Bishop Mark Hanson

Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Organization: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

In August 2001, the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) elected Mark S. Hanson to serve as presiding bishop.

Before being elected presiding bishop, he served as bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod (3H). He had been elected to serve a second term in Saint Paul earlier that same year.

Prior to being elected synod bishop, he served as pastor of three Minnesota congregations: Prince of Glory Lutheran Church, Minneapolis; Edina (Minnesota) Community Lutheran Church; and University Lutheran Church of Hope in Minneapolis.

Born in Minneapolis on December 2, 1946, he graduated from Augsburg College with a B.A. in sociology. He was a Rockefeller Fellow at Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and received a Master of Divinity degree there in 1972. He also attended Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, and was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School in 1979.

In 2003, he was elected president of the Lutheran World Federation, a position he holds concurrently with his position as presiding bishop of the ELCA. Serving with this global communion of Lutheran churches, Bishop Hanson has traveled widely throughout the world, sharing a confident hope in God's promises and a vision of the joyful freedom in Christian community and mission.

Hanson is widely known as a leader with an evangelical passion and imagination who embraces the Christian tradition, the Christian community, and the world with both generous goodwill and thoughtful insight. He has been an articulate advocate for the renewal of the church's preaching and public voice, for the strengthening of ecumenical and inter-religious relationships, and for reconciliation and justice in society, with attention especially to those who live with poverty and discrimination.

Since being elected presiding bishop, he has received several honorary degrees, including Doctor of Humane Letters from Augsburg College, Wittenberg University, and Grand View University, Doctor of Humanities from Capital University, Doctor of Divinity from Lenoir-Rhyne College, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Susquehanna Univeristy, Wartburg College, and The Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration.

He is the author of Faithful Yet Changing, the Church in Challenging Times and Faithful and Courageous, Christians in Unsettling Times both from Augsburg Fortress, Publishers.

Married to Ione (Agrimson), they are the parents of Aaron, Alyssa, Rachel, Ezra, Isaac and Elizabeth, and grandparents to Naomi, Kingston, Sam, and Danielle. Before moving to Chicago, Ione was the director of social work at Minneapolis and St. Paul Children's Hospitals.

For more information, please visit the ELCA website.

Articles by Bishop Mark Hanson

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Bishop Mark Hanson: When Creation Speaks to Us

Friday July 19, 2013
What do you hear when you just listen to creation? Do you hear creation telling us of the wonder of God's grace?

Bishop Mark Hanson: What Is the Unfinished Work of Freedom?

Thursday July 04, 2013
As this nation embarks on a celebration of Independence Day, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said the freedoms we celebrate today came with great sacrifice and continue to generate controversy.

Episcopal, Lutheran Presiding Bishops Issue 2013 World Refugee Day Statement

Thursday June 20, 2013
For 2013 World Refugee Day on June 20, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson have issued the following joint statement.

Episcopal Church, Church of Sweden, ELCA commitment: “Sustaining hope in the face of climate change”

Friday May 03, 2013
The heads of three religious denominations - The Episcopal Church, the Church of Sweden, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) – signed a joint statement “to celebrate our commitment to hope in the face of climate change.”

Bishop Mark Hanson: An Easter Message

Monday April 01, 2013
Easter. It is about more than an open tomb. It is the good news of the risen Christ who opens lives.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Always Being Made New

Friday February 01, 2013
We will celebrate the ELCA's 25th anniversary not because we nostalgically long for the past, but because memories give us confidence in God's faithfulness and openness toward God's promised future.

Bishop Mark Hanson: A Christmas Message

Sunday December 23, 2012
God's promise is (that) nothing in all creation will separate you from God's love in Jesus. So amidst the unspeakable, we can join the angel choir singing, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.'

Bishop Mark Hanson: There's Always Room with God

Friday December 21, 2012
There was no place for them in the inn. No place. There was no place for Mary and Joseph when they went to Bethlehem. Was it because of the crowds or was it because they didn't count for much that they needed to settle for a cattle stall to give birth? No place for them. Have you had such an experience?

Bishop Mark Hanson: Now What? A Post-Election Pastoral Message

Wednesday November 07, 2012
"Whether you are rejoicing or lamenting the outcomes of the election, or maybe you're just relieved that campaigning is over, we need to ask, 'Now what?'" ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson offers a video message following the 2012 U.S. elections.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Time for Evangelical Witness

Friday November 02, 2012
In his column for the November issue of The Lutheran magazine, ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson says we must talk about heart of our faith in accessible ways.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Always Being Made New

Friday October 19, 2012
In his latest column in The Lutheran magazine, Bishop Mark Hanson writes: What is life? It may sound like a question for philosophers. But I believe it is a question we ask for ourselves and often use to make judgments about others.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Miles Apart, Yet Living the Same Faith

Friday October 05, 2012
It is the power and promise of Christ's resurrection that holds us as a community of faith. Just as Good Friday's aching loss, Holy Saturday's forsaken absence and Easter Sunday's promise of resurrection to new life in Christ has held the people of New Orleans through generations of struggle from slavery and poverty to Katrina's devastation.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Youth Look to Aid the Vulnerable

Friday August 03, 2012
In Q&A forums I am often asked, "What can we do to get more young adults in church?" As the parent of six young adults, I can identify with the question.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Sharing Humanity with the Poor

Friday July 06, 2012
Poverty. When we begin there, I suspect we will focus on abstract economic conditions. We may turn to income levels to define when a person or household is deemed to be poor. But what happens when we begin by talking with people who are experiencing poverty?

Bishop Mark Hanson: Hope in the Midst of Suffering

Friday June 01, 2012
What passage of Scripture would you share with a vibrant urban congregation remembering the volatile and violent response to the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles 20 years ago? Read Bishop Mark Hanson's latest column from _The Lutheran_ magazine on having a living, daring confidence in God's grace.

Bishop Mark Hanson: A Voice of Prophetic Truth

Friday May 04, 2012
Being a church that is a catalyst, convener and bridge builder means we are called to commit ourselves to sustained conversations in which participants witness to the truth of this faith, gain a deeper understanding of the convictions of one another, and work together for peace and reconciliation.

Bishop Mark Hanson: News Too Good Not to Share

Tuesday April 10, 2012
In his latest column for The Lutheran magazine, Bishop Mark Hanson writes, "When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to undergo great suffering, be killed and after three days rise again, they were bewildered and silent. 'What is this rising from the dead?' they asked. The disciples' question becomes our question. It is a question whose answer has consequences for us and for the world."

Bishop Mark Hanson's Easter Message

Sunday April 08, 2012
When the disciples first heard Jesus speak of his death and resurrection, "they kept the matter to themselves" (Mark 9:10). But the news is too good to keep to ourselves. The life of Jesus Christ has been unleashed into the world.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Message Merits Going Viral

Friday March 02, 2012
It went viral in a matter of hours and now has been viewed more than 17 million times. What piques the interest of so many? It is a YouTube video titled "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus." It brings to mind a distinction people often make between being spiritual but not religious.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Finding Our Place During Lent

Friday February 17, 2012
In his column for The Lutheran magazine, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson says Lent is a time for repentance, and a return to life and roots.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Church Unity Found in Jesus

Friday January 06, 2012
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan. 18-25), I will be giving thanks to God that this is Christ's church. Our unity is in Christ, who gathers us around word and water, bread and wine. Through Christ, we have been reconciled to God and to one another.

Bishop Mark Hanson: A Christmas Message: Yes!

Sunday December 25, 2011
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson offers a Christmas meditation: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all (Titus 2:11).

Bishop Mark Hanson: No ambivalence in this story

Friday December 02, 2011
The season we have entered is one of homecomings on many levels ”” geographical, emotional, social and spiritual.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Mark Hanson on World AIDS Day

Thursday December 01, 2011
In a joint message, the heads of the ELCA and The Episcopal Church write that World AIDS Day is an opportunity for each of us to reflect on God's call to lift up the dignity and value of each person.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Christ's Church, Not Ours

Tuesday November 01, 2011
We care deeply about the church, we serve it faithfully and generously, we are troubled when we believe it has erred, and we delight when the light of Christ shines bright. Therefore, it is understandable that almost unknowingly we begin to think and act as if the church is ours.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Cause for Hope and Gratitude

Tuesday October 18, 2011
Peter urges us to give an account of the hope that is within us. In this and future columns I want to explain why clarity regarding our identity, vocation and mission gives me hope.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Ready to be Moved by the Spirit

Tuesday September 13, 2011
I am hopeful because we are a church whose unity is in Jesus who gathers us around word and water, wine and bread. Worship was at the center of each day with Bible study among small groups of prayer partners.

Bishop Mark Hanson: "Living Lutheran" Today

Sunday August 07, 2011
What does it mean to live Lutheran? I am interested in how you would answer that question. For me, the answer meant asking for forgiveness.

Bishop Mark Hanson: God's Household of Freedom

Sunday July 03, 2011
Freedom! We go to court to protect it and to the halls of government to legislate it. We go to war to defend it. We go to therapy to experience it. We go to worship to receive it. But what in the world is this freedom?

Bishop Mark Hanson: Christ Present in Challenges

Saturday June 11, 2011
The ascension means the crucified and risen Christ is not confined to memories we have of his earthly life, but is alive and on the move today. God provides the Spirit's power through the gospel so we might bear witness today to God's redeeming love in Christ.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Devastating Storms, Broken Hearts

Tuesday June 07, 2011
In the aftermath of storms that seem relentless, we may feel overwhelmed and anxious, but not powerless. For God’s promise is clear: nothing in all creation will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Bishop Mark Hanson: People of the Resurrection

Sunday June 05, 2011
There are many voices telling us who cannot be trusted. Let us, however, sing of the God in whom you can trust, the God who makes promises and keeps them, the God who raised Jesus from the dead, the God who in Christ has made you a new creation.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Preparing for the 9/11 Anniversary

Sunday May 29, 2011
I encourage you to reach out to ecumenical partners, including Muslim and Jewish partners, in your communities to plan 9/11 commemorations. I invite you to focus on increased awareness, healing of relationships and our future.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Bin Laden's Death Calls for Solemn Remembrance

Tuesday May 03, 2011
Responding to the May 1 news of Osama bin Laden's death, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said bin Laden's death "is an occasion for solemn remembrance."

Bishop Mark Hanson's Easter Message

Saturday April 23, 2011
Mary Magdalene and Mary walked to Jesus’ grave, expecting to find death. It’s understandable. Images of violence filled their minds. Thoughts of their vulnerability and mortality deadened their spirits. Death had become the defining story of their lives.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Freed in Christ to Serve

Saturday April 02, 2011
Freedom in Christ happened both once and for all on the cross, and once "for you" in the baptismal dying and rising with Christ. Being freed in Christ is God's gift of grace received through faith so there is no doubt about it.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Struggle to Serve the Word

Sunday March 20, 2011
Do you describe your congregation as struggling? When we struggle, openness and honesty are important. Still, honest description does not mean that our struggles define us, deplete us of energy for mission, or diminish our hope for the future.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Faith Amid the Silence

Saturday February 05, 2011
Each year in December I participate in a three-day retreat with leaders of other U.S. church bodies. We are in silence for 24 hours of that time. I have come to appreciate this time for prayer and reflection and this year meditated on the silence of God.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Pray for Egypt

Tuesday February 01, 2011
As the days of civil unrest continue to unfold in Egypt, I call upon the members of our church to pray for an end to the violence and for a peaceful solution that will benefit all people living in Egypt.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Great Expectations

Wednesday January 05, 2011
The beginning of a new year prompts us to make resolutions, but I invite you to think about expectations. Whether spoken or unspoken, whether for individuals or for church bodies, expectations have power.

Bishop Mark Hanson: A Christmas Message

Friday December 24, 2010
When Jesus was born, angelic messengers broke the still calm of a Galilean night to sing joyously and proclaim, "This very day in David's city a Savior is born for you -- God's Promised One, your Lord."

Bishop Mark Hanson: Advent Readings Focus Us

Friday December 03, 2010
The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America writes, "The Scripture readings for Advent give us a distinctive lens for viewing each other, our faith and the world." Read on...

Bishop Mark Hanson: World AIDS Day

Tuesday November 30, 2010
World AIDS Day gives us the opportunity to reflect, both individually and as faith-community, on God’s call to us. I believe that we are called to lift up the dignity and value of each person.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Days of Timidity Are Over

Saturday November 13, 2010
In these uncertain and challenging times, I have pondered Paul's words to Timothy: "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV). Timidity is not one of God's gifts to us, but we must assess it if we run the risk of becoming a timid church body.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Our Gospel Must Be Jesus

Saturday November 06, 2010
The question of what gospel or message of good news we are proclaiming is important for all of us because there are competing gospels in American public life.... The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith"... Read on.

Bishop Mark Hanson: You Are a Beloved Child of God

Saturday October 30, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson adds his voice to the "It Gets Better" campaign for youth.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Diverse But United

Wednesday September 08, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson reports from the Lutheran World Federation meetings, where God's Spirit "deepened our commitment to being one communion of churches, richly diverse and firmly united in proclaiming Christ and engaging together in God's mission of restoring community and healing the world."

Bishop Mark Hanson: For Everything There Is a Season

Wednesday August 25, 2010
On a recent morning walk I reflected upon familiar words from Ecclesiastes, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven"... It is my prayer that we use this time for discerning and engaging; for repenting and reconciling; for restraint but not timidity; and for rejoicing.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Freedom Rings in the Word

Thursday August 05, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson writes, "At a synod assembly where I was participating as the churchwide representative, I was invited to give my response to this question: 'Bishop, in one word what is your vision for every member of the ELCA?' My response was 'freedom.'" Read on.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Time for Immigration Reform

Tuesday July 20, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson writes, "The time has come for immigration reform in the United States. Yes, the issues are complex and not easily resolved. It is understandable that people are wary of engaging this politically and emotionally charged issue. Yet it would be tragic if we withdrew as people of faith and our voices fell silent."

Bishop Mark Hanson: Give Public Service Its Due

Tuesday July 13, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson writes, "The tragic irony is that exercising the very freedoms so many have fought and died to defend can be criticized as being unpatriotic. Equally tragic is that those who have been most critical of the government often have failed to support those who have given their lives in service to their country."

Bishop Mark Hanson: The Values of Camping Season

Thursday June 24, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson asks, "What if we not only participated in and supported one of our excellent outdoor ministries, but also thought about this summer as a time to experience together what so many value from being at camp?" Read on...

Bishop Mark Hanson: The Gaza Flotilla

Wednesday June 02, 2010
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America responds to the Israeli military interception of the Gaza flotilla.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Strangers Among Us

Wednesday May 19, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson writes, "How are we doing in extending hospitality as a church? When I ask ELCA members to tell me about their congregation, I often hear that they are 'just like a family' or 'so friendly.' As admirable as those qualities are, we may forget that it is not always easy to be a stranger coming into a family." Read on...

Bishop Mark Hanson: Glimpses of Unity

Wednesday April 07, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson reports on his recent visits with leaders from other world church bodies, and concludes that we are bound more closely to Christ than our scriptural and doctrinal differences can separate us.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Easter Message

Saturday April 03, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson writes, "In this new day your resurrected service of God's steadfast love endures forever."

Bishop Mark Hanson: Grappling with Technology

Friday February 19, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson explores the challenges and opportunities that communications technologies offer the church today.

Bishop Mark Hanson: More Than Just Daily Bread

Thursday February 11, 2010
"Give us this day our daily bread." ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson finds much more than bread in these seven well-known words from the Lord's Prayer.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Christmas Message

Tuesday December 22, 2009
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson brings a word of hope for Christmas in his annual Christmas message.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Celebrating Full Communion

Wednesday December 02, 2009
In a sermon presented on All Saints' Day at Hennepin Ave. United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson shares what it could mean to work together in Jesus' name.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Living in Joy and Gratitude

Wednesday November 25, 2009
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson reminds us that perseverance and mercy flow from a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, for which we can be most grateful.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Jesus Our Forgiveness and Our Peace

Wednesday November 18, 2009
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson shares a testimony of faith in Jesus, who offers forgiveness, peace, and joy to those who turn to him.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Learning to Pray Never Stops

Wednesday September 30, 2009
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson relects on the neverending nature of the positive practice of prayer.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Faith Practices in the Making

Wednesday September 09, 2009
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson shares his experiences of building faith practices into daily life--prayer, Bible study, worship, hospitality, service, generosity, teaching and mentoring others.

Bishop Mark Hanson: Seizing an Opportunity

Thursday July 23, 2009
Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, believes the economic crisis gives us an opportunity to share God's generosity and faithfulness.