Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Wohlrabe


Bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod


Office Phone: (218) 299-3019

Larry began his ministry as bishop of the synod on September 1, 2007.

In the ELCA synod bishops serve six-year terms, and their duties are described in detail in Chapter 8 of the Synod Constitution. Many of the constitutional duties of the Office of Bishop are carried out by other members of the synod staff. Larry views his ministry as bishop as having several key components:

  • Preaching the Word and teaching the faith
    Larry seeks to set the tone (theologically, relationally, organizationally) for how the people of our synod participate in God’s mission.
  • Asking imaginative, missional questions
    Larry tries to keep God’s mission in Jesus Christ front-and-center in all that we do. This often involves helping others “reframe” the concerns, questions or anxieties they bring to him. In partnership with Keith Zeh he helps chart a course for missional ventures and pathways to congregational renewal in the synod.
  • Garnering resources for God’s work
    Larry spearheads efforts to invite financial gifts to the work of our synod and the ELCA churchwide organization. In partnership with the synod council, he exercises careful stewardship of the resources available to the synod.
  • Tending servant-leaders in God’s mission
    In partnership with Laurie Natwick, Larry relates to rostered leaders from the point of their entry into the ELCA candidacy process through their retirement from active rostered service. He attends to the gifts, health and fidelity of our rostered leaders–including their relationship to the synod and the ELCA. He and other members of the synod staff give focused attention to the call process. Larry also works with other synod staff in encouraging, supporting and equipping elected and appointed lay leaders in congregations and other ministries.
  • Leading the synod staff
    Larry provides direction, clarity, and feedback for members of the synod staff. He helps them function as a team in service to God’s mission.
  • Cultivating connections within the synod and the ELCA
    One way Larry does this is by serving ex officio on boards of directors for ELCA and ecumenical ministries. He also bears responsibility for tending global partnerships, especially our “companion synod,” the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in southern India.
  • Navigating transitions and change
    Larry views most church conflict as symptomatic of the rapidity of change in the 21st century church. Since 2007 the synod has reflected these changes in myriad ways—through moving the synod office (2008), right-sizing the size of the synod staff (2009-2010), and dealing with losses of members and congregations following the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. “Change may be the only constant that we face,” he likes to say. Relying on the constancy of God’s love and grace provides hope in the midst of such rapid changes.


Lawrence Robert Wohlrabe was born in Mankato, MN. He graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Luther Seminary, St. Paul. Luther Seminary also awarded him a Doctor of Ministry degree “with distinction” in 2003. Ordained in 1981, he served congregations in Willmar, St. James and Moorhead—all in Minnesota.   He was also on the staff of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, and the SW MN Synod ELCA, Redwood Falls, MN. Larry was elected bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod in June of 2007 and re-elected, to a second 6-year term, in June of  2013. Larry’s wife, Joy, has worked many years as a hospice and homecare social worker in St James, Redwood Falls, and Breckenridge, MN.  They have two young adult children:  Erik Wohlrabe of St Paul, MN; and Kristen Haddorff (married to Aaron) of Minneapolis, MN.  Two grandchildren round out the family:  Olivia and Micah Haddorff.