On Tuesday, the Episcopal Council of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) elected three new bishops. Ove Sander, Anti Toplaane and Marko Tiitus will begin their new roles in the spring.
Archbishop Urmas Viilma nominated Sander, Toplaane and Tiitus for the roles of bishop, all of whom are teachers of the parish and assessors, or members of the church's governing body.
"I have experience with all of them as a colleague and a brother, as well as serving on the congregation myself," said Archbishop Urmas Viilma of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK).
Vilma had previously justified their election on the grounds that two of the current bishops are due to move o emeritus status and that he, as archbishop has a heavy workload. In order for new bishops to be elected, more than half of the members of the church council had to cast their votes. There were 56 votes.
Anti Toplaan, pastor of the islands parish, who received 50 votes, said his job would not change too much. "The work will change a bit, but some things will stay the same. The church services in the places where the bishops live will continue to serve those congregations," he said.
Ove Sander was delighted to be elected. "This election is something that gives me great joy, but of course there is also a lot of fear in my heart about how everything will turn out," said Sander.
Marko Tiitus, dean of the Viljandi parish, received 42 votes, while Ove Sander, rector of the Institute of Theology, picked up 40. The newly-instated bishops will begin work in the spring. Prior to that, they will continue as members of the church council.
Tiitus said that while a parish minister deals with a single congregation, a bishop serves the entire church and so has to keep an eye on the bigger picture.
Their new roles have already been more or less planned out in advance by the archbishop.
"It is only after their installation, when the new members of the church council are elected to replace them, that the final distribution of their responsibilities will be confirmed. However, for now, the general outline is clear," said Viilma.
Anti Toplane is expected to remain in charge of media and community relations. Marko Tiitus will co-ordinate areas related to clerical ministry, and Ove Sander's role will be with the diaspora, community work and chaplaincies.
Editor: Michael Cole