Thomas Kemper is the chief executive officer (general secretary) of the worldwide mission agency of The United Methodist Church, its regional conferences, and local congregations. His agency includes units responsible for missionary and voluntary mission service, ministries in global health, and the promotion of local church engagement global evangelism and service. Global Ministries incorporates a major disaster relief and development unit, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and The Advance, the denomination’s designated-giving mission giving channel. Global Ministries has personnel projects and partners in more than 125 countries. Kemper is a layman from Hamburg, Germany, and is the first person from outside the United States to lead a United Methodist program agency. He and his wife, Barbara Hüfner-Kemper, were missionaries in Brazil for eight years, 1986-1994. He directed the mission office of the United Methodist Church in Germany before his election to Global Ministries in 2010. Kemper’s mission theology puts strong emphasis on the relationship of piety and mercy, personal and social holiness, as taught and exemplified by Methodist founder John Wesley. The Kempers are the parents of three adult children, Ana, Lena, and Joshua.
The Rev. Russell (Russ) Pierce is Executive Director of Mission Engagement at the General Board of Global Ministries. His unit encompasses marketing, fundraising, communications, the Center for Mission Innovation, and The Advance, which is the designated mission giving channel of the church. Mission Engagement seeks to deepen the engagement of individuals, congregations, and annual conferences with the work of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). He joined the staff in 2017 following three years with Church World Service, the ecumenical relief and development agency. A native of North Carolina and an ordained elder in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, Russ has pastored congregations ranging in size from 8 to 2,200. He did his seminary work at Duke Divinity School and earned a Master of Nonprofit Administration from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. He and his wife, the Rev. Kathy Barba Pierce, also a member of the Western North Carolina Conference, have two children, Clare and Aiden.
George Howard is currently Executive Director for Global Coaching and Strategic Initiatives at the General Board of Global Ministries, where he has been on staff since 2012. His work involves developing a pioneering program in leadership coaching at Africa University in Zimbabwe, working with the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, and linking with United Methodist conferences and professional networks. He has extensive experience on all levels of the church and worked for the West Ohio Annual Conference for 16 years and was a General Conference lay delegate from that conference four times, leading the delegation in 2008. He has lived on four continents working in community and leadership development. George now lives in Atlanta with his wife Eileen, a jazz and blues singer. The couple has two grown daughters and four grandchildren.
The Rev. Amy Valdez Baker is Executive Director of Global Mission Connections at the General Board of Global Ministries, a role that puts her in touch with conferences and congregations throughout the worldwide network of United Methodist and ecumenical mission partnerships. She is an ordained deacon in the North Georgia Annual Conference and a graduate of the University of Iowa in communication studies and holds both Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Before joining Global Ministries, Amy was the top executive of the Connectional Table. She is interested in how churches cope with trust issues both internally and with their communities and recently completed a book on the subject, Trust by Design: The Beautiful Behaviors of an Effective Church Culture (Abington Press). She and her husband, Rich, and their two children live in Lilburn, Georgia.
Rodrigo was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. He obtained a law degree at the University of Nuevo Leon and enjoyed practicing Criminal Law for several years. In 2006, he and his family moved to the United States while following his call into ministry. He received an M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary and a D.Min. in Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary. In 2016, he started a multi-ethnic church plant called The Nett. He is blessed by his marriage to Kelly, and they are the proud parents of Rj, Natalia, Gabriel and Benjamin.
Our Worship Leader, Jorge Lockward, has coordinated the worship life of many national and international gatherings, including the 21st. World Methodist Conference, the upcoming 2018 World Mission Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. A respected lecturer and workshop leader, Jorge has lectured at many theological schools and worship conferences. He served for many years as Director of the Global Praise Program of the General Board of Global Ministries where he edited several resources on global music and worship. He currently lives in New York City where he serves as Minister of Worship Arts at The Church of the Village.
The Rev. Dr. F. Douglas Powe, Jr. is an ordained elder in the Baltimore/Washington Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Powe is committed to helping urban congregations and congregations in transitional areas to flourish through community partnering. His research interest are church revitalization, urban theology and Methodist theology. Dr. Powe is the new Director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership and Professor of Urban Ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary.
Donna Claycomb Sokol is the pastor of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in downtown Washington, DC. Since Donna’s appointment to the congregation in July of 2005, the congregation has transitioned from an elderly congregation in decline to a growing congregation composed of many young adults who are making a vital difference in the heart of the nation’s capital. Donna earned her undergraduate degree in economics from William Woods University, her Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School, and her Doctor of Ministry degree in preaching at Wesley Theological Seminary. She is the co-author of A New Day in the City: Urban Church Revival (Abingdon, 2017), and she will be speaking on revitalization at Pastor’s School this year.
Georgia Pastor's School, Copyright © 2017 United Methodist Church. Image courtesy of Portland Gallery, London. Copyright, Gary Bunt 2017.