This year concerns about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic led to rescheduled or canceled synod assemblies. For synods that rescheduled, it was a historic moment as it is the first time that assemblies have met and elected bishops virtually.

Elected: Craig A. Schweitzer as bishop of the Western North Dakota Synod (, effective Sept. 1.

When: July 17, on the sixth ballot, with 165 votes. Desireé Uhrich, a pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Minot, N.D., received 120 votes.

Bio: Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Bismarck, N.D. Earned a degree from the University of Mary in Bismarck and holds a certificate degree from the Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) program at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif.

Replaces: David B. Zellmer, interim bishop.

Elected: Virginia S. Aebischer as bishop of the South Carolina Synod (, effective Sept. 19.

When: July 25, on the fifth ballot, with 280 votes. Jacqueline Utley, pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C., received 211 votes.

Bio: Assistant to the South Carolina Synod bishop. Served Mount Tabor Lutheran Church, West Columbia, S.C., and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Charleston, S.C. Earned degrees from Upsala College, East Orange, N.J., and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia.

Replaces: Herman Yoos, who retired Aug. 31.

Elected: Amy Current as bishop of the Southeastern Iowa Synod (, effective Sept. 1.

When: Aug. 7, on the fifth ballot, with 178 votes. Erika Uthe, the synod’s assistant to the bishop and director for evangelical mission, received 173 votes.

Bio: Vice president for admissions and student services at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Previously was the seminary’s director for financial aid and stewardship formation, director for public communications and interim director of the Center for Youth Ministries. Served North Dakota congregations: Maple Sheyenne in Harwood, Golden Ridge in Fargo and Congregational in Gardner. Earned degrees from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and Wartburg Seminary.

Replaces: Michael L. Burk, who will retire Oct. 31.

Elected: Tessa Moon Leiseth as bishop of the Eastern North Dakota Synod (, effective Sept. 1.

When: Aug. 16, on the fifth ballot, with 168 votes. Jessica Daum, the synod’s director for evangelical mission, received 128 votes.

Bio: Interim pastor of Horace Lutheran Church, Horace, N.D. Previously was South Africa country coordinator for Young Adults in Global Mission and campus pastor of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn. Served congregatons in Minnesota: Our Saviour, East Bethel; Abiding Savior, Mounds View; Baudette Parish in Baudette. Earned degrees from Concordia and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.

Replaces: Larry Wohlrabe, interim bishop.

Elected: Joy Mortensen-Wiebe as bishop of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin (, effective Oct. 1.

When: Aug. 29, on the third ballot, with 166 votes. Stacie Fidlar, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Rock Island, Ill., received 165 votes.

Bio: Pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Slinger, Wis. Previously served the following Wisconsin churches: First in Beaver Dam, St. Paul in Mayville, Living Hope in Saukville, All Saints in Oshkosh and Grace in Tomahawk. Was also interim director for evangelical mission in the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, an associate to the bishop in the East Central Synod of Wisconsin and pastor chaplain of Lutheran Homes of Oshkosh Inc. Received degrees from Carroll College in Helena, Mont., and Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

Replaces: Peter Rogness, interim bishop.

Elected: Amy Odgren as bishop of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod (, effective Nov. 1.

When: Aug. 29, on the fifth ballot, with 167 votes. David M. Carlson, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minn., received 140 votes.

Bio: Assistant to the bishop and director for evangelical mission with the Northeastern Minnesota Synod. Previously served Wisconsin churches: Spirit and First in Eau Claire, and Bridge of Life, Holmen. Was also an assistant to the bishop and director for evangelical mission in the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin. Received degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.

Replaces: Thomas M. Aitken, who has served since 2008.

Elected: Laura Barbins as bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod (, effective Dec. 1.

When: Sept. 12, on the fifth ballot, with 171 votes. Angela Freeman-Riley, pastor of Bethesda on the Bay Lutheran Church, Bay Village in Ohio, received 148 votes.

Bio: Pastor of Celebration Lutheran Church, Chardon, Ohio, and adjunct faculty at Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Previously served Messiah Lutheran Church in Fairview Park, Ohio, and Holy Trinity Lutheran in Nashville, Tenn. Received degrees from Roanoke College in Salem, Va., the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.) and Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Replaces: Abraham D. Allende, who has served as bishop since 2014.

Interim bishops named

Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, former bishop of the South Dakota Synod, was appointed interim bishop of the Northeastern Iowa Synod, effective Sept. 1. She replaces Steven Ullestad, who retired this year.

Murray D. Finck, former bishop of the Pacifica Synod, was appointed interim bishop of the Southwest California Synod, effective Aug. 1. He replaces R. Guy Erwin, who left office July 31 to assume the presidency of United Lutheran Seminary in Pennsylvania.

Both synods will elect new bishops at their assemblies in 2021.

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