The Rev. Wilma S. Kucharek was re-elected on December 14 to serve a fourth six-year term as bishop of the Slovak Zion Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The re-election took place at the 2022 Synod Assembly aboard the ship Norwegian Getaway en route to Bermuda from New York. The assembly met under the theme: “Emmanuel – God with Us!”
Preceding the first ballot for bishop, the assembly joined in prayer led by the Rev. Javier Goitia, the ELCA Churchwide representative. The first ballot was an ecclesiastical ballot and was the first order of business when the first assembly plenary session convened that morning. The ballots were cast at coordinates 37.65121 N / -70.43051 W in the North Atlantic Ocean, with the results read at 11:02am Eastern Time. Bishop Kucharek was re-elected with a historic unanimous vote by the assembly on this first ballot.
After Synod Vice-President Jerry Owen announced the unanimous election, the assembly broke into applause and Rev. Goitia added: “I will be very happy to inform Bishop Eaton.”
In keeping with tradition at the election of a bishop, the assembly joined in singing the Te Deum immediately following this announcement of the election.
The words which Bishop Kucharek shared with Assembly voters and guests in the moments following the reading of the results were reminiscent of the assembly theme’s focus on God being with us. Bishop Kucharek said: “…Thank you for your confidence, and also I ask for your prayers….In the ministry that I have among you, I don’t feel alone…as I know that God is with me, and that you go with me…and we are all one with Christ and he is with us…And it encourages me. Thank you again. It’s when we’re all together that we (especially) feel God’s Spirit among us… So thank you and please hold me in your prayers, as (you are held in) my prayers.”
Prior to being elected bishop in 2002, Bishop Kucharek served as a parish pastor in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and briefly as a deaconess in Indiana and New York. She holds the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in theology and history, Master of Divinity (MDiv), and Master of Sacred Theology (STM) degrees. She received the Synod’s Servus Dei Award in 1999 and again in 2019, and served as Secretary of the Board of ELCA’s Division for Global Mission, as Chair of the Synod’s Ecumenical and International Relations Committee, as Christian Education Chair, as a member of the National Council of Churches’ Task Force for Korean Women, and as a member of the Board and Disaster Response Team of the American Red Cross. She has served on delegations to the Lutheran World Federation and its Assembly, North and South Korea, the Holy Land, Russia, and Central and Eastern Europe. She is currently Advisory Bishop to the Women of the ELCA, and holds a seat on the Board of Trustees of Muhlenberg College and on the Board of United Lutheran Seminary.
Following the final session of assembly business, the assembly gathered for the Affirmation of Ministry at the Re-election of a Synodical Bishop, with the assembly joining the ELCA Churchwide Representative, the Rev. Javier Goitia, in the laying on of hands and prayer for Bishop Kucharek.