Phyllis Blair Milton elected bishop of the ELCA Virginia Synod

6/13/2023 1:05:00 PM

​CHICAGO — The Rev. Dr. Phyllis Blair Milton, Portsmouth, Va., was elected June 11 to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Virginia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The election took place during the synod assembly, June 9-11, at Roanoke College in Salem, Va.

Milton was elected on the sixth ballot, with 175 votes to 172 votes for the Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick, assistant to the bishop in the Virginia Synod. She is the first female and first person of color to be elected bishop in the synod.

The bishop-elect has served as pastor of Holy Communion Lutheran Church in Portsmouth since 2022. Prior to that, she served as interim associate pastor of First Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Va., from March to November 2021; pastor and school chaplain of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and School in Hampton, Va., from 2014 to 2021; and synodical minister of Christian formation in the Virginia Synod from 2012 to 2017.

Milton earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., in 1976, her Master in Business Education degree from Georgia State University in Atlanta, Ga., in 1980 and her Master in Christian Education from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., in 1995. She received her Doctor of Ministry degree from Bethel in 2004 and completed her Lutheran semester at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (now Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary of Lenoir-Rhyne University) in Columbia, S.C., in 2010. Southern is one of seven ELCA seminaries.

Bishop-elect Milton will take office Sept. 1 and will be installed Oct. 21 at First Presbyterian Church in Waynesboro, Va.

The Rev. Robert F. Humphrey has served as bishop since 2017 and will retire Aug. 31.

Information about the Virginia Synod is available at

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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 3 million members in more than 8,700 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands.," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder


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