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Lutheran leader reelected

Lutheran leader reelected

Presiding bishop Mark Hanson was overwhelmingly reelected Tuesday as leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Hanson won on the second ballot with 888 out of about 1,000 votes at a national church assembly in Chicago. He will serve for six more years.

The ELCA is among many liberal-leaning American Protestant groups with shrinking membership rolls. The denomination reported a 1.6% decline in congregants between 2005 and 2006, to 4.8 million members. Only 30% of Evangelical Lutherans attend worship weekly.

Hanson, 60, is making evangelism a central theme of this week's meeting, which will also take up the long-running debate over whether the church should ordain noncelibate gays.

In the convention's opening sermon Monday, Hanson said he feared that shrinking membership, and divisions over homosexuality, have made the group ''a church body with low expectations for what the Holy Spirit is doing and can do in our lives and through our ministries.''

A graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York, Hanson served as bishop of the St. Paul area in Minnesota before he was elected to the top church job in 2001. He is also president of the Lutheran World Federation, which represents 67 million Christians in 78 countries.

The Chicago meeting runs through Saturday. (AP)

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