Posted Jun. 22, 2016 at 5:55 PM
Updated Jun 22, 2016 at 8:05 PM
ROCKFORD — Northern Illinois Synod Bishop Gary Wollersheim saw something special in the Rev. H. Jeffrey Clements more than a decade ago.
Clements, of Rockford, already had been a pastor for 19 years at three Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations before he was named assistant to the bishop.
“I saw his gifts — his deep love of Christ and the church … his kindness, his humility,” Wollersheim said of the man who has served as his assistant for 14 years. “He’s unique. He’s so well-prepared. He’s going to be a very faithful bishop.”
Clements, a 61-year-old Detroit native, was elected Saturday during the Synod Assembly at Augustana College in Rock Island to replace the retiring Wollersheim. He received 278 votes to 181 for the Rev. Stacie R. Fidlar of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rock Island. Clements will serve a six-year term.
As bishop, Clements will be the spiritual leader for 150 congregations in more than 20 Illinois counties. He’ll ordain pastors, be a ceremonial presence at events and manage a $2.4 million annual budget.
“He knows all of our pastors. He knows all of our leaders,” Wollersheim said. “His temperament and spiritual gifts really make him very, very qualified. He’s going to be a very faithful bishop. I’m so happy for him. I’m so happy for the synod because I know they’re in excellent hands. I’m happy for myself, too. It’s a joy to see a colleague like Jeff have this opportunity.”
Wollersheim will retire this summer after three six-year terms as bishop. Clements’ term officially begins on Sept. 24, when he will be installed as bishop during a ceremony at First Lutheran Church in Rockford.
“I’m honored. I’m humbled and a bit fearful about what God might have in store for us for the next six years,” said Clements, who hopes to build on the relationships he’s established. “We’re trying to figure out what it means to be Christian in the 21st century. We’re trying to make a difference.”
Clements was working with Lutheran youths when a pastor persuaded him to enter the ministry. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, he pursued a master of divinity degree from Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
His first congregation was St. John Lutheran Church in rural Elizabeth. He also was the spiritual leader at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Dixon and First Lutheran Church in Prophetstown.
Article originally published at http://www.rrstar.com/article/20160622/NEWS/160629808 . Reprinted with permission