Bishop Candidate Biographies

Bishop Candidate Biographies2018-03-28T15:05:39+00:00

Name: Gary Kinkel

Current Position: Senior Pastor, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Shakopee, MN
Congregation of Membership: St. John’s Lutheran Church, Shakopee, MN

Year of Ordination: 1990

Previous Positions:

  • Mission developer, Redeemer Moravian Church, Richmond Va
  • Assistant Professor of Religion, Simpson College, Indianola, IA
  • Assistant Professor of Religion, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA
  • Adjunct Professor of Religion, Wartburg College, Waverly, IA
  • Pastor, Lake Mills Moravian Church, Lake Mills, WI
  • Pastor, Ephraim Moravian Church, Ephraim, WI
  • Matthew Simpson Professor of Religion, Simpson College, Indianola, IA
  • Pastor, First Lutheran Church, Centerville, IA (concurrent with professorship at Simpson)
  • Mission Developer, Abiding Savior Lutheran mission, Altoona and Pleasant Hill, IA
  • Senior Pastor, Peace Lutheran Church, Pella, IA
  • Senior Pastor, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Shakopee, MN
Education with Earned Degrees: 
  • B.A. – University of MN, Duluth
  • M.Div. – Moravian Theological Seminary, Bethlehem, PA
  • Th.M. – Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA
  • Ph.D. – University of IA, School of Religion, mentor, George Forell
Continuing Education and Professional Development: 
  • ELCA Head of Staff Leadership Conference
  • Fall Theological Conferences
  • International Congress for the Study of Pietism, Halle, Germany
  • I continue to do research and to write for publication
Current and Past Board and Committee Membership: 
  • As a professor I chaired the minority concerns committee
  • I was also a long time member of the Academic Policy and Curriculum Committee.
List up to three current or past synodical or churchwide activities that would inform your service as bishop of this synod.
  • I helped lead a seminar for Lutheran Pastors in the Pare Diocese of Tanzania.
  • I was a mission developer for both the Moravian Church and for the Southeastern Iowa Synod of the ELCA.
  • I am interested in and try to be an ongoing part of the exploration of a Spanish speaking ministry or worshiping community in our conference of the synod.
List up to three current or past community-related activities that would inform your service as bishop of this synod.
  • At Peace Lutheran in Pella, we ran a weekly “Food Shelf,” that distributed free food to people.
  • St. John’s has been involved with Loaves and Fishes, providing a free meal to whomever comes.
  • After a series of suicides at the local high school, a social worker from the school and I put together a Suicide Task Force for Altoona, IA.
What gifts would you bring to the office of bishop of this synod?
  • Theological training, understanding, engagement and teaching.
  • The gift experience of functioning as a pastor in a wide variety of settings.
  • Passion for Jesus Christ and his cross and for making disciples of all the nations.

What do you see as the principal challenge to the church at large in the next six (6) years, and how would you address it?

I believe the principal challenge to the church in our time is both theological and spiritual. Our society is casually indifferent to God. There is a shared assumption that God is a matter of general indifference, a matter for one’s leisure. The effects of this orientation are more acidic and destructive than hostility would be. It is imperative for us to say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is truth. But there are also many who seem to speak loudly about Jesus Christ in the public arena in ways that falsify the Gospel. We have to help church members and clergy to think clearly and carefully about the Word of God as Law and Gospel and in terms informed by scholarship, not in a simplistic and fundamentalistic way. It is also imperative that we speak of God as a reality we know by living experience who shapes our hearts, minds and actions. Therefore, we must become more practiced in the classical disciplines of the Christian life so that members become more accustomed to listening for God, knowing God in love and experiencing God. We need to help leaders shepherd people in the classical Christian way of life, heart and experience.

Describe your leadership style.

Although I have attended the ELCA Head of Staff leadership conference, I confess I am leery of leadership theory. I am also stand offish about too much talk about leadership in the abstract. What I am concerned about is the life of the Christian Church. I think the most important matter is discipleship. I think leadership in the church follows from authentic following of Jesus Christ. That means, I think it is more important that I follow Jesus than that I lead. I am convinced that we need to give more attention to being followers than to being leaders. The church has one real leader: Jesus Christ. That being said, I tend to lead first by referring people to the Savior. Second, I lead by seeing, and helping others to see, the big picture; by articulating an image of the vision, and letting people use their gifts to flesh it out and fill it in. Therefore, I lead by preaching, encouraging, empowering others, lifting up the gifts of others, and calling others to stand in faith and heed the call to faithfulness to Jesus.

Name: Jeff Nehrbass

Current Position: Gethsemane Evangelical Lutheran Church of Minneapolis, MN
Congregation of Membership: Gethsemane Evangelical Lutheran Church of Minneapolis, MN
Year of Ordination: 1994

Previous Positions:

  • World and United States Pro/Am Ballroom Dance Champion 2005
  • Owner, On Your Toes School of Dance and Balance Pointe Studios
  • Our Saviour’s Lutheran in South Minneapolis
  • Shepherd of the Hills in Edina
  • Redeemer Lutheran of North Minneapolis
  • Grace Lutheran in Andover
Education with Earned Degrees:
  • BA in Philosophy and English – University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • MDiv – Luther Northwestern Seminary
  • St. Paul Teaching Fellow- United States Society of Teachers of Dance
Continuing Education and Professional Development:
  • Spanish language and cultural immersion – Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia 2007 -present
  • Second Harvest Heartland Civil Rights Training 2014-present
  • MN Rule 114 Qualified Neutral Training 2013
  • EEOC Federal Mediator Training specializing in labor discrimination 2014-present
  • ELCA Missional Leaders Training Conference 2016
Current and Past Board and Committee Membership:
  • Executive Officer, USISTD National Committee 2005-2008
  • Member, Lindh-Bohanan Neighborhood Association 2013-2014
  • Member, MN Workforce Satellite Program 2014-2015
  • Member, Second Harvest Heartland Pilot Food Scarcity Program 2017
List up to three current or past synodical or churchwide activities that would inform your service as bishop of this synod.
  • Past MAS Healthy Neighborhood Grant Recipient
  • Past Member of MAS Health and Wellness Table
  • Current Member of MAS Mission Table
List up to three current or past community-related activities that would inform your service as bishop of this synod.
  • Ecumenical Mission Cluster Developer 2008-present
  • Current Missionary Baptist Agency Partner Liaison to Second Harvest Heartland
  • Board Chair, The Camden Promise 2015-present

What gifts would you bring to the office of bishop of this synod?

Proven track record of casting shared visions that are believable, engaging and interesting. Deep listener, partner focused, interest oriented, and authentically relational. A 25 year business owner who has experience developing, driving and managing growth plans with specific outputs and outcomes. A fervently devoted disciple who loves Christ’s church and lives to share the Good News of God’s love for us in Jesus.

What do you see as the principal challenge to the church at large in the next six (6) years, and how would you address it?

The principal challenge to the church at large in the next six years is growth. The way I would address it is by restructuring synod staff, developing mission clusters, challenging our churches to commit to one community initiative, Ted talk type learning videos, commitments to grow as a church both in people and resources, and grow leaders.

Describe your leadership style.

Entrepreneurial, persistent, flexible, able to make course corrections. Can fly a banner and not afraid of headwinds, though prefers strategic and collaborative alignment of stakeholders. Doing the right thing and doing things right are both highly valued. Staffs around personal and organizational growing edges. Prefers meetings where he is not the smartest one in the room.

Name: Ann Svennungsen

Current Position: Bishop, Minneapolis Area Synod, Minneapolis, MN
Congregation of Membership: Augustana Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN

Year of Ordination: 1982

Previous Positions:

  • Interim Pastor, St. Olaf College, 2011-2012
  • Resident Scholar, Collegeville Institute, 2010-2011
  • Director, The President’s Pledge Against Global Poverty, 2010-2012
  • President, Texas Lutheran University, 2007-2010
  • President and CEO, The Fund for Theological Education, 2003-2007
  • Senior Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Moorhead, MN, 1996-2003
  • Interim Pastor, Beaver Creek Lutheran Church, Joice, IA, 1995
  • Co-Pastor, Edina Community Lutheran Church, Edina, MN, 1989-1994
  • Associate Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church, Iowa City, IA, 1982-1989
Education with Earned Degrees:
  • Luther Seminary, Master of Divinity, 1981
  • Concordia College, Bachelor of Arts, Mathematics, 1977
Continuing Education and Professional Development:
  • Lilly Endowment Pastors Working Group (six two-day seminars with twelve pastors selected by seminar leader, Craig Dykstra)
  • Anti-Racism Training with Crossroads
  • National Religious Leaders Program
  • Preaching Seminar with William Willimon and Richard Lischer
  • Harvard Institute for New University Presidents
  • Aspen Institute Seminar on Governance
  • Louisville Institute on New Testament Ethics
  • Leadership Seminars with Ronald Heifetz
  • Travel Seminar to the Lutheran Church of El Salvador
  • Spiritual Direction Seminar at Wartburg Seminary
  • Memory and Mission Seminar in Balestrand, Norway
  • Christikon Seminar on Lutheran Theology
  • IMPACT Legislative Briefing in Washington, D.C.
  • Seminar on Small Group Ministry
  • Multiple American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature Meetings
  • Youth Ministry Seminar at Luther Seminary
Current and Past Board and Committee Membership
  • Board of Directors, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, 2013-Present
  • Executive Committee, Minnesota Council of Churches, 2016-Present
  • Member, ELCA Task Force, Social Statement, Women and Justice 2012-Present
  • Member, Conf of Bishops Theological and Ethical Concerns Cmte, 2012-Present
  • Board of Directors, Center for Worship and Music, 2014-2017
  • Regent, Augsburg College, 2013-2016
  • Board of Directors, Independent Colleges and Universities of TX, 2009-2010
  • Trustee, Alban Institute, 2001-2008
  • Vice Chair, Board of Indianapolis Center for Congregations, 2005-2008

List up to three current or past synodical or churchwide activities that would inform your service as bishop of this synod.

  • Commencement Speaker at Trinity Seminary, Concordia College, and Oak Grove Lutheran High School
  • Preacher at such events as the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA National Youth Network Extravaganza, and Luther Seminary Baccalaureate
  • Keynote Speaker at the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America, Women of the ELCA Churchwide Gathering, and Pacific School of Religion
List up to three current or past community-related activities that would inform your service as bishop of this synod.
  • Presenter at legislative meetings and press conferences on issues such as immigration, climate change, homelessness, and labor
  • Volunteer with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, Lutheran Disaster Response, Public Schools, Refugee Resettlement
  • Member, Rotary International

What gifts would you bring to the office of bishop of this synod?

The learning curve for the calling of bishop is significant, and I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve in this role: developing a shared synodical vision and strengthening the health and connectedness of rostered ministers, lay leaders, and communities of faith. I have gifts in collaboration, administration, conflict management, and preaching. My service as pastor in varied congregational settings is critical experience for the bishop’s primary call to support the life-giving Word and Sacrament vocation of congregations and ministries. My leadership experience in faith-based non-profits and higher education broadens my awareness of and appreciation for God’s multi-faceted ministry in and through the church and world. I am a life-long student of scripture and theology and am profoundly shaped by the Lutheran theological center of grace alone. Throughout my career, I have had an eye for identifying and then supporting and equipping gifted people to become ministers—a bedrock for the church’s future. My struggles with illness and loss have deepened my faith and theology and enhanced my empathy for and understanding of the struggles of others.

What do you see as the principal challenge to the church at large in the next six (6) years, and how would you address it?

The principle challenge to the church is the end of Christianity’s privileged position in society and the call to faithful discipleship in a context of pluralism and secularism. Canoeing the Mountains puts it this way: “Christian leaders today… (recognize)…a brutal truth: What we’ve assumed about leading Christian organizations, what we’ve been trained for, is out of date. We are experienced river rafters who must learn to be mountaineers.” Our synod vision addresses this change when we speak of gracious invitation, life-giving Christian community, and just and healthy neighborhoods. Twenty-first century Christians and congregations are called to be signs of “Christ’s real presence: in the neighborhood and with our neighbors.” Such language helps us move from thinking of church as institution (developed over the years of Christendom) to church as the embodiment of Christ in the context where we are. Such awareness means the church must be drawn into deeper listening: to the shape of Jesus’ earthly ministry and how it guides us today, to the assets and needs of our neighbors and our call to faithful accompaniment, and to the Spirit’s leading.

Describe your leadership style.

Propelled by faith in the crucified and risen Christ, love for the church and world, and a deep sense of vocation, I seek to lead by articulating a compelling vision and building a high-performing team that shares in the shaping and implementation of that vision. There is no perfect leader – only effective leadership teams. Thus, a leader must have the strength, humility, and wisdom to build a healthy team: aligned with the vision, complementary in expertise, respectful of one another, and committed to the mission. I believe I am self-aware without taking myself too seriously; gifted at bringing people together and asking the right questions; hard-working; and committed to leading an organization shaped by innovation and continuous improvement. Teams matter. Relationships matter. Good communication, positive energy, hard work, clarity about responsibilities and decision-making processes, and taking time for fun and joy – all work together to build an effective and healthy organization.

Name: Connie Tiede

Current Position: Pastor for Welcome, Worship and Mission, Anoka, MN
Congregation of Membership: Zion Lutheran Church, Anoka, MN

Year of Ordination: 1997

Previous Positions:

  • Pastor at Vining Lutheran Parish
  • Pastor for Children, Youth, and Family at Zion
  • Executive Pastor at Zion
Education with Earned Degrees:
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree from Concordia College
  • Master of Divinity Degree from Luther Seminary
Continuing Education and Professional Development: 
  • Leading Well Retreat
  • Festival of Homiletics
Current and Past Board and Committee Membership: 
  • Disciplinary Board
List up to three current or past synodical or churchwide activities that would inform your service as bishop of this synod.
  • I partnered with the Lutheran Church in Nicaragua, where we have an accompaniment agreement. We travel to Nicaragua and we have representatives from Nicaragua come here.
  • I work with our ELCA missionary to S. Sudan, Pr. Mawien Ariik. I help to oversee Zion’s participation in the building and operation of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School in Alabek, S. Sudan.
  • I participate regularly in Conference meetings, Synod ministeriums and the Bishop’s Theological Conference.
List up to three current or past community-related activities that would inform your service as bishop of this synod. 
  • I am part of the Anoka-Hennepin Schools Faith and Community Partnership. We partner with a local elementary and middle school to help with their needs, including an after school program at Zion for middle school students that is in partnership with the YMCA.
  • Through Zion, I am a faith partner with Hope4Youth – which helps homeless youth in Anoka County.
  • In the past I have been on the Board for Camp Wapo.

What gifts would you bring to the office of bishop of this synod?

I have been a pastor for 21 years – 15 of those years at Zion where I have experienced great church conflict as well as participated in the healing process of the congregation. Zion is a large congregation that has gone through previous clergy misconducts and problematic pastoral leadership. Conflict is never easy but I was supported by great mentors on how to deal with difficult people and difficult situations. I also understand the need for relationships with other clergy and the support from the synod.

What do you see as the principal challenge to the church at large in the next six (6) years, and how would you address it?

I think many would say that declining church attendance is a challenge for many churches and how do we reach out to so many that believe that the church is insignificant? The Church in North America is declining, but the Church in the world is not. What can we learn from our brothers and sisters in S. Sudan – where there are on average 1000 people that come to worship in a church that just opened its doors in November 2017? How do we inform our communities of the ministry of the Lutheran Church that happens outside of church buildings? There is profound ministry of the church carried on in, by, and through Social Ministry Organizations (SMOs) of all shapes and sizes. We can learn from each other and support one another locally and globally.

Describe your leadership style.

It is my call to reveal God’s grace and love in all that I say and do. We meet people where they are and in order to do that we provide ministry not only to those who walk in the doors of our churches, but also to those in need of shelter, food, and the vulnerable in our neighborhoods and world. God’s abundance does not exclude any of God’s children – all are welcome, for we are the one body of Christ. In order to do this ministry that God calls us to do, we need to work together, build relationships, and collaborate within our communities.