Synod Staff

Meet the staff at North Carolina Synod ELCA.

Tim

Tim Smith

Bishop of the North Carolina Synod

Born 1960 in Lenoir, NC, Tim graduated high school in Salisbury, NC, in 1978. He played JV basketball under Coach Roy Williams and was musical director of the Clef Hangers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, graduating in 1982. He then attended Gettysburg Seminary, including a semester in Washington, DC at Catholic University and an internship at The American Church in Berlin, and graduated in 1986. He received a D.Min degree from Drew University in 1992 and served three parishes—St. Paul-Startown (Newton, NC), Grace (Boone, NC), and Redeemer (Atlanta, GA)—before becoming bishop. Tim is married to Wendy Weisner Smith and they have three grown children and four young grandchildren.

He is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill (M.A.), Gettysburg Seminary (M.Div.), and Drew University (DMin.). His ministry experiences include supervising 22 full-year interns, serving as Appalachian State University campus pastor, and being a featured preacher for Day 1 radio broadcast (formerly “The Protestant Hour”).

Bishop Smith and his wife, Wendy, have three grown children: Matthew and his wife, Keri; Isaac and his wife, Lauren; and Ruth and her husband, Tommy. They also enjoy spending as much time as possible with their three grandsons and one granddaughter.

Carissa Abraham

Program Assistant for Leadership & Candidacy
704-680-9553 cabraham@nclutheran.org

Carissa is a committed peacemaker, advocate, and dreamer striving to practice compassionate curiosity for Christ, humanity, and the cosmos. She is passionate about sharing ideas in meaningful ways to help everyone learn, mature, and move forward together toward love. Carissa enjoys strategic thought facilitation that helps develop diverse, future-oriented visions and plans which transform systems to operate with equity and justice for everyone.

Stephanie Burke

Regional Gift Planner
704-293-9436 Stephanie.Burke@elca.org

Stephanie Burke has spent almost her entire life as a Lutheran in the Carolinas, having served: on synod staff as Youth Ministry Intern, over 20 years at Christ, Charlotte, in the areas of family and theatrical arts ministry, as a live worship artist and public speaker, and now with the ELCA Foundation as Regional Gift Planner. She is thrilled to "link arms with people and the Holy Spirit in crafting a plan that will tell their faith story far into the future."

Sandra Cline

Call Process
704-680-9552 scline@nclutheran.org

Sandra has worked for Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Agape+Kure Beach Ministries, and now on synod staff. She enjoys working with congregations looking for a pastor and with pastors looking for a new call.

The Rev. Danielle DeNise

Director for Evangelical Mission
704-680-9554 ddenise@nclutheran.org

Pastor Danielle is an Ohio girl (Go Buckeyes!) that moved south as quick as she could to enjoy the sunshine. She is a graduate of American University and Duke Divinity School. She is married to Michael and they have two small kiddos - Moses and Olive. Our family loves the beach and baking. Danielle enjoys reading and loves chai lattes.

Michael DeNise

Finance & Administration
704-680-9562 mdenise@nclutheran.org

Michael joined the synod staff in June, 2016. Prior to joining the staff, he worked for YMCAs in both Virginia and North Carolina in multiple positions through his eight years with the YMCA, from assistant program director to executive director. His background in non-profit management helps him be a resource for many different issues relating to both congregations and rostered ministers. Michael is married to Pastor Danielle Kosanovich DeNise and together they have two children: Moses (2017) and Olive (2018).

Catherine Fink

Communications and Resources
704-680-9574 cfink@nclutheran.org

A native of South Carolina, Catherine spent many of her growing up years at Southern Seminary where her dad, Dr. Carl Ficken, taught. She graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne in '88 and has stayed in NC ever since! She and her husband, Dwayne, met when they were both counselors at Lutheridge and have a grown son, Jacob. She loves stories in whatever form they come—music, books, or movies—as well as traveling to new places.

Rick Godby

Web & Database Manager
704-680-9571 rgodby@nclutheran.org

Rick has worked at the synod office since 2001. In addition to maintaining the synod website and database, he also does video production and editing. His hobbies are homebrewing and playing video games.

The Rev. Sara Ilderton

Candidacy & Boundaries
704-680-9556 silderton@nclutheran.org

Sara graduated from seminary (LTSS) as a second-career student in 1999. (Prior to seminary she earned an MS in Exercise Physiology and worked in that field for several years.) Before serving on the bishop's staff, she served as pastor in three congregations: Prince of Peace, Stuart, FL; Nativity, Arden, NC; and St. Luke's, Charlotte, NC. Sara met her husband, Cliff, while they were both on staff at Lutheridge. Currently, they live in Charlotte with their two teenage children and various and sundry animals. While serving on the bishop's staff was never something she imagined doing, it has been—and continues to be—one of the great privileges of her life.

Deacon Tammy Jones West

Leaders Learn & Leadership School, First Call, Discipleship, Youth & Family Ministry
828-308-1362 tammy@lutheranyouth.org

Tammy currently lives in Taylorsville and has one son, Robert, and daughter-in-law, Maura. She is a '91 graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and '09 graduate of Luther Seminary. She enjoys cooking for large crowds and any time with her family. She and her three sisters are even willing to live side by side—more on that coming soon.

The Rev. CeCee Mills

Associate Director for Evangelical Mission
704-680-9563 cmills@nclutheran.org

Ordained on March 20, 2004, CeCee has served in the Virginia and North Carolina Synods. She currently lives in the city of her birth, Greensboro, NC with her only child, Joshua Mills, now 26. She completed her seminary studies at the Lutheran Theological Center in Atlanta which at the time was an extension of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia. She is a certified coach, Ventures Stewardship facilitator, Healthy Congregations facilitator, and Bowens Family Systems Theory enthusiast/student. She also participates as a facilitator and activist in social and racial justice efforts.

Caroline Mocko

Faith+Finances+Freedom Staff Assistant
704-680-9568 cmocko@nclutheran.org

Caroline serves as Program Assistant for Faith, Finances, Freedom/The Lifeline Fund and works to process grant applications from rostered ministers across five different synods. She feels blessed to work part-time in the synod, doing research and aiding in grant writing for a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to help pastors relieve debt.

The Rev. John Mocko

Faith+Finances+Freedom Program Director
704-680-9568 jmocko@nclutheran.org

John is a retired pastor living in Florida and directing the Lifeline Fund which involves five synods in Region 9.

Kathy Muth

Bishop's Administrator
704-680-9557 kmuth@nclutheran.org

Kathy is married to John Muth, retired American Airlines pilot. They live in Salisbury and have two children and two beautiful grandsons: John Michael Muth and John Edward Muth, III (Jack). When Kathy is not working, she enjoys cross-stitching, being with friends, working in the yard, and traveling.

Diane Ryan

Office Administrator and Supply Coordinator
704-680-9564 dryan@nclutheran.org

A life-long Southern girl born and raised in North Carolina," Diane is married with two sons—Jason & Richie (deceased 2017—six grandchildren—Alexis, Alex (deceased 2019), Caleb, Alyssa, Jake, and Rebecca—and two great-grandsons—Maverick & Levi. She loves getting together with family and extended family for Friday Pizza night, my family's weekly pie night at my mom's, and going to yard sales with my sister. Diane says, "Although I have faced trials in life, my faith and positive outlook on life stay strong. I am usually full of energy and look forward to greeting and helping everyone who enters or calls the synod office."

The Rev. David Sloop

FFF Resource Director
919-801-8256 davidsloop@aol.com

Elizabeth Smith

Heilig Resource Center Assistant
704-680-9573 esmith@nclutheran.org

Retired from the State of North Carolina, Elizabeth has worked on synod staff since 2013. A member of Calvary, Spencer, she is a wife, step-mom, and proud grandma. She has a passion for work with the election process. She believes everyone should have the chance to vote and she works each year during the election times to make this happen. Also, she supports the Salvation Army and all they do for those in need.

The Rev. Phil Tonnesen

Campus Ministry, Deans
704-680-9558 ptonnesen@nclutheran.org

Phil grew up at Grace, Raleigh, and met his wife, Deb, while attending Lenoir-Rhyne. Following his graduation from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in 1993, he served in a team ministry at Cross and Crown, Matthews. Phil and Deb live on Lake Hickory and have three adult children. Together they enjoy traveling, boating, and hiking.

Holly Zemke

Administrative Assistant for Evangelical Mission
704-680-9569 hzemke@nclutheran.org

Holly is a mother of two, step-mom of three, grandmother of six, and is called to be a voice of change in the righteous war on systemic racism. She's a member of St. John's, Salisbury, since 1993. Holly was customer and product marketing in first her career and now is blessed to be part of the NC Synod staff. She loves quilt history, quilts, and quilt-making.

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