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

Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership

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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. He studied Chemistry and Computer Science at Purdue University and 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; St. Mark’s, Evansville, IN; and Resurrection, Indianapolis, IN.

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

Assistant to the Bishop for Congregational Vitality

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After serving 31 years as a parish pastor, the Rev. Julianne D. Smith accepted the call to serve as deployed church-wide 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, contracted with Christ Lutheran in Struthers, and served as Dean of the Eastern Conference in Northeastern Ohio Synod.
Pastor Smith is married to Stuart Smith, a hydrogeologist specializing in groundwater wells, and they have two adult daughters, one son-in-law, and one granddaughter. They currently reside in Poland, Ohio, where they are members of Martin Luther Lutheran Church, Youngstown.


Sony Gilroy

Sony Gilroy

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.


Rebekah Wissler

Resource Specialist and Statistician

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Rebekah joined the Synod’s staff in 2021 as the Resource Specialist & Statistician. Rebekah curates, catalogs, and manages the various resources of the Synod, including the Resource Center assets. As the Synod’s statistician, she tracks congregational demographics. Rebekah earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Mount Union in 2016 and a Master of Library and Information Science focusing on Museum Studies and Special Collections from Kent State University in 2018. She also obtained a post-graduate certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in 2019.  She currently resides in Alliance, Ohio, with her husband, Jesse, her son, Dimitri, and stepson, Kyle.


Kiley Wright

Director of Communications

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Kiley joined the Synod staff as the Director of Communications in September of 2021. She holds a BA in English and Communications from Muskingum University and a MA in Communications from the University of North Dakota. Her role includes establishing an overall communication strategy for the Synod offices and overseeing all forms of communication (written, video, website, and social media). In addition, she also assists in engaging new platforms that enhance the overall workspace.

An avid reader, she also enjoys writing, hiking, and playing piano in her spare time.



The Rev. Angel Jackson

Candidacy Coordinator

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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!


Kellie Rossini

Synod Accountant

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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.”



Mary Ann Schwabe

Congregational Systems Team Coordinator


Mary Ann Schwabe is the Executive for Synod Relations and the ELCA Systems Academy Coordinator at the churchwide office in Chicago. She also coordinates the work of our synod Congregational Systems Team as it promotes well-being in its leaders and congregations through the use of natural 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, corresponding spouses, and 9 grandchildren.