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, Ohio for 19 years, Interim Pastor at Messiah Lutheran, Fairview Park, Ohio for 1 year, and Associate Pastor for Youth at Holy Trinity, Nashville, Tennessee for 2 years. Holding a PhD 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, Ohio with her husband and four daughters. When able, she enjoys gardening and travel. Subscribe to Bishop Barbins’ “THurdsdayTHoughts” newsletter here.
The Rev. Mitchell (Mitch) D. Phillips
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If you would like to schedule a conversation with Pastor Phillips, please visit his Calendly page where you can select an available time that works for you.
Pastor Phillips grew up in Columbus, Ohio – but his family and faith roots are in the territory of the Northeastern Ohio Synod. His parents grew up in Wadsworth and his mother’s family has a long history of active involvement at Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church between Wadsworth and Seville.
He studied Chemistry and Computer Science at Purdue University and worked at the Research Labs of the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, NY through the Cooperative Education Program. He was active in the Purdue Lutheran Campus ministry, which is where he met his future spouse, Charisse, and began to discern the call to ministry.
Pastor Mitch received his M.Div. from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in 1990 and has served three congregations of very different sizes and staff configurations: Third, Louisville, KY (four years); St. Mark’s, Evansville, IN (eight years); and Resurrection, Indianapolis, IN for the past 19 years. His synod involvement has included serving on and chairing the Campus Ministry Committee; two terms on the Trinity Lutheran Seminary Board; and serving on the Constitution Task Force and as facilitator for a First Call Theological Education colleague group.
Charisse is retired after teaching high school mathematics for 33 years. They have one child, Hayley, who just graduated from the University of Dayton in Music Therapy. Pastor Mitch’s hobbies include photography, woodworking, and geocaching.
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.
Office Manager and Event Coordinator
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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 other synod-wide events. Sony lives in Cuyahoga Falls with her husband Tim; their son is a student at Thiel College. 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.
The Rev. Angel Jackson
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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. Jacob’s, North Canton. 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.
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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”.