Rev. Ann M. Svennungsen
Ann was elected February 18, 2012, to a six-year term as bishop by voting members of the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly. The historic vote—held at Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Prior Lake—made her the first woman to serve as bishop in any of the ELCA’s six Minnesota synods.
Rev. Svennungsen has been a leader in congregations and church-related organizations for more than 30 years. Following graduation from seminary in 1981, Svennungsen pastored congregations in Iowa City, Iowa, and Edina, Minnesota. In 1996, she became senior pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, Minnesota, a 3,700-member congregation and—at the time—the largest ELCA congregation to be led by a female senior pastor. In her years of parish ministry, Svennungsen mentored several younger pastors and developed Trinity’s Transition into Ministry Pastoral Residency Program, funded by a $750,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment.
In 2003, Svennungsen was named president of The Fund for Theological Education, a national, ecumenical organization devoted to raising up the next generation of excellent and diverse ministers and scholars, annually awarding $1.2 million in scholarships and other support.
From 2007 to 2010, Svennungsen served as president of Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas, where she led development of a comprehensive new strategic plan. Most recently, she was interim college pastor at St. Olaf College and held an appointment as Resident Scholar at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at Saint John’s University.
Svennungsen also founded and serves as director of The Presidents’ Pledge Against Global Poverty—an initiative inviting university presidents to pledge five percent of their annual income to combat global poverty—a moral and public commitment intended to inspire greater giving and resolve among leaders in universities and other sectors. This work echoes the ELCA’s deep commitment to “faith in action,” including efforts to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide.
Born and raised in Shelby, Montana, Svennungsen graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and received her Master of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Trinity Seminary awarded Svennungsen the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 2008.
Married to Rev. Dr. William Russell, a Reformation specialist, they are parents to Sarah (Dan) Karlgaard, John Russell (deceased), and Mary (Geoff) Koslig; and grandparents to John and Annika Karlgaard.
Journeying Toward Justice Sermon
More than 450 people from over 80 congregations — gathered in teams of five – spent the weekend of October 7-8, 2016, in conversation, prayer, education, and worship concerning structural racism and white privilege. Nudged to be willing to enter, as people of faith, places of discomfort, these congregants looked at the ways the had benefited from or been held back by systems of oppression. Bishop Ann Svennungsen offered a word of hope from the vision of the persistent widow even in the midst of insurmountable odds. Her sermon is available below, immediately following a spoken word performance by seminarian Joe Davis.