Vance Blackfox (all)
Director, Indigenous Ministries & Tribal Relations - ELCA

Session: An Indigenous Orientation

Vance Blackfox, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, serves the churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as the Director of Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations. An alumnus of Texas Lutheran University (TLU) and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), Vance has previously served the ELCA in multiple capacities, from being elected and serving as National President of the Lutheran Youth Organization during his TLU days, to later working as a diversity and cultural education professional for the Women of the ELCA, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, California Lutheran University, ELCA Youth Gathering, and LSTC’s Youth in Mission. In addition to serving numerous ELCA and ecumenical teams and committees throughout the years, he is at present the Indigenous Theologian and Coordinating Team Member for the ELCA’s Theological Round Table, as well as creator and producer of the Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium hosted at LSTC.


Vance is also the founder and director of Other+Wise, a multi-site cultural education and cultural immersion program for youth and student groups from across the country, and also previously served as the Director of Communications at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, as the Director of Communications for Native Americans in Philanthropy, and has held executive director positions at the Haskell Foundation, which supports Haskell Indian Nations University, and the Oaks Indian Mission. Vance teaches about many things Indigenous as founder and primary of Blackfox Institute, he has served as the Guest Curator of the Indian Museum at the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute of Texan Cultures, and presently serves as the Indigenous Theologian for the Faith-Based Initiative for the City of San Antonio, where he currently resides.

Judith E.B. Roberts (she/her)
Senior Director, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion - ELCA

Session: Race, Power, and Privilege

Judith serves as Sr. Director for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) within the ELCA churchwide office.  The Sr. Director for DEI is responsible for articulating and championing a comprehensive approach and vision for diversity, equity, inclusion within the ELCA. 

Judith is the former ELCA, Director for Racial Justice and co-convener for the National Council of Churches (NCC), Joint Action and Advocacy working group and a task force member of the NCC’s Truth and Racial Justice Task Force.

Judith is an alum of Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts and a graduate of the University of Mississippi. She was raised in the Lutheran faith and worships at Grace Lutheran in Evanston, IL.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, visiting museums, cooking and travel adventures.

Ashlei Burhow (she/her)
Director of Program & Engagement - ReconcilingWorks

Session: Gender & Sexuality

Ashlei, after finishing her bachelor's at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire in religious studies and family developmental studies, packed her bags and headed off to St. Paul, Minnesota. In St. Paul, she studied at Luther Seminary, where she acted as a leader in the LGBTQIA+ organization, Emmaus, as well as in Proclaim’s Seminary Outreach Team. In May of 2018, Ashlei graduated with her Master of Arts in Christian Ministry. As part of God's call in her life, she enters into her work at ReconcilingWorks as the director of program and engagement to serve her fellow LGBTQIA+ siblings in spaces where faith and sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression intersect. Ashlei approaches this holy ministry rooted in the core value of meeting people where they are and accompanying discerning faith communities in ways that are authentic and unique to their individual contexts.

Venis Hamb
Global Services Manager - ELCA

Session: Program Logistics

Tess Tait (she/her)
Development Assistant, Congregational Generosity - ELCA

Session: Communicating Your Global Experience

Tess is the Development Assistant for the Congregational Stewardship and Generosity team, where she has served for a little over a year. She works in coordination with the Service & Justice and Christian Community and Leadership home areas to implement fundraising strategies for ELCA churchwide ministries, especially in support of global mission personnel. She establishes, tends, and nurtures relationships with congregations that sponsor ELCA global mission personnel, including long term missionaries and Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) volunteers.

Prior to working for the churchwide organization, Tess was an office administrator for an ELCA congregation in Ventura, California and an Administrative Assistant for a Lutheran Outdoor Ministry, Lutheran Retreats Camps and Conferences in Southern California. A first generation Lutheran and college student, she graduated from California Lutheran University with a B.A. in Theology & Christian Leadership. Since starting her new position, she has moved from Ventura County in Southern California and now resides in Oakland in Northern California. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading and attending live music shows.

Rafael Malpica (he/him)
Executive Director, Service & Justice - ELCA

Session: Accompaniment & Mission

The Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla serves as Executive Director for the Service and Justice Home Area (formerly the Global Mission Unit) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, (ELCA). In this capacity, he oversees the ELCA’s worldwide program, including relationships with Lutheran churches in approximately 90 countries, the relief and development work supported by World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response; relationships with Lutheran Services in America, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Lutheran World Relief, ELCA Social Ministry Organizations, Independent Lutheran Organizations, and the Deaconess Community; the work of the Ethnic Specific Desk and relationship with the Ethnic Associations; the AMMPARO program; and the advocacy work of the church through the ELCA Washington Office, State Public Policy Offices, the Lutheran Office for World Community, and matters related to Corporate Social Responsibility. Prior to becoming ELCA Global Mission’s Executive Director in 2003, Pastor Malpica Padilla served the Global Mission Unit in several positions and previously served as bishop of the ELCA’s Caribbean Synod. Pastor Malpica Padilla holds a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Puerto Rico (1977 Cum Laude) and a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He has been awarded honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees by Newberry College in South Carolina, the Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration in India, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, and The Serampore College (University) in India.

Phil Hirsch (he/him)
Executive Director, Christian Community & Leadership - ELCA


The Rev. Dr. Philip C. Hirsch is working to bring about the revitalization of ELCA congregations in the United States by recruiting, training and supporting leaders.  He has a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for helping new people find faith and Christian community.   He believes the church can and will grow younger and more diverse and that there is nothing more powerful than God’s love because it can transform first the human heart and then the world.   


Pastor Hirsch is the Executive Director of Christian Community and Leadership for the ELCA (since February 2019).   His responsibilities include; starting new churches, developing congregational vitality, leadership and candidacy, seminaries and colleges, youth and young adult ministries including the national youth gathering, multicultural ministries, Lutheran Disaster Response, Hunger, ministry among the poor, advocacy, disability ministries, stewardship and the directors for evangelical mission who work in synods for congregations.      


Pastor Hirsch graduated from Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove PA in Sociology and Psychology and received a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.   He earned a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton Ohio in preaching with a focus on alleviating violence in the inner city.  He was awarded a Leadership Grant from the Lily Foundation to continue his work and study in South Africa.


He is married to Dana M. T. Hirsch and they have three adult sons.  He is a cabinet maker and enjoys bicycling, hiking, skiing and photography.   He and Dana live in Chicago, IL.