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1st African-American female bishop installed at Madison-area Lutheran synod

August 19, 2018

The Rev. Viviane E. Thomas-Breitfeld was installed Saturday as the new bishop for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, which includes the Madison area.

It marks the first time that a woman of African descent achieved that level of ministry among the 65 synods that make up the ELCA — the largest Lutheran denomination in the world, according to a church announcement.

Thomas-Breitfeld’s installation was celebrated under the theme of social justice at a Saturday afternoon ceremony that took place in Janesville’s First Lutheran Church.

“I hope I can help the synod become more open to change, so we can become more relevant to all, especially people of color, LGBTQI, and young adults, many of whom are choosing to not attend church,” she said in the announcement.

Thomas-Breitfeld was elected May 6 to serve a six-year term. She assumed office July 1 and succeeds the Rev. Mary Froiland who served as bishop from September 2013 through June 30.

Before her installation, Thomas-Breitfeld served as an intentional interim pastor for Atonement Lutheran Church in Beloit and pastor at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Brookfield, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Waukesha and Cross Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.

She is married to the Rev. Fred Thomas-Breitfeld, pastor of Jackson Park Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.

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