Bishop Sharma D. Lewis is the Resident Bishop of the Richmond episcopal area, Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Bishop Lewis became the first African American woman to be elected bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church in 2016.
Prior to her episcopal assignment, she served in the North Georgia Conference as district superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District. While serving as a local pastor in North Georgia, Bishop Lewis’ remarkable pastoral leadership at Wesley Chapel, led to over 600 new and restored members and worship attendance doubled during her three-year tenure.
During this time, she also held various leadership roles with local community organizations in the Henry County Georgia. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Harry Denman Award for Evangelism, the G. Ross Freeman Leadership Award, the Wesleyan Theological Society Award, Scouting Silver Torch Award, 2014 Gammon Theological Seminary Distinguished Alumna, and the Delta Sigma Theta Pinnacle and Torch Award.
Bishop Lewis is a native of South Georgia, born and raised in Statesboro, Ga. in a loving Methodist family. She is a graduate of Mercer University (B.S., Biology), the University of West Georgia (M.S., Biology) and earned an M.Div. from Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center. Bishop Lewis worked as a research biologist and chemist prior to surrendering to God’s call upon her life. She is the author of Journey to Transformation, (2020, 2021 and 2022 Lenten Study).
Karl Vaters has been in pastoral ministry for 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 28 years with his wife, Shelley. They have three kids and two grandkids.
Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com. His heart is to help pastors of small churches (up to 90 percent of us) find the resources to lead well, and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church – something virtually every pastor will spend at least some of their ministry years doing.
He also believes that big and small churches can and should work together more often – to the benefit and blessing of everyone.”
Anne Bosarge works with the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church as the Director of Leadership Strategies and Local Church Resources where she provides leadership development for clergy and laity.
In addition to her role with the United Methodist Church, she is founder of Digital Discipleship (www.digitaldiscipleship.online), a digital discipleship organization reaching thousands around the globe through two Facebook groups, “The Chapel Online” and “Becoming More.” These two online groups provide daily discipleship for thousands of individuals from over 50 countries.
Anne lives in Brunswick, GA with her husband, Corey and two black labs. She enjoys baking, reading, writing, and spending time with her kids: Rosalyn and Jacob. You can connect with Anne on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
Richard A Hunter has a passion for making disciples, preaching and raising up future leaders for the church. While serving at Hillside UMC in Woodstock, he led the congregation in the birthing of two churches from within their growing church body. He was ordained an Elder in 1984 and has led 6 churches that ranged from 200 members to over 3000.
His love of teaching and mentoring future church leaders is demonstrated in the churches he has pastored and his tenure as Director of New Church Development for the North Alabama Conference. He is a master teacher with the International Leadership Institute, has led workshops in the Large Church Initiative, been a mentor in the Academy for the Practice of Christian Ministry, and has served on the adjunct faculty at Candler and Asbury Theological Seminaries.
He has been married to Meri since October 1984. They have two children and two grandchildren. Richard is presently serving as Associate Director of The Center for Congregational Excellence in North Georgia where his focus is new faith communities, strategic mergers, Fresh Expressions of church and restarts.
Rev. Lindsay Geist, MDiv, MSW, LCSW currently serves as the Director of Wellbeing in the Center for Clergy Excellence for the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church providing mental health resource support for clergy and congregations. Lindsay is a Deacon in Full Connection as well as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Lindsay completed her undergraduate work at Southern Methodist University and graduate degrees at Duke Divinity School and UNC-Chapel Hill.
Lindsay has always worked at the intersection of mental health and faith, serving in roles ranging from inpatient mental health and detox facilities to children’s homes to homeless services. In 2016, Lindsay opened her own private practice, Seeds of Hope Counseling, which continues to serve individuals experiencing anxiety, depression, and faith concerns. In addition to her counseling work, Lindsay has served as a consultant, partnering with churches and non-profit organizations to lead trainings on mental health, navigating church crises, addressing anxiety, and soul care. She has facilitated church staff and women’s retreats, led continuing education training for clergy, served as a guest speaker for church youth parents on multi-week mental health series, and guest preached at various churches around the topic of mental health and faith.
Lindsay currently serves as a board member of Chrysalis Consulting Center, a nonprofit organization based in New Mexico that provides rest & renewal retreats and covenant groups to support clergy wellbeing. Additionally, Lindsay co-hosts the podcast, “Not Alone: Conversations on Faith and Mental Health” with two ministry colleagues.
Rev. A. Renée Jacobs is the Faith-Based Prevention & Innovation Project Coordinator in the Office of Behavioral Health Prevention & Federal Grants (OBHPFG) at the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). A Chaplain for 13 years, she has 10 years of experience as a Board-Certified Clinical Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains and 4 years as a Chaplain (CPT) with the U.S. Army Reserve.
She holds a Master of Divinity from Hood Theological Seminary and has completed 5 Units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Named one of Crain’s Cleveland Business Magazine’s Notable Women Veterans in the Workforce (November 2019), she is passionate about transparency and authenticity with self and others as a pathway to growth.
Timberlyn Roby is the Regional Prevention Specialist – for Region 5 with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities in Atlanta. She oversees the Region 5 service contracts in the southern Coastal Georgia area with a particular focus on prevention of substance abuse and mental health for pre-teens through age 25.
Timberlyn completed her undergraduate work at Alcorn State University in Mississippi earning a Bachelors in Social Work. She also holds a Master of Science in Mental Health and Wellness from Grand Canyon University. During her time in Mississippi, Timberlyn was the Impact Prevention Coordinator for Warren-Yazoo Agency in Vicksburg. It was here that she developed a passion for helping the community better understand the importance of and seek access to resources for substance abuse and mental health.
Jessica Blackwood is the Digital Ministry Specialist with the Center For Congregational Excellence Office with the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Her role is to help pastors and congregations navigate the digital landscape and be good neighbors in the process. She is passionate about helping churches create sacred space in digital places through storytelling, community engagement, and visuals.
Jessica is a South Georgia preacher’s kid who married a North Georgia preacher! She and her husband, David, both currently serve local churches in Bremen, Georgia. They have three wonderful children which keeps their calendars full.