Our Board of Directors
Rev. Dr. Bruce Zagel
Rev. Dr. Bruce Zagel served as Director of Reconciliation Ministry, for the Lutheran Church of Australia until retiring and returning to America in December 2014. He was a Lutheran pastor in America for 19 years before helping start Ambassadors of Reconciliation, where he was Director of Reconciliation Ministries for six years. In 2010 Bruce and his wife, Kathy, moved to Australia to serve as Reconciliation Pastor in Hamilton, Victoria before entering his role as Director of Reconciliation Ministry. Bruce was a counselor in juvenile court prior to seminary. Bruce has been a reconciliation trainer and service provider on five continents. He and Kathy have two sons and two grandchildren.
Oletha Barnett is the owner of Conciliation Services, LLC and Director of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship conflict resolution ministry. She is the author of "Diversity of a Different Kind," as well as a theologian, attorney, and conflict resolution specialist. Ms. Barnett provides multiple services to help churches and parachurch organizations reduce the time they spend handling destructive conflict, giving them more time to increase ministry.
• Mediates conflicts for biblical resolution
• Trains individuals and organizations to better manage day-to-day conflict
• Trains on racial reconciliation
• Investigates and makes findings regarding sexual harassment and race discrimination allegations
Oletha was commissioned by the Elder Board of her church, especially for conflict resolution ministry services. She and her team of mediators help members biblically resolve conflict. The senior pastor awarded her the lay leader of the year for her conflict resolution work. In addition, she is an adjunct professor at Southern Bible Institute and College and a professor at Hunook Bible College International, teaching students in Pakistan, Uganda via Zoom. Her broad legal experience ranges from private practice to working for state and federal government.
Oletha serves on the Board of Peacemaker Ministries and is a Certified Christian Conciliator™, Institute for Christian Conciliation Certification Advisor, Certified Management Specialist, Certified in Christian Prevention Relationship Enhancement, and Certified Human Behavior Consultant. She holds a BS in Mathematics, Juris Doctor, and Master of Arts in Christian Education from Dallas Seminary with focus on adult education.
Rev. Dr. John Denninger
The Rev. Dr. John R. Denninger was elected President of the Southeastern District, LCMS in June of 2012 and now serves the 210 congregations, 91 schools, and a multiplying number of missions. John is a 1980 graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis MO and has served parish and campus ministries in Nebraska and in Springfield VA at Prince of Peace. John and Constance, his wife, celebrated 30 years of marriage and have three daughters.
Gary Friesen has served as General Counsel/Assistant Corporate Secretary for The Christian and Missionary Alliance since 2014 and most recently as Vice President/General Counsel. Formerly he served in various roles at Peacemaker Ministries, including Acting CEO, Executive Vice President, and Conciliation Director. He graduated from George Fox University and Willamette University College of Law, after which he practiced law in Oregon for eight years and led the church-based reconciliation ministry at Salem Alliance Church. Gary recently completed his PhD studies. Gary loves to teach, and has taught and consulted with Christian leaders across the globe. Primarily, he is passionate about seeing people everywhere experience the redemptive power of the gospel in their relationships, beginning with himself, his wife, and their four children.
Steve Long, Esq.
Steve Long has been in the practice of law for over 40 years. He has an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell; this is the highest rating of preeminence for professional competence and integrity by peers and judges from the oldest rating service in the country for this purpose. Mr. Long also secured a Master of Divinity in Leadership from Biblical Theological Seminary with a 3.9 GPA as well as a triple major B.A. from Duke University with honors before graduating from Temple University Law School with honors representing the University in the ABA Moot Court National Competitions. He started his legal career as a Prosecutor before joining a county law firm and ultimately started his own law firm. Steve served as the Director of the Institute of Christian Conciliation for Peacemaker Ministries. Steve currently has a passion for serving churches, ministries, the elderly, and non-profit entities. He has been contracted to represent the County for the Department of Aging to assist Older Adults. He has also been establishing, serving on the Boards, and serving as General Counsel for many non-profit organizations. He travels extensively overseas and domestically teaching Peacemaking.
Dr. Terry Walker
Terry Walker holds a B.S. degree in business administration from The Florida State University (Tallahassee) and a Ph.D. in business administration from The University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa). His major at the B.S. level was marketing and minor was accounting. The major for his Ph.D. was business statistics and his minors were marketing and economics.
Terry has served as a university professor for 30 years. He taught undergraduate and graduate courses in economics, computer science, econometrics, statistics, management science, and business administration. Terry has chaired more than 50 Ph.D. dissertation committees. He is the author of 11 university textbooks in computer science. In addition, he has chaired several international conferences on computer science.
Terry has also started several businesses in diverse fields, including publishing, medicine, philanthropy, and e-commerce. He has a keen interest in politics, having worked in Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist, managed political campaigns, and been a candidate for Governor of Colorado. He has two grown children and five grandsons. Terry’s wife, Carol, is a professor of education at a Christian university.
Terry was confirmed into the LCMS. He has completed the Peacemaker Ministries training course to be a certified Christian Conciliator. He is currently an active member of Grace Episcopal Church in Ocala, Florida. Terry has volunteered for a number of Christian organizations.
Rev. Dr. Richard Thompson
Rev. Dr. Richard L Thompson was born May 8, 1939 in Lansing, Michigan. He graduated from Burbank High School in 1957. Dick enlisted in the United States Navy and was discharged in 1961. On November 14, 1958 he married Dianne L. Tuttle. Together they have two sons, one daughter and six grand children. Dick worked in the aerospace industry for eight years before entering Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Illinois in 1969. He graduated with a Masters of Divinity degree in 1973. He also was granted a Doctor of Divinity degree from Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin in 1991. In 2010, Dick earned a Doctor of Ministry from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Dick has served parishes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Billings, Montana; and Watertown, Wisconsin. In 2001, he retired from parish ministry.
At the national level, Dick served the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on the Board of Managers for the Concordia Plans (1984-1986), the Board of Directors (1986-1998), the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (2000-2001), and on the Commission on Doctrinal Review (2001-2010). He also has been on various boards and committees at the district level. Currently, Dick serves as advisor to the Parish Nurse program of the LC-MS.
Rev. Russel Sommerfeld
Rev. Russ Sommerfeld is a native of Norfolk, Nebraska, where he was a member of Mount Olive Lutheran Church. He is a graduate of Norfolk Senior High School, Concordia College (now University), Saint Paul, Minnesota, former Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, Missouri. He has a Bachelor’s, Masters of Divinity and an honorary Doctor of Letters degrees.
Russ is married to Donna “Nino” Cargnino of Collinsville, Illinois. “Nino” is a retired registered nurse in psychiatry and dementia care. They have two sons and a daughter who are each married and they have four granddaughters.
Russ has served Immanuel and Saint John’s Lutheran Churches, Canton and Moundridge, Kansas (1980 – 1986), Trinity Lutheran Church, Arapahoe, Nebraska (1986 – 1995) and Holy Cross Lutheran Church and University Lutheran, Kearney, Nebraska (1995 – 2003). He was a circuit counselor (visitor) in both the Kansas and Nebraska Districts. He served Nebraska District – LCMS as a Vice President (1994 – 2003) and as District President (2003-2015). He currently is an assistant professor of theology at Concordia University Nebraska in Seward, Nebraska.
Russ was pastoral advisor for the Nebraska District Lutheran Laymen’s League. He served on the Buffalo County Health Partners Board (1996-2003). He is an active Rotarian and served as his local Club’s president (2017-2018). He was on the Regents and the Foundation Boards for Concordia University Nebraska as well as the Lutheran Ministry Foundation and Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (2003-2015). He was on the national Board of Directors of Wheat Ridge Ministries, of Itasca, Illinois (2007-2011). He also had minor roles in the emerging Lutheran church bodies in Jamaica and South Sudan. Russ has been a conference speaker on LCMS governance and varied mission and outreach topics.
Russ’ hobbies are bicycling and playing French Horn (not at the same time).