God’s work never stops. Churchwide office staff are still hard at work – from our homes. Hours and lines of communication remain the same.

Presenters

Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Thursday keynote speaker

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton was re-elected to serve a second six-year term as ELCA presiding bishop at the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Eaton is the ELCA’s fourth presiding bishop and was first elected at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Eaton earned a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the College of Wooster. Eaton was ordained in 1981 and served three different congregations in Ohio before being elected bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod in 2006. She was reelected synod bishop in May 2013, shortly before her election as ELCA presiding bishop.

Eaton’s four emphases for the ELCA are: We are church; We are Lutheran; We are church together; We are church for the sake of the world. These four emphases are fundamental to identifying who the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is.

As chief ecumenical officer of the ELCA, she represents this church in a wide range of ecumenical and interfaith settings. She is vice president for North America on the Council of the Lutheran World Federation and serves on the governing board and development committee of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and on the Religions for Peace USA Council of Presidents.

As presiding bishop, Eaton travels extensively, representing the ELCA in a variety of capacities. This has included a visit to a Syrian refugee camp; commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with Lutherans from around the world in Namibia; participating in an ecumenical service to commemorate the Reformation in the Lund, Sweden, cathedral with Pope Francis; visiting with migrants in Honduras; and attending the fifth consultation of women pastors and theologians in Tanzania.

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church

Monday opening worship preacher

Presiding Bishop Curry was installed as the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church on November 1, 2015. He was elected to a nine-year term and confirmed at the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, UT, on June 27, 2015.

The descendant of enslaved Africans brought to North America by way of the trans-Atlantic slave routes, Presiding Bishop Curry was born in Chicago, on March 13, 1953. Presiding Bishop Curry’s father was an Episcopal priest. He attended public schools in Buffalo, NY, and, even at a young age, he learned about social activism through his father’s leadership and his own dedication to righting a broken world.

Presiding Bishop Curry was ordained to the diaconate in June 1978, at St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo, NY. Throughout his ministry, Presiding Bishop Curry has been active in issues of social justice, reconciliation, speaking out on immigration policy and marriage equality.

In his three parish ministries in North Carolina, Ohio, and Maryland, Presiding Bishop Curry had extensive involvement in preaching missions; Crisis Control Ministry; the founding of ecumenical summer day camps for children; preaching missions; the Absalom Jones initiative; creation of networks of family day care providers; creation of educational centers; and the brokering of millions of dollars of investment in inner-city neighborhoods.

As Bishop in the Diocese of North Carolina, Presiding Bishop Curry instituted a network of canons, deacons, and youth ministry professionals dedicated to supporting the ministry that happens in local congregations. He refocused the Diocese on The Episcopal Church’s Millennium Development Goals through a $400,000 campaign to buy malaria nets that saved over 100,000 lives.

The Rev. Leila M. Ortiz

The Rev. Leila M. Ortiz, Synod Bishop, ELCA Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod

Thursday closing worship preacher

The Rev. Leila M. Ortiz is a pastor and theologian and serves as the Bishop of The Metropolitan Washington D.C. Synod since September of 2019. She works alongside pastors, councils, and church members as they discern their call in the church for the sake of the world. She joined the synod staff in 2016 as Assistant to the Bishop.

Leila is also a doctoral candidate at United Lutheran Theological Seminary of Pennsylvania with a concentration in Systematic / Contemporary Theology. Her areas of interest are Protestant Latinx Liberation Theologies in the United States and the impact of Latina hermeneutics and spirituality on Lutheran ecclesiology. She is an alumna of the 2015 Lewis Fellowship sponsored by the Lewis Center of Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and also of A Convocation of Christian Leaders, a series of four gatherings designed for promising young leaders from around the country who seek extended conversation about the theology and practice of leadership in Christian institutions hosted by Leadership Education of Duke Divinity.

Given her particular perspective and call to the church, in the fall of 2012 Leila served as a representative from the United States at The Lutheran World Federation Global Theological Consultation in Wittenberg, Germany, to assess Lutheran heritage and the Reformation in defining what it means to be Lutheran in a fast-changing world. She served in this capacity again at the 2016 consultation in Geneva, Switzerland. In the spring of 2013, Leila served as a member of the LWF Resource group, which prepared Lutheran Theological Education Network guidelines that would define the goal, process, roles, and responsibilities of the network at different levels within Lutheran communion. That fall she was invited to participate in The Global Ecumenical Institute in Busan, South Korea; an initiative of The World Council of Churches that gathered theological students and lecturers for a major project promoting ecumenical leadership formation, intense theological learning, and mutual dialogue.

The Rev. Karoline M. Lewis

The Rev. Karoline M. Lewis

Bible Study Leader

The Rev. Karoline M. Lewis is the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary and she previously taught at Candler School of Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary, and Augsburg College.

Ordained in the ELCA, Lewis holds degrees from Northwestern University (B.A.), Luther Seminary (M.Div.), and Emory University (Ph.D., New Testament Studies and Homiletics). She has served as Treasurer of Academy of Homiletics and Regional Coordinator for the Upper Midwest Region of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Lewis is the author of several publications as well as numerous articles for The Christian Century, Feasting on the Word, Feasting on the Gospels, Currents in Theology and Mission, Lutheran Forum, Word & World, Abingdon Preaching Annual, and Odyssey Network’s ON Scripture. She was one of the 100 religious scholars in the United States to contribute to the Values and Voices Campaign (valuesandvoices.com).

Lewis is a regular preacher/presenter at the Festival of Homiletics and leads conferences, workshops, and retreats internationally on the Gospel of John, the New Testament, interpreting the Bible, preaching, leadership, and women in ministry. She is a contributing writer for Working Preacher, author of the site’s Dear Working Preacher column, and co-host of the site’s weekly podcast, Sermon Brainwave. Visit karolinelewis.com for resources on preaching and being a woman in ministry.

Dr. Mindy Makant

Dr. Mindy Makant

Bible Study Leader

Dr. Mindy Makant is an ELCA Deacon who serves as Associate Professor of Religious Studies, director of the Youth and Family Ministry Program, and director of the Living Well Center for Vocation and Purpose at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C.

Makant holds a B.A. in Spanish from Mercer University, an M.ED in Secondary Education from the University of West Georgia, an M.A. in Theology from Ohio Dominican University, and a Th.D in Theology and Ethics from Duke University Divinity School.

Makant also serves on the steering committee for the ELCA’s Association of Teaching Theologians and is an active participant in the ELCA’s YFM Network. She is the author of two books: The Practice of Story: Suffering and the Possibilities of Redemption, (Baylor University Press, 2015) and Holy Mischief: In Honor of Women in Ministry (Wipf & Stock, 2019).

Dr. Makant and her husband, Russell (an ELCA pastor), have been married for 30 years. They live in North Carolina where they spend their free time exploring state parks and photographing waterfalls.

The Rev. Jacqueline Utley

The Rev. Jacqueline Utley

Plenary Presenter

The Rev. Jacqueline Utley (fondly called Jackie) is a native of Lake View, S.C. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Coker College in Hartsville, S.C. She attained a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., as a non-Lutheran.

Jackie is a product of the Church of God In Christ (COGIC) and Methodist (AME) traditions. In 2013 Jackie made history as the first African American to be ordained as a rostered leader of the South Carolina Synod of the ELCA. At that time, she became the first African American and female pastor of the Ascension Lutheran Church, in Columbia, S.C.; where she currently serves.

Jackie is energetic, passionate, and has a heart for God and for God’s people.

Ross Murray

Ross Murray

Plenary Presenter

Ross Murray is an ELCA Deacon, with a specific calling to advocate for LGBTQ people and to bridge the LGBTQ and faith communities. Ross is also a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. The Naming Project has also been the subject of much media, including the award-winning film Camp Out, as well as the controversial episode "Pray the Gay Away?" of Our America with Lisa Ling.

Ross serves as the Senior Director of Education and Training at The GLAAD Media Institute, which provides activist, spokesperson, and media engagement training and education for LGBTQ and allied community members and organizations desiring to deepen their media impact. He uses the best practices perfected by GLAAD to train a new generation of advocates in order to accelerate acceptance for LGBTQ people, as well as other marginalized communities.

Ross works with individuals and organizations who are bringing LGBTQ equality to their own communities through their advocacy. He helps them craft a media strategy and prepares to be able to tell that story effectively, and calls others to action.

Ross has secured national media interest in stories that bring examples of LGBTQ equality across diverse communities in America. He specializes in relationship between religion and LGBTQ people. He has written and appeared on numerous media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Religion News Service. In 2014, he was named one of Mashable's "10 LGBT-Rights Activists to Follow on Twitter."

The Rev. Veronica John Mwakasungura

The Rev. Veronica John Mwakasungura

Plenary Presenter

The Rev. Veronica John Mwakasungura is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania and has spent five years serving as a pastor with the Lutheran Church in Rwanda. In Kigali, Pastor Veronica and her colleagues lead two services, one in English and one in Kinyarwanda, but her service extends well into the week and into the wider community.

Pastor Veronica leads capacity building and training opportunities for women and girls and other community development initiatives, supported in-part through gifts to ELCA World Hunger. She absolutely can tell you about your ELCA Good Gifts “goat,” but lean in to hear her talk about the Gospel, too – because for Pastor Mwakasungura, faith in action is about God’s dream for a just world where all are fed.

When she is not delivering chickens, working with women’s entrepreneurship projects or feeding children in Rwanda, Pastor Veronica enjoys cooking and museums. Through a scholarship with ELCA Global Mission, she is currently studying her Masters in Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago where she enjoys the architecture of old buildings and – the winter!

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah

Plenary Presenter

Krish is the President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. She previously served in the Obama White House as Policy Director for First Lady Michelle Obama and at the State Department as Senior Advisor under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Krish has committed her career to public service because she knows how differently life could have turned out. She was 9-months old when she and her family escaped a country on the brink of civil war and built a life in Maryland. Her parents came to this country with no jobs and $200 in their pockets.

Krish is a graduate from Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County and then attended Yale College, where she earned a Master’s degree in Political Science and a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a student at Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, where she received an M.Phil. in International Relations, before returning to Yale Law School, where she served on the Yale Law Journal.

Krish’s interest in public service and grassroots politics began at an early age. In elementary school, she went knocking door to door with her mother in support of Senator Barbara Mikulski when she won her historic first race for the Senate. In college, she worked for another great public servant when she spent her summer back from college working for Senator Paul Sarbanes.