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Stephen J. Lee, Published April 05 2008

Fargo pastors in lead for bishop post

Two Fargo pastors are in the lead to become the new bishop for the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

After the first ballot today at the group's annual assembly in Fargo, the Rev. Jeff Sandgren had 119 votes and the Rev. Bill Rindy had 93.

About 700 Lutherans are in town today for the gathering. About 600 of them are delegates -– 460 lay people chosen by the 233 congregations to represent the 101,000 members of the synod and 137 clergy –- who will choose a successor to Bishop Rick Foss. About 100 visitors also attended the assembly which continues through Sunday.

Spiritual head of the synod since 1992, Foss, 63, cannot run again.

The first ballot, taken this afternoon, narrowed a list of eight to seven. Following Sandgren and Rindy, former South Dakota Synod bishop and UND graduate, the Rev. Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, was third with 83, and the Rev. Bruce Vold, Carrington, and a Grand Forks Red River High School graduate, had 82.

Foss’s assistant, the Rev. Naomi Garber got 71, and the Rev. Chris Hallanger, of Hatton, N.D., garnered 52.

Former Grand Forks pastor, the Rev. Steve Wold, now at Foss’s former parish, Trinity Lutheran in Moorhead, got 46 votes, and the Rev. Philip Larson, Fargo, was eliminated for coming in eighth with 37 votes.

Another ballot will be held tonight, but a new bishop probably won’t be elected until Sunday.