The Atlantic District

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

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President Biographies

schulzeErnst Carl Louis Schulze

(May, 1906 – October, 1918) was born in Reinsberg, Westphalia, January 29, 1854. He came to America with his parents at the age of two. They settled near Vincennes, Indiana, where he was confirmed in 1869 by Pastor Peter Seuel, who had just left St. Matthew Church, Albany. That same year, he entered Concordia College, Ft. Wayne, and six years later, he entered Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. During his second year, he had the honor of being chosen the Tercentenary of the Formula of Concord in 1877. Upon his graduation in 1878, he was called to Immanuel , 83rd

Street, New York, and two years later to Zion Church, Schenectady, which up to that time had been served by pastors of the General Synod. When the Atlantic District was organized in 1906, he was chosen its first president, which office he held until his death October 9, 1918. Schulze was not only a good preacher and a staunch defender of Lutheranism, a man of prayer and sincere piety, but also of a practical turn of mind, as evidenced by his propositions for improvement of the finances of the church, which found favor not only in his own district, but were adopted in a large measure by the whole synod. An indefatigable worker, he used up his strength in the service of the Lord and His church, visiting, for instance, during one year alone, 64 congregations of the district. When confronted with great problems, his keen intellect soon found the way out of difficulties, and nothing could swerve him from the course which, after prayerful consideration, he had found to be correct.



 birknerPhilip Heinrich Ludwig Birkner

(October 9, 1918 – June, 1930) was born in Brooklyn February 26, 1857, son of Joachim and Caroline (nee Beuttner) Birkner. His father, a successful businessman, soon after his immigration from Nuernberg, became a prominent member of the first Missouri Synod congregation in New York, Trinity East 9th Street. Here Birkner was baptized under the above name; later he was known simply as Henry Birkner. He did not attend elementary school but was taught by a private tutor until he was ready to go to Concordia College, Ft. Wayne, in 1870. He attended

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, from 1875 to 1878, spent a year of graduate study at New York University, and then accepted a call to Zion Church, Gordonville, Missouri, where he served until 1886. It was during his pastorate there that he married Marie Stein in St. Louis in 1882. In 1886 he accepted a call to Christ Church, St. Louis, where he remained until called to First Zion Church, Boston, where he served from 1890 to 1930. During his pastorate in Boston, the "new" Zion Church on the West Newton Street was built. When the Atlantic District was formed, he was made a member of its first mission board; in 1915 he became the second vice-president, and in 1918 was elected first vice-president. Six months later, on the death of Schulze, he became president of the district. During the 12 years of his tenure, at least 31 congregations were founded in the territory of the district. It was the period during which the changeover from German to English was taking place. New auxiliary organizations came into being: the Lutheran Laymen's League, the Walther League, the Metropolitan Lutheran Inner Mission Society under Pastor Herbert Gallmann, and the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. The structure of the Atlantic District was drastically changed by the elimination of various boards and the consolidation of their activities under a board of directors, composed of six pastors, six laymen, the president, secretary, and the treasurer. At the June district convention in 1930 he withdrew his name from consideration for re-election, since he had resigned his pastorate at First Zioini, Boston. He first moved to Ft. Wayne to be with his son, Walter C. Birkner, director of missions of the Central District. His wife died in April, 1931, and then moved to live with his daughter, Elsa M. Birkner, a teacher of language at Luther Institute, Chicago. On November 7, 1932, he died there and was buried in the family plot in Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn.



brunnArthur John Conrad Brunn

(June 23, 1930 to June 20, 1941) was born in Chicago, Illinois July 10, 1880. His father was Friedrich Brunn, scion of a long line of pastors in Hessia, Germany, who in turn was the oldest son of the Friedrich Brunn of Steeden Hessia, who broke away from the liberal State Church of Hessia to become one of the founders of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Germany. Brunn attended the parish school of St. Paul Church, Strasburg, Illinois, and in 1895 entered Concordia College, Ft. Wayne, to prepare for his theological studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

On his graduation in 1903, he was called by the Brooklyn Mission to organize by Pastor August Emil Frey at St. Mark Church, Brooklyn. After successfully organizing Emmaus Church in Ridgewood, he moved out to Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, there to organize St. Peter Church, which he continued to serve until his death. Shortly after his ordination, he married Pauline Schwarze of Ft. Wayne. Their union was blessed with three children, Arthur, Herbert, and Helen who became the wife of Professor Herman J. Rippe, later to become the fifth president of the Atlantic district. Brunn Labored faithfully and successfully in building St. Peter Church into one of the strongest and most active congregations in the district. Lay members trained by him became active in the work of the district. But his activities were not merely parochial. He participated in the work of the district, being elected first vice-president for a term from 1921-1924, and then again from 1927-1930 when he was elected successor to President Birkner. His term of office fell into that period of economic history we knew as the "Depression." During these years it was his endeavor to keep the work of the church going in the face of dwindling resources and very necessary economies. It seemed a miracle that congregations like Woolaston, Quincy, Massachusetts; Grace, Malverne, New York; and Our Redeemer Seaford, New York, could be begun in 1931; Our Redeemer, Peekskill, New York, and St. John Williston Park, New York, were founded in 1934; Resurrection, Flushing, New York had its beginning in 1936; Redeemer, Old Westbury, New York, in 1937, Christ, Belmont, Massachusetts in 1938, and Trinity, Carney's Point, New Jersey, in 1939. The present generation doesn't realize the sacrifices and the strong leadership which produced what to us seem meager results in church growth. When at the convention of the Missouri Synod at Ft. Wayne, Arthur Brunn was elected one of the vice-presidents of Synod, he elected to accept the position which terminated his tenure as president of the Atlantic District as of June 20, 1941. It was during this service as district president that Hartwick Seminary conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and during his tenure as vice-president of the Missouri Synod that his alma mater, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, gave him the same degree. Brunn continued his service as pastor of St. Peter Church and was still interested and ready to give counsel to members of the Atlantic District. In October, 1948, he underwent a serious operation from which he never fully recovered his strength, and on August 27, 1949, (as the memorial bulletin at his funeral so aptly puts it) "he fell asleep in Jesus, whom he loved so dearly and served so well.



koenigGeorge Karl August Koenig

(June 20, 1941 to June, 1942) is the way in which his name is recorded in the baptismal records of Trinity Church, Brooklyn, where he was born March 7, 1894, the son of the Rev. George Koenig and his wife Marie nee Reese. His father was the son of George Friedrich Justus Koenig, second pastor of "old" Trinity on East Ninth Street. We know him as George C. Koenig, Pastor of St. Paul Church, Tremont, Bronx, and, for two years before his death, pastor of Trinity Church, Hawthorne, New York. His being president of the Atlantic District was not in accordance with his

desires. He happened to be first vice-president at the moment when Dr. Arthur Brunn accepted his election to the vice-presidency of Synod, and thus he was forced to become district president. Indeed, had he chosen to accept an elected term of office, there is no doubt that he would have served the district with distinction. The opinion had been expressed that he "chose not to run" because of his frail health, which allowed him to serve his Lord as pastor of a congregation, contribute greatly to various auxiliary organizations such as the International Walther League, The American Lutheran, but might have broken down under the additional stress (the district presidency in those days was a part-time office) of this most responsible office. As it was, he died at the comparatively early age of 56 on November 24, 1950. He was survived by his mother, his wife, Irene Pieper Koenig, M.D., and his sister, Hedwig Koenig, M.D.




rippeHerman John Rippe

(June, 1942 to June, 1960) was born August 25, 1896, in Manhattan to Herman and Elise Lackmann Rippe. His parents were members of Immanuel Church, 88th Street, and it was here that he was instructed and confirmed by Pastor William Schoenfeld. He attended Concordia Collegiate Institute, Bronxville, graduating from there in June 1915. He went to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and graduated in June, 1918, and was ordained by his pastor June 26, 1918, prior to taking up his calling as assistant and later as full professor at Concordia College, Bronxville, from

1918-1937 during the vacancy caused by the death of President Romoser. IN 1939 he accepted the call to Trinity Church, Long Island City, where he remained until his retirement in 1966. On July 12, 1924, he married Helen Brunn, daughter of Dr. Arthur Brunn, of which union three children were born, Doris Helen, Jack Willian, and Martha, who died in infancy. He was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

Dr. Rippe served as president of the Atlantic District for 18 years. It was during these years that the district experienced its greatest growth in number of congregations (74) during any one president's tenure, actually better than four new congregations a year. Yet he continued to function as pastor of one of the larger congregations in the district and organized a parish school. His was the type of leadership which made full use of district executives and vice-presidents. There was a strong movement in the district to make the presidency a full-time office. He, however, indicated before the election of 1960 that he was not willing to relinquish his pastoral office and was not re-elected. He was made honorary president of the district and continued to serve his congregation six more years. He died at his summer home in Bayshore August 21, 1969. He had served his district long and well.



graesserKarl Frank Graesser

(June, 1960 to November 21, 1967) was born in Manhattan March 21, 1903, the son of Pastor Otto F. B. Graesser and Elizabeth Kraemer Graesser. His father was pastor of "Old" Trinity, and it was in its parish school that he received his elementary education before going on to Concordia Collegiate Institute, Bronxville, and to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, from which he graduated in 1926. He spent a year at Columbia University, earning his MA in 1927. In August he was ordained by his father and installed as pastor of Trinity Church, Glen Cove, which he served until December,

1930. He then became assistant pastor to Dr. Brunn, District President and pastor of St. Peter Church, Brooklyn. In February 1941 he accepted a call to St. Paul Church, Providence, Rhode Island, which he served until he resigned 1 January 1962 to assume the full-time district presidency. On July 20, 1928, he had married Aurelia Pennekamp in St. Louis. Four children were born to this union, Carl, Donald, Lois Graesser Meyer, and David. His first wife died in Providence in 1960 and he married Irmella Fehlau in Lewiston, Maine, before he assumed the full-time Presidency.

After serving as a vice-president of the district from 1948 to 1960, he was elected to the presidency in 1960. The district convention had decided to make the office a full-time position, and so January 1, 1962, he assumed those duties and moved to Bronxville. Although this change in the character of the office had been made in order to enable the president to exercise a greater supervisory and pastoral relationship to congregations and pastors, it becomes evident to one who reads the record that Graesser became more and more involved in executive type of management and structure of the district. Even so, in the seven years of his tenure 39 congregations were organized, and average of over five per year. It was during his term of office that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod held its first and only convention on the eastern seaboard, in New York City in 1967. His alma mater, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, recognized his service to Synod by conferring the Doctor of Divinity degree upon him in 1965. At the time of his death he was a member of Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations. After an illness whose seriousness was not realized by many, he succumbed at Lawrence Hospital, Bronxville, November 21, 1967.



ressmeyerRudolph Paul Frederick Ressmeyer

(November 21, 1967 to April 6, 1976 or September 30, 1976) was born February 22, 1924, in Baltimore, Maryland, to the Rev. Rudolph S. and Clara nee Pieper Ressmeyer. His elementary education and part of his secondary was in Baltimore, and then he transferred to Concordia Collegiate Institute, Bronxville, graduating in 1943. He graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1947. He was ordained by his father in Baltimore June 27, 1948, after serving as assistant professor at Concordia College, Portland, Oregon, for a year. After his ordination he served as founding pastor

of Holy Cross Church, Spokane, Washington, until 1950 when he became assistant to his father at Emmanuel Church, Baltimore. In 1954 he accepted the call to Our Redeemer Church, Seaford, New York, where he served until assuming the position of executive director of Long Island Lutheran High School in 1966. During his years in Baltimore, he was engaged in graduate studies at the University of Maryland, and from 1954 to 1958 he was a graduate student at Hofstra University. On January 1, 1949, he married Virginia C. Werberig at Richmond Hill, NY. They have five children: Faith Carol, Judith Virginia, Marcia Ruth, Paul Frederick, and Timothy John.

He was elected to a vice-presidency of the district in 1960 and had advanced to the rank of first vice-president in 1963; then the sudden death of President Graesser made him district president November 21, 1967. The years of Ressmeyer's presidency were years of unrest and conflict in politics, in society, and in the church. In politics it was the period of the Vietnam War and of Watergate. In society there were racial riots and student demonstrations in major cities. In the Missouri Synod there was an increasing conservative concern about doctrinal laxity, culminating in an investigation of the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and the "walk-out" of a large majority of the faculty and student body. While Ressmeyer did not take sides on political matters, he did take an active role in the district tot resolve racial tensions by forming a Committee on Reconciliation and by getting the district convention to adopt resolutions on social questions. In the theological conflict in Synod, he took an adversary role to the actions of the conventions of the Synod at Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Anaheim. With the support of the district convention of1974, he refused to carry out the resolution of the Anaheim convention to refuse ordination to graduates of non-synodical seminaries. As a result, President Jacob Preus of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod removed him from office April 6, 1976. While this action was effective as far as the Synod was concerned, the District convention of 1976 refused to accept the legitimacy of this removal. However, September 14, 1976, Ressmeyer announced his resignation from the district presidency to take effect September 30, 1976.

During Ressmeyer's Presidency, the Atlantic District was geographically divided. The Synodical convention at Milwaukee in 1971 had approved a three-way split of the district. This division was effected at the district convention in June 1972, when the New England and the New Jersey Districts were formed as new districts, while the Atlantic District retained the name and the Articles of Incorporation as amended. At the time of the division, the New England District had 97 congregations, the New Jersey District had 67 congregations, the Atlantic District was left with 125 congregations.



koepchenHenry Louis Koepchen

(April 6, 1976 to December 4, 1976, Acting President) was born September 27, 1931, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to the Rev. Henry Frederick Louis and Edna Krentz Koepchen. After being educated in the public elementary and secondary schools of his birth-place, he attended and graduated from Concordia College, Bronxville, in 1952 before going on to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, from which he graduated in 1957. He was ordained July 28, 1957 by his father in St. Luke Church, Elizabeth, New Jersey, before beginning his service as missionary-at-large of the Atlantic

District, with the assignment of gathering a church in the area of Setauket, Long Island. He founded Messiah Church there in 1961 and is still its pastor.

While at seminary he married Louise Bunzel at St. Paul Church, Tremont, Bronx, June 19, 1954. Koepchen has been active in various synodical offices. He was a circuit counselor for ten years, member of the board of directors of the district for four years, and area vice-president for one year, and has been a member of the board of directors of Synod from 1977 until the present.

Koepchen accepted appointment as acting president from Synod's President with the full knowledge that it would not be acceptable to the existing officers. But he believed that someone from the Atlantic District should represent it on the board of control of Concordia, Bronxville. He also believed that someone from the Atlantic District should represent the district in the counsels of Synod and in the college of presidents. He made an effort to meet with various groups within the district. After the resignation of President Ressmeyer became effective September 30, he provided leadership in setting up a steering committee which could plan for a special convention of the district, which was called for December 4, 1976. That special convention was held and resulted in re-establishing the executive branch of the district structure by the election of a district president and three vice-presidents to fill the vacancies caused by the resignations.



finkRonald Frank Fink

(December 4, 1976 - November 1, 1989) was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on October 17, 1937, son of Herman R. Fink Sr. and his wife Emma Borowski Fink. He received his elementary education at St. Matthew parish school and his high school training at the public high school of New Britain. He attended Concordia Junior College and then went on to Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Illinois. While at the seminary, he married Mildred Roberta nee Wheeler July 1, 1961. When he graduated from seminary, he was assigned to St. John Church, Denver, Iowa, where he served from

1963 to 1966. While serving this parish, he obtained his B.A. at nearby Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa. In 1966 he was called to Grace Church, Vestal, New York, a congregation of the Eastern District. He served there for five years, and was then called to Resurrection Church, Flushing were he served another five years, until elected president of the Atlantic District December 4, 1976. Until June 8, 1978, Fink continued to serve Resurrection Church as its pastor, but with his election to a full term, the district presidency became a full-time office June 10, 1978. Previous to his election, he had served the district as circuit counselor and then from 1974 as third vice-president.




zwernemannJames Zwernemann

(October 29, 1989 –September 1991) was born on January 15, 1938 in Brenham, TX, son of Texas Ranger E.T. Zwernemann and his wife Alwine (nee Jatzlau) Zwernemann. Both parents were direct descendants of the Wendish (Sorbian) settlers who immigrated to Texas from Lusatia in Germany in 1854 with their Lutheran Pastor Johann Kilian, a university classmate of C.F. W. Walther. James is a graduate of Concordia Preparatory School and Jr. College, Austin, TX (A.A. 1 958); Concordia Sr. College, Ft. Wayne, IN (B.A. 1960); Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO (M. Div.

1964); U. S. Army Chaplain School, Ft. Hamilton, NY (Grad. 1964); Biblical Seminary of NY (S.T.M.1967); and NY Theological Seminary (D.Min. 1976). He also attended the U. of Texas, the U. of Houston, Washington U. Graduate School, General Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary, and Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies. When he assumed the Presidency of the Atlantic District in 1989, he was a doctoral candidate (Ed.D) at Columbia U.-Teachers College.

Zwernemann was ordained into the Holy Ministry on June 14, 1964, at Ascension Lutheran Church, Houston, TX. He served his vicarage at St. Paul's Lutheran of Tremont, Bronx (1962-63) a trilingual parish(German, English, Spanish); he was the founding pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Warwick (1964-69) where holiday worship services were held in English, German, Spanish, and Norwegian; he was then called to his home state of Texas where he served as pastor of Christ Memorial Lutheran Church, Houston (1969-1974). From 1974 until his retirement in 2003 he served as Senior Pastor of the Village Lutheran Church, Bronxville, NY.

On August 18, 1962, James Zwernemann and Bonnie McGinnis were united in marriage at the Village Lutheran Church. Their marriage was blessed with five children: Jimmy, Kelly, John, Lori, and Christina. Professor Bonnie Zwernemann, a graduate of Concordia Bronxville (A.A. 1959), Concordia, River Forest (B.S. 1961), and Manhattanville College (M.A.T. 1988) served in the Education Department on the faculty of Concordia College, Bronxville for 13 years. In the community Dr. Zwernemann served as Protestant Chaplain of the Eastchester Fire Department, Pastoral Care Coordinator of the Jansen Memorial Hospice and on the following boards: Lawrence Hospital Institutional Review, Directors of the City History Club of N.Y., Trustees of N.Y. Theological Seminary, The Wartburg, Mt. Vernon, and Wartburg Foundation Board, Mt. Vernon.

In his 35 years in the Atlantic District Zwernemann he served as a Zone Pastoral Advisor of the LWML, Synodical Convention Delegate, on the boards of Missions and Education Services, Council of Members of the Concordia University System LC-MS; Board of Directors (chair) of Concordia College–NY Board of Regents and as a district Regional Vice President for 14 years. Upon the resignation of President Dr. Ronald F. Fink, who chose to return to the parish ministry in Orlando, FL, First V.-P. Dr. James Zwernemann was installed on October 29, 1989, at the Village Lutheran Church as 10th President of the Atlantic District. The Rev. Dr. Ralph Bohlmann, LCMS President, delivered the sermon.

Dr. Zwernemann then served as President for the two years that remained in Dr. Fink's elected term. Since he retained his position as Sr. Pastor of Village Lutheran Church, his presidency was marked by a greater utilization of the Praesidium in exercising the Office of the Presidency. The Regional Vice-Presidents: Rev. Paul Wildgrube, Rev. Charles Froehlich, Rev. David Born, Rev. Richard Johnson and the District Secretary: Rev. Charles Gustafson all actively shared, when feasible, in the various duties of the Presidency. When acting in place of President Zwernemann, each Pastor was compensated on an hourly basis and each respective congregation was reimbursed on an hourly basis for the time their pastor was away from his congregation. In addition, most Presidential advice and counsel by President Zwernemann was done at the District Office in Bronxville, rather than on site at the individual congregations. These measures resulted in Office of the Presidency (including the Praesidium) travel time being reduced to 5 hours per week (9% of the average 55 hour week). A survey in mid 1980's of the Presidential office had indicated that 35 hours per week of the President's time was spent in travel ( 53% of his average 65 hour week). The savings in the Office of the President's salary and travel expenses those two years was substantial (50%) and the actual time spent in the Office of the President's duties (less travel time) increased from 30 to 50 hours per week (66%). Never-the-less, there was a strong feeling among most pastors of the district that they favored a "full-time" president embodied in one person. Therefore, Dr. Zwernemann chose to forego the 1991 election of the district presidency.

In 1991, Concordia University, Austin, TX, conferred on him the Distinguished Alumnus Award and in 2003 he received the Servant of Christ Award from Concordia College, Bronxville. After 29 years at the Village Lutheran Church, Dr. Zwernemann and his wife Bonnie retired in 2003 to East Haddam, CT. They now have ten grandchildren. In his retirement Dr. Zwernemann has filled in at various congregations in the New England and Atlantic District, especially at True Light Lutheran Church in Manhattan where he preached monthly during their recent year and a half vacancy. A lifelong athlete, he is currently ranked 3rd in Connecticut in USTA tennis competition in the 65 Super Singles division and 22nd in New England.



benkeDavid H. Benke

(September 15, 1991 – September 1, 2015) was born on May 5, 1946 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, first child of Raymond and Dorothy Benke. He was baptized by his maternal grandfather, The Reverend Dr John F. Boerger. The church of his childhood was Christ Memorial Lutheran in Milwaukee. He attended Lutheran school in Milwaukee, including Concordia College, matriculating with the A. A. degree in 1966. Graduating in 1968 from Concordia Senior College, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, he was awarded the B. A. degree with highest honors.
On August 17, 1968, David married Judith Platt, also from Christ Memorial Lutheran Church and its Walther League. She had graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater that same year with the B. S. degree in Education.

Journeying to St. Louis, Missouri, the Benkes spent five years in David's seminary education, including a vicarage year at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, New Britain, Connecticut. After graduating from Concordia Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree in 1972, David spent an additional year in Old Testament studies. David H. Benke was ordained into the Holy Ministry in June 15, 1972, at Christ Memorial Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. He served as the assistant to the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, St. Louis, during 1972-1973.

In September 1973, the Benkes moved to New York, where David taught religion classes at Martin Luther High School. Judy began teaching at Queens Lutheran School. In 1975, David accepted the Call to serve as Pastor of St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, New York. St. Peter's, a vibrant multiracial, multicultural urban parish, is the Benkes' spiritual home; they have been members ever since, and he has served as Pastor from 1975-1991 and 1998 to present. In May 1983, New York Theological Seminary awarded him the Doctor of Ministry degree, as the Nehemiah Plan to rebuild the communities of East Brooklyn took off producing 4,000 single family homes on devastated urban acreage with a million dollar commitment from the Missouri Synod secured through David's leadership.

Dr Benke was elected President of the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in June 1991, and has served in that capacity until the present, having been unanimously re-elected (by acclamation) to an eighth consecutive term in June 2012.

Dr Benke declined nomination for an additional term and at the June 2015 convention he received the title President/Bishop Emeritus of the Atlantic District LCMS, which took effect on September 1, 2015 when his successor, Rev. Derek G. Lecakes became the 12th President of the District. Dr Benke continues to serve as Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and School, Brooklyn.

2015 Lecakes professional headshot thumbRev. Derek G. Lecakes (September 1, 2015--)

The Rev. Derek G. Lecakes is the son of a retired New York state trooper and drug enforcement agent, born and raised in the Albany area. His Greek grandfather, surname Lekakis, came through Ellis Island and chose to be "Americanized," so the family name was changed to Lecakes.

It was at SonRise in 1991 that met his wife, Amy and that same summer a ‘Pastor of the week’ tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he had ever considered the ministry. A number of counselors, staff and others encouraged him in that direction He attended SUNY Albany, and then transferred to Concordia College in St. Paul, MN. Upon graduating with a Director of Christian Education certification, he took a job as associate director of the Atlantic District’s SonRise Outdoor Ministry in the Adirondacks. After working with SonRise and the Atlantic District he was encouraged to consider becoming a pastor and entering the seminary.

Evaluating the gifts God had blessed him with and his love for people and theology, he also realized the need for pastors in the Atlantic District (about a 30 percent vacancy at that time) and made the decision to move to St. Louis. There he was awarded a Master of Divinity degree from Concordia College. At the end of his fourth seminary year, the placement committee and the district presidents decided his placement was to Immanuel Lutheran Church in Niskayuna—an unusual placement so close to his hometown!

Over the twelve years that he shepherded the Immanuel congregation, Lecakes also served the Atlantic District at large as secretary, district disaster response coordinator and regional vice president. These roles gave him the opportunity to interact with people and parishes throughout the district, especially during the relief and recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy.

At the 59th Atlantic District Convention in June 2015, Lecakes was elected President of the Atlantic District, succeeding long-time President/Bishop, the Rev. Dr. David H. Benke and on September 1, 2015, he officially became the 12th President/Bishop of the Atlantic District. He was installed on September 12th on the Concordia College –NY campus. “In this new role,” said Lecakes, “I walk alongside and assist all the congregations of the district.” At this juncture, the congregation at Immanuel is searching for a new pastor and, in the interim, is being served by a vacancy pastor.

Rev. Lecakes refers to his wife as “a MK - missionary kid.” Amy Lecakes is a trained Lutheran English teacher pursuing a Master's Degree in School Counseling. They have been married for 21 years, and both are enjoying watching their beautiful daughters, Kyra (17), Payge (14) and Brynn (12), grow up and mature into young adults. Another highpoint has been having his father become a member of the Immanuel parish.

In addition to the pleasure he takes in his family, President Lecakes lists among his personal joys having been part of mission trips to New Orleans, the Rockaways, and local missions; teaching and helping others discover how they can put their talents to use for the church; and the honor of having served a congregation that invited him into their lives.

His challenges, he says, have been and will be “Finding balance in life between the many things I enjoy and those that must be done,”


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