2018 Bishop’s Theological Conference
September 23-25, 2018
Cragun’s, Brainerd

Featuring The Rev. Mark Hanson,
Former Presiding Bishop of the ELCA

“Serving the Gospel for Such a Time as This”

We … need to disengage for a time, to be consciously in God’s presence, to regain perspective, to pray for discernment and strength to move back out in the world with new vision, courage and strength.

Rev. Mark S. Hanson
“Faithful and Courageous: Christians in Unsettling Times”

The 2018 Bishop’s Theological Conference hopes to be just such a time for all who gather.

Under the theme, “Serving the Gospel in a Time Such as This,” we will explore the personal dimensions of ministry – the inner work we are called to do. We will explore the contextual dimensions of ministry – what we notice about changes in the world around us, about God’s presence, about the “hermeneutic” we bring to contextual study. And, we will explore the public dimension of ministry – our work of proclamation, service, and prophetic engagement.


Sunday, September 23

4:00 pm          Arrival and Check-In, Main Lobby
5:30 pm          Supper, Dining Room
6:15 pm          Welcome – with Announcements, Dining Room
7:00 pm          Evening Worship, Lakeshore 3 & 4
8:30-10 pm    Hospitality Hour, Pool Area

Monday, September 24

7:30 am          Breakfast, Dining Room
8:30 am          Devotions & Presentation by Mark Hanson, Lakeshore 1 & 2
10:15 am         Break with snacks and coffee, Lakeshore 1 & 2
10:45 am        Presentation by Mark Hanson, Lakeshore 1 & 2
12:15 pm         Lunch, Dining Room
1-5:30 pm      Free Time Information about canoeing, golf, biking, fishing, and other activities is at the front desk.  Nominal fee for some activities.
4:00 pm          Optional Workshops
                          “Putting the Kind Back in Human” — Rev. Sarah Ciavarri, Lakeshore 1 & 2
“Organizing Our Way into the Future” — A panel of rostered and lay ministers, Lakeshore 3 & 4
5:30 pm          Supper, Dining Room
6:30 pm          The Bishop’s Hour, Lakeshore 1 & 2
7:45 pm          Social Time, Hospitality Suite, Room 340

Tuesday, September 25

7:30 am          Breakfast, Dining Room
8:30 am          Devotions & Presentation by Mark Hanson, Lakeshore 1 & 2
10:00 am        Break with snacks and coffee, Lakeshore 1 & 2
10:30 am        Presentation by Mark Hanson, Lakeshore 1 & 2
11:30 am        Final announcements, closing prayer, & benediction, Lakeshore 1 & 2        

Download the agenda

Give Away
During our Evening Prayer time we will have the opportunity to experience a Give Away. The Give Away is practiced in many Native cultures across Turtle Island, and is meant to encourage selflessness, gratitude, and humility.
Each of you are asked to bring a gift to give to someone during this Give Away experience. Take a moment to think about an item that you already have in your possession, an item that you value. It could be a book, a charm or souvenir from a place that is special to you, a favorite coffee mug, a Rolex, something that has cultural significance, or maybe an item that encourages your own daily devotion or prayer life. Whatever the gift, it should not be one that you purchase, and be prepared to give the gift and share why it has meaning for you.

Free-time will be from after lunch until 5:30 on Monday. Information about canoeing, golf, biking, fishing, and other activities will be available at the front desk. There is a nominal fee for some activities. At 4:00, we will be offering two optional workshops that you can attend.

“Putting the Kind Back in Human” — Rev. Sarah Ciavarri
Polarization in our culture drives fear and separateness, but we need each other. This session will look at the research and practices of Dr. Brené Brown, Dr. Kristin Neff, and others on how to cultivate kindness for others and ourselves.
“Organizing Our Way into the Future” — A panel of rostered and lay ministers
Five community organizers employed by MAS congregations will describe their work and its impact, and their rostered supervisors will reflect on what it means for the congregation and how the positions came to be.

Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo will be our chaplain throughout the conference and will lead us during worship. Marlene is an ordained ELCA pastor serving All Nations Indian Church (UCC) in Minneapolis. She serves a leadership role in numerous tribal and ecumenical organizations.

If you want a little extra R & R, you can stay on Tuesday night for a discounted rate of $99.85, just tell them you were part of our conference! Arrangements for this need to be made directly with Cragun’s.

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

We will be posting (and hope you will too!) with the hashtag #MASBTC2018

Each fall, rostered ministers gather together for the Bishop’s Theological Conference at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake near Brainerd.

With time for worship, theological reflection, deep conversation, rest, golf, canoeing, and friendship,  there is something for everyone. The synod’s rostered ministers make this event a priority every year and leave feeling better equipped for ministry in their contexts.

Participants Shared About the 2017 Conference:

  • “I met a number of new colleagues – that was great. The affinity groups (and discussions) were equally great! Heidi was great. And the free time on Monday is also great. Take away – time away is good. Conversation with new colleagues is good.”
  • “My colleagues are awesome and there’s a lot of rich thought and good work going on around the synod. It was good to get away and think about what’s important in my ministry setting for the next few months and have such solid conversation partners to do that with.”
  • “Thank you for being bold (and working hard) as a synod staff to plan/prepare for this event and for inviting me to be bold in my ministry as well. I left energized and feeling more connected to the people of the synod.”
  • “I’ve only been once or twice before, but it’s always felt hard to break into all of the groups of folks who have been friends since seminary. Something was different this time, and it felt like there were many people there genuinely looking for connection. It was so lifegiving for me to enter into those relationships… I don’t doubt that’s because folks who’d never been were invited, because peer groups are encouraged, and because of the leadership of the synod office.”

Previous Themes

Held September 22-24, the 2013 Bishop’s Theological Conference was titled, “Practice Discipleship!” and featured key speakers Terri Elton, Jeremy Myers, Rozella White, and Hans Wiersma.
The 2014 conference, held September 14-16, was titled, “A New Pentecost: Becoming a Culturally Competent Leader.” Attendees heard from Dr. Eric Barreto, Jessica Vazquez Torres, and Rev. Kelly Chatman.
The 2015 Bishop’s Theological Conference, Faith and Public Voice, was held at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd, September 27-29. Speakers included the Rev. Barbara Lundblad, the Rev. Peter Rogness, and Ms. Judith Roberts. Rostered leaders gathered around tables to discuss the role of clergy in the public square.
Held September 25-27, the 2016 Conference was titled, “Real Presence: With our neighbors, in our neighborhoods.” Rostered ministers left feeling inspired and equipped with practical resources for leading people intotheir neighborhoods, work places, gyms, daycare centers, and schools. Speakers included Rev. Kris Capel, Rev. Meta Carlson, Rev. Chaplain Nancy Carlson, Rev. Kelly Chatman, and Rev. Rob Moss.

Gathered under the theme, “Your Next Bold Step: Faithful Leadership for a Time Such as This,” rostered ministers enjoyed presentations by Rev. Heidi Neumark and had table discussions with colleagues.