New bishop installed for South-Central Synod of Wisconsin

BLACK EARTH, Wis. – Hundreds watched virtually Sunday as Joy Mortensen-Wiebe was installed as Bishop of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin at New Heights Lutheran Church.

Mortensen-Wiebe was elected to a six-year term as Bishop in August, edging out Rev. Stacie Fidlar by one vote in the Synod’s first-ever virtual vote.

“I grew up in the Lutheran church and first felt a call to ministry in the seventh grade,” Mortensen-Wiebe said. But the newly installed Bishop says at the time, the church had only just started to ordain women. 2020, however, marks the 50th year women have served.

“I have seen so much change in my lifetime,” she said.

In attendance for Sunday’s installation was Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, who oversees the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

“When our predecessor bodies made the decision in 1970 to include all people, male and female as ordained pastors, it was just part of our tradition in reforming in the church,” Bishop Eaton said.

Sunday’s attendance was limited to staff and immediate family members due to Coronavirus restrictions.

“The parking lot would be full. I don’t know if we could fit everyone in this church,” said Bishop Eaton. “We like brass choirs and gospel choirs. I’ve been in places where they’ve had bagpipes, everything.”

Bishop Eaton says while Coronavirus has put a temporary pause on in-person services, the church has continued to grow.

“More people attend online than attended in-person worship,” she said. “We also know that people who would never ever step foot into a church building are attending online. This has been a hidden gift of the spirit, that we’ve been able to reach people.”

“Yes, it’s different, it feels a little strange, but we are able to gather more people in than we probably would have,” Mortensen Wiebe said. “It’s opened up things.”