New ELCA bishop for La Crosse Area Synod sees role as bridge-builder, tapping gifts of congregations

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The Rev. Felix Malpica envisions bridge-building as one of his roles as the first person of color elected bishop of the La Crosse Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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Malpica, who was elected to a six-year term on June 13 during a virtual synod assembly, will be installed on Sept. 26, according to an ELCA news release.
His most recent position was pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Janesville, Wis., where he also was head of staff, supervisor of a day care and senior housing and led a foundation.
Reflecting on his calling to become a bishop, Malpica said he sees the role as being “one to seek out the gifts each of the synod’s 73 congregations has to offer, build bridges between communities and imagine new ways to be church together, inspire creativity and innovation while remaining rooted in the Gospel and care for the leaders of the synod through the transformative power of word and sacrament.”
Malpica replaces interim Bishop William Chris Boerger, who has been serving since longtime Bishop James Arends retired in December.
Arends, 69, of La Crescent, was elected to two terms and served more than 12 years. COVID-19 forced the postponement of the synod election for his replacement last summer.
During a phone interview when asked some of his favorite memories as bishop, Arends listed “work and support of the Muslim population as special,” as well as “working with the LGBTQIA community and inclusion as very special.”

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The La Crosse Area Synod enjoys a “strong sense of collegiality and support,” Arends said, noting that his predecessor, the Rev. April Ulring Larson, fostered that spirit.
Malpica earned his bachelor of arts degree from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 2009 and his masters of divinity degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., in 2013.
He was ordained on April 5, 2014.
Malpica also has served as associate pastor of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas, and is a contributor to the ELCA publication Living Lutheran. He also has ties to the area from his summers working at Sugar Creek Bible Camp in Ferryville, Wis.
The La Crosse Area Synod includes more than 30,000 souls and many partnership ministries, including Lutheran Campus Ministry of La Crosse. It covers nine counties in southwestern Wisconsin, including La Crosse, Adams, Buffalo, Crawford, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe, Trempealeau and Vernon, as well as Houston County, Minn.