- Dennis Akpona
- Rev. Dr. Israel (Izzy) Alvaran
- Rev. Emily Bagwell
- Patricia Charles
- Kathy Cheney-Egan
- Ophelia Hu Kinney
- Jan Lawrence
- Helen Ryde
- Laura Young
Dennis Akpona – Reconciling Process & Central Conferences Organizer
Dennis Akpona (he/him/his) is an LGBTQ activist originally from Nigeria. He was recently granted asylum from Nigeria where he fled the persecution he faced as a gay man. While in Nigeria, Dennis worked for seven years in the nonprofit sector for a number of organizations including Journalists Against AIDS, Initiative for Equal Rights and Population Council. Since fleeing to the United States, Dennis has not stopped working for LGBTQ individuals.
He formerly worked at AIDS Foundation of Chicago and is a co-founder of Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program or CLASP. Knowing first-hand the difficulty arriving asylum seekers face and the lack of resources available to them, Dennis took it upon himself to organize and start CLASP to assist LGBTQ asylum seekers while they await the long and complicated process of applying for asylum.
Dennis is currently pursuing a Masters of Social Work at SUNY Buffalo in New York. He previously received a bachelor degree in Accounting from Lagos State University in Nigeria and a degree in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University.
Rev. Dr. Izzy Alvaran – Organizer
firstname.lastname@example.org – 510.717.4894
Israel I. Alvaran (he/him/his) is an ordained Elder in the Philippines Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He has served in various ministry settings as pastor, youth minister and faculty at a UMC university and seminary in the Philippines. He is currently under episcopal appointment to serve as an organizer with Reconciling Ministries Network. A long-time activist, Israel worked as Person-in-Mission of the UMC General Board of Global Ministries for the Manila Episcopal Area, focusing on advocacy for low-wage workers. For a number of years, he was a community outreach organizer for UNITE HERE Local 2 (the hotel workers union) and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of California. Prior to joining RMN, he served as national organizer for economic justice with the UMC General Board of Church and Society.
A political asylee from the Philippines, Israel lives in San Francisco, CA and is immersed in the life of his community. Until recently, he was an officer and board member of San Francisco Pride at Work, an organization committed to LGBTQI rights in the workplace. He is on the Activist Committee of the Jobs with Justice chapter in San Francisco. Israel has a Masters of Divinity degree and a Masters of Theology degree from Union Theological Seminary in the Philippines. With a dissertation focused on faith-rooted organizing, he received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA in 2010 as a recipient of the UMC Crusade Scholarship. When not in the thick of rallies and picket lines, Israel loves to cook and bake for friends, and spends quality time with his adorable dog Waui Kush.
Rev. Emily Bagwell – Resource Manager
Emily (she/her/hers), a native Georgian and RMN’s Resource Manager, attended Berry College in Rome, GA, and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. for her Masters of Divinity. Ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church in 2017, she previously served two local churches in the Atlanta area.
Emily is passionate about enhancing community engagement and being a part of creating and dreaming of new ways to include more people-in all the ways. She loves to find herself wandering in the woods, training for the next half marathon, and she enjoys cooking in the kitchen with her family.
Emily deeply desires to see the church she loves make room for all of God’s people. She thinks expanding one’s heart and mind to include more love can be a wonderful and freeing way to live (and a really good embodiment of God’s kingdom as well).
Patricia Charles – Bookkeeper/Accounting Assistant
email@example.com – 773.736.5526
Patricia (she/her/hers) has 35 years of Executive Administrative and Finance experience. She has worked with Merrill Lynch, GMAC and First American. She is a mother of two children, Donald and Evelyn, and a grandmother of six.
She was born an only child, but her parents raised her on a block with 20 other children, so she has fourteen brothers and six sisters. She also has eight stepdaughters and five godchildren. For an only child, she considers herself truly blessed and highly favored.
Kathy Cheney-Egan – Director of Fund Development
firstname.lastname@example.org – 773.736.5526
Kathy Cheney-Egan (she/her/hers) is a life-long United Methodist and is currently a member of First United Methodist Church in Evanston where she is co-chair of the Social Justice Committee.
Kathy has worked in the non-profit world for over 30 years–over half of that time directly in the area of fund development. Most recently she was Director of Development and Communications at Metropolitan Tenants Organization, where she helped to double the organization’s budget. Kathy is a Diaconal Minister, earning a M.S.W. from Washington University in St. Louis and a M.Div. from Chicago Theological Seminary in Hyde Park.
Kathy envisions fund development as a chance to provide others with the opportunity to be a part of important struggles for social justice. She is deeply committed to the movement of Reconciliation and thrilled to be a part of the RMN staff. Kathy lives in Evanston with her partner John and her child Rachel.
Ophelia Hu Kinney – Director of Communications
Ophelia Hu Kinney (she/her/hers) belongs to HopeGateWay in Portland, Maine, where she serves as the Worship Coordinator. She is the wife of a fearless reformer, the daughter of two circumstantial pragmatists, and the sister of a hopeful romantic.
Ophelia received her BA from Amherst College and her MBA from the Yale School of Management. Although she grew up in a family of agnostics, she became a Christian in college and has worked ever since to understand what that means. To RMN, she brings her problem-framing skills, her zeal to translate what is beyond words, and her insistent hope for justice in and through the body of Christ.
Ophelia believes that we inherit from our divine source the ability to co-author and co-build the kin-dom of God.
Jan Lawrence – Executive Director
Jan (she/her/hers) is a lay member of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference. Her passions are social justice, inclusion of all in God’s church, and unity of the church. She recognizes the tension that the fight for inclusion of LGBTQ people has created between those passions. She has been a leader on the LGBTQ Advocacy team at Foundry UMC in Washington D.C. since the 2012 General Conference.
Jan grew up in Rome, Georgia and graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, GA. She did graduate work at the University of Missouri and is currently studying at Wesley Seminary in Washington D.C. Professionally her background is in Engineering Management and Program Management.
Jan has been activity in her church, community, and at Wesleyan College for many years. She realized a few years ago that she enjoyed them more than she was her career. Deciding that at some point she wanted to transition to a career in a non-profit or church operations field, she began taking classes at Wesley Seminary to prepare for such a move. When the opportunity to join the RMN team came, she did not hesitate, believing that she could combine her passions in one place.
She lives in Washington D.C. with her spouse, Lindi Lewis, and their Welsh Terrier, Higgins.
Helen Ryde – Organizer
email@example.com – 508.247.7818
Helen (they/them/theirs) joined RMN in 2012 and serves on RMN’s Organizing Team.
Helen fell in love with the United States in 1983 when they visited New Jersey and Virginia for a field hockey tour with their high school. They spent 15 mostly-happy years in non-denominational charismatic churches in the U.K., everything apart from the conversion therapy piece was good.
Eventually Helen moved to Massachusetts in 1998, met Mrs. Lovely (their spouse Kate) in 1999, and joined the United Methodist Church in Provincetown in 2005. Helen and Kate currently live on the NC coast with their cute and naughty dog Bella. Prior to joining RMN, Helen was Vice President of a global financial services company and a special needs teacher. They graduated in post-graduate secondary education from Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, England.
Helen is a Home Missioner in the Order of Deaconess and Home Missioner in The United Methodist Church, appointed by the Bishop of the Western NC Conference to their role at RMN.
Laura Young – Organizer
firstname.lastname@example.org – 936.581.9401
Laura Young (she/her) is a Deaconess in The UMC, appointed to RMN as part of the organizing team. She’s a clergy spouse, mother, outspoken advocate for social justice, and has been serving through RMN since 2007. She is a member of the Texas Annual Conference, currently living in the Northwest Texas Conference where her partner serves a Reconciling congregation in Lubbock.
Laura is deeply committed to ongoing theological education and LGBTQ justice in the Church. She has chaired the board of Perkins Lay School of Theology and co-chaired Reconciling United Methodists Texas Conference. She has served as a delegate to Jurisdictional Conference and, through RMN and the Love Your Neighbor Coalition, has helped connect and resource likeminded General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates since 2008.
Laura is a singer, enjoys live music, baseball, photography, and collects giraffes.