The Southwestern Minnesota Synod is governed by an annual synod assembly, voting members from each congregation in the SW MN Synod elect a Synod Council and Bishop to provide oversight and leadership between synodical assemblies.

Rev. Dr. Dee Pederson was elected June 12, 2021, to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Churchwide Voting Members

Synod Assembly

Voting members from each congregation and all rostered ministers in the Southwestern Minnesota Synod gather annually to worship, learn, conduct business, and prayerfully deliberate about what God is calling us to do in the synod. The Synod Assembly is the synod’s highest legislative authority within the SW MN Synod.

2023 Synod Assembly
June 9-10, 2023, in person, at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Synod Constitution

The synod constitution is a governing document of our church's expressions in the ELCA. It reflects the theology and polity of this church. Each congregation has its own constitution.

Synod Council

The Synod Council consists of four officers and 10-24 other members (shall include one person from each conference), and at least one youth. The council is elected by the synod assembly and serves a three-year term.

The vice president of the synod and chair of the Synod Council is Mrs. Maria Lokensgard, serving her first, four-year term.

Council Members:

  • Rev. Dee Pederson, Bishop
  • Maria Lokensgard, Vice-President
  • Bob Haines, Treasurer
  • Beryl Haugen, At-Large, Exec. Comm
  • Rev. Ann Zastrow, Secretary
  • Eric Avila, St James
  • Marny Behrends, Clara City
  • Michael Carlson, Sauk Centre
  • Rev. Heather Culuris, Synod Staff
  • Janelle Eisenbacher, Atwater
  • Rev. Thomas Evenson, Litchfield
  • Kristy Henriksen, Pipestone
  • Donn Hoffman, Litchfield
  • Cherrish Holland, New London
  • Rev. Erik Karlson, Hector
  • Rev. Janel Kuester, Cottonwood
  • Rev. Krista Lee, Glenwood
  • Rev. Jeanette McCormick, Worthington
  • Rev. Don McKee, Montevideo
  • Rev. David Nissen, New Ulm
  • Yvonne Noorlun, Truman
  • Ilene Penk, Brownton
  • Emily Peterson, Sauk Rapids
  • Rev. Troy Pflibsen, Synod Staff
  • Tommy Philaya, Montevideo
  • Rev. Christopher Richards, Cyrus
  • Anita Stoker, Morris
  • Tim Velde, Granite Falls
  • Rev. Shannon Wachter, Redwood Falls

Conference Deans

A Synod Dean is a rostered minister elected from within their conference. The Dean is the administrative officer of the conference and is an extension of the Office of the Bishop. The dean facilitates communication between the congregations in the conference and between the conference and the bishop.


  • Rev Michael Stangeland, Shetek
  • Rev Janel Kuester, Prairie
  • Rev Becca Krogstad, Scenic Valley
  • Rev John Gabrielson, Great River
  • Rev Don McKee, Lac Qui Parle
  • Rev Steve Meier, Lakeland
  • Rev Mark Little, Crow River
  • Rev Matthew Garavalia, Minnesota Valley
  • Rev Andrew Hermodson-Olsen, Watonwan River
  • Rev Steven Carmany, Glacial Ridge
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