Speakers

Dr. Dorothee Benz

Dr. Dorothee Benz

Dr. Dorothee 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 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. Benz 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 has been active in the labor movement, the anti-apartheid movement, the queer rights movement, and the Movement for Black Lives. She holds a BA from Harvard University and a 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.

Rev. Dr. Jay Williams

Rev. Dr. Jay Williams

Rev. Dr. Jay Williams again becomes 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. The dissertation, entitled “Unholy Ghosts in the Age of Spirit: Identity, Intersectionality, and the Theological Horizons of Black Progress,” develops a constructive theology of spirit that rethinks hope, courage, and vitality, premised on insights from W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Howard Thurman. Through his pastoral and academic work, Jay strives to help more disinherited folk find their voices.

Rev. Dr. Traci West

Rev. Dr. Traci West

Rev. Dr. Traci C. West is an activist-scholar who serves as professor of Christian Ethics and African American Studies at Drew Theological School (Madison, NJ). She is the author of Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter, Wounds of the Spirit: Black Women, Violence, and Resistance Ethics, editor of Our Family Values: Same-sex Marriage and Religion and author of many articles on sex/gender justice and racial justice in church and society. 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.

Bishop Karen Oliveto

Bishop Karen Oliveto

Karen P. Oliveto was consecrated as a bishop of The United Methodist Church on July 16, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona and assigned for the 2016-2020 quadrennium to the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area, which includes the Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone annual (regional) conferences. It includes 400 congregations in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and a small section of Idaho.

Bishop Oliveto was elected to the episcopacy after serving as the first woman pastor of the 12,000-member Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, Calif. She is the first woman to serve as senior pastor of one of The United Methodist Church’s 100 largest congregations. She served Glide from 2008 until her election as bishop. Bishop Oliveto earned her B.A. in Psychology, cum laude, from Drew University, Madison, N.J., in 1980. She earned her Master in Divinity from Pacific School of Religion, Berkley, Calif., in 1983, a Master in Philosophy from Drew University in 1991, and a PhD in the Sociology of Religion from Drew University in 2002. She was ordained as an Elder in the New York Conference of The United Methodist Church in 1985. She transferred her clergy membership to the California-Nevada Annual Conference in July 1997.

Beth Richardson

Beth Richardson

Beth Richardson became a member of Affirmation in 1979. She was a part of the shaping and launching of the Reconciling Congregation Program in 1984. She served with Mark Bowman first as a volunteer and then a paid co-coordinator for the program during its first several years. She was a part of shaping the process that communities still follow to declare themselves reconciling.

Beth serves on the staff of The Upper Room as an editor, writer, and worship leader. She is the author of several books, including Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings.

Beth is an ordained Deacon and a member of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. She lives with her family in Nashville. She is still associated with Edgehill United Methodist Church, the community that modeled the discernment process that Reconciling Communities still follow today.

Matthew Berryman

Matthew Berryman

Matt Berryman spent over four years as executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network during an exciting and fruitful season where significant gains were made toward the advancement of a fully inclusive church for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. He now serves as a member of The Commission on a Way Forward whose task is the creation of a proposal that allows for greater inclusion of LGBT persons in the denomination. Prior to joining the staff of RMN, Matt spent three years in law school at the Florida Coastal School during which time he worked for churches, law firms, and LexisNexis as a legal editor. From 2002-2009, Matt served United Methodist congregations in the Jacksonville area of the Florida Conference. In addition to serving churches in the United Kingdom, he has led training events and workshops for The United Methodist Church, The Episcopal Church (USA), The Fund for Theological Education, Emory University, and the Fellowship of United Methodists for Music and Worship Arts. He received a B.A. from the University of South Carolina and a M.Div. from Emory University. Matt resides in Chicago and enjoys spending time with his 15 year old son.

Brian Atkins

Brian Atkins

Rev. Brian Adkins is an elder in the Cal-Nevada Annual Conference. He has served Open Door UMC in
Richmond, CA since 2014. He holds a Master’s in Divinity from Pacific School of Religion. Brian is a
former board member of the Reconciling Ministries Network. He is currently a leader in the Queer
Clergy Caucus and is serving as a member of the Commission on a Way Forward. Brian grew up in rural
Ohio, where his Pentecostal grandmother had a great impact on his faith and formation. Prior to
becoming a pastor, he worked in nonprofit development, as a fundraiser and program manager, and
was trained as a faith-based community organizer.

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