Staff Members

Dennis Akpona, African Central Conferences Coordinator

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Dennis Akpona is a 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. Due to his love for giving back and helping others, he is currently pursuing a second degree at the Northeastern Illinois University in Social Work. Dennis received a bachelor degree in Accounting from Lagos State University in Nigeria.


dennis@rmnetwork.org
 – 312.448.5314
Pronouns: he/him/his

Rev. Israel I. Alvaran, Western Regional Organizer
izzy-250x300Israel I. Alvaran 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.

izzy@rmnetwork.org312.448.5313
Pronouns: he/him/his

Rev. M Barclay, Director of Communications

Rev. M Barclay is a provisional deacon appointed as RMN’s Director of Communications where they also served for two years as staff liaison to United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion (UMATI). M received a BA in Communications in Florida before moving to Austin, Texas where they attended grad school at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary where they earned their Master of Divinity. M has worked as a hospital chaplain, youth director and justice associate, faith-based organizer for reproductive justice, and does extensive speaking, writing, preaching, and teaching on the intersections of faith and social justice. A self-identified theology nerd, M is convinced that in every conversation about social justice and being human together, there is an opportunity to engage the Divine, Mystery, Love, and the interconnectedness of all of creation. M is pansexual and a non-binary trans person who uses singular they/them pronouns.

m@rmnetwork.org – 312.448.5312

Pronouns: they/them/their

Kathy Cheney-Egan, Director of Fund Development

KathyCE250x300Kathy Cheney-Egan joins the RMN staff as Director of Development in November. Kathy is a life-long United Methodist and currently is 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 of 24 years, John, and her 17 year old daughter Rachel.

kathy@rmnetwork.org312.448.5303
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Jan Lawrence, Interim Executive Director

Jan 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 7 year-old Welsh Terrier, Higgins.

jan@rmnetwork.org
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Rev. Liam M. Hooper, Transgender Community Organizer

liamReverend Liam M. Hooper, M.Div., is the founder of GRASP (Gender Revisioning and Sexuality Pathways), which aims to improve the lives of trans people in the community through public education, advocacy, activism, and general support activities. As an openly trans man, Li takes seriously the call to freely tell his story, to be as authentically who he is as possible, to engage in responsible education and advocacy, and to hear and respect the stories of others. Through trans advocacy work, awareness-raising, social justice work, education, and theological activism, Li strives to work for greater safety, freedom, and acceptance for trans people and all those in the vast, diverse continuum of persons.

liam@rmnetwork.org 312-448-5321
Pronouns: he/him/his

Nelson Mendoza, Communications Associate

 

nelsonNelson was born in the Philippines and spent his formative years growing in up Virginia. After receiving his undergrad degree in International and Intercultural Communications and Relations he moved to Phoenix, AZ. In Arizona, he began his advocacy at an organization doing LGBTQ nondiscrimination policy work. Nelson successfully helped manage a state-based communications campaign to counter the hateful SB1062 religious freedoms legislation that surged in 2014. Within his activism efforts, Nelson has organized around marriage equality, interfaith community building, race and reconciliation work, and much more. Nelson is actively engaged in his local community where he serves on multiple young professional boards for emerging leaders. When he isn’t trying to save the world you can usually find him on top of a mountain after a hike, staring at the Netflix suggestions page, or decompressing through video games.
nelson@rmnetwork.org 312.448.5317
Pronouns: he/him/his

Rev. Lois McCullen Parr, Northern Regional Organizer

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Lois has found two life-giving locations in her journey: the church, and the LGBTQ community. However, the overlap of these two communities has been rare (and even harmful). This intersection is where Lois heard God’s call to ministry at age 40. In seeking to be faithful to the Gospel revealed in Jesus, Lois hopes to preach and teach about the God who created us good, and loves us no matter what. Lois’ favorite Bible verse is “nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8), and she hopes that ministry can be a source of healing and justice.

Lois’ background includes working as a writer in government, politics, and the arts; community activism in peace and justice; and lay ecumenical ministry on the campus of Miami University of Ohio. She has served congregations in the Northern Illinois Conference in the city (Holy Covenant, Epworth, and Broadway) and suburbs (Naperville, Northbrook) following her studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Lois is Co-Founder of CLASP (Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Partners) and serves on the national Steering Committee for its parent organization, LGBT-Freedom & Asylum Network.

In addition to her part-time organizing with RMN in The UMC, Lois also serves as a facilitator for “Doing Our Own Work: An Anti-Racism Seminar for White People” with Allies for Change; and as a facilitator for Creating Culturally Proficient Communities in Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Lois is happy to have returned to her home state of Michigan, residing in Albion. She sings in three choruses: Sistrum: Lansing Women’s Chorus; Battle Creek Community Chorus; and Ensemble Alioni of Chicago (folk music from the Republic of Georgia). Lois identifies as bisexual and queer and is married to Clayton (who totally gets her); they are parents to Nate and Cullen. She loves to read, to write, to eat, and to sing.

lois@rmnetwork.org – 312.448.5306
pronouns: she/her/hers

Mellany McDonald-Williams, South Central Field Associate

Mellany 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 3 year old princess and is originally from Detroit. Mellany has lived in Houston Metropolitan area for the last 26 years.

mellany@rmnetwork.org – pronouns: she/her/hers

Helen Ryde, Southeastern Regional Organizer

Helen250x300Helen 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.

helen@rmnetwork.org312-448-5307
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Rev. Kim Sorrells, Georgia Field Organizer

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Rev. Kim Sorrells joins us at RMN as Georgia Field Organizer after serving as Minister for Spiritual Formation and Youth at Saint Mark UMC in Atlanta, GA. Kim is a graduate of Candler School of Theology (Emory University) and Berry College, and is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Prior to Saint Mark, they have served as a hospital chaplain and worked in homeless services through their time in Americorps. Kim has special interest in using spirituality and contemplative practices to equip us with the inner peace to be justice makers in the world. Kim is also a Registered Yoga Teacher and draws on this and other spiritual traditions to inform their ministry. Outside of their formal employment Kim serves as chair of the Spiritual Leaders Committee for the Transgender Health and Education Alliance (THEA), and is a member of the Atlanta Coalition of LGBTQ youth.
kim@rmnetwork.org -205-913-4135
Pronouns: they/them/theirs or he/him/his

Laura Young, South Central Regional Organizer

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Laura Young 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.
laura@rmnetwork.org 312.448.5309
Pronouns: she/her/hers

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