Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson has been Pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon since December 1995. Augustana is a growing multicultural congregation in the heart of the city, now in its 110th year. Since then, Augustana has grown from 243 members in 1995 to an 800-member congregation that is also home to several non-profits including the Community Alliance of Tenants, Familias en Accion, the Society for Haitian Arts, Culture and Social Support, Irvington Cooperative Preschool, the Well Arts Institute, and the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice.
Over the past 30 years, Pastor Knutson has served on many local and national boards and committees, and has keynoted and conducted workshops in a variety of settings. Mark completed in 2015 his term as Chair of the Northwest Health Foundation Board, and is past Chair of the Board of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and of Familias en Accion. He is on the Steering Committee for the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform. He was one of three statewide petitioners for the Freedom to Marry Ballot Initiative, and is an American Leadership Forum Senior Fellow.
In the January 2012 issue of Portland Monthly magazine, Mark was named one of the 50 Most Influential Portlanders. The issue noted his “vigorous activism” against war and in favor of immigration reform and gay rights. His congregation shares his dedication to these and other social causes that put our Christian faith into action in our world.
Rev. Knutson was given the Heart of Sanctuary Award by the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice in 2015; named Ecumenist of the Year in 2009 by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon; Distinguished Pastor by Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley in 2009; the Fortenza Award by Desarrollo Integral de la Familia for service in the Latino community in 2014; the Drum Major for Justice Award in 2015 as a member of the AMA Police Reform Steering Committee; and one of the 50 Most Influential Portlanders by Portland Magazine in 2012. Prior to coming to Augustana, he served as the National Director of Youth Ministries in Chicago for the 5.3 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon and has a M. Div. from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley. He is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry Program at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D. C.
Prior to his call to Augustana, Mark was Director for Youth Ministries for the 5.3 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at its central offices in Chicago. He was Director of a 21-member national board of the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO), Multicultural Advisory Committee, and Council of Synod Presidents. The LYO was a major force in lifting up young leaders of many cultural backgrounds to promote greater diversity in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Now over 100 years old, the organization represents 1 million high school students, adolescents, and young adults between the ages of 12-25. As Director of ELCA Youth Ministries, Mark coordinated hunger, justice, and peace education for youth throughout the United States and the Caribbean, and was a liaison to major youth service agencies throughout the United States as well as to the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.
Mark is married to Tamrah and they have a son, Brandon, a graduate of USC who lives and works in Los Angeles.
What brought You to Augustana?
God’s call and the possibility of growing a multicultural congregation that is unafraid to step out in faith on the important issues of our day for the well being of all.
What inspires you?
A diverse group of people (reflecting the nations of the earth) working together for a vision for the wholeness of humanity bigger than ourselves.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I surf and boogey board at Cannon Beach whenever I can. I can stay in the ocean for hours.
What have you learnt about your faith and God recently?
Not new but always fresh with each day I am reminded just how good God is, how beautiful the human family is and how important it is to have God continually shaping and recreating us in love.
What is your biggest challenge?
Discerning what the cutting edge issues of justice, peace, diversity, equity, reconciliation and inclusion are going to be and helping to position the church to be ready and relevant to be proactive with others as a voice of conscience and a movement in action always ready to step out in faith to do what is right.