About Us

The Grand Canyon Synod is one of 65 synods in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA is a church of more than 4 million members who actively participate in God’s work in the world. We believe that we are freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor.

There are approximately 89 congregations in the Grand Canyon Synod, including new mission starts. The territory of this synod is the State of Arizona; the counties of Clark, Esmeralda, Lincoln, and Nye in the State of Nevada; and New Promise Lutheran Church, in St. George, Utah.

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Meet the Bishop

The Reverend Deborah K. Hutterer was ordained in 2004. She earned a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from Augsburg University. She is a life-long Lutheran brought to the denomination by default and stayed by choice. Growing up one mile from her church in St. Paul, Minnesota, she would often take the bus to church, and spend as much time there as she could. It was there that she experienced Christian community. This is where she heard Jesus’ call to ministry, but was told women couldn’t be pastors. Later in life that call was rekindled, which led her to congregational service, Lutheran college, seminary and ordination to the public ministry.

Prior to her ordination, Hutterer created and launched two businesses, worked in the insurance industry, and held many positions at Augsburg College, including Peace Prize Forum Coordinator, collaborating with the Midwest Lutheran colleges Midwest Lutheran colleges to promote peace education and collaboration with the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Nobel Peace Laureates and college students.

Hutterer has served in several ministry settings. She served as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Pontiac, Ill, from 2004 to 2007. She was executive director of Faith in the City in Minneapolis from 2008 to 2012. She was Chief Development Officer of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (LSS-SW) from 2012 to 2018.

As Chief Development Officer at LSS-SW, she traveled extensively throughout Arizona preaching, presiding, or presenting at many congregations and ministry groups on topics such as refugee resettlement, child abuse prevention, and aging.

Her leadership experience in faith-based nonprofits and higher education broadened her awareness and appreciation for God’s multi-faceted ministry working with colleagues, congregations, ecumenical and interfaith partners.

Personal and professional challenges have caused Hutterer to grow and constantly pushed her to trust the promise of death, resurrection, and new life. As she enters this new call as bishop, she trusts God’s leadership, guidance, and presence, and calls you to join her, using all of the gifts each of us has to be Jesus in the world today.

In 2011 she lost her husband Gary Erickson to ALS. She has two adult children, Mitch Hutterer and Marissa Machado, who reside in Minnesota with her five grandchildren. Her parents Jerry and Evelyn Spiess live in Sun City West, Arizona.


Rostered Leaders - Synodical Calls

View the file of GCS Rostered Leaders serving in an institution or agency under a Synodical Call (February 2018).

Synod Council

The Grand Canyon Synod Council currently has 20 members, with two student representatives and one young adult representative, representing all conferences of the Synod. We are updating our council list and it will be on this page soon.

Grand Canyon Synod 



Grand Canyon Synod Formed in 1987 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was constituted on April 30, 1987. The ELCA brought together the 2.85 million-member Lutheran Church in America (created by the 1962 merger of four church bodies), the 2.25 million-member American Lutheran Church (created by the 1960 merger of four churches), and the 100,000-member Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (established in 1976 by about 100 congregations withdrawing from The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod).

In June 1987, the Grand Canyon Synod became one of ELCA’s 65 synods. The synod was established in Arizona, southern Nevada, and later included St. George in Utah. The synod’s territory had been part of the ALC’s South Pacific District, the LCA’s Pacific Southwest Synod, and the AELC’s Pacific Regional Synod.

Officers of the synod since 1987 include:



  • The Rev. Howard E. Wennes (June 20, 1987 – August 31, 2001)

  • The Rev. Michael Neils (September 1, 2001 – January 24, 2006)

  • The Rev. Alton Zenker (February 6, 2006 – July 31, 2006)

  • The Rev. Stephen S. Talmage (August 1, 2006 – July 31, 2017)

  • The Rev. Dr. Lowell G. Almen (August 1, 2017 – August 31, 2018)

  • The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer (September 1, 2018 – present)

Vice Presidents

  • Don C. Stevens (1987-1994)

  • Twila Burdick (1994-2002)

  • Curt Hahn (2002– 2009)

  • Paula Sturgeon (2010-2012)

  • Mary Beth Baron (2012-2017)

  • Paul Gryniewicz (2017-present)


  • Willis Erickson (1987-1990)

  • Janet Line (1990-1996)

  • Karen Novachek (1996-1998)

  • Donna Eyring (1998-2002)

  • Drew Peterson (2002-2009)

  • Karl Johnson (2010-2013)

  • Rev. David Brandfass (2014-present)


  • Jim Cadwallader (1987-1995)

  • Edward Davis (1995-2003)

  • Sue Vogel (2003-2011)

  • Keith Hopkey (2011-2015)

  • Jerry Zaddack (2015-present)