institutional representation, geographic representation, formation process, ethnicity and gender identity) we intend to build into the candidacy process.
|Bishop Susan Candea, chair||Conference of Bishops (CoB), CoB Leadership Committee, Central States Synod||Mo.|
|Rev. Dr. Phil Hirsch||Churchwide Organization (CWO) Staff: Executive for Christian Community and Leadership (CCL)||Ill.|
|Rev. Sara Cutter||CWO Staff: Senior Director Operational Effectiveness for CCL||N.C.|
|Deacon Krista Anderson||CWO Staff: Candidacy Leadership Manager, Region 3; Minister of Word and Service||Minn.|
|Rev. Cherlyne Beck||CWO Staff: Director, Candidacy Leadership Managers, and Region 6 Manager||Ill.|
|Rev. Irma Banales||DEM, Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod||Texas|
|Bishop Christopher deForest||Bishop, Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, Church Council||Pa.|
|Dr. Terri Elton||Professor of Leadership at Luther Seminary, Seminary Representative||Minn.|
|Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin||President, United Lutheran Seminary, Seminary Representative||Pa.|
|Rev. Tim Feiertag||Pastor, Trinity Lutheran in Everett, Wash.||Wash.|
|Mr. David Lenz||Church Council Member||Ohio|
|Rev. Jacqui Pagel||Assistant to the Bishop for Candidacy, Grand Canyon Synod||Ariz.|