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, and on behalf of, LGBT 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 LGBT 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. Izzy Alvaran – Reconciling Process & Western Regional Organizer – 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 – Georgia-Based Outreach Lead

Emily (she/her/hers), a native Georgian and RMN’s Georgia Based Outreach Lead, 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 – 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 14 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 – 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.


Red Holdridge – Intern – 773.736.5526

Red Holdridge (she/her/hers or they/them/their) is the second of three children of a United Methodist pastor and a baker, from Rochester, NY. Red has an ecumenical background but has come to terms with being undeniably Methodist and queer. She now lives in Chicago with her partner Tristan and rescue dog Chyna and is a member of Urban Village Church (Wicker Park).  

After getting a BS in English at SUNY College at Brockport, Red worked for a campus ministry, helped found and run two community houses, and worked for 10 years in the medical field before finally heeding the call to seminary and full time ministry. Red is now in her second year of her MDiv at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and is glad to be joining RMN as an intern for the 2019-2020 school year. Red is focusing her studies on queer and inclusive theologies, as she is called to the work of expanding queer inclusive spaces in traditional church settings and creating sacred spaces in queer communities. 

When she is not engulfed by schoolwork, Red enjoys spending quality time with the people she loves, having real conversations, reading, baking, hiking with her dog, and travelling. Red loves developing community, getting tattoos, and collecting vintage rolling pins.

Ophelia Hu Kinney – Communications Specialist

Ophelia Hu Kinney (she/her/hers) belongs to HopeGateWay in Portland, Maine. 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. She and her wife tend

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.

Mellany McDonald-Williams – South Central Field Associate

Mellany (she/her/hers) is a member of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, TX where she serves as a member of the worship team on the Downtown Campus and Northwest Houston Campus. She also currently serves as a District Delegate in the Central South District of the Texas Annual Conference of the UMC.

Mellany is the Past Chairman and Founder of AffirmHouston, a LGBT support group, which focuses on bringing awareness and dialogue to the churches and surrounding community on topics of LGBT inclusion. She is a past Executive Board member of Breaking the Silence in the Texas Annual Conference. She was previously elected as an Alternate Delegate of the 2012 Jurisdictional Conference. She has previously addressed the delegation during Texas Annual Conference regarding inclusive amendments and resolutions. She has participated in numerous panel discussions and workshops on topics related to race, the church and the LGBT community.

Mellany currently works as an Attorney/CPA, enjoys traveling, cycling, music, writing, and singing. She is the mother to an amazing 5 year-old princess and is originally from Detroit. Mellany has lived in Houston Metropolitan area for almost 30 years.

Helen Ryde – Southeastern Regional Organizer – 508.247.7818

Helen (she/her/hers) serves as RMN’s full-time Southeastern Regional Organizer. Prior to this, she was the Northeast Regional Organizer, joining RMN in 2012. Helen fell in love with the United States in 1983 when she visited New Jersey and Virginia for a field hockey tour with her high school. She spent 15 happy years in non-denominational charismatic churches in the UK (mostly London and Canterbury), but eventually the whole being gay thing was too tricky to navigate.

Eventually Helen moved to Massachusetts in 1998, met Mrs. Lovely (her spouse Kate) in 1999, and found the United Methodist Church in Provincetown in about 2005. Along the way, Helen has been a Vice President of a global financial services company and a special needs teacher. She graduated in post-graduate secondary education from Canterbury Christ Church University.

Helen is in the process of training to be consecrated to the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner in The United Methodist Church.

Delvan Willis – Administrative Assistant – 773.736.5526

Delvan (he/him/his) is a native to the city of Chicago and is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Graduating with a double major in Political Science and Communications, Delvan moved back and has worked in a variety of fields from real estate to health insurance, and enjoys being as politically involved in various communities as possible, usually by canvassing. 

An alumnus of Pi Lambda Phi, a fraternity dedicated to the elimination of prejudice, Delvan strives to ensure that people are heard and treated as fairly as possible. Coming to RMN, he’s excited to join a group that supports people as they find a community where they feel accepted and able to practice their religious beliefs.

In his spare time, Delvan is a proud member of Commonfolk, a community driven collective of artistic individuals. He also enjoys playing Bridge and writing poetry, and he has a Lab named Chance.


Laura Young – South Central Regional Organizer – 936.581.9401

Laura Young (she/her/hers) is a Deaconess in the UMC. She’s a clergy spouse, mother, outspoken advocate for social justice, and has been serving through RMN as a volunteer or on staff since 2007. She is a member of the Texas Annual Conference, but 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 full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the UMC. She has chaired the board for Perkins Lay School of Theology, and co-chaired Breaking the Silence – a voice for full inclusion in the Texas Annual Conference. She has served as a delegate to Jurisdictional Conference and was the LYNC Legislative Coordinator for Church & Society B at the 2012 and 2016 General Conferences.

Laura is a singer, enjoys live music, Houston Astros baseball, photography, and collects giraffes.

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