Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Election of a New Bishop

A murmur came from the crowd around 5:00 when the voting had finished. Then there was the announcement that the counting would begin. Finally, at 6:30pm on January 14, 2010, the new leadership of ELC-PNG was announced. Rev. Giegere Wenge was elected Head Bishop and Rev. Zau Rappa was re-elected as Assistant Bishop. Albert Tokave was elected General Secretary, defeating Isaac Teo, the incumbent General Secretary. The crowd soon dissipated as the sun set, and you could hear drums and singing into the night as people celebrated the occasion. If there was surprise, or joy, or disappointment, it is hard to tell. Some people discreetly offered their opinions but, for the most part, there was an acceptance that the delegates had been led by the spirit and now was the time to unite and move forward.
We stood watching the process for awhile but soon realized that the process would go on for the entire afternoon. I will always remember the quiet patience of the people, broken only by alternating musical groups, playing old-time familiar church music. To our back and to the right was a band. I soon recognized hymn I had heard frequently in my childhood in SW Wisconsin, Just a Closer Walk With Thee. It seemed to fit the scene, now years later and half-way around the world. How can one not believe that God is walking with us........walking together......faithful acts of love? As the band finished its song, then the other musical group would begin. Under the yellow tent was a choir of young boys and men, a truly unique choir. Soon I would hear Beautiful Savior played on conch sea shells, unique to the Salamaua coastal area where we had spent Christmas. The choir is unique to Papua New Guinea and would be the pride of any church music director in the U.S.

The election process was reviewed in great detail. On Thursday afternoon, only the official voting delegates were allowed in the Assembly Hall, seated by district. The voting procedure was reviewed; the three colored ballots, one for each office, were held up for all to see; the ballot boxes were held up to ensure they were empty before they were locked. Then each district's delegates were called to the stage, in alphabetical order, to cast their vote. Outside, masses of people stood in the heat or sat under umbrellas, calmly witnessing the process.

For the past two years, ELC-PNG has been led by Acting Bishop Rev. Zau Rappa (second from left). He assumed this duty following the sudden and unexpected death of the much beloved Bishop Wesley Kigasung. The memory and legacy of Bishop Kigasung was present in many ways during the 27th Synod Assembly. While there was much important business to be conducted, the election on Thursday, the fourth day of the synod assembly, was much anticipated. The ballot included four candidates for Head Bishop, three candidates for Assistant Bishop, and two candidates for General Secretary. (Note the chairs and table on the stage).

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