Synod Staff


Rev. Joy Mortensen-Wiebe
(608) 270-0201

Bishop Joy Mortensen-Wiebe was elected in 2020 to serve as bishop of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin-ELCA. Bishop Joy is returning to our synod after previously serving as our Interim Director for Evangelical Mission in 2018 and as an intentional interim pastor at First Lutheran Church in Beaver Dam in 2017. She most recently served as pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Slinger, Wis.. Previously she served several Wisconsin churches including St. Paul in Mayville, Living Hope in Saukville, All Saints in Oshkosh; and Grace in Tomahawk. Bishop Mortensen-Wiebe also served as Associate to the Bishop in the East Central Synod of Wisconsin from 2004-2014 and as pastor chaplain of Lutheran Homes of Oshkosh Inc.

Bishop Mortensen-Wiebe received a Bachelor of Science degree from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis., in 1988, a Master of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., in 1992, and a Master of Education degree from Lakeland University in Plymouth, Wis., in 2004. Bishop Mortensen-Wiebe is married to the Rev. Darin Wiebe and they have two daughters, Elida and Julia.


Rev. Walter Baires
Associate to the Bishop, Director for Evangelical Mission
(608) 270-0201

Rev. Walter Baires serves as the Director for Evangelical Mission and Associate to the Bishop.  He was called to this position in April, 2019 and started in the office on May 1, 2019. Rev. Baires was ordained in the Lutheran Church of El Salvador in 1994. He graduated from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in 1993. He served as associate pastor at Resurrection Lutheran in San Salvador, director of the Sister Parish Program, and vice-president of the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod.  Beginning in 2001, he began serving as co-pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church, a multicultural congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During his time at Ascension he also has served as vice-president of the Latino Ethnic Association of the ELCA, coordinator of the Synodical Latino Strategy and member of the ELCA Latino Strategy monitoring team. Rev. Baires is married to Elizabeth, an ELCA pastor currently serving as bridge pastor at Saint Luke Lutheran in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Their children are Atzin (31), Itzel (29), and Walter Jr. (27).


Rev. Peter Beeson
Associate to the Bishop for Generosity
(608) 270-0201

Peter began serving on synod staff as Associate to the Bishop for Generosity in September 2021.  He is reachable on Wednesdays and checking email and telephone messages during that time.  He is also available for evening appointments, Sunday stewardship visits, and looks forward to being with congregations and conferences in our synod to preach, teach, listen, and talk about stewardship and God’s generosity.  Peter will be continuing to serve as pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Madison, where he was called in 2018.

Peter previously served St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church in Hoboken, NJ where he was on the Fiscal Management, Administration, and Property Committee for the New Jersey Synod. Prior to that he was on the staff of Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington DC where he served on the Stewardship & Mission Support Table for the Metro DC Synod.  In his former life he worked in technology project management in higher ed and is excited to have his loves of stewardship, real estate, and celebrating God’s generosity come together to resource congregations in our synod to use all our assets for building the Kingdom of God.  Peter and his family live in Madison, where they’ve fallen in love with the lakes and nature spaces.


Rev. Jen Christenson
Associate to the Bishop for Communication & Relationship
(608) 270-0201

The Rev. Jen Christenson joined the synod staff as the Associate to the Bishop for Communication and Relationship in February 2022. Her primary focus is helping to share the story of our ministry together in the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin. Rev. Christenson enjoys hearing about both the joys and challenges our synod’s congregations face and finding ways to connect our leaders and ministries with the synod and with one another.

Rev. Christenson is a graduate of Monona Grove High School and obtained a degree in International Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994. She worked in various roles at a major health insurance company, including as a Legislative Communication Analyst, before discerning her call to ministry. Rev. Christenson received her Master of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary in 2002 and was ordained in the same year. Prior to joining the staff of the SCSW, she was privileged to serve at Grace Lutheran Church, Green Bay; St. John Lutheran Church, Ashwaubenon; and Christus Lutheran Church, Greenville, Wis

Johnny Hufford

Johnny Hufford
Director of Administration & Events
(608) 270-0201

Johnny joined the Synod staff in December 2022 as Director of Administration & Events with primary responsibilities including executive support for the Bishop and event/campaign management.  He grew up in the Chicago suburbs attending Peace Lutheran Church in Lombard, IL where his dad served as Senior Pastor.  He gained an interest in volunteer work and nonprofit administration through experiences in the Church.  Johnny attended Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI where he was active in volunteer service and hunger relief organizations, including an organization he co-founded that provided undergrad students with international service opportunities in Honduras.  He graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in Public Administration and Nonprofit Administration.

After graduation, Johnny moved to Madison to work for Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin in fund development and event/campaign management, including the NBC15 Share Your Holidays campaign.  He then moved into an Executive Assistant role supporting Second Harvest’s executive team. Johnny enjoys living in Madison, exploring restaurants and coffee shops with his partner, and is excited to work with the team at the Synod.


Marie Leafblad
Associate to the Bishop for Leadership Support
(608) 270-0201

Marie joined the Synod Staff in March 2021 as Associate to the Bishop for Leadership Support with primary responsibilities in mobility, relational networking, care of congregations, and youth and family ministries. Marie is a graduate of Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a Masters in Global and Contextual Studies (2013) and North Park University with a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies and World Religions (2008). After years of serving in Baptist and Non-Denominational churches, Marie moved to the ELCA in November 2015 when she started on staff of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Slinger, Wisconsin, as their Youth and Family Director. Prior to her call to St. Luke, Marie was general manager at Barley Johns Brew Pub. She still claims it is “the best church she’s ever served.” Marie has plenty of international experience working with disaster relief, orphanage care, organizations and businesses in Nepal, Kenya, Haiti, and Guatemala. She acts as a Discipling Peer Coach with the ELCA, mentoring others in youth ministry.


Shane Reich
Director of Operations & Candidacy
(608) 270-0201

Shane joined the synod staff in November 2022. He is originally from Wisconsin, moved to Virginia at a young age and spent his school age years in Norther Virginia in Leesburg. It was there that he found his passion for public service.  He started volunteering with the Red Cross as a first aid and CPR Instructor at 14 and then joined the Volunteer Fire Department at 16.  Shane found that he has a strong love to help others.  He took that love of service into the US Coast Guard.  Shane’s service in the Coast Guard took him all over the U.S. and the world working Maritime, Humanitarian and Military missions.  He continued to serve the public after the military in correctional agencies and health care.  Leading him to here with the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin!  During his time in the military and after his enlistment, Shane was able to achieve an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachler’s Degree in Public Administration.  Shane has been with the Lutheran church since he was an infant and is currently an active member of Hope Lutheran Church in McFarland, where he is active with the Church Choir and Worship Committee.


Rev. Jason Poole-Xiong
Webmaster (Contract)
(608) 387-8560

Jason serves as the content manager for our synod website and YouTube channel along with other digital media communications. He also serves in a volunteer capacity as our ELCA Youth Gathering Synod Champion working with congregations planning to attend the tri-annual ELCA Youth Gathering coming up in 2024. Jason graduated from Wartburg Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity in 2020 and serves concurrently as Associate Pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Beloit, WI.


Becky Johnson
Accountant/Financial Consultant (Contract)

Becky Johnson serves as our Synod Accountant and consultant on our financials working alongside our elected Synod Treasurer. She handles all accounts payable and prepares our financial statements.