In August 2001, the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) elected Mark S. Hanson to serve as presiding bishop. His installation took place on October 6, 2001 at Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago, Ill.
Before being elected presiding bishop, he served as bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod (3H). He had been elected to serve a second term in Saint Paul earlier that same year.
Prior to being elected synod bishop, he served as pastor of three Minnesota congregations: Prince of Glory Lutheran Church, Minneapolis; Edina Community Lutheran Church, Edina, Minn., and University Lutheran Church of Hope, Minneapolis.
Born in Minneapolis on December 2, 1946, Hanson graduated from Augsburg College with a B.A. in sociology.
He was a Rockefeller Fellow at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, and received a Master of Divinity degree there in 1972. He also attended Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, and was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School in 1979.
From 2003 until 2010, he was president of the Lutheran World Federation, a position he held concurrently with his position as presiding bishop of the ELCA. Serving with this global communion of Lutheran churches, Bishop Hanson has traveled widely throughout the world, sharing a confident hope in God's promises and a vision of the joyful freedom in Christian community and mission.
Hanson is widely known as a leader with an evangelical passion and imagination who embraces the Christian tradition, the Christian community, and the world with both generous goodwill and thoughtful insight. He has been an articulate advocate for the renewal of the church's preaching and public voice, for the strengthening of ecumenical and inter-religious relationships, and for reconciliation and justice in society, with attention especially to those who live with poverty and discrimination.
Since being elected presiding bishop, he has received several honorary degrees, including Doctor of Humane Letters from Augsburg College, Wittenberg University, and Grand View University, Doctor of Humanities from Capital University, Doctor of Divinity from Lenoir-Rhyne College, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Susquehanna Univeristy, Wartburg College, and The Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration.
He is the author of Faithful Yet Changing, the Church in Challenging Times and Faithful and Courageous, Christians in Unsettling Times both from Augsburg Fortress, Publishers.
Married to Ione (Agrimson), they are the parents of Aaron, Alyssa, Rachel, Ezra, Isaac and Elizabeth, and grandparents to Naomi, Kingston, Sam, Danielle and Sophia. Before moving to Chicago, Ione was the director of social work at Minneapolis and St. Paul Children’s Hospitals.