The Bishop: The Rev. Jessica Crist is Bishop of the Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A resident of Great Falls, she is married to Turner Graybill, a retired attorney. They are members of Bethel Lutheran Church in Great Falls, Montana. They have two adult children—Rhiannon, who is a professor in the religion department at Rhodes College in Memphis, and Raphael, an attorney in Seattle. Bishop Crist grew up in Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Divinity School.
Prior to assuming the office of Bishop, Pastor Crist served as Associate to the Bishop for 5 years, and Director of the Northern Rockies Institute of Theology for 18 years. She served congregations in Great Falls, Montana, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and started in ministry as a campus pastor. She served on the Transition Team that helped put together the Montana Synod from the predecessor churches, and was elected Synod Secretary at the Constituting Convention. She served in that capacity for 12 years. She has worked with the Montana Association of Churches for many years, including serving as President, and as part of the teaching staff for the Lay Ministry Institute. She has served on the Board of Lutheran World Relief. Her community service over the years has included chairing boards for the local YWCA, the PTA and the hospital’s Women’s Health Board, and has written a column for Montana Woman Magazine for 12 years.
Bishop Crist was elected Chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops in 2011 for a four-year term. She currently serves on the Board of the Montana Association of Christians, and on the Board of Luther Seminary. She served as a member of the ELCA Task Force on Communal Discernment, the Bishops’ Liaison Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, and the Bishops’ Domestic Ready Bench. She currently chairs the Bishops' Justice Ready Bench, and is on the ELCA Church Council's Theological Education Advisory Committee.
“I am honored to serve as the Bishop of the Montana Synod. As I travel the Synod and visit your congregations and ministries I get to function as an ambassador. I get to meet you and listen to your stories. And I get to share the story of the wider church with you. I pray for every congregation and every pastor and AIM each week. And I hope you will join me in praying for the whole church.”
Associate to the Bishop: The Rev Jason Asselstine is the Associate to the Bishop. He has served as the Associate Pastor to two congregations in Northwestern Minnesota (ya-sure-youbettcha), and Choteau, Montana. He grew up on a cattle ranch in California, attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. Jason is married to Jennifer and together they have two children, Daniel and Taylor. As a family they enjoy traveling and exploring new places and meeting new people. They live in Choteau, where they are involved in many community and social activities through church and 4H.
Jason is a life-long Lutheran and an avid archer and outdoorsman. He is passionate about his faith and loves telling people about the love of God in Jesus. He enjoys using words like “intentional,” “authentic,” and “beautiful,” and is an eccentric mix of pastor, hunting guide, carpenter and philosopher. He loves people and the Church, and cannot wait to see what heaven is like.
Pastor George Karres is the Montana Synod's Director for Evangelical Mission (DEM). He serves on behalf of the ELCA as a part of the Montana Synod staff in areas of stewardship, mission support, ministry development/redevelopment, and working with the Montana Synod Mission Table.
George comes to his new position after having served as the Senior Pastor of Pella Lutheran Church in Sidney, MT for the past 11 1/2 years. During this period he also served as a member of the Montana Synod Council and its Executive Committee, was on the Synod Outreach Committee, served as a Natural Church Development coach, and was Dean of the Southeast Cluster.
George and his wife Carol, who is a retired ELCA pastor, are now living in Great Falls. Together they have four adult children: Dan Harrison; Jeffrey Karres; Matthew (Lisa) Karres (and grandson Eli!); and Amanda (Michael) Rhame.
One of George's favorite hobbies is home roasting coffee beans - he enjoys trying beans from different countries all around the world. Every freshly roasted batch is unique and delicious! He and Carol also enjoy traveling and often staying at Bed and Breakfasts.
George looks forward to visiting congregations and ministries throughout the Montana Synod. He is available to assist with stewardship development, mission planning, and other areas as needed. During the coming weeks and months, he hopes to be at worship and perhaps preach at many congregations - including yours! You can contact him by phone at (406) 453-1461 (office) or (406) 489-1559 (cell) or by email at email@example.com.
Staff Person for Candidacy: Robert Quam works with the Bishop and the Synod Candidacy Committee in the ELCA process of identifying, shepherding, and approving ministerial leaders. He has previously been part of the pastoral staff for congregations in North Dakota (Watford City), and in Billings (Atonement, Peace).
From 1975 through 2013 he served as pastor and director for Christikon. He continues to reside in Billings, with Taurlin, his Schnauzer. He grew up at Frazer, Montana, attended college at Concordia College (Moorhead), and studied at Yale Divinity School and Luther Seminary. He has served on the board of the ELCA Division for Ministry, as member and chair of the Montana Synod and Region 1 Candidacy Committees, and on the board of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.
He currently is on the Board of Regents of his alma mater, and treasurer and board member for the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Foundation.
Executive Assistant: Susan A. Hedahl is the Executive Assistant for the Montana Synod. She started with the synod in January of 2002. Her experience comes from 25 years of work in the legal community, both with lawyers and a District Court Judge.
Susan oversees the office operations, the annual Montana Synod Assembly, the roster, Synod Council meetings, Candidacy, and with administration and finances.
Susan has a Paralegal Associates Degree from the University of Great Falls. She has been involved on the congregational level and served on her church council (First English Lutheran, Great Falls). Susan became a Lay Pastoral Associate in 2010. An avid quilter and knitter, she is the mother of an adult daughter living in Missoula.
Administrator of Information Technology: Colter McCarty
Colter's job is two-fold-to help the Montana Synod office improve and enhance our tech capabilities, and to help the congregations and ministries of the Montana Synod, as well. Our goal is to have a synod that is capable of being in communication with one another in a variety of ways-all so that we can more effectively serve God and neighbor. This includes helping every congregation get and use high-speed internet, and have the capacity to livestream events and programs. We are not trying to change anybody's worship space or worship style. We are trying to work on greater communication and greater interdependence. Colter is available to congregations to help you with what you want to accomplish technologically. He can advise, consult and refer.