Authors & Contributors


Rev. Jay Williams, Ph.D.

Dr. Jay Williams [he/him/his] became the lead pastor of Union United Methodist Church (Boston) on July 1st, having guided this congregation September 2012 - June 2017. An ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church, Jay has served congregations in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco, including Glide Memorial. Williams holds a Master of Divinity with highest honors from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (2009) and the Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from Harvard College (2003). In May 2017, Jay received the Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Williams’s work explores the meaning of “Spirit” in black cultural discourse at the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality: particularly how spirit-talk has been a marginalizing language of power. Through his pastoral and academic work, Jay strives to help more disinherited folk find their voices. Rev. Jay, a queer cisgender man, and his partner, Robert, have two wildly yorkie-chihuahuas, Bentley and Hurston. Hailing from Buffalo, New York, Jay despises the snow and dreams of life in Wakanda. To wit, he is pretty much obsessed with Black Panther—as well as the 1980s cartoon series “The Thundercats.”

Read Rev. Dr. Jay Williams’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Tyler Schwaller, Th.D.

Rev. Dr. Tyler Schwaller [he/him/his] is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and the Ackerman/Hurdle Chaplaincy Chair at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He is also an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church, with membership in the Iowa Annual Conference. Tyler recently completed a Th.D. (Doctor of Theology) at Harvard University in the area of New Testament and Early Christianity, writing a dissertation entitled “The Use of Slaves in Early Christianity: Slaves as Subjects of Life and Thought.”

His research and teaching interests include slavery in the Roman Empire; women, gender, and sexuality in early Christianity; feminist, queer, and critical race theory; archaeology and material culture; as well as the ethics of biblical interpretation. These interests converge around particular concern for how we tell the stories of those who have been marginalized and for bringing attention to people’s intellectual, spiritual, and embodied strategies for navigating their social and material circumstances. As an out, queer clergyperson in the UMC, Tyler finds particular joy and meaning through kinship and solidarity with other queer folks, whose lives and loves reflect something of the Good News.

Read Rev. Dr. Tyler Schwaller’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, M.Div.

Rev. Alex da Silva Souto [they/their/theirs] has been a person of the “in between space” since their birth and childhood in Brazil. After living in Japan for nearly two years, they moved to San Francisco, California where they served as a lay leader in the California/Nevada Annual Conference. They transferred their membership to NYAC during their studies at Yale Divinity School. They are currently the Senior Pastor of the New Milford United Methodist Church in Connecticut and a devoted social justice advocate.

Alex is a queer, cisgender, genderqueer and an immigrant of color. They helped spearhead the formation of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, and served as the co-convener with their beloved friend Rev. Lois McCullen-Parr until February 2019. Alex also served as an advocacy strategist with the Love Your Neighbor Coalition. They currently serves as a consultant with the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, and Methodists in New Directions [MIND], and as a member of MARCHA, the NYAC Immigration Task Force, and Connecticut District Committee on Ministries. For three years Alex co-led theology conferences at Agape Ecumenical Center in Italy, and they have a longstanding commitment to humanitarian efforts and capacity building, as co-chair for Mozambique-NYAC Sister Conference Connection and through mission partnerships with Acción Médica Cristiana in Nicaragua and national mission efforts with U.M.A.R.M.Y. Alex is also a passionate liturgical artist and served as the co-chair of the NYAC Worship Team from 2016 to 2018. 

Read Rev. Alex da Silva Souto’s posts in “Our Stories”


Rev. Althea Spencer-Miller, Ph.D.

Dr. Althea Spencer Miller, [she/her/hers] a Jamaican, was ordained elder in the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas. She is Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies at Drew Theological School, and a Minister in Residence at Church of the Village, Manhattan.

Prof. Spencer-Miller's teaching interests include the Gospels, Acts, the Pauline corpus, New Testament Apocrypha, Biblical languages, and ancient and contemporary mythologies. Her research interests include the cross-cultural politics of writing, comparative cultural studies, reconstruction of early Christianities within the Greco-Roman Empire using gendered and post-colonial perspectives, comparative mythology, and contextual, feminist, and post-colonial hermeneutics and the implications of all these for textual criticism and historical reconstruction. To both her teaching and research Prof. Spencer-Miller brings post-colonial, liberationist, feminist, and subaltern perspectives.

Publications: Feminist New Testament Studies: Global and Future Perspectives. Co-edited with Kathleen O’Brien Wicker (Palgrave MacMillan, 2006).
“Ecumenism, Gender and Ethics: A Biblical Vision.” In Serving with the Urban Poor, edited by Tetsunao Yamamori, Bryant L. Myers, and Kenneth Luscombe, 167-176 (Monrovia, Ca.: MARC, 1998).

Read Rev. Dr. Althea Spencer-Miller’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Traci West, Ph.D.

Rev. Dr. Traci C. West is Professor of Ethics and African American Studies at Drew University Theological School (Madison, NJ). She received her BA from Yale University (New Haven, CT), her MDiv. from Pacific School of Religion (Berkeley, CA), and her PhD from Union Theological Seminary (New York, New York).

She is the author of Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women's Lives Matter (Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), Wounds of the Spirit: Black Women, Violence, and Resistance Ethics (New York University Press, 1999), and the editor of Our Family Values: Same-sex Marriage and Religion (Praeger, 2006). She has also written several articles on violence against women, racism, clergy ethics, sexuality and other justice issues in church and society.

She is an ordained elder in the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist church who previously served in campus and parish ministry in the Hartford Connecticut area. She is a member of United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, participated in an interfaith clergy delegation to Baghdad Iraq, and interviewed in the documentary on violence against black women "NO!" and "Breaking Silences: A Supplemental Video to No!" by Aishah Simmons.  Her current project focuses on black activist strategies for addressing gender-based violence, especially the role of racism and religion, in Ghana, Brazil, and South Africa and how we might learn from those strategies here in the United States. She is an ordained elder in the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

She was born and raised in Stamford Connecticut and now resides in New Jersey.

Read Rev. Dr. Traci West’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Pamela Lightsey, Ph.D.

The Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey is the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, Associate Professor of Constructive Theology Meadville Lombard Theological School.  Prior to her appointment, Dr. Lightsey served as Associate Dean of Community Life and Lifelong Learning, Clinical Assistant Professor of Contextual Theology and Practice at the Boston University School of Theology.

Pamela Lightsey is a scholar, social justice activist, and military veteran whose academic and research interests include: classical and contemporary just war theory, Womanist theology, Queer theory and theology, and African American religious history and theologies. In 2005, Dr. Lightsey was ordained as an elder in full connection in the United Methodist Church. In 2005, she became the first out African American queer lesbian clergy in the denomination. She has served as associate pastor of a church in south Georgia, senior pastor of an urban church on the south side of Chicago, has done work for several UM general agencies and has strong connections within several mainline denominations. As an activist, Dr. Lightsey has worked within the LGBTQ community to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy and to ensure marriage equality, and she continues to critique churches for homophobic polity, liturgy and homiletics. Pamela was on the ground protesting against excessive police force during the first 21 days of unrest in Ferguson and was one of several livestreamers providing ongoing broadcasts across a one year period. Dr. Lightsey has consistently collaborated with activist-colleagues in the movement for the liberation of Black lives, those addressing violence against Black transwomen, and institutional racism on college campuses.

Pamela has served as co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Group helping lead the work of the steering committee to develop their annual conference sessions dedicated to privileging the theological and ethical scholarship and experiences of Black women in America. She was among the first members of the Executive Committee for the Soul Repair Project, which studies the role of moral injury in veterans. The project is funded by several sources including a Lilly Endowment grant and is directed by feminist scholar, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock.

Pamela’s several publications include the full manuscript, “Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology” (Wipf and Stock), “He Is Black and We are Queer” in Albert Cleage Jr and the Black Madonna and Child (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), “Reconciliation,” in Prophetic Evangelicals: Envisioning a Just and Peaceable Kingdom (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), and “If There Should Come a Word” in Black United Methodists Preach! (Abingdon Press). 

Read Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Anna Blaedel, Ph.D. candidate

Rev. Anna Blaedel serves as Director of Spiritual Formation and Campus Minister for the Wesley Foundation at the University of Iowa, and is enrolled in a PhD program in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University's Graduate Division on Religion. Anna also is theologian-in-residence at enfleshed. Anna is an out, queer, ordained Elder in the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, and has served as a local church pastor in rural and urban contexts, hospital chaplain, and now, campus minister. They bring an attentiveness to the intersections of academic, activist, and ecclesial engagement.

Anna bridges the forefront of religious scholarship and a passion for reimagining our ordinary, common, messy life as the site of Divine unfolding. Building on their study of theopoetics, relational philosophies of enfleshment, and anti-racist, feminist, queer and eco-theologies of liberation, they seek to offer words, witness, and withness for a sustaining, grounding, and enlivening spirituality in our current context.

Anna delights in the sacrament of brunch, collectivities mobilizing for radical love and justice, waking before dawn, strong coffee & dark chocolate (fair trade, please), sharing poetry, good food, and silence with beloveds, and walking in the woods.

Read Rev. Anna Blaedel’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. M Barclay, M.Div.

Rev. M Barclay is serving as Director of enfleshed. M formerly served as Director of Communications at Reconciling Ministries Network where they advocated for queer and trans inclusion in The United Methodist Church. They have also enjoyed working as a hospital chaplain, youth director, justice associate and faith coordinator for reproductive justice in Texas.

M is passionate about bringing fresh and relevant perspectives to the questions, traditions, and theologies that have sustained our faith communities for centuries. They have extensive experience in writing, preaching, and teaching on the gospel's call to communal justice making. 

M delights in queer community, finding the nearest hike while traveling, reading theologies, and doing stained glass.

Contact M at Follow M on twitter & insta at @mxbarclay.

Read Rev. M Barclay’s posts in “Our Stories.”

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Rev. Alka Lyall, M.Div.

Rev. Alka Lyall is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and has been in pastoral ministry in the Northern Illinois Conference since 2000.  She currently is the pastor of Broadway UMC, on the north side of Chicago IL where she proclaims the love of God for all God’s people, but especially with those who have been rejected, refused, forgotten or deemed invisible and disposable by the church and the society.

She is a 3 times delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences and currently serves on the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) Board of directors and is in leadership on several United Methodist Church committees and community organizations.

She is from India and lives in Chicago with her two sons.

Read Alka’s post in “Our Stories.”

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Elisa Gatz

Elisa Gatz is a member of Wesley UMC in Sterling IL, where she has served in various ways for over 30 years.  She is also a high school and community college physics instructor, spouse, and mother of two.

Elisa is a Conference Co-Lay Leader and Chair of the Northern Illinois Delegation to the 2019 General Conference.  She has served on leadership of NCJCORR (North Central Jurisdiction Commission on Religion and Race), RMN (Reconciling Ministries Network), MFSA (Methodist Federation for Social Action), and CONAM (Committee on Native American Ministries),  among other organizations.  She is a life-long Methodist, a PK (her father was a member of Iowa Conference) and a GPK (her grandfather was a member of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference), and a firm believer that 2019 is the time to make a fully inclusive UMC.  

Read Elisa’s posts in “Our Stories.”

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Rev. Kai Greer, M. Div.

Kai, a Licensed Local Pastor, is currently serving as the Associate Pastor of First Stamford (CT) in the New York Annual Conference (NYAC). In July, Kai began the third year of appointment with First Stamford and is currently on track to become a Provisional Member of the NYAC in June 2019.

Kai is the child of a United Methodist Pastor and thus was raised in The United Methodist Church. Kai was born in Wilmington, Delaware and grew up in Ohio and New York. After starting college in New York, Kai eventually made it back to Delaware and completed a BS in Business Administration at Wesley College (Dover, DE) in 2003 and an MBA in Human Resources Management at Goldey-Beacom College (Wilmington, DE) in 2012.

After completing the Master of Divinity at Drew Theological School (Madison, NJ) in 2016, Kai accepted a call to serve in the New York Annual Conference. 

At First Stamford, Pastor Kai facilitates Youth & Children Ministries and a weekly Praise & Worship experience, preaches regularly, teaches Sunday School, participates in grassroots organizing in and around Stamford, and continues to advocate for 'full inclusion'. 

Locally and connectionally, Kai is active in:

  • Stamford Interfaith Clergy

  • Black Methodists for Church Renewal (national board member) 

  • United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus

Connect with Kai:, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn 

Read Kai’s posts in “Our Stories.”

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Rev. Gilbert Haven Caldwell Jr.

Gil Caldwell [he/him/his] was Born in Greensboro, North Carolina and “grew up” in Texas. Gil was a lifelong activist in the Civil Rights Movement from the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer to the Million-Man March of 1996. Gil is author of numerous books and blogs on social justice, including his latest collection, Something Within. He pastored churches in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. He was a campus minister at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, and an adjunct faculty member at Harvard Divinity School, Yale Divinity School, Boston University School of Theology and New York Theological Seminary.

Gil also served as Associated General Secretary to the General Commission on Religion and Race in Washington, D.C., and as Executive Director of the Ministerial Interfaith Association of Harlem. Gil helped found several significant organizations on the forefront of erasing bigotry within the church, including the Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the National Conference of Black Churchmen, and United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, which works toward equality in ordaining Methodist ministers who are gay or lesbian. Rev. Caldwell is a former national board member of PFLAG, and is a co-founder of Truth in Progress.

Read Rev. Gilbert Haven Caldwell Jr.’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Karen G. Prudente

Karen is a lifelong Methodist, worships at Christ Church-Manhattan, NY, chairs Methodists In New Directions (MIND); an active United Methodist Women and a member of the New York Annual Conference, and a member of the delegation to General Conference 2019. She strives to be an authentic being -- a gift from strong spiritual foundations witnessed by familial Christian faithfulness.

Her grandfather Dr. Gumersindo Garcia, a stalwart in Philippine Methodism, who would have stood for acceptance of all God’s children. Her father Dr. Nemesio E. Prudente enabled millions of poorest of the poor access to quality education improving their lives and Philippine society through PCC/PUP. He assured Karen was unconditionally loved and counseled her to be her best self. Mother Ruth, a former church bureaucrat, started serving as the Executive Director of the Methodist Social Center (now KKFI) in Manila.  Ruth and Karen experienced struggling faith journeys with thousands of United/Methodist siblings in the USA and globally as GBGM staff. Humility, respect and common understanding enabled discerning partnership conversations and continued relationships.

Read Karen’s posts in “Our Stories.”

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Rev. Anna Voinovich, M.Div.

Rev. Anna Voinovich is a commissioned elder in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church. Anna currently serves as an associate pastor at Downers Grove First and is passionate about worship that invites and inspires us to live out our faith every day of the week, justice and mission work that unites us with all of God's children in and outside of the church building, and faith development that helps us grow as disciples.

Anna is a proud recent alum and trustee of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.  

Read Anna’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Totty, DMin.

Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Totty is an elder in full connection of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. She serves as pastor of Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. As a young adult, she served on the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns for 8 years, which laid the foundation for her wider church work. She has been elected three times as a Jurisdictional delegate or alternate, and has volunteered at three General Conferences with the Methodist Federation for Social Action and the Love Your Neighbor Coalition. For more than 30 years, Mary Kay has been an advocate for full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the life, ministries, rituals, and rites of the United Methodist Church. As advocacy work often does, this led her to additional social justice work for dismantling racism, overcoming sexism, working to end gun violence, recognizing the intersectionality of justice issues. 

Mary Kay earned her BA in Religious Studies and English Literature from Louisiana State University, her MDiv from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, and her DMin in Arts and Theology from Wesley Theological Seminary. During her ministry she has served on the District Committee on Ministry, the Board of Ordained Ministry, the Conference Council on Ministries. She was recently elected co-chairperson of the Program Council for the Methodist Federation for Social Action and will begin her term in January 2019. 

Read Rev. Dr. Mary Kay Totty’s posts in “Our Stories.”

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J.J. Warren

J.J. is currently a certified candidate for ministry in the Upper New York Conference. He has worked at Ardsley United Methodist Church in the NY Conference as the Director of Children's Ministries, and has served as the Spiritual Life Coordinator at Casowasco United Methodist Camp & Retreat Center.

J.J. is a senior at Sarah Lawrence College where he studies Religion and Creative Writing; he also leads the campus ministry, Rise. This past year, J.J. studied Biblical Hebrew and theology at Oxford University, England. He represented the UNY Conference as a delegate to General Conference last May, and will return as a delegate to the special General Conference in 2019. J.J. enjoys long walks on the beach and mint sundaes with hot fudge.

Stay connected with his ministry at

Read J.J. Warren’s posts in “Our Stories.”

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Rev. Jeremy Smith, M. Div.

Jeremy’s passion is helping to unlock personal spiritual growth, communal discernment, and societal peace and justice. By removing roadblocks, encouraging questions, and spurring one another toward spiritual growth, First Church helps the Seattle community transform the world. Jeremy preaches with the Bible in one hand, and a news reader on his phone in the other hand, in order to provide messages suitable for transforming the world of today. If we don’t share the biblical message of radical love and a vision of a more just and equitable community for today, then who will.

An ordained Elder in The United Methodist Church, Jeremy joined First Church as Senior Pastor in July 2017 after serving five years as the Minister of Discipleship at First United Methodist Church of Portland, Oregon. Originally from Oklahoma, Jeremy has been the pastor of churches in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Oregon, and now Washington. Jeremy graduated from Oklahoma City University with a BA in Religion, and Boston University School of Theology with a Masters of Divinity.

Along with being a pastor, Jeremy is best known for social media advocacy and his technology and faith blog Hacking Christianity, which has been featured on United Methodist news sources, NPR, The Progressive Christian magazine, and Sojourners.  Jeremy received the Young Alumnus award from BU in 2011 in recognition of his ministry and online engagements.

In his spare time, Jeremy geeks out over science fiction movies, Star Wars, tabletop games, and foodie spots across Seattle. When the weather cooperates, Jeremy, his partner Chelsea, and their three young daughters like to go on day trips, hikes, and explore new places in the Pacific Northwest.

Read Rev. Jeremy Smith’s posts in “Our Stories.”

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Mark A. Miller, M.Mus.

Mark Miller [he/him/his] believes that everyone is a Child of God and that music is instrumental in healing the world.  He also adheres to Cornel West’s belief that “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

Mark is Associate Professor of Church Music and Director of  Worship at Drew University in Madison NJ, and is the Minister of Music of Christ Church (UCC & Am Baptist) in Summit, New Jersey. He is also a Lecturer in Sacred Music at Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music and Divinity School.  A renowned composer of sacred music, Mark believes that music, social justice, and the beloved community are inextricably tied.  His hymns and anthems are sung by communities of faith throughout the country and are published by Choristers Guild, Hal Leonard, Hinshaw, Abingdon Press, Santa Barbara Music Publishing and others.  His album, “Imagine the People of God”, is available on itunes.  Miller spends a portion of the year traveling the country, often with his band S2C (Subject to Change), leading worship and workshops, preaching and presenting concerts focused on creating community and advocating for social justice. Over the past three years he has visited a hundred venues in over twenty states.  Overseas he has led choirs and performed in Sweden, South Africa, Austria, Russia, and the Baltic states.

Mark is a lifelong United Methodist. He is the grandson, son, brother, uncle, and cousin to United Methodist clergy and was a lay delegate to the 2000 and 2004, 2012 General Conferences. He was Director of Music for the 2008 General Conference and is a member of Covenant UMC in Plainfield, NJ.

When he’s not working, Mark is home in Plainfield NJ with his husband of 25 years, Michael Murden, their two wonderful teenage children, Alyse and Keith, and Oscar the cat. There you can find him cooking meals, taking out the garbage, playing Frisbee, reading books, watching movies, and dreaming about getting back to the Vineyard.

Read Mark’s posts in “Our Stories.”

Bill Mefford, M.DIV., Ph.D.

Bill [he/him/his] has served as the Faith Organizer for Americans United for Separation of Church and State since March of 2015. Previously, Bill spent ten years working with United Methodists from across the United States building grassroots movements on the issues of defending the rights of immigrants, ending mass incarceration, and ending gun violence. He has served in various positions in local churches throughout most of his life and is called to be a lay person.

In 2008, Bill earned his Doctorate in Missiology from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. The focus of Bill’s dissertation is mobilizing the affluent church to political advocacy on behalf of refugees as a means of mission, moving towards the development of a liberation theology for the affluent. Bill earned a Masters of Divinity degree in 1998, also from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Bachelors of Science from McMurry University in Abilene, Texas in 1990.

Bill is the founder and primary writer for the Fig Tree Revolution. Bill is a co-author of The Not On Our Watch Christian Companion with Gregory Leffel and the author of The Fig Tree Revolution: Unleashing Local Churches into the Mission of Justice. Bill is married to Marti who is a substance abuse counselor with the county of Arlington, VA and has two boys, Elisha and Isaiah. Bill is a long-suffering Browns fan and a now-joyous Cubs fan.

Read Bill’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Stephen Bauman, Ph.D.

Stephen [he/him/his] has guided the revitalization and growth of Christ Church UM in New York City since 1987. As Senior Minister and head-of-staff, he is the principle preacher and worship leader and focuses energy on strategic visioning, growth and leadership development. A graduate of Occidental College and Yale University, he also earned a PhD in Leadership and Change at Antioch University. He's the author of Simple Truths: on Values, Civility and the Common Good based on award-winning radio programming.

Read Steve’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Leigh Goodrich, M.DIV.

The Rev. Leigh Goodrich is pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in South Burlington, VT.  Previously she has served Lexington United Methodist Church in Lexington, MA, Grace United Methodist Church in Hopkinton, MA, and the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women as Sr. Director of Education and Leadership.  She chairs the New England Conference Committee on Church and Society and has served on the New England Annual Conference Delegation in 2012 and 2016.  

Read Leigh’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Dr. Dorothee Benz, PH.D.

Dr. Benz has been a Methodist since immigrating to the U.S. with her family in 1968. She is a member of St. Paul & St. Andrew in New York City. Benz was a delegate to the 2016 General Conference, where she helped lead the effort, on and off the floor, that led to the suspension of further anti-LGBTQI legislation, the creation of the Commission on the Way Forward, and the call for the 2019 special General Conference. She also led the effort in NYAC to elect a new, queer-led delegation to GC19, the only such delegation in the connection; she is a member of that delegation. Benz is a founding member of Methodists in New Directions (MIND) and helped pioneer the strategy of open, collective defiance of the church’s discriminatory rules.

She served as MIND’s chair from 2006 to 2014 and is now MIND’s national representative. A lifelong activist and organizer, her scholarly expertise is also in social movements, and she is a lifelong social justice organizer in economic and racial justice struggles. Her BA is from Harvard University and PhD from the City University of New York. Benz is the winner of the 2012 Gwen and C. Dale White Award from the NY Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, and served as the Theologian in Residence at FUMC Boulder in July 2013. By day she works as the chief communications officer at Lambda Legal; and in her spare time, she pumps iron, climbs mountains and builds sandcastles. Follow her on Twitter @DrBenz3.

Read Benz’s posts in “Our Stories.”



Wil [he/him/his] is an Ordained Deacon in the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church who specializes in Digital Ministry. He founded Aboundant, a technology consultancy for churches, church organizations and nonprofits. Wil graduated from Methodist Theological School of Ohio with a Masters of Practical Theology and is a sometimes Adjunct Professor in the Religion and Design Departments at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Wil assists UM Forward with communications.

Read Wil’s posts in “Our Stories.”

Chett Pritchett

Chett Pritchett [he/him/his] is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College (BA, History and Sociology, 1999) and Wesley Theological Seminary (Master of Theological Studies, 2003), and engaged in post-graduate study at Drew University. For 16 years, Chett lived in Washington, DC where he worked in campus ministry, volunteer management for a non-profit placing homeless families in transitional housing, managed seminary bookstores, and as executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He returned to southeastern Ohio in 2016 to be closer to his parents as they age. Currently, he is Associate Director, External Relations for Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine where he delights in advancing the mission of training physicians to serve underserved communities.

Read Chett’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Brinna Kolitz

Brinna Kolitz is currently a second-year Master of Divinity student at Drew Theological School in Madison, NJ. She serves as a chaplain at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital. She is a candidate for ministry and member of the New Milford United Methodist Church in New Milford, CT of the New York Annual Conference.

Brinna is a cisgender, straight, white ally fighting alongside her dear friends and queer siblings in Christ for full inclusion and affirmation within the church. Brinna believes in the sacred worth of all people and all of creation.In her call to chaplain ministry with marginalized communities, she seeks to remind all of their belovedness.

Read Brinna’s posts in “Our Stories.”


Rev. Ian Straker, PH.D.

Ian Straker [he/him/his] has been a clergy member of the New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church since 1986.  A trained historian of American religion with expertise in American Methodism and African-American religious history, he has taught on the college and seminary levels at a number of colleges and universities.  He is on the editorial board of the journal, Methodist History, where several of his articles can be found.

Read Ian’s posts in “Our Stories.”

Rev. Dana Neuhauser, M.Div., M.A.

Dana Neuhauser [she, her hers] is a deacon in the United Methodist Church. She likes to think of deacon as shorthand for justice-seeking, peace-making, disciple-equipping follower of Jesus. She has a heart for racial, economic, and environmental justice and seeks to invite and equip others to work for justice in the world as part of faithful living. Whether at a protest, a policy hearing, or a political candidate forum, we get to bear witness to God’s concern for folks on the margins.

She completed theological studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and received a Certificate of Justice Ministry Education from Auburn Seminary. She holds a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and Religion from Macalester College. Dana and her spouse, Brad, live in Minneapolis with their three children, 5 chickens, and a cat named Gandalf.

Read Rev. Dana Neuhauser’s post in “Our Stories.”

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Ian C. Urriola, M.Div.

Ian [he/him/his] is a member of Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester, NY, in the Upper New York Annual Conference. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from American University and a Masters of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary. Ian is actively engaged in leadership in various levels of the United Methodist denomination. Most recently, he served as on the Upper New York lay delegation to the 2019 special called session of the General Conference. His passion lies in finding ways that the Church can faithfully interact with and be a part of conversations in the public square surrounding race, immigration, gender equality, sexuality, gender identity, gun violence, and mental health. He currently serves as the Director of Christian Discipleship at Dulin United Methodist Church, in Falls Church, VA, and is based in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area. From time to time, he’s been known to blog at and can be found on Twitter at @iurriola and Instagram at @wine_not_welchs.

Read Ian’s post in “Our Stories.”


Deaconess Irene R. DeMaris, M.Div.

Deaconess Irene DeMaris (she/hers) has a passion to walk with others as they recognize and grasp their God-given agency to make a difference in this broken world by listening, holding the inbetween space, and being a cheerleader. This has taken many turns, detours, and stops over the years from Seattle to Washington, D.C. and now Iowa. As a theologically trained layperson and proud deaconess, she is committed to a lifetime of love, justice, and service.

She is the former Associate Director for the Center for Public Theology at Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C. and is currently between ministries and discerning where the Spirit is moving in her life.

Irene is known for her advocacy work in maternal health issues and laity inclusion within The United Methodist Church as well as her Twitter handle of @therealird. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking with her spouse, snuggles with her Chihuahua-Corgi mix, Leo, and dreaming of a future where the Gospel is fully actualized.

Read Irene’s post in “Our Stories.”


Pastor Laquaan Malachi, LLP (Licensed Local Pastor)

Pastor Malachi (he/him/his) is a licensed local pastor in the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He was born and raised as a cradle Baptist in Bennettsville, South Carolina but he currently resides in Minneapolis. He attended undergrad at Francis Marion University and seminary at Candler School of Theology. Malachi is currently the pastor of North United Methodist Church (4350 Fremont Ave N.) Before becoming a pastor, Malachi worked in various youth and campus ministry roles in the Carolinas and Georgia. He has a passion for people and justice. Pastor Malachi is also an author, poet and spoken word artist whose work often includes themes surrounding justice and/or mental health.

Pastor Malachi can be contacted at

Read Malachi’s post in “Our Stories.”

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Cameron Overton MSW, APSW, SAC-IT

Cameron Overton (he/him/his) is a social worker and the lay worship pastor of Zao MKE Church, a young, LGBTQ-led United Methodist church plant in Milwaukee, WI. As a young, black, queer and trans person, Cameron's ministry calling is to build the church into intersectional and queer liberated space. Zao MKE is co-pastored by Cameron and his spouse, founding pastor Rev. Jonah Overton (they/them/theirs).

As Zao’s worship pastor, Cameron incorporates many styles of music into worship, so that all feel welcome (this just might include Lizzo’s new hit single!). Cameron is deeply convinced that when words fail, music speaks and brings people together. Cameron’s intention for worship is consistent with the values of Zao MKE Church: Jesus Rooted, Justice Centered, and Radically inclusive.

Cameron has an undergraduate degree in Social Work (BSW) from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and holds two clinical licensures in social work and Alcohol and Other Drug Addictions with a concentration on trauma.

You can find Cameron cooking large dinners for his friends, walking by the lake, playing drums in his jazz rock band, or hanging in leftist political spaces trying to break down oppressive systems.

You can find Cameron on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Read Cameron’s post in “Our Stories.”


Trust Hilton, M.Div.

Trust Hilton is a lifelong Methodist, pursuing ordination in the United Church of Christ. Trust currently serves as Director of Shasta Family Camp, Director of Youth Ministries at First Congregational Church of Berkeley UCC, and Office Manager at First United Methodist Church San Leandro. Trust’s undergraduate studies focused on Psychology and Religious Studies at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Ca. They received their MDiv. at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Ca.

Trust was raised in a United Methodist congregation in a small Northern California town, and became infused with Wesleyanism and a strong affinity for hymns and praise songs. The Shasta Family Camp community has given Trust a strong belief that persons with wildly different experiences and beliefs can come together, grow from each other, and help the world to heal, especially when good music and food are involved.

While in seminary, Trust discerned a call to serve within the United Church of Christ. They half-joke that the UCC needs more honest-to-goodness Methodism. In ordination papers and interviews, Trust is never shy about being a Methodist, while also recognizing that there is good work to be done in, and with, the UCC.

To unwind, Trust enjoys visiting with friends, talking about the newest movies, and playing guitar, often all at the same time.

You can reach Trust at

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Rev. Sean McRoberts, M.Div.

Sean [they/them/their] is an Elder in the Iowa Annual Conference. They are currently on a leave of absence from appointed ministry “until the United Methodist Church repents of its harm to LGBTQIA+ people.” Sean has worked alongside clergy and laity in Iowa through Do No Harm and IAM United In Love to confront policies and practices that discriminate against LGBTQ people, and to advance a progressive delegation to the 2020 General Conference. They co-chair the Order of Elders in the Iowa Conference, and have served as a reserve delegate to General Conference since 2012.