Kris Bjorke, firstthird@mpls-synod.org
Assistant for First-Third Ministry

Kris Bjorke is a children, youth, and family enthusiast. Having co-created and led InterServe Ministries for the past 15 years, she understands the value of creating strong teams to model and lead faith formation ministries. Fresh off a doctorate degree at Luther Seminary, she enjoys wondering with congregations about collaborative ministry, encouraging volunteer and paid staff in congregations and teaching Christian Public Leadership at Luther Seminary. A 25-plus-year veteran in children and youth ministry both in long-term and interim positions, Kris has a passion for seeing young people question and grow in their faith together with adults that surround them. She is particularly excited about being part of the synod that will host the 2021 ELCA Youth Gathering.

When not at the synod office, Kris enjoys time with her husband Scott and two cats in the Twin Cities, as well as time with her two daughters – Julia, who lives in St. Cloud and is a manager at Scheels, and Emily, a music industry student in her fourth year at Minnesota State Mankato and member of local band LastImport.

Kris enjoys all sorts of things, including drinking coffee with friends, football and hockey games, travel (with a special affinity for National Parks), being with family, quilting, and happy hours.


Brenda Blackhawk, 612-230-3305, b.blackhawk@mpls-synod.org
Congregational Organizer for Racial Justice

As the Congregational Organizer for Racial Justice, Brenda Blackhawk works with leaders across the Minneapolis Area Synod to increase cultural competency, dismantle racist systems, and build relationships with groups working for racial justice and equity. She has worked with the synod on both environmental and racial justice initiatives, including attending an ELCA Churchwide training on dismantling oppressive structures within the church.

Brenda is a summa cum laude graduate of Iowa State University, where she majored in English and minored in technical communications, women’s and gender studies, and American Indian studies. She is currently working toward a certificate in web design from North Hennepin Community College.

While at Iowa State, she was president and editor-in-chief of the Sketch Literary Magazine and a learning community peer mentor. While there she was awarded the Director’s Choice for Undergraduate Student Writing. More recently, she was a “new store opening consultant” with Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, traveling to new stores to train staff and identify potential staff leaders.

Brenda is a lifelong member of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis, where she has served a number of leadership positions. She spends her spare time hanging out with her six little siblings, reading, singing karaoke, and snuggling with her husband, Chris, and her German Shepherd-mix puppy, Luna.


Emilie Bouvier, e.bouvier@mpls-synod.org
Congregational Organizer for Environmental Justice - On Leave Of Absence Until December 2019

As the Congregational Organizer for Environmental Justice, Emilie Bouvier works with leaders across the Minneapolis Area Synod on earth-care initiatives. She has a deep passion for organizing leaders and is available to offer everything from practical tools for engaging environmental projects to strategic planning for green teams, from worship resources to theological insights and sermons.

Emilie is a graduate of St. Olaf College and holds an MA from Luther Seminary in Congregational Mission and Leadership. She developed a commitment to faith in public life both through her studies and through her experience working at the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC), the Minnesota interfaith advocacy group. Emilie is also a practicing artist who has done residencies at Luther Seminary, Pilgrim Lutheran Church, and Holden Village, making original works and engaging each community in theological exploration through art. Prior to joining synod staff, Emilie worked for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) doing field organizing for environmental policy.

Emilie is a member at Calvary Lutheran Church, Minneapolis. In her free time she can typically be found in the darkroom, out hiking, throwing pottery, or making savory scones.


Candy Carlson, 612-230-3315, c.carlson@mpls-synod.org
Accountant

As the synod’s staff accountant, Candy Carlson manages daily account entries, records mission support contributions, prepares financial reports, oversees the annual audit and budget process, maintains and reviews payroll and benefits, staffs the finance committee, and contributes to decisions about financial management. She joined the staff in May 2019.

Although she has lived in several different parts of Minnesota, Minneapolis was and is home for Candy. She received a BS degree in accounting from Southwest State University in Marshall. She has lived from Virginia in the northeast to Willmar in the southwest corners of the state.

Licensed as a nursing home administrator, Candy began her career in health care administration and in 2000 became controller at Tillges Certified Orthotic and Prosthetic in Maplewood. She retired from that position in 2015.

Candy enjoys family, travel, music and reading. In season she can be found riding bike with her husband Tom Carlson, retired pastor and former secretary of the synod. Candy and Tom are members at University Lutheran Church of Hope, Minneapolis.


Rev. Kelly Chatmanpastor@redeemermpls.org
Advisor to the Bishop in the Minneapolis Area Synod

Pastor Kelly Chatman has served as an interim Director for Evangelical Mission with the Minneapolis Area Synod.  He is pastor at Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, North Minneapolis and is director of the Redeemer Center for Life.

He is a graduate of Gettysburg Seminary, Gettysburg, Pa., and has served as a leader at various levels throughout the church. He served for five years as director for Youth Ministries for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and has been a distinguished church leader in Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addition, Pastor Kelly recently served on boards for Camp Amnicon, Aeon Housing Development, Gustavus Adolphus College, Cookie Cart, Plymouth Christian Youth Center, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, Harrison Neighborhood Association, and the Wheat Ridge Foundation.


Grace Corbin612-230-3304, g.corbin@mpls-synod.org,
Congregational Organizer for Environmental Justice

As Congregational Organizer for Environmental Justice, Grace Corbin works in the organizing department working on issues of environmental justice with the EcoFaith Network. She is passionate about environmental justice and is excited to learn more about the specific tools of community organizing.

Grace is a volunteer through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps program. This program, operating in 7 cities, places young adults in different non-profit organizations for one year where they serve full time, developing their skills and building connections.

Grace graduated from Augsburg University in the spring of 2017 with a degree in Youth and Family Ministry and a minor in Peace and Global Studies. She grew up in the ELCA; her father, Craig Corbin, is a pastor in Arizona. During her time at Augsburg University she was active in Campus Ministry, Student Government, and the Augsburg music department by singing in the choir.

Grace enjoys spending her free time in nature, reading, being active, and being with loved ones. She plans to pursue seminary within the next couple of years.


Eric Howard, 612-230-3317, e.howard@mpls-synod.org
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

Eric Howard began his work in August 2018 as executive assistant to the Bishop. Eric joined the synod staff with a background in strategic communications, project management, faith-based community organizing, and fundraising.

A graduate of Northern Arizona University with a B.A. in Public Relations and Speech Communications, Eric moved to Minnesota to become a community organizer and communications leader for ISAIAH through a one-year stint with Lutheran Volunteer Corps. He eventually became ISAIAH's first communications manager; working with diverse faith communities to advance racial and economic justice. He moved on to become a project manager at a creative digital design agency where he consulted for nonprofit clients, helping them build social change campaigns and navigate marketing challenges.

In the summer of 2018, Eric completed a fundraising project with Headwaters Foundation for Justice where he advised in a grantmaking committee and raised funds for organizations strengthening democracy. He currently serves as the vice president of Exodus Lending and is on the board of directors for the Kaleo Center at United Theological Seminary. On the weekends, Eric can be found spending quality time with friends, enjoying the outdoors, practicing piano, and playing with his new puppy. Eric is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Minneapolis.


Jeni Huff, 612-230-3300, j.huff@mpls-synod.org
Events and Website Coordinator

Jeni Huff has worked at the synod since the summer 2013. She began as an administrative and communications intern and then joined staff permanently as the Communications Coordinator in 2014. Jeni added event coordination to her repertoire in the summer of 2016. She currently works part time at the synod office as Events and Website Coordinator.

She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2012 with a B.A. in Sociology. Before coming to the Minneapolis Area Synod, Jeni served an AmeriCorps term at Rebuilding Together Seattle and has volunteered with many non-profit organizations in the Minneapolis area. Jeni attends Vision of Glory Lutheran Church, Plymouth (AFLC). In her free time, she enjoys doing puzzles, scrapbooking, and reading. She dreams of having an alpaca farm someday.


Rev. John Hulden, 612-230-3311, j.hulden@mpls-synod.org
Assistant to the Bishop

Pastor John Hulden joined the Minneapolis Area Synod staff as Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership Support on December 1, 2012. Before that, he served for 16 years at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead, MN. and worked in the areas of justice, evangelism, small groups and children/youth/and family. While at Trinity, John created a program to support first call pastors and their congregations in both the Northwestern Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota Synods.

After graduating from Luther Seminary in 1987, John began his first call into parish ministry at a small congregation on the east side of St. Paul. In the course of his 10 years on the east side, his call grew from a one congregation to two, and finally to a three-point parish. While serving the three congregations, John initiated youth ministry and outreach programs in the working-class neighborhoods, including Summer Program for Kids, Music on the Blacktop, and Worship in the Park. Trained in congregational-based organizing, he also worked as a conflict mediator for the Saint Paul Area Synod during that time.

John grew up in four US time zones, fell in love with his wife Becky at Concordia College, and loves to go back to Northwest Montana any chance he gets.


Bob Hulteen, 612-230-3307, b.hulteen@mpls-synod.org
Director of Communications and Stewardship

Bob Hulteen serves as the director of communications and stewardship in the Minneapolis Area Synod. He coordinates communication from the synod and coordinates stewardship in and from congregations. He also provides staff support for the EcoFaith Network MPLS, Hunger, Stewardship, and Public Voice committees of the synod, as well as supporting the Finance and Reference and Counsel committees. He represents the bishop on the Lutheran Advocacy—Minnesota policy board. Bob has previously served as associate editor of Sojourners magazine, director of communications for Interfaith Worker Justice (a national faith-and-workplace organization in Chicago), organizing director for TakeAction Minnesota, and editor of MetroLutheran newspaper.

Bob is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Minneapolis.


Peg Ihinger, 612-230-3308, p.ihinger@mpls-synod.org
Assistant to Candidacy, Peer Groups, and Office Administration

Peg Ihinger serves as Assistant for Candidacy, Peer Groups, and Office Administration. Ihinger supports the Rev. John Hulden, assistant to the bishop, in shepherding candidates for ordination and Christian public leadership through the appropriate processes, as well as coordinating peer group activities for the synod. She also works with Eric Howard, executive assistant to the bishop, on administrative duties.
Peg, a graduate of St. Olaf College, previously served as a legal secretary for 23 years. She has also served as a volunteer for a national nonprofit organization and published two novels -- Emerald House Rising and The Wild Swans.  She is a member of Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church, South Minneapolis.

John Mai, 612-230-3303, j.mai@mpls-synod.org
Communications, Administrative, and Organizing Associate

John Mai serves as a communications, administrative, and organizing associate for the Minneapolis Area Synod. He began working full time with the synod in August 2019 as a stipended volunteer through Lutheran Volunteer Corps.

John graduated from Luther College, where he studied social work, music, and English. He is fascinated by the role of music in worship and is considering a future that includes seminary education. While at Luther College, he was passionate about singing in choir and playing ultimate frisbee. These extra-curricular activities gave him the opportunity to travel across the country and overseas. He loved living in rural Decorah, Iowa, during his undergrad years and is excited to explore North Minneapolis, where he currently lives.

A native of Beaverton, Oregon, John is a fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, but he has also learned to root for the Timberwolves in the past few years. He looks forward to singing in choirs and being a part of the ultimate frisbee community in the Twin Cities.


Lynda Nordholm, 612-230-3310, l.nordholm@mpls-synod.org
Assistant to Mission

Lynda Nordholm serves as assistant to mission in the Minneapolis Area Synod. Lynda is primarily responsible for assisting new and renewing ministries, cultural and ethnic-specific ministries, as well as local and global partnerships. Lynda worked in both non-profit and community education areas prior to entering into more than 25 years of service within the ELCA to congregation, region, churchwide and now synod.

Lynda is a graduate of Augsburg College and a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Minneapolis.


Mariah Norell, 612-230-3306, m.norell@mpls-synod.org
Associate Organizer for Environmental Justice

Mariah Norell is the synod’s associate organizer for environmental justice. She is a recent graduate of Concordia College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and global studies (development concentration), with a minor in environmental studies. Outside of her passion for environmental activism, she loves music and theatre art. This year she is a member of The Singers, a professional nonprofit Twin Cities choir under the direction of Dr. Matthew Culloton.

She is excited to be working at the synod because the church has a strong sense of community, making it a highly effective way to promote a moral obligation to care for our Earth. Additionally, she looks forward to learning the ins and outs of community organizing and building meaningful relationships along the way.


Karen Ohm, 612-230-3309, k.ohm@mpls-synod.org
Director of Roster and Call Process

As Director of Roster and Call Process, Karen Ohm's responsibilities include managing all rostered ministers' records; providing materials for congregational call committees, individuals, and staff members; working with First Call Theological Education; and maintaining and updating the database.

A graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, she spent her career serving several Minneapolis Area Synod congregations as parish secretary. Most recently, she was the membership and data systems manager at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Hopkins.

Karen was on synod staff previously, from 1996 to 2004, first as mission and stewardship secretary, community secretary, and then, for several years, as roster and call process administrator, before moving to England for three years.  She spends her free time reading, doing needlework, and spoiling her grandchildren. She is a member of St. Barnabas Lutheran Church, Plymouth.


Meghan Olsen Biebighauser, 612-230-3301, m.olsen@mpls-synod.org
Congregational Organizer for Economic Justice

Meghan Olsen Biebighauser is the synod’s congregational organizer for economic justice. With support from the Bush Foundation, Meghan will organize community-based problem solving on the problem of payday lending in Minnesota, as well as other economic-related campaigns.

Before beginning at the synod in February 2019, Meghan had been the parish organizer for six years at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, where she was engaged in several campaigns, including the statewide effort to reform predatory lending legislation. Meghan is also a co-founder of Exodus Lending, a nonprofit that offers a no-interest alternative to payday lending corporations; until recently, she served as interim executive director and president of the Exodus Lending board. She also was an organizer with Minnesotans for Fair Lending, a coalition of faith communities, community groups, nonprofits, labor organizations, and advocacy groups.

Meghan is a graduate of Valparaiso University in Indiana. She has a B.A. in theology. She has attended numerous organizing trainings sponsored by Midwest Academy. With her family, she remains a member at Holy Trinity.


Rev. Craig Pederson, 612-230-3316, c.pederson@mpls-synod.org
Assistant to the Bishop

The Rev. Craig Pederson joined the Minneapolis Area Synod staff in February 2015 as Assistant to the Bishop for Congregational Vitality. He received a B.A. in sociology and music from Gustavus Adolphus College and his M.Div. from Luther Seminary. He has previously served at All Saints Lutheran Church, Cottage Grove, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Northeast Minneapolis, and Grace Lutheran Church, Northeast Minneapolis. In his last call, Craig oversaw the consolidation of three Lutheran congregations and the development of the Grace Center for Community Life, which houses a number of religious, educational and community programs.

Craig loves basketball (playing, coaching, and watching), lawn and garden work,  jazz, and learning about new technologies.


Rev. Deb Stehlin, 612-870-3610, d.stehlin@mpls-synod.org
Director for Evangelical Mission

The Rev. Deb Stehlin began her career in corporate public relations, and was Director of Communications for International Dairy Queen. She discovered grace when a friend invited her to Oak Grove Lutheran Church, Richfield, where she eventually served as Christian education director. That led her to Luther Seminary, where she received her M. Div. degree in 2003. Her first call was to Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, where she concentrated her efforts on social justice and confirmation ministry. In 2007, Shepherd of the Valley sent her out to start a new mission church, Light of the World Lutheran Church, Farmington. As Director of Evangelical Mission, Deb works with new and renewing congregations and is a resource to all congregations who seek to learn new ways of being in mission.

When Deb is not visiting one of the synod's congregations, you can find her worshiping at Redeemer Lutheran Church, North Minneapolis.