FARGO — Terry Brandt, bishop for one of the nation's largest Lutheran synods, will be stepping down after almost six years on the job to take a leadership role at Concordia College in Moorhead.

Brandt, who was also an associate for six years to previous Bishop William Rindy of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will become the vice president for advancement overseeing alumni and fundraising duties for the college. He will also be a part of the president's cabinet.

"It was a surprise to me when I was notified I had been nominated for consideration, and it has certainly surprised me that the process has resulted in a new call coming my way," he wrote in an announcement to members this week.

The announcement about Brandt joining the Concordia College Advancement Center comes on the heels of John Pierce's retirement; Pierce has worked as the senior gift planner for 50 years.

Brandt said he went through a period of discernment or looking for spiritual guidance and understanding in making the decision.

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His last day as bishop in the synod that stretches across the eastern third of the state and has 196 congregations and 102,000 members will be Jan. 14, but an interim bishop is expected to be appointed before Christmas. The church's synod assembly will vote on a new bishop at its meeting in June and he or she will take over in August.

Brandt said in a phone interview Thursday that he "loves the Eastern Synod" and believes it is healthy. Despite rural congregations struggling, the membership has stayed fairly stable the past few years.

However, he said, "God has called me to try something new. And it'll be something new for the Eastern Synod, too."

He said serving as bishop of the "amazing synod was a call of a lifetime." In his announcement, he stated that "whatever challenges may lie ahead that the churches have abundant opportunities to continue living out the mission statement to live in love as we serve, equip and challenge God's people."

The vice president of the Eastern North Dakota Synod governing council, Phyllis Johnson of Grand Forks, said "most of us feel he has been an outstanding bishop,"

"He has led us well and we are sad to lose him. But he'll do great things at Concordia, too," she said.

Johnson said despite the many "really small and really large congregations" spread across the eastern third of the state, the bishop "never lost sight" of any of them.

One way the bishop has helped in that area is that they have established another endowment to provide grants to churches who find creative ways to boost membership or do things differently.

Brandt referred to that as "holy innovation."

Johnson said she and others would be doing a conference call with the national leader of the church, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of Chicago, to discuss the interim appointment this weekend. She expects that choice to be announced before Christmas.