- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2001

A Minnesota churchman who has preached near universities and led emergency aid efforts was elected yesterday presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation's largest Lutheran denomination.
Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the St. Paul, Minn., synod won the six-year term of office with just over 51 percent of the vote.
At age 54, he is the youngest presiding bishop of the 5.1 million-member denomination since its was formed by three Lutheran bodies in 1988.
"I do not regard this as an election won but a calling re-ceived," said Bishop Hanson, who with his wife, Ione, thanked the assembly of 1,032 voting delegates and about that many more visitors at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
"I now face a daunting task and recognize that we will be united as a church in mission," he said. "Thank you for this holy calling."
Bishop Hanson, who for the first time was a candidate for top bishop, expressed "special gratitude" to Bishop Donald J. McCoid of Pittsburgh, who began the balloting Wednesday with the most votes of any candidate.
Bishop McCoid ended the final two-way race with a 48.8 percent tally.
He and Bishop Hanson have worked together on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Conference of Bishops, where Bishop McCoid was chairman and Bishop Hanson vice chairman.
Bishop Hanson, who will succeed retiring Bishop George H. Anderson, will be installed as the third presiding bishop of the denomination on Oct. 6 at the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago.
During the seven-day assembly, which concludes Tuesday, delegates have discussed a proposed "evangelism strategy" to promote church civic involvement and membership growth.
Bishop Hanson said that such ministry would be his priority. "I envision that we will be what we once were — a missionary church in a missionary context," he told the assembly.
He said he would focus on preaching the Gospel and emphasizing the sacraments of worship, and said he believed church members were showing a desire to learn "how to encourage others to invite people into the faith."
An ordained pastor for 27 years, Bishop Hanson pursued his education at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Union Theological Seminary in New York, Luther Seminary in St. Paul and Harvard Divinity School.
He has been pastor of University Lutheran Church of Hope in Minneapolis and works with housing for the poor in that city and served on the Emergency Ministries division of the National Council of Churches. Mrs. Hanson is director of social work for Children's Hospitals in the twin cities. The Hansons have six children and one grandchild.
The ELCA assembly still faces votes on "memorials," or resolutions, from among the 65 synods of the denomination, to assess what the church will do about requests for same-sex "unions" presided over by a pastor in a sanctuary.
The church's ban on ordination of active homosexuals is not on the assembly roster for any kind of vote, but activists at the assembly are expected to bring the topic up in floor debate in hopes of lifting the ban.
"We do not agree on how to interpret Scripture on this issue, nor do we agree on the cause of homosexuality," Bishop Anderson said in his assembly report Thursday. "Until we do find greater agreement, we need to listen carefully to each other."

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