Rev. Lorna Halaas was recently elected bishop of the Western Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Halaas is a 2008 graduate of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, where she received her MDiv. Halaas chose United for its ecumenical context and educational approach.
Halaas was most recently assistant to the bishop of the Western Iowa Synod, serving in that position since 2013. Prior to that, she served as interim pastor and pastor for churches in Iowa and North Dakota. Her term as bishop will last six years.
The first female bishop in the ELCA was elected in 1992. The denomination elected its first female presiding bishop in 2013. That same year, Halaas was a candidate for bishop of the Western Iowa Synod and was the only woman on the ballot. Last year synods in the ELCA elected six females bishops -- the most ever elected in one year. Two of the women elected were the denomination's first African-American female bishops.
The push to amplify women's voices in faith leadership is part of United Theological Seminary's heritage. Professor Mary Farrell Bednarowski gave the opening speech at the 1993 Re-Imagining Conference, a gathering of 2,200 people from 16 denominations, including the ELCA, that addressed injustice toward women and full inclusion of women within their faith communities. Professor Christine Smith participated in a presentation at the conference, and United alumnae Mary Kay Sauter and Kathi Austin Mahle co-chaired the conference.
To learn more about United, visit unitedseminary.edu.