top of page

2023 Sierra Pacific Synod
Bishop Pre-Nominees

Cindy Beck

Current Position: Interim Pastor at Napa Valley Lutheran

Previous Positions: Interim Pastor at Bethel Lutheran and more

Congregational Membership: St. John's Lutheran, Sacramento

Date and Year of Ordination: May 24, 1992

Education and Earned Degrees: M.Div LSTC 1991, ELCA Academy Family Systems

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

Dean of Interims

Interim Steering Committee

Conference Dean 

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod: Habitat for Humanity

Community organizing

Winter Sanctuary 

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

My experiences of serving congregations throughout the synod have given me a breadth of vision of our diversity. My work in transition fits especially well at this time of the synod. My passion for small congregations and looking at possibilities.  

Describe your leadership style:

  • Terrible administration skills

  • Big picture visionary, needs help with details

  • Relationship focus


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

I have prayed and come to feel called to follow this process. This is a change from when my name first went in.  


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

Building a sense of unity and collaboration. Finding innovative ways to be church. These would be addressed by lots of time visiting and listening and trying new things.  


What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

Connecting, innovation, renewal  

Cindy Beck sermon.jpg

Sharon Amundson

Current Position:  Pastor, Mariposa Lutheran Church

Previous Positions: Certified Public Accountant, 20 years, now retired. CPA years

included six years as an international tax accountant for Dole Food Company and

accounting, tax, and management consulting for an extremely wide diversity of small

and medium-sized businesses and individuals.

Adjunct faculty, Merced Community College, four years.

Congregational Membership: Mariposa Lutheran Church, Mariposa CA 

Date and Year of Ordination: January 8, 2018

Education and Earned Degrees: MDiv, Luther Seminary December 2017

BS Accounting, California Lutheran University 1991

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

      Lifelong Lutheran, the daughter of a Pastor, active from a very young age leading music and worship; I have a passion for Lutheran camping and retreat leadership. An active life as a lay leader led me to seminary while I was still working full-time as a CPA and college instructor.


For the last four years, I have served on the Executive Committee of the Synod Council as the Synod Treasurer. Three locations and three Bishops in four years has been a challenging, enlightening, and character-building experience. I have led workshops for treasurers, pastors, and lay leaders on a variety of topics, including software, taxes, budgets, and stewardship. For all who have attended a workshop or retreat or have telephoned with your many questions over the years, you will recall my deep passion for assisting when and where congregations and pastors need advice.


During a family event, I had a conversation with my niece’s husband, an Episcopal priest.  I asked him to describe the passion of his congregation.  He did not understand my question, so I developed it further by asking if they were supporting a missionary, managing a food bank, or otherwise active in their local community.  He told me he was hired to preach on Sundays.  I was saddened, knowing how boldly active our small congregation is in Mariposa.  We tithe to the Synod and also choose twelve local and international charities to support each year.  When our family joined Mariposa Lutheran nineteen years ago, the church, in partnership with other local churches, was establishing a new Habitat for Humanity chapter.  It has been my pleasure to host the new family dinners and be a part of the house blessings as that chapter has grown.  Active also in emergency food bank: Manna House, the domestic violence shelter, the homeless program, and now expanding new ministries with a nondenominational church, Mariposa Lutheran is a bold Christian witness in our community.  We have been financially supporting a church in Tanzania, whose pastor I met my first week at Luther Seminary. As the pastor of this vibrant ministry, I delight in my time on local boards and in working side by side with our members and the community.

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?


Describe your leadership style:

There is a solution to every problem, but it is not always immediately obvious.  As an individual, I know I do not have all the answers.  Sometimes, I don’t even know the questions.  I seek information from colleagues, employees, and experts.  As a leader, that means to listen first, be open to and integrate multiple perspectives to arrive at the best possible solution to the problem. As a former accountant, I am organized and like documentation.  As a leader, it is important to recognize my strengths may not be mirrored in all those around me. Encouraging employees and volunteers to use their initiative, to become confident in their contributions, and to grow and develop, requires a desire to mentor and support diversity and inclusion. During our introduction to the Bishop election, Sue Rothmeyer, from churchwide, emphasized the Bishop is the CEO. There are times when decisions need to be made without the luxury of time or involving matters of confidentiality. My years of education and experience have prepared me to make decisions on complex issues.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

The past four years serving on the Executive Synod Council have been a challenge.  We have made mistakes; we have had successes.  We have apologized and repented. It seems like a very good time to sit back and wait for six years to go by.  Time for another to step forward. I live each day knowing my gifts are meant to be used for God’s purpose.  My human spirit can hoard my finances and my time.  Only through the Holy Spirit do I have the courage and strength to ask, “Is it I, Lord?”  I have prayed and talked to friends, family, colleagues, and mentors.  I feel a strong call to allow my name to go forward as a candidate, not knowing what lies ahead but ever trusting that God will continue to bless the loaves and fishes and surprise us with the bounty left over.


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

As the 4th Bishop in 4 years, the first will be moving the office, hiring staff, and building a team. Fortunately, this will not be done alone.  The Synod Council is committed to the hard work ahead and ready to help and engage others.  It is a time to re-establish some of our committees that stopped meeting during Covid and to open new opportunities for all of you to volunteer at the Synod level. Nurturing a culture of optimism and gratefulness within the entire Synod.  From the members to the congregations to the Synod staff and Council, it is time to turn from our fear of scarcity and embrace the joy of God’s abundance.  With creativity in stewardship and development, the expansion of programs, new communities of faith, and support for cultural changes will lead the Synod in the years ahead. Creating new partnerships, working with community leaders, and encouraging more lay leadership opportunities.  When the world appears to be in chaos, fires, floods, natural disasters, and civil discord, it is incumbent upon the church and this Synod to be the light on the hill.  We are the guiding presence in our communities and the provider of strength to those who are feeling the effects of the chaos.  From the newest Synod Authorized Worshiping Community to our oldest congregations, from the churches considering closing their doors due to low attendance to those adding services and building new resources to accommodate the growth, we need to support each other.  "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4: 4-9 

Clark M. Brown

Current Position: Interim Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Pleasanton

Previous Positions: Pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Monterey

Congregational Membership: Trinity Lutheran Church, Pleasanton

Date and Year of Ordination: July 9, 2000

Education and Earned Degrees: M.Div., Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary;
B.A. Biochemistry, University of California Berkeley

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

      I have worked on many Synod events and committees and have been fortunate to

serve as a voting member of the churchwide assembly. From these, what informs me most for serving as bishop has been the opportunity to serve on the synod council since 2017. That service has covered the tenure of three bishops and times of relative stability in the Synod and, of course, years of great turmoil. What I have seen and learned over these years is the centrality of integrity, competence, and transparency for the bishop and staff. Decisions must be well-informed, fair, and not based on personal preference. Furthermore, we cannot grow as a synod in diversity, spiritual depth, or in size (and these go hand in hand) without taking good care of the routine business of the Synod.


In the years before, I was on the synod council, and since then, I have been entrusted with the planning of many synod events: the Professional Leaders’ Conference, several possibilities for enriching worship, Synod Assembly planning, chairing the Bishop Election Committee, and, most recently, the Rostered Ministers’ Retreat. I have learned over the years how to effectively work with diverse people and get things done for the good of the Synod.


This experience of working in the Synod, as well as in the congregations I served, has helped me to grow as a leader and administrator. But from early in my career and service in the Synod, the focus has been on how we fulfill the mission Jesus gave us, the church. We have long struggled with a decline in our congregations, and the pandemic has hastened that reality. Many of our congregations are facing closure, and many more struggle to connect with the communities where they are planted. My experience of planning events and working with synodical teams helps me imagine ways that we, as a synod, can develop resources and tools for congregations and their leaders. Even in the face of strong headwinds, we want to keep coming back to how we can be faithful.

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod: Participation in ecumenical and interfaith partnerships has shown me the power of building relationships to make positive change in the community. Shortly after becoming a pastor in Monterey, I became involved with, and then a leader in, the Monterey Peninsula Ministerial Association, an interfaith organization for clergy and other religious leaders. Besides broadening our understanding and appreciation of various religions and traditions, the MPMA addressed community issues that individual congregations could not. This included lodging and assistance programs for unhoused people as well as an interfaith chaplaincy program at the community hospital.


I also developed strong relationships with our ecumenical partners by co-founding a weekly text study group. In that group, we learned from each other as we shared the distinctiveness of our various denominations. Some of us also joined together for worship, especially sharing Holy Week services among our congregations.


Besides these church-related activities, I have grown as a preacher and as a person by being an actor in community theatre and regional opera. As church leaders, we need to remain connected to our communities through these sorts of activities. In the theatre, I met a great diversity of people who care deeply for the world but have a hard time seeing a positive impact from the church or religion in general. Understanding that perspective can help us better connect our message and mission to our world.

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

I am an intuitive problem solver with the ability to think strategically, and I am committed to finding avenues for growth and health in our church. Partly from my training as a biologist, I have a high tolerance for ambiguity and an ability to understand complex systems, like people. And so I am able to hear diverse perspectives and use them to reach novel solutions. I am also, as my spouse likes to remind, persistent and resilient to a fault.


I strive to be a clear communicator with a high degree of self-awareness, as well as being attuned to the needs of others. My goal is to listen fully to people and to remain calm and open in times of conflict. This is grounded in an ethic of love and respect for all people.


But when I think of gifts, I also think of Sue Wolfe Devol, who was my pastor in high school. She was the first woman ordained a Lutheran pastor in Orange County, CA, and she had to wait two years for that call. From her, I credit my foundational commitment to women in ministry and, by extension, to all people who have been excluded and diminished from the church and from ordained ministry. My reading of the gospel is that if we do not include and welcome all, we do not understand the mission of Jesus at all. Though I can accept ambiguity and the unknowing of walking where God leads, I am unambiguous about grace. God’s grace is for all.


Pastor Sue also encouraged me to be a summer camp counselor at the Lutheran camp in Southern California, El Camino Pines. The first week of each Summer was focused on training, and most of that training was not on Bible study but on safety. The saying was, “You can’t proclaim the gospel to a dead camper.” The same is true for our Synod. Administration and management comprise most of the bishop’s work. I believe I have the necessary temperament and skills to lead our Synod towards health, so together we can proclaim the Good News: God’s grace is for all.


Describe your leadership style:

I prefer a democratic leadership style, in which as many people as possible can contribute to developing a vision and discern together how to best achieve our goals. I know that I do not have all the answers, but that God gives wisdom to all, and the best wisdom is that which is shared. As Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”


With the synod staff, I would encourage all staff to offer their ideas and perspectives and to help shape the direction of the office of the bishop. With the synod council, I would empower members with information and encourage them to offer guidance and discern paths toward healing and growth. With the entire Synod, I would strive to build trust through greater transparency and by providing clear channels for communicating needs and concerns so they can be addressed quickly. We need to reduce the sense of isolation from each other.


For selecting synod staff, if I were to become bishop, I would work with the synod council in the process of calling any new staff, making sure that the process was open and job descriptions were clear. The overall goal would be to build a diverse team with complementary gifts that can meet our Synod’s needs. I would expect a dynamic, faithful, and collaborative team that will work towards a more connected and trusting synod.


While I value being creative and innovative, I want to lead change by being inclusive of many voices and humble in respect to tradition. We do not need change for change’s sake, just as much as we don’t need to hold onto tradition for the sake of tradition. But if we want to live and proclaim the unbounded grace of Christ, we must change.


I believe we have many gifts in our congregations that can support our common mission in the Synod. Unfortunately, we don’t know they exist. Instead of behaving like a team, we often play like this is an individual sport. We sometimes even act as if we are adversaries. Though we face difficult times as the church, we have opportunities. One such opportunity is to learn from each other and be open to change. I would emphasize this mutual sharing as a bishop.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

When I was asked to consider having my name raised for bishop, I agreed out of a sense of call and love for the Sierra Pacific Synod and the wider church. As I have reflected on this potential call, I have felt a good deal of trepidation, knowing well that the present state of our Synod will make the work difficult. It is truly daunting to consider. There has also been excitement as I have reflected on the potential for healing among us.


I continue to look to God in prayer: in the silence before I begin my workday, when I am out running or biking, and in the quiet of painting a wall at my house. I have also engaged trusted colleagues and my spiritual director, who have encouraged me but also asked questions. This has been helpful to me in assessing my skills and temperament, as well as my motives. And I will continue to check in with them as this process goes forward.


It has also been helpful to pray with scripture, especially passages like the mission discourse of Matthew 10 and Jesus’ call to Peter to join him on the water in Matthew 14. I was particularly moved, however, while praying using “lectio divina” at our Synod’s Rostered Minister Retreat. The reading was from John 8, and the woman brought before Jesus was accused of adultery. Jesus said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” and one by one, her accusers left. I heard this next phrase as if the Spirit were speaking to me: “Jesus alone was left.” The internal voices of self-doubt, shame, and fear had left while Jesus remained with me, forgiving, encouraging, and sending me forward into life and service.


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

The principal challenge to our Synod is the longstanding decline of our congregations, accelerated by the pandemic. Pastors and congregations are discouraged and feel very uncertain about their future. The declining participation at every level of the church has also led to a weakening of the bonds between us, the growth of distrust, and an inability to deal constructively with problems and conflicts.


Many of our congregations are facing difficult decisions: holy closure, collaborative ministry, and reduced staff hours. I would like the Synod to more proactively provide resources and training events to help address this decline. The Synod can better resource congregations that are looking at collaborative ministry for the sake of mission, as well as congregations considering closure, also with the mission of Jesus in mind. The Synod can offer approaches for congregations to reconnect with their community and tools for leading the change that will be necessary for our churches to thrive.


But this cannot just be about the work of the synod bishop and staff. I believe we need to encourage our pastors, deacons, and congregational leaders to build relationships with each other. Again, those connections have long been in decline, but with the pandemic, many of us have forgotten how to be around other people. We need to be together. To rebuild relationships and our Synod, we need to come together in person a lot more. As bishop, I would encourage all of our leaders to commit to that face-to-face time. We need to learn from each other and work with each other. Reversing the decline in participation in our churches needs to begin with us.


What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

After years of conflict and dysfunction in the Synod, our first focus must be on building competent, efficient, and transparent management of the Synod office. It is the foundation on which we can begin to address congregational decline, conflict, distrust, and everything else. We need to rebuild confidence that the routine business of the Synod is being handled. Transparency in hiring and other decision-making, along with effective communication, is simply critical. We must make sure call processes are handled efficiently and that people in the candidacy and first-call processes receive the support they need. To that end, I would strive to build a staff that is competent, diverse, and responsive to the needs of the entire Synod.

Second, we live and are called to proclaim the gospel in a rapidly changing world. The Synod must put as much energy as possible into equipping rostered ministers and lay people to connect with the world as it is becoming and not as it used to be. Many things are needed, but I believe it all begins with talking with people in our communities and rediscovering our mission to love and serve. Only when we understand the needs of our communities clearly will we know how our congregations’ gifts can address those needs. Furthermore, when we see those needs, compassion will drive the internal change that our churches need to do. God does not want us to die, but God will not let us remain stagnant; new people will change us.

Third, most of our congregations are planted in ethnically diverse contexts. In my present context, the migration of people from South Asia over the last twenty years has dramatically changed the demographics of the community. There is an obvious call for our churches to connect with these ethnic communities. Part of the equipping that the Synod could offer would be anti-racism and cultural competency training for congregations to prepare us. Welcoming recent migrants and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds will be vital to the mission of many or most of our congregations, and it should be a goal for our Synod to offer resources to enable that outreach. Again, I believe much of that training should be aimed at congregations and not just rostered ministers because it is the congregations that will undertake this work and these significant changes for the sake of the Kin-dom of God.

These three priorities are not separate from the need to build trust across the Synod. It is only by the rebuilding of relationships and trust that we will be able to address any of the significant challenges we face.

Clark Brown 8x10.jpg

Katy Grindberg

Current Position: Director of Contextual Education and Lecturer,

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

Previous Positions: Assistant to the Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod (2011-2020);

Associate Pastor, Advent Lutheran Church, Citrus Heights, CA (2008-2011);

Assistant Athletic Trainer & Instructor, University of Kansas (1994-2002)

Congregational Membership: Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, CA

Date and Year of Ordination: February 23, 2008

Education and Earned Degrees: MA, Liturgical Studies, GTU, Berkeley, CA 2009;

MDiv, PLTS, Berkeley, CA 2006;

MSe Exercise Science, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2000;

BS Athletic Training, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, 1991

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

1. I served as an Assistant to the Bishop in the Sierra Pacific for nearly nine years. My knowledge of the congregations and ministries of the Synod would help me as I learn the more recent goings on of the ministries, conferences, and cooperative ministries. The relationships that I have with lay leaders, deacons, pastors & non-profit leaders in and outside the Synod provide a strong framework for knowledge, perspective, advice, and collegiality.

2. I currently serve on the faculty of an ELCA seminary. The past three years have provided new experiences and insights into “church” and what current and future leaders are hoping for for the ELCA and individual congregations and ministries. As Director of Contextual Education, I work with students, pastors, deacons, and non-profit leaders across the county, as I steward an increasing network of relationships.

3. I have served on the worship staff for three ELCA Churchwide Assemblies. I have worked with colleagues from the churchwide offices and around the ELCA to plan and execute daily worship during the Assemblies. Experiencing the dedication of the voting members as they seek to do go work on behalf of all of us has been humbling.

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

1. Leadership Council of Genesis – an affiliate organization of the Gamaliel community organizing network working in the Bay Area, with one year of service as co-chair.

2. Sunrise Christian Food Ministry, Citrus Heights, CA – an ecumenical food ministry. Located at Advent Lutheran Church, my engagement ranged from direct contact with those being served to pastoral care and support of the volunteers.

3. American Red Cross – for many years, I was a CPR and First Aid course instructor in both Kansas and California. Engaging with folks who were interested in becoming equipped to be of service to others was a joy!

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

I love God and enjoy being with the people that God loves. I am curious, easy to be around, and I care deeply about other people. I am passionate about every person’s belovedness, and that commits me to words and actions of justice.


I am organized and pastoral, and I have the capacity for understanding and navigating larger systems and structures while paying attention to interpersonal relationships and dynamics. I have institutional knowledge of the Synod and a deep web of existing relationships in and outside the Synod.


I have experience and competency working in areas of diversity, equity & inclusion. I am committed to engaging in this work with humility and curiosity. I work actively with others involved in anti-racism and learn from and with them. I seek out opportunities for continued growth, including a monthly ecumenical accountability group.


I have a rich prayer life, which at its heart, for me, is about resting in God’s delight.


Describe your leadership style:

Habits that I embody as a leader are consistency, honesty, good humor, and trustworthiness. People can depend on me to be present, supportive, and responsive. I am flexible and adaptable to changing conditions and ideas.


I tend to hold a ‘big-picture’ orientation to projects and leadership. While holding the vision, I also am able to be attentive to the tasks and people needed to bring those tasks to fulfillment. When working with capable people, I empower them to tend to their parts of the work and deal with my portions while remaining collaborative, consultative, and supportive of others.


I hold high expectations for myself, and I enjoy working with others and do better work as part of a team. There is joy in this work we get to do together on behalf of the gospel, so I also embody fun and playfulness.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

Being aware of the privilege and joy of serving as Bishop, but even more the toll serving as Bishop takes on a person, I have approached this season of discernment with care. I have asked a lot of questions – of myself, God, trusted colleagues, friends, and family (deep thanks to everyone who has listened, prayed, and offered their counsel). I have listened to people who have asked me to consider making myself available for this call – asking them questions about what gifts they see in me and how those gifts relate to their perceptions of the needs of the Sierra Pacific Synod at this time.


I remain in ongoing prayerful discernment seeking the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. I have been meeting monthly with a spiritual director for many years, and this process continues to be part of our conversations. I return again and again in prayer to this question and keep receiving an answer that I am being called to be available.


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

Discerning and living into what it means to be the church in this time - together and in our own contexts.


One key to addressing it will be collaboration – the synod staff, synod council, rostered ministers, congregations, and ministries all connecting with each other in discernment that leads to decisions and movement in Spirit-led directions.


We need conversations centered around mission & vision, finances, & creative sustainability. We need to have conversations about our relevance to ourselves and our communities and our role in climate change and creation care. We must wrestle together with our inheritance of White body supremacy culture and the roles we play in it – both individually and institutionally.


I hope that these conversations will lead to being re-ignited for the mission of God. And that, with God’s help, we can create new pathways and systems to be a more just synod and live lives rooted in God’s call to mercy, justice, and love in our own corners of the vineyard.


What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

1. Developing meaningful relationships with rostered ministers and lay leaders of the Synod, as well as partners in ministry, including ecumenical & inter-religious relationships.

2. Addressing staffing challenges. I will work with congregations, synod staff & others to creatively imagine models of leadership appropriate to contexts and resources. Acknowledging the challenges of costs of living and congregational capacity, I commit to recruiting the best possible candidates to serve the ministries of the Sierra Pacific Synod.

3. Together, creatively and collaboratively reimagining ministry in this time, in our contexts. This will take all of us. No one person as Bishop can make this happen without the active participation of others in and across the Synod. We need the energy and willingness to show up with and for each other to pray, dream, and try together. We need a spirit of experimentation and the resilience to learn from failure & regroup and try again.

Grindberg_ministry thing.png

Jeff R. Johnson

Current Position: Pastor, University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley

Previous Positions: Spiritual Care Team, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary,

(2013 onward); Pastor, First United Lutheran, SF (1990 - 1999) Mission Developer,

Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, SF (1990 - 1995);

HIV Education Director, Lutheran Social Services of N. California, SF (1988-1989);

Assistant Night Minister, San Francisco Night Ministry (1987 - 1988);

Intern, Lutheran Office of Public Policy

& First English Lutheran, Sacramento (1986-87)

Congregational Membership: University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley

Date and Year of Ordination: January 20, 1990, St. Paulus Lutheran Church,

San Francisco

Education and Earned Degrees: 1988 - Master of Divinity, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, CA

1984 - Bachelor of Arts, German; 1984 - Bachelor of Arts, History California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, CA Honors: Summa cum laude, 1984 Honors Colloquium of Scholars Speaker,

Departmental Assistant - History,

President's Scholarship, Dean's Honor List

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

      I believe in organizational systems that are transparent, sustainable, fair, efficient, and responsive. My commitment to a ministry that is innovative, collaborative, and regional has been informed by many years of service:


On a national and synodical level: two terms as SF Conference Dean; two terms on the Synod Council and Synod executive committee; a term on the Board for National Lutheran Campus Ministry, Inc. (grant-making endowment); and a term on the LUMIN Campus Ministry Board.


On a regional level: organizing with Lutheran Volunteer Corps; the formation of a network of new young adult volunteer houses in Oakland/Berkeley.


On a movement level: my leadership within the "Goodsoil" movement for the full participation of LGBT people within the church, and as a primary organizer of the non-violent civil disobedience demonstrations at churchwide events (1990-Chicago, 2001-Indianapolis, 2005-Orlando); as a founder of Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries and president of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project; as a regional director within Lutherans Concerned North America (Reconciling Works); and as a board member with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod: A decade of service on the PLTS Spiritual Care team underscores my commitment to the formation, mentoring, and care of leaders for our church.


My commitment to international solidarity is reflected in my

participation on multiple delegations to occupied Palestine (2012, Bright Stars of Bethlehem)

and El Salvador, a sabbatical to study Spanish (2010, Cetlalic, Cuernavaca, Mexico),

and my continuing membership on the Board of Directors of SHARE El Salvador (2010 to present).


My deep commitment to interfaith collaboration and civic leadership around advocacy, justice, equity, and inclusion can be seen through my involvement with Religious Witness with Homeless People (San Francisco, 1990s),

Telegraph Area Association's Addiction/Recovery Task Force (2005);

the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (Oakland, 2005-2015);

the Mayor's Sanctuary Task Force (Berkeley, 2018-pandemic);

and the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition (Berkeley, 2008-pandemic).

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

In the proclamation of the gospel, the practice of spiritual care, and the structural/administrative work of the church, I lead with joy, optimism, energy, and enthusiasm. I am resilient, resolute, respectful, and trustworthy.


Years ago, when I was ordained, the ELCA was mired with policies that officially discriminated against lgbt rostered leaders and our supporting parishes. I have experienced the soul-crushing, career-destroying, ministry-thwarting power that leaders expertly wield. And against all odds, I have seen so many cultivate courage, bravery, innovation, and fidelity.


I have worked hard to upend the ELCA's enmeshment with injustice, to create parallel structures to sustain and credential leaders, and to bring our denominational policies in line with the gospel we proclaim.


Throughout, I have baptized, confirmed, and married; curated liturgy, preached and organized community; balanced budgets and created endowments; served on councils, boards, and committees; cultivated vocations; nurtured service; and forged solidarity. I have picketed and protested, invoked sanctuary, built resistance to supremacy, and confronted structural sin.


Describe your leadership style:

Flexible, honest, bold, and collaborative are words that colleagues might use to describe my style of leadership.


I serve best in a position of leadership among teams with other leaders where new ideas are cultivated, robust and difficult conversations are cherished, and relationships are respected.


I am an innovator and delegator and belies in shared responsibility and accountability. As we seek new experiments in our regions, conferences, and neighborhoods, we need stability, flexibility, and sustainability at the center of our synodical structure. I can help to restore this.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

I am humbled by the nominations I have received and, after prayer and consultation, have decided to allow my name to move ahead as part of our collective discernment.


Thank you to all who have spoken with me. I have heard you confess anger, fear, and frustration over the enormity of the challenge facing us. I have heard you identify the changes you seek. And I have heard your hopes and your dreams for our collective work in the world. Your courage inspires me. Your willingness to embrace one another through difficulty sustains me. Please reach out to me in advance of the upcoming assembly ( as we keep discerning together.


I am grateful for your commitment to the ongoing mending and rebuilding we need to do. My intention is to serve for a single term to continue our common work, repair relationships, and restore confidence.


The Holden Prayer sustained me during the pandemic. May it guide our discernment: "O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown, giving faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that God's hand is leading us and God's love supporting us."


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

In March, Thomas Friedman wrote: "Everything, everywhere is going to change all at once." (NYT, 3/21/23). His topic was the advent of artificial intelligence but might just as well have been any number of overwhelming, era-defining problems we face: the climate emergency and the collapse of planetary sustaining systems; the rise globally of antidemocratic authoritarian governments; desperation; mass migration; our enmeshment with the systemic evils of racism, misogyny, nationalism, heterosexism, etc.


Resiliency is our principal challenge if we are to weather the dramatic changes happening all around us.


But we are not as ready as we need to be. For the problems ahead of us, our visions and programs can be too timid, our small congregations too tenuous, and our relationships too fragile. Our organizing around candidacy, mobility, and interim transitions can be too slow, overly bureaucratic, and anachronistic, sacrificing vital momentum and energy.


Now is the moment for initiatives that build resilience, strengthen connection and collaboration, and create a sustainable community. "Everything, everywhere, is going to change all at once."

What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

Resiliency requires sustainable resource management, stronger regional work, and deeper connections with neighborhood partners.


First, we need to connect our ministries deeply (through faith-based community organizing) to the interests of civic, ecumenical, and interfaith partners around us on the issues that matter in our neighborhoods.


Second, we need stronger conference connections going beyond programmatic collaboration. As independent parishes, we are vulnerable and need to build stronger ties with each other: interdependent decision-making; collaborative pastoral teams; shared priorities, space and administrative support; joint call processes; etc.


Third, for more than a decade, we have spent more money than we have generated, raiding reserves and selling property to fund our deficits, subsidizing structural inefficiencies, and reducing funding for mission and churchwide. We are weaker because of this. We are accountable for today's spending to those who will come later. Sustainable budgeting, effective property management, and effective reserve stewardship offer the renewable resources we need for our mission, increased benevolence, and our operating plan.


Lori Keyser-Boswell

Current Position: Co-Pastor - Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Yreka

Previous Positions: Co-Pastor - Maddock Lutheran Parish, Maddock, ND

Congregational Membership: Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Yreka

Date and Year of Ordination: September 1991

Education and Earned Degrees: BA, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA, 1983

MDiv, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, CA 1989

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

Northern Mountain Valley Conference Dean

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

1. Board Member, Siskiyou Domestic Violence & Crisis Center 1999-present

2. Member of initial meetings creating Beacon of Hope Mission (to shelter those experiencing homelessness)

3. Co-chair of Grange Ecumenical Hot Meals and coordinator of the annual community Thanksgiving dinner

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

My strongest gifts are empathy and listening. The Spirit uses this gift to strengthen my discernment - hearing and identifying deeper meanings behind people's pain, joy, and needs. Multiple life experiences of loss and apparent failures have honed my gift of imagination; I use this gift in collaboration with others as we experiment with and implement previously untried strategies.


My passion for those abused and isolated by the world and sometimes the Church encourages me to be humble makes me a voice for justice while still listening to the heart of those who disagree. My sojourn as a tri-vocational pastor can make me a safe place for rostered leaders and congregations who do not fit the image that is often associated with success. I would hope this would enable all to look for new ways of being Christ's Body in their setting.


Describe your leadership style:

One might describe my leadership as a blend of cheerleader and mother. I encourage others as they use their gifts to complete tasks our team has with an ear to how team members are faring emotionally. I do not own the successes of the team I lead, nor do I own any ideas I bring to the team. I prefer planning and visioning to use a "Yes, and" model: each participant building on previous ideas even if the final product looks very different from the initial inspiration. I prefer a consensus model for decision-making, even as I recognize that not all team decisions will be unanimous. When I must confront a team member, I do so in private mindful of their personal communication style. Whether I am facilitating meetings, speaking individually with team members, or serving as the public face of an organization, I do so mindful of trauma-informed best practices.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

This process has caused me a great deal of soul-searching. When I was first suggested, my initial response was that I was unworthy; I am, after all, a part-time pastor of a tiny congregation exploring what it means to struggle financially while still sensing a mission.

I did not say "No" because I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit moves in unexpected ways. As I requested others pray for the process, I continually heard words of affirmation and encouragement. When my doubts would keep rising, I found myself reminded of advice spoken by my Teaching Parish pastor, Donna Duensing, as I doubted my ability to serve due to my then-young age. She had me look to Jeremiah 1.6-8, especially 7 and 8 ...but YHWH said, "Do not say, 'I am too young.' Now go wherever I send you. And say whatever I command you. Do not fear anyone, for I am with you to protect you. It is YHWH who speaks," With those words echoing in my mind and the goading of the Holy Spirit, I am moving forward.


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

Our Sierra Pacific Synod has experienced so much trauma in recent years this has exacerbated historical trauma in the lives of members, leaders, and congregations. The CoVid pandemic turned our world inside out. Our 2022 Assembly, including the months preceding it and the decisions afterward, has emotionally and spiritually wounded us. Natural, climate-related disasters have struck nearly every community to which we are sent. Our individual and communal wounds are actually an opportunity to grow in our relationship with our Savior. First and second-generation Christians came to Jesus with wounds and traumas; in him, they found healing and, from the experience of being loved, were moved to go out and offer healing and love to those they met. Our next bishop needs to build on the good work of Bishop Burkat in bringing healing. Yes, membership is low, and finances are a constant concern; these need addressing, but it must begin with healing our trauma. Whether bishop or not, I commit to this.


What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

Our first priority is healing; I wrote of that above and will let those words suffice with the addition of finding tools to offer care and support healing amongst our rostered leaders.

As the ELCA, we need to prioritize commitment to spiritual renewal. It is said, "The Church of the Reformation must always be reforming." Our Sierra Pacific Synod can be at the forefront of this. Utilizing resources from the ELCA or identifying local creators, let us encourage the faith practices of scripture study, prayer, and service.

A third priority for our synod is to be prophets of God's unconditional grace and desire for justice. As leaders, the staff and synod council can model this. Again, we can share resources, even talking points, to equip our membership to counteract the hatred, prejudice, and emotional abuse that is spoken of within Christendom. I recognize I am not identifying structure or finances as priorities. Recently I heard Bishop Curry encourage a gathering to not worry about parochial statistics or facts and figures. Instead, he posited that if we focus on loving God, loving neighbor, and loving self, we will work our way out of this current misery. I choose love.

Lori picture.JPG

Amy Kienzle

Current Position:  Associate Pastor and Director of Outreach, St. John's Lutheran

Church, Sacramento (June 2019-Present)

Previous Positions:

Pastor, Christus Victor Lutheran Church, Dearborn Heights, MI (2007-2013);

Mission Developer, The Park Church Co-op, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY (2013-2019)

Congregational Membership: St. John's Lutheran Church, Sacramento

Date and Year of Ordination: September 1, 2007

Education and Earned Degrees:

Certificate, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion eCornell (2023);

MDiv, Certificate of Biblical Studies, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago (2007);

BA, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, emphasis in art history and religious studies, New York University (2003)

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

      Conference Dean, Southeast Michigan Synod (SEMIS); Facilitator of the Mission Strategy Team for the SEMIS; Teacher (The Prophets, Gospels, Discipleship, Worship) in lay ministry academies of SEMIS and MNYS

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod: Board of Midtown Homeless Assistance Resource Team, Sacramento; Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel; Dearborn Area Interfaith Ministerial Association.

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

I came to love the church as an outsider, claiming our tradition and theology as an adult after experiencing the gospel through the people of an ELCA congregation.

God formed gifts in me before my life in the church:

- Empathy for outsiders and understanding of churches' struggle to engage with them

- Artistic gifts and creativity for pulling new ideas into a cohesive vision

- Commitment to integrity and good boundaries from a family system shaped by codependence and triangulation


In 16 years of ministry in the church, I have had a breadth of experiences through which God has shaped other gifts:

- Empathy for struggling congregations and their leaders, from 6 years as pastor of a declining congregation

- Skill for tending orthodoxy as a tether to the gospel while trying non-traditional ways of doing church

- Gift for interpreting scripture that connects to the present and challenges the status quo, inspiring us to respond in new ways to our faith

- Humility to admit I do not have all the answers and commitment to grow and learn

- Administrative gifts developed as head of a medium-sized staff; as mission developer creating & implementing systems; as director of outreach programming at St. John's.


Describe your leadership style:

Scripture shapes my style of leadership. The Bible reveals the Spirit working in community, and I prefer collaboration. The Spirit has given each of us gifts and passions to serve the gospel, and I trust those I work with to use their particular gifts rather than be micromanagers. I encourage questions and help cast vision for our collective mission. I support my staff and care about who they are outside of the office. I prefer to frame disappointment positively and lead in learning from failures or challenges. Recognizing we are all saints and sinners, I yearn to connect even with those I disagree with. Jesus' reaching to the margins shapes my desire to lift up the voices of those not often heard. Trust and mutual care among the people of God is a foundation for ministry, and I bring an even temper and sense of humor that can foster a safe and collegial environment. Even Jesus set boundaries and knew when to cross them. I have a good understanding of ELCA policy but am flexible, except when it comes to compromising our values.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

I believe the call is internal and external. For me, God's "no's" are loud, and God's "yeses" are a persistent nudge. I trust the Holy Spirit in the community, and for some time, people have expressed seeing gifts in me for the role of bishop. I've held this as a nudging, waiting for a time to explore further. When a colleague I trusted asked me to consider being open to this call, I felt I needed to listen and engage in intentional discernment.


First, I talked with my partner about his openness to being in California for six years. I sought counsel from friends, colleagues, and bishops, asking about the gifts they see, the joys and challenges of the job, and what other questions I should ask myself and God about what will be very difficult work. After each of these conversations, I prayed and reflected.


I continue my preparation by tending to emotional and spiritual health with my therapist, coach, and spiritual director, and I plan to go on a retreat with a friend before the assembly to pray and listen for God's guidance.


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

Our Synod needs spiritual renewal after recent conflict, in addition to the anxiety congregations and leaders feel after the pandemic. We need to study scripture together as a reminder of what unites us. This is the foundation for reconciliation and deepening trust among us, so we can learn to encourage and hold each other accountable to our shared gospel mission.


I will engage in daily prayer for the people of our Synod and invite staff to join me. I will offer more opportunities for people of the Synod to join in prayer and bible study in-person and virtually. I will invite clergy to do regular text study on Zoom. I will visit conferences to listen to the joys of ministry as well as the fears and needs of our congregations and their leaders for the sake of mutual care and upbuilding.


My hope is for synod leadership to be partners in ministry to our people. I will work with deans to strengthen their role, especially to listen and offer pastoral care in their conferences. I also want us to have fun together as we move the mission forward, as a reminder that there is joy in our baptismal calling, even amid struggles.

What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

The 1st priority is to liberate people from fear and encourage the gifts of discipleship already present among the people of our Synod. Part of the bishop's role is to inspire and encourage us in our mission, helping us discern God's purpose for us, even as we feel uneasy about how to be the church in the 21st century.


The 2nd priority supports the first -- trust-building across the Synod through a commitment of the bishop's office to visit and listen to clergy and laity in conferences. We can learn to share burdens and celebrate joys while assessing the greatest needs of congregations and their leaders as they struggle on the edge of viability. It will help the bishop to have a clear picture of the Synod's strengths and challenges, so we can make decisions about how to share and steward our collective resources.


The 3rd priority is to make sure necessary policies are in place, with transparency and understanding about how they will be implemented and what accountability looks like.


John Matthew Kuehner

Current Position: Pastor, Unity Lutheran of South San Francisco and Bridge Pastor at 

St. Andrew's Lutheran of San Mateo

Previous Positions: 

Franklin Templeton Investments VP, Research, Information Consulting (2006 – 2009)

VP, Research and Product Strategy (2002 – 2006)

Director, Marketing Research and Product Development (2000 – 2002)

Manager, Product Research (1996 – 2000)

Senior Analyst, Product Research (1993 – 1996)

Customer Service Representative, Shareholder Services (1992 – 1993)

Congregational Membership: Our Redeemer's Lutheran Church dba Unity

Lutheran Church

Date and Year of Ordination: June 9, 2013

Education and Earned Degrees: Master of Divinity, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (2009 – 2013)

BA, Business Economics, University of California Santa Barbara (1988 – 1992)

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

Dean of San Francisco Peninsula (2016 – 2019, 2022 to present)

Sierra Pacific Synod Finance Committee (2014 – 2022)

Sierra Pacific Synod Council Lay Representative (2007 – 2010)

and Council Chair Pro Tem (2009 – 2010)

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

Relief Chaplain at Stanford Hospital & Clinics (2010 – 2020)

Free Monthly Lunch and Food Pantry at Unity (2013 to present)

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

The greatest gift I feel I could bring to the office is the ability to work with and through conflict based on my past corporate and pastoral opportunities.


Prior to becoming a pastor, I worked for a financial institution to gain expertise in analytics, research, product development, client service, budgeting, and marketing. This skill set would complement what is required of the bishop's role. Additionally, I have years of experience managing large teams in multiple locations, as well as creating and presenting strategic proposals.


As a pastor, I had the unique opportunity to journey with three congregations in South San Franciso, San Bruno, and Millbrae to become Unity Lutheran Church, which provided a wonderful opportunity on how to work together through challenges and, yes, conflict. The ability to share concerns and provide intentional space for discussions led the congregations through personal and spiritual struggles of creating a single church. For ten years, I worked as a sole, on-call overnight chaplain for both Stanford and Lucile Packard Hospitals. These moments provided invaluable exposure to triage incoming spiritual care needs and crisis management in a fast-paced environment.


Describe your leadership style:

I believe my leadership style is a participative/democratic style.


If our Synod is defined by our relationships with one another, leading with a goal of collaboration and input is critical to building trust and care with one another. Although this leadership style requires more time, it can lead to authentic momentum and energy in our efforts to discern together what God might be calling us to do.


I also feel it's important to have organizational "checks and balances." Why? It allows for a greater exchange of ideas among groups and for every individual in the Synod to know they are not alone. As siblings in Christ, we are all accountable to and supported by one another.


A leader should always be ready to receive constructive feedback from others. In fact, if we allow time in our conversations and meetings to ask for feedback, it doesn't have to be seen as a negative experience. We all, including myself, need to remember we are beautiful "works in progress," and that mindset may help us to be more receptive to feedback.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

My recent discernment has centered around the question of whether I have the right gifts, skills, and composure to serve our Synod in the role of bishop. For the first time, I am formally submitting my paperwork for our Synod to consider. As other nominees may be experiencing, it has been many feelings of back and forth. Like each congregation in our Synod, the gifts, potential opportunities, and fascinating challenges of Unity and St Andrew's continue to inspire and energize me. The gifts, opportunities, and challenges are also present and meaningful for our Synod, too, yet certainly at a significant, compounding magnitude.


With that, every effort for all of us, but equally for our next bishop, is to take time to gain greater awareness of oneself and greater awareness of others. I do feel that the Spirit is calling for me to explore serving as bishop with our Synod and for our Synod to consider if I or other colleagues have the gifts needed to serve for this time and place. 


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

I feel the biggest challenge is how we truly embrace relationships that model collaboration and support for one another - if we don't do this well, then it begs the question, "Why have a synod?". Does that sound drastic? Perhaps. However, if we find it hard to answer that question, it leads to less engagement and greater detachment from a synod that is based on mutually supportive relationships, to begin with.


One might address this by creating a structure and process that truly encourages and praises collaboration between congregations, as well as more "hands-on" support from the office of the bishop and synod council, not to be confused with oversight or control. How might conferences build pilot programs, synodical resources accompany and support congregations around ministry ideas, and the Synod develop alternative income sources? True collaboration and support are recognized when people begin to answer the previous question of "Why have a synod?" by saying, "I need my synod."


What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

1. Meet conflicts with a non-anxious approach. Provide opportunities to "Name the Unnamable." Always encourage "the other side of an argument." Interact with one another with degrees of accountability in our communication (Alternative Positive Perspective, Gentle Guide, Genuine Appeal, Serious Sit Down).


2. Allow for more organizational "checks and balances" in our Synod. These mechanisms can actually help groups and individuals know they are not alone and aid our desire for mutual understanding, collaboration, and support for one another. This could include ongoing leadership, feedback, and critique from ADLA, ADML, conference of deans, EDLARJ, ELM, RW, and other organizations to guide the bishop, staff, and synod council.


3. Transparent financial stewardship and budgets. Our priorities are where the money goes. Let's make it clear and accessible. We are also asking people to consider stewardship to the Synod; how might we, in turn, model good stewardship with transparent information and shepherding those gifts?


Rev. Dr. Dawn Roginski

Current Position: Director of Evangelical Mission

Previous Positions: Interim Pastor, St. Andrew's Lutheran, San Mateo,

Pastor of merged congregation, United in Grace, Vallejo,

2-point call, St. Paul's and Holy Trinity, Vallejo,

Specialized call-Coalition of Welcoming Congregations, Berkeley,

Pastor of Parish programs, St. Francis, San Francisco,

Ten years in mental health including as Program Director

Congregational Membership: Messiah Lutheran, Redwood City

Date and Year of Ordination: May 13, 2007

Education and Earned Degrees: BA, Psychology

MA, Counseling Psychology

MDiv, Luther Seminary

DMin, Pacific School of Religion

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

      I currently serve as the DEM of the Synod. I was chair of the witness disciple team for many years and also worked with other teams. I served on the synod council as an at-large member before taking the position of DEM.

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

I have been a part of faith-based community organizing in San Francisco, East Bay, and Vallejo. I have participated in many community groups in Vallejo and was well-known as an activist pastor in Vallejo. I have worked in interfaith groups in San Francisco, East Bay, and Vallejo.

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

God has gifted me with the innate ability to listen to God through scripture and prayer, as well as to comprehensively listen to people. I not only listen with my ears but also read the body language and emotions of others. I diligently maintain a calming presence that translates into safe spaces for change. This safe, calming space fosters and continues to build healing change addressing racism, homophobia, and sexism. I am self-aware, with a strong desire for continuous growth and learning, leading to a more developed cultural competency. I have the ability to generate ideas and implement them while also empowering others to join me in the effort. Lastly, I am gaining a deeper understanding of how the Synod functions due to my position of DEM and working closely with the bishop and others in the office of the bishop.


Describe your leadership style:

My leadership style, in supervisory roles has been and continues to be collaborative. This means I first seek to ensure the entire team understands their role(s) and train or retrain those new to the team and/or when more clarity is needed. In my daily course of work, I empower and encourage the team to fulfill their duties. While encouraging creativity and autonomy, I also check in regularly to ensure the whole team is working towards common goals.


Communication is an essential and chief part of my leadership style. That being said, the most significant characteristic of my leadership is to continuously create space that allows every individual to be the unique creation of God that they are.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

I have been a pastor for many years in different settings and now believe that God is calling me to consider serving the Synod in another role. Therefore, as others have confirmed this by encouraging me to allow my name to go forward, including a former bishop (Bp. Mark), I am discerning this new path. These trustworthy people looked at my struggle for expansiveness, inclusion, equity, and my cooperative leadership and told me I had gifts useful for a bishop for this particular time in the life of the Synod. I took their words to heart. I then took those words to prayer, especially contemplative prayer, so I could create the space for God to speak to my heart. I did close readings of all the materials sent and the synod constitution to gain a better understanding of the call. I also took time to journal and pray around this process of completing the forms. I will continue this process of listening to others, listening to God, and listening to my own heart.


What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

The biggest challenge for the next few years is healing as well as learning to trust each other again. The principal way for the bishop, staff, and synod council to address this challenge is by collectively engaging in a regular practice of prayer, which will equip us to do more listening than talking. The listening would need to occur in a variety of settings; conferences, large groups, both geographical and non-geographical, small groups, individual conversations, and opportunities for people to share stories anonymously. In addition, a listening team of mental health professionals and pastoral counselors would listen as well and would assist the office of the bishop and council to interpret what was said. These listenings would then guide us in discerning a way forward and developing a solid strategic plan.

What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

1. Conduct a deep investigation into the structure of the Synod. Fully staff the office of the bishop and synod teams. Conduct training and develop competencies based on redeveloped job descriptions. Communicate often to all bishop staff and synod teams.

2. Develop models of shared leadership and other tools to help small congregations in their ministry. Ensure training for leaders in these congregations, using available resources and developing new resources where needed. Provide technical, emotional, logistical, and other types of support to congregations as they engage in this work.

3. Utilize available training resources to assist congregational leadership with best practices for leading a congregation as well as congregation vitality (redevelopment). Develop new and progressive training resources for congregations to deepen their cultural competence and ability to reach out to their neighbors.

Screen-Shot-me preaching.png

John B. Valentine

Current Position: Sr. Pastor and Head-of-Staff at Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church,

Orinda, CA (since 2003)

Previous Positions: 

Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Victorville, CA (1994-2003) 

Associate Pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Paradise Valley, AZ (1988-1994)

Interim Pastor at Alzona Lutheran Church/La Iglesia Luterana Alzona (1989)

Congregational Membership: Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church, Orinda, CA

Date and Year of Ordination: September 26, 1988

Education and Earned Degrees:

University of California (Berkeley) -- A.B. (History) 1992

Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary (St. Paul) -- M.Div. 1987

Luther Seminary (St. Paul) -- D.Min. (Homiletics) 2009

List up to three current or past Synod or churchwide experiences that would

inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

Conference Dean -- I've served four terms as a Conference Dean in the Pacifica and Sierra Pacific Synods -- including my current service as the Dean of the Mt. Diablo Conference.

Resolutions Committee Member -- I've served multiple terms on the Resolutions Committee of the Sierra Pacific Synod, including appointment as Chair on eight separate occasions.

Finance Committee Member -- I've served multiple terms on the Finance Committee of the Sierra Pacific Synod, concluding most recently in 2021.

List up to three current or past community activities that would inform your service as Bishop of this Synod:

Since 2007, I've served as Licensee and Executive Director of the Lamorinda Adult Respite Center (a non-profit subsidiary of Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church providing daycare services to persons who have dementia, developing a program that makes a tangible difference in the lives of hurting families.)

From 2010 to 2014, I served as Chair of the Town of Moraga's Traffic Safety Advisory Committee. We were tasked with listening to the community, identifying unsafe traffic conditions for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, and recommending improvements.

From 1995 to 2003, I served as a coach in the High Desert Youth Soccer League -- teaching, equipping, and encouraging kids of diverse ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

What gifts would you bring to the Office of the Bishop of this Synod?

A PASSION FOR THE GOSPEL EMBODIED IN JESUS, as well as the biblical witness to that Gospel and for its articulation in the theological movement known as “Lutheranism.”

A PASTORAL HEART, rooted in the awareness that ministry is grounded in relationships with, rather than power over. ADMINISTRATIVE COMPETENCY with finances, organizational processes, and staff management. (I currently serve as Head of Staff of a congregation with 34 employees and also act as Licensee of two state-licensed programs.) THE ABILITY TO FACILITATE MEANINGFUL INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE, because countless good ideas are just 'good ideas' until we figure out how to actually make them happen.

LIVED EXPERIENCE WITH MERGERS As one who has served for two decades in a merged congregation, I know first-hand both the pitfalls and promises of congregational mergers.

THE ABILITY TO PREACH AND LEAD WORSHIP IN BOTH SPANISH AND ENGLISH Albeit many years ago, the paired congregations wherein I interned were both Spanish-language-primary sites.

A SOBER AWARENESS THAT SERVING AS A BISHOP IS HARD WORK The expectations attached to the Office of Bishop within our church conspire to ensure that a bishop’s work is never done. But I'm blessed with a spirit of diligence (or maybe stubbornness?) for facing just such a challenge.


Describe your leadership style:

It is often said to aspiring pastors and preachers that the work of ministry is to "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." I suspect such could well be said of leaders more generally. In the face of crisis, true leaders need to embody a spirit of calm and reason, patience and hope. In the face of organizational bewilderment and confusion, a spirit of focus and direction. In the face of stagnancy, a spirit of challenge and opportunity. In the face of uncertainty, a spirit of change. No one leadership 'style' is appropriate to every situation. Rather, real leaders must assess a given situation and ask, 'What is needed here and now?' and then act on that assessment. That being said, people who have worked with me say that -- as a leader -- I am flexible, collegial, and caring, that I aspire to consensus, and that I will not ask others what I would not expect of myself.


Describe your discernment process in being open to serving as Bishop of this Synod: 

I am open to serving as Bishop simply because I have been asked by folks whom I respect from throughout our Synod to be open to such a possibility. Were one to ask me if I feel particularly 'called' to the position of Bishop within our Synod, I would hesitate to say 'yes' -- for I have long believed that while the Spirit may well stir within us to each of us to create an internal sense of 'calling,' it is the external call (the formal 'calling' of the Church as the gathered people of God) that confirms and indeed ratifies the Spirit's work. Nonetheless, as I listened to members of our conference assembly this spring, their perception of the manifold needs of our Synod at this particular moment in its history, combined with their observations of gifts that they believe I might bring to the table, have evoked within me words which Mordecai first spoke to Esther at a challenging moment in Israel's history: "Who knows? Perhaps you have come to (your position) for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14)

What do you see as the principal challenge to this Synod in the next six years, and how would you address it?

The real challenge faced by the Sierra Pacific Synod is that we must tackle two substantive challenges, neither of which can wait!


The first challenge involves resetting a synodical culture that has been less than ideal for at least the past two decades. During my two decades within the Sierra Pacific Synod, our unstated primary goal has been 'keeping the peace' at all costs. We've avoided making hard decisions at every juncture, as witnessed by our adopting a 'mission statement' with some 17(!) identified targets and our annual approval of unbalanced budgets because we don't want to say 'no' to anyone. Our Synod cannot and will not be functional (and move toward a degree of institutional healthiness) until such time as we honor honest disagreement over dishonest 'agreement.' And to reset our corporate culture, we need a bishop and a Synod Council that will dare to lead.


The second challenge has to do with equipping congregations to face the challenges of our region's changing religious landscape. Most of our congregations face aging membership rolls, shrinking budgets, and increasing facility-maintenance costs. Equipping congregations to live into God's calling in the face of those realities is a daunting challenge -- for it will require some to chart new courses, others to partner or merge, and still others to recognize that their congregation's lifespan is coming to a close. And to face this challenge, we must learn to work together, trust one another, and support one another as we can -- and this, too, will require effective leadership.


Addressing either one of these alone would be a major hurdle. Addressing them simultaneously will TRULY be a challenge!

What are your top three priorities for this Synod?

RESETTING OUR INSTITUTIONAL CULTURE: As noted above, the Sierra Pacific Synod has -- for years -- been an anxious entity. Our corporate anxiety has manifested itself in a whole lot of reactive behaviors, e.g., blaming, withdrawing, and avoiding. In order for the Synod to become both a responsible and responsive system, we need a 'hard reset' of our corporate culture, starting with the Synod Council and the Synod in Assembly. Priority Number One would be equipping the Synod Council to become a healthy and effective governance board, one which is able to live into its calling to oversee the ministry of the Synod, its Bishop, and its staff.


EQUIPPING CONGREGATIONS TO LIVE INTO THEIR GODLY FUTURE: As noted above, congregational ministry in the 21st century is challenging. Our society is more 'wired' than ever, more divided than ever, and more 'post-Christian' than ever, and we're unsure what ministry ought to look like in the face of those changed realities. Because the ELCA is structured as a union of congregations, it is congregations that are the primary manifestation of our ministry together. Thus Priority Number Two would be equipping congregations to live into God's calling in their context and in the face of 21st-century realities.


SUPPORTING ROSTERED MINISTERS: Supporting rostered leaders (and supporting those seeking to join that roster) is essential to our work and life together. But it has too often been neglected due to other identified 'priorities.' Isn't it time we get back to basics and ensure that our pastors and deacons are well-supported, well-equipped, and well-encouraged in their labors as servant-leaders?

bottom of page