The Rev. Dr. Laura Barbins
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Laura Barbins was elected bishop on September 11, 2020 and took office December 1, 2020. Prior to her call to the Office of Bishop, she was the pastor of Celebration Lutheran, Chardon, OH for 19 years, Interim Pastor at Messiah Lutheran, Fairview Park, OH for 1 year, and Associate Pastor for Youth at Holy Trinity, Nashville, TN for 2 years. Holding a Ph.D in New Testament and Homiletics, Bishop Barbins has also been Adjunct Professor for Preaching at Trinity Seminary at Capital University since 2018. Bishop Barbins lives in Mentor, OH with her husband and four daughters. When able, she enjoys gardening and travel. Subscribe to Bishop Barbins’ “THurdsdayTHoughts” newsletter here.
The Rev. Karl Biermann
Assistant to the Bishop
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A Trinity Lutheran Seminary graduate, Pastor Karl Biermann served as a parish pastor for 10 years in his native Texas before the people of the Northeastern Ohio Synod called him to serve as assistant to the bishop. His primary responsibility is to match rostered leaders with congregations through the call process – which can seem more like a matchmaking art than a science!
Pr. Karl was born and raised in the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio, where German immigrants settled in the 1840s, established Lutheran congregations, and kept speaking a mix of German and English prominently into the 1960s. Perhaps this is why about the only hint of “Texas speak” that you will hear from Pr. Karl is the occasional “y’all” or “all y’all”!
Pr. Karl and his wife, Lana, enjoyed the people, fun attractions, and seasons in Ohio during his seminary studies in Columbus and his pastoral internship at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Upper Arlington (Columbus). Both are excited to live in Ohio again, where they reside in Stow, with their 11-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son.
The Rev. Julianne D. Smith
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After serving 31 years as a parish pastor, the Rev. Julianne D. Smith accepted the call to serve as deployed Churchwide Staff in Northeastern Ohio Synod. Ohio “born and bred,” she grew up in Greenville, Ohio and studied biology at Wittenberg University, graduating in 1980. She received her M. Div. from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in 1985. Pastor Smith’s congregational calls include, St. Mark Lutheran in Ada, Ohio, First Lutheran and the LIFE cooperative in Upper “nowhere near Cedar Point” Sandusky, Ohio, and Prince of Peace Lutheran in Poland, Ohio. She also served as interim with First Lutheran in Plymouth, Ohio and contracted with Christ Lutheran in Struthers. She also served as Dean of the Eastern Conference in Northeastern Ohio Synod.
Pastor Smith is married to Stuart Smith, an hydrogeologist specializing in ground water wells, and they have two adult daughters, one son-in-law, and one granddaughter. Pastor Smith and Stuart reside in Poland, Ohio, and are members of Martin Luther Lutheran Church, Youngstown.
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Pastor Angel Jackson has served as the Coordinator of Candidacy and First Call Theological Education since July 2019. She really enjoys conversations with God’s children who are discerning their call to ministry of all kinds.
Pastor Jackson grew up in Louisville, Ohio. She is a graduate of Capital University and got her MDiv at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and her Masters of Social Work at the University of Chicago.
In addition to her candidacy responsibilities, she serves as pastor with the people of St. John Lutheran, McZena, OH. She shares her house with her kids, Sophie and Asher and her yard with her chickens, Sugar and Cocoa and lots of flowers and butterflies!
Deacon Mary Ann Schwabe
Congregational Resource Team (CRTeam) Coordinator
Natural Systems Coordinator, Office of the Presiding Bishop
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Mary Ann Schwabe is the Natural Systems Coordinator in the Office of the Presiding Bishop for the churchwide office in Chicago. She also works contractually for our synod in coordination of the synod Congregational Resource Team as it promotes well-being in its leaders and congregations through the use of family systems theory. Prior to her calls to the synod and churchwide staff, she served congregations as a rostered ELCA Associate in Ministry with a focus in church music, religious education, and family ministry. Mary Ann and her husband Rick are parents of 5 adult children and 6 grandchildren.
Mary Ann Sima
Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) Liason
Karen Kaufman has served as the synod resource specialist since 1996 after previously serving the church as a workshop leader in Christian Education and Evangelism. Karen also serves as staff liaison for the synod nominating committee and the area ministry strategy task force which plans the spring and fall bishop gatherings. She currently provides support for the synod stewardship think tank and other projects as needed. As a member of the Association of Lutheran Resource Centers our synod as well as the greater church benefit from this network of excellent curators of resources for congregational ministry.
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Sony joined the Bishop’s support staff in 2005 as a part-time secretary with the directive to make the synod office more electronic in its communications. After serving part-time as both the synod office’s electronic communications person and office manager at St. Mark, Tallmadge, she is now the full-time Office Administrator for the Synod office. Among other things, Sony oversees facilities management and scheduling, coordinates the Synod Assembly, and produces the synod’s electronic communications. Sony lives in Cuyahoga Falls with her husband Tim and their son. They are members of St. Luke’s, Cuyahoga Falls and very involved with their community with Relay For Life, Boy Scouts and numerous sporting and school activities with their son.
Administrative Assistant / Statistician
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Marilyn joined the synod staff in 2016 as Administrative Assistant and Statistician. Marilyn maintains the bishop’s calendar and synod roster, coordinates Synod Council and Conference Dean meetings, maintains the synod website, and produces the “Unified” – the synod’s bimonthly newsletter. As the synod’s statistician, she tracks congregational demographics and benevolence. A native of Ohio, Marilyn lived in San Francisco, California for 20 years, but returned to the Midwest in 2015 to be closer to family members. She completed a doctoral degree from Graduate Theological Union in 2012, and when classroom opportunities arise, enjoys adjunct teaching and writing about Christian environmental ethics, animal theology, and social justice. She is discerning a call to ministry and in 2017 was admitted to candidacy in the TEEM program. Marilyn and her spouse have a large family of adopted dogs and cats, and tend a collection of bird feeders that attract most of the sparrows and starlings in western Cleveland.
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Kellie moved to Kent to attend Kent State University and earned bachelor’s degrees in two of her areas of interest: technical theatre and accounting. She is a 20-year union member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees working in area venues such as Blossom Music Center, EJ Thomas Hall, The Akron Civic Theatre, Beck Center for the Arts, and Playhouse Square. When she isn’t behind the scenes, she is working at local businesses in their accounting department or in small accounting firms in the area. Kellie loves Northeast Ohio, snow, cats, and her 2004 Ford Ranger “Big Red”.