ELCA elects first female presiding bishop, Minn. incumbent defeated

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Rev. Elizabeth Eaton was elected presiding bishop by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Wednesday, defeating Minnesota incumbent Mark Hanson, the Star Tribune reports.

Eaton, bishop of the Cleveland-based Northeastern Ohio Synod, is the denomination's first female presiding bishop to be elected. Her six-year term begins in November.

Hanson, a former bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod, served as the ELCA's presiding bishop for the past 12 years and was widely expected to win a third term, which would have been a first in ELCA history, according to the newspaper.

"I don’t take this has a rejection of how I’ve led the church,” Hanson told the Star Tribune. “I think it’s a statement about wanting to move on into the future of the church."

Hanson plans to move back to Minneapolis from Chicago, but doesn't intend to retire anytime soon.

Eaton is married to Rev. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopal priest, and they have two daughters. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Episcopal Church, which is about half the size of the ELCA, also has a female presiding bishop.

In 1992, Rev. April Larson was the first female bishop to be elected in the ELCA. Minnesota followed suit in 2012 and elected Rev. Ann M. Svennungsen as bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod, the first woman to serve as bishop in any of the ELCA's six synods in the state.

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