Dr. Amy Sander Montanez

Keynote Speaker

Amy Sander Montanez, D.Min, has been a licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, coach, and spiritual director for thirty years. She has a private practice of whoiistic psychotherapy in Columbia, South Carolina where she specializes in working with clergy and seminarians, and is also well known for her helpful and compassionate work with couples. She has been on the faculty of several spiritual direction training programs, most recently at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary’s spiritual direction training program. One of her greatest joys in life is seeing people grow into their wisdom and strength, living out their God-given potential. This happens, she believes, at that juncture where one’s personal psychology and personal spirituality intersect.

Amy has led retreats for twenty-five years and is a sought after speaker for workshops. Her areas of expertise include all aspects of women’s issues, leadership during hard times, forgiveness, grief work, healthy relationships, building healthy families and communities, the spiritual journey, healing, and the mind-body-spirit connection. Amy is a certified PeopleMap trainer, and she uses this tool to help people and groups of all kinds communicate effectively and productively. Amy’s coaching practice is also well-known for being effective and moving people toward living out of their strengths and dreams.

In 2013, Amy’s first book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life (Morehouse Press) was published and has enjoyed national success. Rewarded Spirituality and Practice’s Top 100 books on spirituality, the book can be used for individual reflection as well as small and large group use. She has won six National Polly Bond Awards for Special Achievement in Church Communication in the area of Spiritual and Devotional Writings.

In 2015, Amy and her dear friend and colleague, Dr. Rhea Merck co-created a new blog: Life is Messy, Life is Marvelous. These weekly skill-based blogs can be found on their FB page, Messy Marvelous or at www.messymarvelous.com.

On a personal note, Amy is married and has a daughter who has left the nest. She enjoys cooking and eating, especially if it’s done in the presence of good friends, ballroom dancing, especially after all the cooking and eating, playing the piano, playing in her garden, and traveling.

The Rev. Kevin Strickland

Bible Conversation Leader & ELCA Representative

Assistant to the Presiding Bishop, Executive for Worship
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Pastor Strickland serves as the Assistant to the Presiding Bishop, Executive for Worship of the ELCA. He began his call with the churchwide office in August, 2014. Pastor Strickland believes that worship is central to our mission. “Worship is at the heart of our mission as Christ church and provides an opportunity for us to be made whole and encounter the holy. Worship equips us to be disciples in this world, striving for justice and in doing so, we return often to the heart of our mission to be re-charged and fed.”

Pastor Strickland was born and raised in Lexington, S.C. and is an honors graduate of Newberry College (Newberry, S.C.) with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Philosophy with a minor in History. He also earned a master of divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (Columbia, S.C.).

Just prior to his call to the churchwide organization, Pastor Strickland served as pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (Nashville, Tenn.). He also served as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church (Maryville, Tenn.). In the area of youth and family ministry, he served at Incarnation Lutheran Church (Columbia, S.C.), at St. Philip’s Lutheran Church (Newberry, S.C.), Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (Newberry S.C.) and Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church (West Columbia, S.C.).

Pastor Strickland has served on various local non-profit boards and has a heart for justice and advocacy ministry. He has written for a number of publications and has spoken around the ELCA in the areas of worship and preaching. Presently, he serves on the Consultation for Common Text, Resource Management Team with Augsburg Fortress, Chair of the International English Language Liturgical Consultation. He served as chair of the first-ever ELCA Rostered Ministers Gathering, the Entrance Rite Discernment Group, and other Churchwide committees.

The Rev. Bill Blank

Teaching Moments Leader, Lombard Mennonite Peace Center

Bill Blank is Associate Director of the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center in Lombard, IL. He is an ordained minister in the Mennonite Church and has served as a pastor and interim pastor. He has participated in the Postgraduate Program in Bowen Family Systems Theory and Its Applications at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in Washington D.C. He has experience as a mediator, trainer and church consultant as well as providing coaching for pastors and church leaders. He will be leading our Teaching Moments as well as one of the Discipleship Experiences at the 2018 SC Synod Assembly.

The Rev. James Henricks

Teaching Moments Leader, Summer Memorial, Newberry

Summer Memorial, Newberry

The Rev. Job Mbwilo and Mama Ala

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, Bishop, Southwestern Diocese

Bishop Job Mbwilo was born in 1949 in Ikuwo Parish where is father was sent to be an evangelist. He attended Kidugala Bible School at Kidugala Lutheran Seminary before attending Makumira Theological College. The Bishop married Alatutola Sanga in 1972 and they have four children. Bishop Mbwilo has had the privilege to study abroad at Bossey Ecumenical Institute (Geneva, Switzerland), Hamburg University (Germany) and Birmingham University (England). He has served as the treasurer of Ikuwo Parish (1970) and Youth Director of Chimala District (1972). As a pastor he served Mswiswi Parish (1974-1977), Matamba Parish (1981-1987) and Fechheim Parish in Germany (1987-1991) He became the Assistant to the Bishop, SWD in 1992 and became the Bishop of the SWD in 1996. He also serves as the Chairperson of Mission and Evangelism of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. His interests include serving people spiritually and developing them in education and human development. In 2018 he will retire after serving as bishop of the SW Diocese since 1997.

Mrs. Alatutola (ALA) Martin Sanga Mbwilo was born in 1952 in Nkondo Village of Iluwo Parish. She attended local schools and served as a primary school teacher (1973-1974). She studied Cookery at Makumira (1979-1980) and Cookery and Sewing while in Germany (1988-1991). She works in Agriculture. Mama Ala started the women’s group for learning and implementing development in 1991, started the Kindergarten in 1996, the sewing school in Matamba 2002, and the Orphanage in 2010.

Mrs. Erika Arango Klimkowski

Spanish Language Interpreter

Erika is currently working as the Ministry Assistant at Nuestro Salvador in Greenville SC.
At Nuestro Salvador she also volunteers with confirmation classes and children’s Sunday school.
Prior to working at Nuestro Salvador, she worked for communities in school, as a translator and interpreter. She also volunteers for medical and legal appointments, teacher conferences or any other services needed in the Latino community. In her free time she enjoys long hikes with her family and dogs.

Worship Leaders

The Rev. Patti Sue Burton-Pye

Assembly Chaplain

Patti Sue Burton-Pye has been serving as Pastor of Providence Lutheran Church since 2008. She is a graduate of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) in Columbia, SC. Before entering into fulltime ministry, Patti Sue was an insurance broker for 24 years in Atlanta, GA. She and her family currently reside in Lexington. Patti Sue is married to Russell Pye and has two children, Christopher and Sarah Beth. In her spare hours, Patti Sue enjoys spending time with her family or reading a good book.

Patti Sue also serves on the board of directors at of Lexington Interfaith Community Services (LICS) and on the Advisory Committee of LaVie Pregnancy Center. Since 2009 she has worked with her ecumenical and Lutheran sisters and brothers in Lexington. Alongside their partner church, Mt. Horeb United Methodist, over 13 schools in the Lexington One School District receive food bags each week through the Harvest Hope Backpack program funded through member and community partner donations. This program continues to be the largest in the state for Harvest Hope. This past October, she coordinated an ecumenical and multicultural prayer service at the Icehouse Amphitheater in Lexington which drew together just over 200 people to pray for our community, our nation and our world. Patti Sue also serves on several networks within the Synod and has enjoyed serving in various capacities over the years with our annual Synod Assembly. Most recently, Patti Sue co-led the Misconduct & Boundaries workshop for the Synod.

Deacon Kathleen Cartledge

Chief Musician

Deacon Kathleen Cartledge is the Director of Music Ministries and Liturgist at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Aiken, SC. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music from Augusta University and a Master of Arts in Religion, Theology Track from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. She has served in the Augusta/Aiken area as organist, pianist, accompanist and conductor; as a Children’s Choir Seminar Instructor, Adult Choir Workshop leader, organized a local Organ Series, and performed in recitals and concerts throughout the Central Savannah River Area. Deacon Kathleen composes and arranges music for choirs and instruments; and has written Advent Preaching and Devotions Series. She is a member of the Augusta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians and Handbell Musicians of America. Kathleen loves to perform and listen to all types of music from early music and baroque to jazz and contemporary. In January 2018, she was Choir Master/Organist for a Joint Catholic-Lutheran Vespers service; and in March, took the Church Women’s Ensemble, Bella Musica, to sing for the Aiken Cooperative Ministers Fellowship County Wide Revival. Deacon Kathleen supports Campus Ministry at USC Aiken, serves as the Music Partner Coordinator for Voice Students at USCA and serves on the South Carolina Synod Council.

The Rev. Christi Pursey


Pastor Christi attended the University of South Carolina obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Psychology, Sociology and Religious studies in 2003. She then attended The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary where she received her Master of Divinity Degree in 2008. She has been called and served at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Goliad, TX; Mt. Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Prosperity, SC and Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Johnston, SC. Pastor Christi is currently seeking a Spiritual Direction certification through LR/LTSS. Other activities Pastor Christi has been involved with include working with ICare4, a Human/Sex Trafficking Organization located in Augusta, GA; the 2018 Fall Convocation committee; the 2018 Synod Assembly as Necrologist and on the SC Synod Consultation Committee. In her free time she enjoys gardening, making Salsa, cooking, crocheting and reading.

Committee Chairs

The Rev. Mary Finklea

The Rev. Mary Finklea

Nominating Committee Chair

Rev. Mary M. Finklea lives in Florence with her husband, Wade, and three “kids”, goats Lolly, LuLu, and Leroy. She is a graduate of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and served twelve years as the pastor of Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, Florence, SC. On a break from congregational ministry, she is enjoying time with her family and volunteer work. Her work in the community includes having served on the boards of Francis Marion University, Lighthouse Ministries, and Lutheran Services Carolinas. She is the former president of Women In Philanthropy of the Pee Dee. As the ecumenical representative of the SC Synod of the ELCA, she enjoys learning about traditions different from her own, and is delighted to be always learning something new.

The Rev. Michael Watson

The Rev. Michael Watson

Conduct of Elections Committee Chair

Rev. Michael Watson lives in Lexington, SC, with his wife Alyssa. He serves as the pastor of Nazareth Lutheran Church, Lexington, SC. He is 2002 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. He has served on the Conduct of Elections Committee the last two years and was also in 2015. He is the treasurer for the Saxe Gotha Conference Rostered Leaders Group. He is in an ecumenical breakfast group with a number of Church of God, Baptist, and Non-Denominational pastors. We hold a joint community worship service in November where we pool our money and prepare over 500 food bags to hand out in our community at Thanksgiving. We also partner with Lexington District 1 School system to provide clothing and school supplies to the District 1 schools who have the greatest need for these items.

The Rev. Gina Metze

The Rev. Gina Metze

Conduct of Elections Committee Chair

Rev. Gina Metze lives in Lexington with her husband, Dion. They have one daughter, Breanna. She is a 2013 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Gina serves as the pastor of St. James Lutheran Church, Leesville, SC.

The Rev. Jason Schafer

Reference and Counsel Committee Chair

St. Luke’s, Newberry

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