Moderator: Bishop Matthew Riegel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America West Virginia/Western Maryland Synod
Riegel has served as chaplain of Lutheran Campus Ministry at West Virginia University in Morgantown. He was pastor of Trinity-Mount Calvary Lutheran, a shared ministry in Westernport, Md., and Keyser, W.Va., from 1994 to 2000. “Wittenberg University was midwife to the birth of the Lutheran Reformation. Leaving campus ministry, I hope to share that university ethos beyond the campus in continuance of the work begun 500 years ago,” Riegel said.
Riegel earned a bachelor’s degree in history from ELCA-related Gettysburg (Pa.) College in 1987. From the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.), Riegel earned a master of divinity degree in 1994 and a master of sacred theology degree in 2011. He has served as the Bishop for the West Virginian ELCA Synod since 2015.
The Rev. Emilie Theobald-Rowlands currently serves as the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Vienna, West Virginia. Prior to coming to West Virginia in 2012, Rowlands first call as a parish pastor in 2008, was serving a two point yoked parish with Resurrection Lutheran Church (Oakdale) and Grace Lutheran Church (Crescent); located west of downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A native Appalachian raised in western Pennsylvania, Rowlands has served as the Secretary for the Evangelical Lutheran Coalition for Mission in Appalachia (2013 & 2014). Rowlands currently serves as the co-convener and recorder of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Appalachian Leadership Task Force (2015-present).
Rev. John Rausch of Glenmary Home Missioners
Fr. John S. Rausch, a Glenmary priest, writes and organizes in Appalachia where he has worked for over 40 years. He organized three worker-owned co-operatives in Central Appalachia, and taught with the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center, Berea, Kentucky. For 8 years he directed the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, and for 19 years he wrote a syndicated column with the Catholic Press Association. A strong environmentalist, he speaks out against the devastation of mountaintop removal and advocates for the rights of labor and sustainable economic development. With a masters in economics, he writes and speaks about various topics in light of Catholic social teachings, and was recognized as a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace in 2007 for his work on ecology and economics.
Ash-Lee Henderson of the Highlander Center in Tennessee
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson is a 31 year old, Affrilachian (Black Appalachian), working class woman, born and raised in Southeast Tennessee. She has served in positions of leadership for many organizations including being the past president of the Black Affairs Association at East Tennessee State University and the Rho Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She holds a B.A. in English with a minor in African and African American History. She has extensive experience with community organizing and is a former staff member of the Chicago SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) History Project, and a past member of the United Students Against Sweatshops National Coordinating, Political Education and Collective Liberation Committees.
Additionally she is a long-time activist working around issues of mountaintop removal mining, and environmental racism in central and southern Appalachia, and has served on the National Council of the Student Environmental Action Coalition. She is also an active participant in the Movement for Black Lives. Ash-Lee has experienced Highlander through participating in Cultural Organizers’ Weekend, Transitions, and has served as a board member since 2012. Ash-Lee comes to Highlander from Project South, where she is a member and regional organizer, active participant on the governance council of the Southern Movement Assembly, and organizer with Concerned Citizens for Justice (Chattanooga, TN).