Board of Directors
Rev. Betty Jo “B.J.” Birkhahn-Rommelfanger
B.J. proudly serves on RMN’s Board of Directors and as Reconciling UM pastor in the Northern IL Conference for over 30 years. She retired from full time ministry, and is a Chaplain at Chestnut Square at the Glen (Bethany Methodist Retirement Communities), one of the few Reconciling Independent Living Communities for Seniors. She was called out as a straight ally, white, woman pastor as early as her seminary days and at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church in Chicago. She is an activist and contemplative committed to an inclusive church for all, women’s rights, workers rights, advocate for issues of poverty and non-violence, dismantling white privilege, racism, sexism and heterosexism. She has been privileged to have pastored many RC’s and a truly multicultural/lingual/global church and empowering young adult leadership. She has served as a delegate to the NIC Jurisdictional Conference from 1984 to 2000, active on the General Conference team participating in legislation and witness with RMN, MFSA, Commission on Status and Role of Women and Fellowship of Asian Americans.
She dedicated her life to LGBTQIA advocacy, education, equality and justice since the mid 1980’s when she was pastor of Wheadon UMC in Evanston, one of the first 4 Reconciling Congregations in The UMC. The courage and struggles of her Queer friends changed her life and priorities. She has officiated marriage/civil and holy union services for same gender couples throughout, with publicity of a church wedding in 2014 finally leading to her forced retirement by the DS and Bishop. This has given her more time to resist oppression and cause trouble! She has attended many Convocations and General Conferences as part of the witness for justice and Christ’s love of all with acts of ecclesiastical disobedience, including sharing a jail cell with Rev. Karen Oliveto at GC 2000 and stopping the GC in 2012. She is the mother of Rev. Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, former Board Member.
Parenting a gay son was made a great deal easier for Faith Geer because of her long-standing relationship with Reconciling Ministries Network. Having pastors who taught her how to really read theBible and getting to hang out with leaders of the Reconciling movement, gave Faith a foundation to build a ministry with the LGBT community in the Western Pennsylvania Conference of The UMC. Sharing RMN convocations with her youngest daughter since 2005 has made Reconciling a part of the family! An advocate for LGBT rights, she enjoys planning and organizing seminars. Being an alternate delegate to General Conferences since 2000 has given Faith the opportunity to advocate for change as well as understand the struggles The UMC faces. As the chair of Parents Reconciling Network she hopes to develop new ways to offer support for parents and families. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University and getting an M.Ed. from University of Pittsburgh, Faith began a fourteen-year teaching career with elementary gifted students. In 2000 she answered a call to become the administrative director for St. Paul’s United Methodist Church as a full-time lay professional. Faith’s days are spent managing the staff and volunteer ministries for this 1100 member church located in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. Faith’s three children provide great places for vacations: Memphis and San Francisco as well as driving to Delaware, Ohio for college breaks to get the youngest from Ohio Wesleyan! Faith’s heart was left in Zimbabwe after two trips to develop mission outreach with teachers, pastors, and medical personnel at Nyadire Mission. During her days in Pittsburgh she enjoys exercising and walking her golden doodle, Brody.
Joseph R. Hurt
Joseph Richard Hurt ‘s career in legal education spans nearly 35 years, and includes deanships at three law schools and teaching appointments at six schools. He started his career at Mississippi College School of Law, where he was a member of the faculty for more than 21 years. During this time, he also served as Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Dean and Dean for seven years. Following his deanship at Mississippi College, he served as Deputy Consultant on Legal Education to the American Bar Association in the Office of the Consultant which oversees the accreditation of American law schools for the ABA.
With his background in the law school accreditation process, Joseph led two of Florida’s new law schools, Florida Coastal in Jacksonville and Barry University in Orlando through the full ABA accreditation process as dean. Additionally, he has successfully provided guidance as an outside consultant to a number of other law schools either seeking ABA accreditation or dealing with issues of compliance with accreditation standards. He is currently a member of the full-time faculty at Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando. Joseph’s service to the legal profession has extended beyond the academy including his membership on and chair of the Mississippi Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Rules and numerous leadership positions in local, state and national bar associations. His contributions to the profession were recognized when he was named the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Mississippi and when he later received the Mississippi Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Award.
Joseph earned his undergraduate degree from Mississippi College, a master’s degree in History and the J.D. degree from Baylor University and the LL.M. degree from Yale University. Joseph grew up in Mississippi as the son of a Baptist minister of the moderate tradition. In recent years, he began attending First United Methodist Church Winter Park where he is now a member. His faith pilgrimage, along with his academic background in Constitutional Law, has led him to active involvement in LGBTQ equality and inclusion causes. He is a member of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Federal Club where he has been actively involved in Central Florida. At Florida A&M is a faculty advisor to Stonewall LGBTA Law Association which was begun under his leadership. Having been troubled about the Church’s failure to actively minister to the LGBTQ community, Joseph is excited about Reconciling Ministries Network and the opportunity to serve on its Board.
Rev. Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts
The Rev. Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts is the senior pastor of Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta Georgia. She has been an elder in the North Georgia Annual Conference for thirty years where she has served five different appointments beginning with a four point circuit, then two associateships, and more recently two appointments as senior pastor. She did her undergraduate work at Duke University, her M.Div at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, her PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University, and she has taught Hebrew Bible at Andover Newton Theological School, the University of Georgia, and Duke Divinity School.
Her work in the North Georgia Conference has included two elections to the Jurisdictional delegation (2012 and 2016); two quadrennia as chair of the Resolutions committee, and two heading the North Georgia Commission on Interreligious Concerns and Christian Unity. Her connection to the Reconciling Ministries Network goes back to 1982, when she was a seminary intern at Wheadon United Methodist Church under Greg Dell. Currently she serves in her local unit of Reconciling United Methodists in the North Georgia Annual Conference. Beth is married to the Rev. Dr. Mark LaRocca-Pitts who is also an elder in the North Georgia Annual Conference. They have two children, twins Ellie and Joe, who are high school seniors.
Rev. Jarell Wilson
Jarell Wilson is local pastor in the Northern Illinois Conference and is seeking ordination as an elder. Jarell is a graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, a Twitter addict, an occasional blogger, and a self-proclaimed Methodork. He attended Baylor University and graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Sociology. He self-identifies as an Austinite in exile transforming into a Chicagoan; an activist in Chacos; a proud Slytherin; and obsessed parent of the most wonderful dog in all of God’s creation. He is focused on racial justice, LGBTIQ inclusion in the Church, and moving the Church from a charity model of mission to a missional model of justice. He has served on panels about race and LGBT rights, and the death penalty.
Deborah Maria hails from the Carolinas and has enjoyed living in Washington and Oregon all her adult life (so far). Armed with a bachelor’s in sociology, she worked in Vietnam with the U.S. Army Service Clubs in the early 1970s and is retired after 30+ years in the Federal sector. She uses her time for various passions with Reconciling work leading the list (a list which includes fostering orphan kittens). She became involved with Reconciling ministries 25 years ago, thanks to an activist pastor (or two), and has led the Pacific Northwest Reconciling Ministries Network and the Oregon‑Idaho Reconciling United Methodists. She has worn many hats in her local churches and devotes energy weekly to hunger abatement. Deborah has participated in RCP/RMN Convocations since 1997 and has witnessed at four General Conferences. She has attended too many church trials. She plans to listen and provide support as her talents allow as an RMN Board member. She strives to be a gentle and effective justice seeker. Deborah has fond memories of Methodist involvement, going back to VBS, MYF, and Wesley Foundation.
Rev. Jamie Michaels
Jamie Michaels is a candidate for ordination in the California-Nevada Annual Conference. A young adult, she has been serving on the leadership of MOSAIC since 2007, and has worked as a process coach for local congregations in the Reconciling process. After receiving her BA from Brevard College in North Carolina, Jamie served as a US-2 Young Adult Missionary. She worked with the General Board of Church and Society in Washington, DC doing justice education and advocacy work, especially with young people. Later she served the UMCOR West Office and Depot in Salt Lake City, UT, helping to get the Depot up and running and beginning its volunteer program. Jamie received her Masters of Divinity from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA in 2012. While there she focused on Theology from the Margins, emphasizing Queer, Black, and Womanist theologies. She has served for three years as Campus Minister and Executive Director of the Wesley Foundation at UC Merced in Merced, CA. She has a passion for liturgy and creative worship, especially progressive liturgy that brings together art and justice in interactive ways. Jamie finds the work of racial and economic justice to be integral to the work of LGBTQ liberation. She is excited to join the RMN board!
Matt is a nonprofit development specialist and LGBT advocate from Washington, DC. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Florida, and subsequently received his Masters in Forensic Psychology from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. At Marymount, Matt worked in the Office of Student Life as a Resident Director, and advised a social justice-based organization in his free time. In this organization, Matt committed to reducing stigma around a number of issues, including mental health and the LGBT community. Prior to joining the Board, Matt worked at Foundry United Methodist Church and with the Common Witness Coalition to prepare for the 2012 General Conference. In these roles, Matt organized at the Conference and National level to build grassroots communities of action and inclusion. Matt’s full-time job is at a nonprofit organization that empowers students to speak openly about mental health, thereby educating their peers and encourage help-seeking behaviors. The organization focuses on changing their campus and community cultures by providing information, leadership opportunities, and advocacy training to the next generation.
Dave Nuckols is a Minnesota lay person who grew up in the south where his family has 235 years of history with Virginia Methodism pre-dating and including attendance at the 1784 Christmas Conference. He has been married to Karin for 25 years and they have two cherished daughters. In his local church, Dave has served as Lay Leader, Staff-Parish Relations Committee and Stewardship Chair. Minnetonka UMC become reconciling in 2010 and continues to grow in spiritual vitality, attendance, finances and mission. Dave is an RMN-trained reconciling process coach and an advocate for marriage equality. In 2012, he was a Reserve Delegate to General Conference where he served as a Legislative Coordinator for the Love Your Neighbor Coalition and reached out actively to conservatives. He continues to serve on the North Central Jurisdiction Restructuring Task Force and on the Minnesota Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Professionally, Dave is enjoying a second career in local government after spending 20 years in high tech sales and marketing. He is a graduate of Duke University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Dave has a passion for justice for LGBTQ peoples and also for the growth and unity of the United Methodist Church.
Bill Smith is a founding partner at Civitas Public Affairs Group, a values-based consulting firm that delivers winning campaigns and communications strategies for some of the most pressing issues of our day. He works with progressive non-profit organizations and philanthropists on a wide range of issues including LGBT rights, protecting our environment, increasing civic participation, advancing reproductive justice, building a strong resistance movement, and ending sexual assualt.
Prior to founding Civitas, Bill served as the national political director at Gill Action Fund. During his five-year tenure, Bill led the development of innovative strategies to pass, block, and protect key policy outcomes for the LGBT community, including the freedom to marry and non-discrimination protections. He also counseled a network of donors that invested nearly $15 million into targeted campaigns to support pro-LGBT candidates and organizations.
A lifelong Methodist, Bill grew up in the First United Methodist Church in Eufaula, Alabama and graduated from Birmingham-Southern College. He and his husband Mark reside in Washington, D.C. where he is an active member of Foundry United Methodist Church.
Gheeta Smith was adopted from India as a baby and raised United Methodist in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has a BS in Geography with a Minor in Arabic Literature from the University of Utah. Gheeta is passionate about social justice issues, particularly issues of equality, equity, poverty and education. Over the years she has held many leadership roles in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. She was a delegate at the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2006 and was a reserve delegate to General Conference 2008. Gheeta was the Utah Sub-district Lay Leader from 2011-2014. She has been actively involved in RMN since 2002. She was the Annual Conference Team leader for Utah/Rocky Mountain from 2010-2014, and recently spent time as a Jurisdictional Organizer for the Believe Out Loud and Love Your Neighbor campaigns. She is the former Co-Chair of United Methodists of Color for A Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC).
Rev. Terri Stewart
Rev. Terri Stewart is a provisional elder of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church. They serve as the Director of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition and as the Spiritual Leader of www.BeguineAgain.com, an online spiritual community. They are married and have two sons, one who identifies as transgender/asexual and the other who identifies as cisgender/”I don’t know.” The boys both use the pronouns he, him, his. Terri identifies primarily as cisgender/bisexual and uses the pronouns they, them, their. They desire to make churches safe places for the lost, the least, and the lonely. But most especially, for those who have been hurt by church because of their sexual or gender identification.
Rev. James Waugh
Rev. Jim Waugh is a retired elder in the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. Jim completed thirty-eight years in ministry prior to his retirement in 2013. During his ministry, Jim served in a number of settings including: rural parishes, developer of an ecumenical cooperative ministry, district superintendent, lead pastor of a large suburban congregation, and assistant to the superintendent. He and Carol have been married for forty-six years. They are the parents of two daughters. Lisa, their oldest daughter, is a lesbian.
Jim was a delegate to the 1996 General Conference, and he was the first reserve delegate in 2000. In addition, Jim was a jurisdictional delegate from 1984 through 2004. Among other conference responsibilities, Jim served on the Board of Ordained Ministry. He currently serves as one of the parliamentarians for the annual conference and coordinates a team of parliamentarians for the conference.
Jim has been a long-time advocate of full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in The United Methodist Church. Since 2008, he has been active in the West Ohio Reconciling Ministries Team. He has served as the facilitator of the team since 2009. Jim has attended Convo since 2009. After his retirement, Jim initiated an outreach to parents whose children have come out as LGBTQ. Twice a year, Jim offers a four-session class called “When Kids Come Out.”
Jim continues to advocate for and to work for the full inclusion of LGBTWQ persons in the life of The United Methodist Church and in the society at large. In his retirement, Jim enjoys spending time with his family, including his two grandchildren, travels with Carol, and hiking in the Hocking Hills in southeast Ohio.
Achievements and Involvements
Jarrell Wilson will be speaking at The Reformation Project’s National Conference the weekend of October 26-28. The conference will take place in Chicago and will feature many leading scholars who are at the fore of the LGBTQ movement within the Church. We are grateful for Jarrell to be able to witness at this important event. Read more about The Reformation Project’s National Conference here.
Terri Stewart is involved in an emerging restorative-justice effort in the Seattle area. The goal is to keep teens out of juvenile detention centers, and in peacemaking circles that encourage self-reflection and exploration in the presence of qualified professionals. Read more about this peacemaking effort here.