The Rev. Steven Delzer will be installed in an elaborate ceremony in September, befitting his status as the only new Lutheran synod bishop elected this year in Minnesota.
As incoming bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Delzer is set to lead the synod with the third-largest membership in Minnesota — over 125,000 — in a territory extending from Mankato to the southeastern tip of the state. Minneapolis and St. Paul synods have a combined estimated membership of 318,000.
Delzer’s installation will take place at 2 p.m. Sept. 7 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Owatonna. The Rev. Mark Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, will preside.
Delzer, 63, succeeds the Rev. Harold Usgaard, who has served as bishop since 2001. Bishops in the Southeastern synod are elected to six-year terms and are only allowed to serve two terms.
Delzer was elected at the synod’s annual assembly June 7-8 in Rochester. He previously served as lead pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Faribault.
Like other ELCA bishops throughout the country, Delzer intends to address the denomination’s continued membership decline and will look at ways to reverse the trend.
“I think the church is really going to change over the next 10 to 20 years,” Delzer said. “And I don’t think anyone quite knows what that’s going to look like. That’s the scary part … I’m not sure weekly attendance is going to increase. I think there are going to have to be other ways that people think about church.”
Whatever form the ELCA takes in the coming years, Delzer said he wants to emphasize charitable deeds and encourage Lutherans “to make a difference in people’s lives.”
“I want every church regardless of its size … to move up beyond the walls of the building. To not worry so much about how do we keep the doors open, but to get out there in the community and let the community know the church cares. To try to find out what in the community needs doing and figure out a way to do it.”