Social and Racial Justice Ministries

 

Specialists

Rev. Neomi ‘NeNe’ Fletcher 

Emory University - Master of Divinity with concentration in Theology and Ethics. Rice University - Bachelor of Art in Religious Studies, Bachelor of Art in Policy Studies - Urban and Social Change Concentration.  Community College of Aurora - Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education.  Child Care Education Institute Online - Infant and Toddler Safety Certificate

Any time we find value differentiations based on an individual's identity or current circumstances, there exists a demand for justice. Rev. Fletcher leads engagement of justice from the perspective that God has justified each of us even though we all have fallen short of God’s glory. Therefore, we must continually challenge our churches and our local communities to make room for the full expression of who God has placed to join us in community. Looking at both policy and practice, Rev. Fletcher helps identify the causes of justice threatening unity in your local community and developing a plan on how to draw attention to these matters with the expectation of permanent change.       


Rev. Michael Gienger

Rev. Michael Gienger is an ordained elder in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He received his undergraduate degree in Religion, concentrating in Christian Ethics, from Baylor University, and his Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. Michael has been serving as co-pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Galveston, Texas since 2014. Central is a hybrid church plant/revitalization that is making space for hopeful skeptics and the spiritually homeless through a generous orthodoxy and focus on justice ministries. Michael's top five CliftonStrengths include strategic, ideation, intellection, connectedness, and futuristic.

Michael has served as a Curricula and Community Consultant for ProjectCurate, a non-profit social impact agency and consultancy that works with religious, academic, and community organizations to address and support collaborative responses to intersectional racial injustice and inequality issues. Beyond racial justice ministries, Michael has also guided Central UMC to faithfully engage in justice work alongside immigrant, unsheltered, and LGBTQ+ communities. This work has included housing advocacy, Michael can help congregations think through strategies to better connect with and work alongside marginalized groups in their community                       


                               

Dr. Anthony J. Harris

Educational Leadership and Counseling at Prairie View A&M University. As an author, he has published 13 books, both fiction and non-fiction. His Podcast, Looking Back/Moving Forward, focuses on issues of race, racism, and social justice. He received his bachelor’s degree (Spanish) and master’s degree (Counseling) from the University of Southern Mississippi and his doctorate in Counseling from Texas A&M University-Commerce. As an active participant in the local civil rights movement in Hattiesburg in the 1960s, Harris participated in numerous marches and protests, attended the Mt. Zion Freedom School in 1964, and in 1966, he and four other Black students desegregated W.I. Thames Junior High School. He founded Project Keep Hope Alive, an after-school mentoring program for African American boys in Commerce, Texas, and appeared in the PBS Documentary – Freedom Summer, which originally aired June 24, 2014, on American Experience.

My experience, knowledge and skills in the social justice arena are extensive. Currently, I facilitate a weekly virtual meeting of members and non-members of Faith United Methodist Church in robust discussions regarding social justice and racial equality. We started meeting prior to the start of the Pandemic and have continued virtually for more than two years. In that group, we explore the intersection of religion, race, and social justice. In doing so, we often read topical books that enhance our understanding of that intersection. Examples include, Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin, Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race, Robin DeAngelo’s White Privilige, and Ibrahim X. Kendi’s How to be Anti-racist.

On four separate occasions, I have been invited to deliver the keynote at the Houston Unitarian Fellowship and the Ellisville (Mississippi) Unitarian Fellowship on the topic of social justice. Those presentations were received very positively by the leadership and congregation of both churches. In addition, I have published 13 books, all of which deal with some aspect of social justice.

I host a weekly Podcast, Looking Back/Moving Forward, which focuses on social justice issues, such as Artificial Intelligence and its impact on race; What does the Bible say about Racism? COVID-19 and the Black Community, and Commentary on issues and events of the day. The Podcast is accessible through Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at anchor.fm/anthony-j-harris.  I am an experienced group facilitator, having taught group facilitation in a graduate counseling program and having led numerous workshops and seminars on the topic of social justice and racial equality.


Rev. Marvin Hood

Pastor Marvin has an Associates Arts and Associates of Applied Science degrees from Lee Jr. College. He has a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Sam Houston State University and he graduated from Perkins's School of Theology Course of Study at Southern Methodist University. Pastor Marvin is also a graduate from the Samaritan Center as a certified Pastoral Care Specialist and he is a certified religious volunteer in Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Pastor Marvin is the founding pastor of Newgate Fellowship UMC-Mission. He has devoted his entire ministry in Restorative Justice conducting worship, revivals, Kairos to thousands of men throughout The Texas Criminal Justice System. He is the author of his book Dying to Live. he has a workshop The Onesimus Journey. He has served in housing, employment, teaching life skills and director of transitional housing for former offenders and the homeless. He has assisted many families impacted as a result of crime and incarceration nationally. He is dedicated to Restorative Justice Ministries which is his life mission, and he serves with great zeal and passion.


Rev. Michelle Manuel

Rev. Michelle Manuel pastors in Houston, TX, at St. Luke’s UMC.  She is a gifted teacher and thought leader, always asking how the church might stretch and grow in its praxis informed by an understanding of the Gospel for our time. Some of her interests and areas of study include systemic racial justice, the Enneagram, and Christ’s healing of the world. She passionately joins this generation of Christians in inviting the church into a deeper and more authentic expression of what it espouses. She lives in Houston with her spouse, Quentin, their young son, and their cat Margaret – with whom she has a love/hate relationship.

At the center of Christ’s ministry on Earth is justice and healing. Christ begins his ministry with the reading of the Isaiah Scroll. This is his mission on Earth and continually invites us into doing the same. We have somehow found ourselves boxed into places, cultures, and ways of life that keep us from freeing one another and being who we claim to be as Christians. As a white woman who has worked in large predominantly white churches, I have the passion and experience in working with white clergy and churches on how to begin to self-reflect, engage one’s own inner healing work, move into a place of willingness to do things differently and lead congregations who have a desire to enter this work. I was once in a setting where I witnessed racial injustice all around me and couldn’t shake the strong conviction that something must be addressed. I want to come alongside anyone or any group that feels that same conviction. I am available to speak, preach, host workshops, consult, and provide pastoral support for those in need both short term and longer-term relationships.


Rev. Johnnie Simpson, Jr.

Johnnie Simpson Jr. is an ordained elder in the Texas Annual Conference, married, father of three children. Johnnie Simpson has a BBA in Business Management, and MBA, and a Master’s in Divinity. Prior to becoming a pastor Johnnie had a career in AV production, and in the nonprofit sector. Johnnie has several certifications and experience in areas intersecting faith, business, and technology. 

Johnnie Simpson Jr. is active in social justice, has served as an advocate in the community and participated in ministry in the public square. Johnnie Simpson Jr. is also a member of the NAACP, has helped organize responses to injustice, and is active in local and county government.


Rev. Leo Tyler, Sr.

Rev. Leo Marshall Tyler has served God for forty-two years and is gifted as a preacher, teacher, pastor, evangelist, and leader. His experience includes a Christian radio broadcaster, creator and presenter of The Healthy Soul Seminars, trainer of over 300 Stephen Ministers, and establishing one of the largest Celebrate Recovery programs in Texas. Leo received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communication from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana and a Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. Leo is a Birkman Method Consultant, Birkman International, Inc., a Certified Behavioral Consultant, The Institute for Motivational Living, Inc. delivered by People Keys the official DISC provider. Leo is author of the “21-Day Adventure: Experience more freedom, joy, and purpose than you ever dreamed possible.” Rev. Leo Tyler currently serves Bear Creek United Methodist Church, Houston, TX as Senior Pastor. Leo is married to Lupe Tyler and together they have one son, Leo II and two grandsons.

Leo experienced desegregation in the Seventy’s and as a second grader was integrated into a predominately white school. Fifty years later diverse schools and neighborhoods surround churches that are not diverse. If this describes your church, allow Leo to assist you in opening the doors of your church and heart to your neighbors. The popular assumption of the Church Growth Movement is that churches grow by focusing on a single racial or ethnic group, but according to Gerardo Martí, Ph.D., L. Richardson King Professor of Sociology at Davidson College, “For Methodist churches, reaching across racial lines proves a better strategy for growth.” Start a path toward growth today. 


Amy Vogel

Amy is called to pray, write, preach, and grow the body of Christ in the great adventure story God is writing. She loves to help people find Jesus and see them discover the significant purposes they’ve been created for. Having grown up in the United Methodist denomination, she now leads at Upper Room Heights, helping others get connected to their faith, individually and in a diverse community. Her devotional, Third Person: Thirty Days with the Holy Spirit, opens the door to a deeper Christian spiritual experience. She and David have been married for twenty years and have three daughters, Natalie, Sophia, and Ella.

Amy serves the church in several key areas, including discipleship, prayer, social and racial justice, and spiritual formation. Having been a volunteer leader inside and outside of church settings, she has a vision for how to apply faith in Christ to the struggles of life, often in innovative ways. Through technology, unique experiences and personal interaction, Amy has formed deep relationships, started groups, created, and led Bible and topical studies for diverse audiences, coached other volunteers to step into ministry leadership and was an essential contributor to the launch of Upper Room into the Greater Heights area. She curates the vision for the culturally relevant spiritual growth model of Upper Room Heights - for all age groups. She is heavily engaged in pastoral care efforts, which help the church maintain the flexibility needed to provide ways for people to grow spiritually and in community. She founded the near decade old prayer ministry that grew to include weekly prayer services, a rotation of volunteers, creative methods of prayer, training on intercession and inner healing, as well as partnerships with other churches and ministries around Greater Houston. This ministry is now venturing into the digital space to broaden and encourage people to pray – for themselves and others – wherever they are in the world. Her experience with social and racial justice is heavily connected to the learning and personal experience of being a volunteer and on staff at multi-ethnic church. Her heart, ways of thinking and actions have been challenged and shaped through the opportunities of walking in life and faith with others different from her. She continues to seek out new ways the congregation can partner in the justice efforts in Houston.


Rev. Stephanie Wilkins

Hi everyone! I am Reverend Stephanie Wilkins. I am a native Houstonian, the mother of two sons and nana to six beautiful grandchildren. My undergraduate degree was obtained at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. I have an M. ED in Instructional Technology and a Master of Arts in Ministry from SMU Perkins School of Theology. I was in ministry as an educator for 27 years prior to accepting my call as a Deacon in 2012. I was fully ordained during the 2021 Texas Annual Conference. I was appointed to Blueridge UM prior to my ordination and am currently appointed as one of the Associate Pastors at St. John’s Downtown.

I have partnered with organizations around the inequities and inequalities that continue to plague communities of color and those who wish to be advocates/allies/partners in eradicating those social injustices. I have been a member of a coordinating committee that planned and implemented a rally/march to address the need for justice for all people.

Spoken as a social justice activist to multiple media outlets; participated in groups sharing stories that help others to see the need to support the liberation of all our brothers and sisters; Jesus is the model – whatever you have done for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you’ve done to me.  I have guided those wishing to learn more about ways to be active/support/empower those who wish to speak up and out against social/racial injustice.


Rev. Dr. Tommy Williams

Rev. Dr. Tommy Williams is Senior Pastor of Trinity UMC in Beaumont Texas. Tommy has served growing congregations in rural, county seat, multi-cultural, and large urban contexts throughout the Texas Annual Conference for over 25 years. His experience includes leading an 11-million-dollar capital campaign, growing children ministries, outreach with refugees and at-risk youth, sports ministries, health ministry, and supporting the creation of non-profits birthed out of the congregation. Tommy’s doctoral work centered on the intersection of faith and public life exploring how a church becomes active in the welfare of the communities where they are serving. The Williams family have enjoyed being foster parents and other community involvement wherever they serve. In their off time they enjoy time at their family land in the woods of East Texas.

Justice ministries are rooted in a Biblical vision for how God created the world and desires it to be. Justice is rooted in the Gospel where we are all “one in Christ Jesus” – Galatians 3:28. Forging “holy friendships” is the subject of Tommy’s doctoral paper and his practical ministry.


Rev. Lawrence Young

Currently serving as Sr. Pastor of Klein UMC – Texas Conf. Additional Senior Pastor appointments include Warren Memorial UMC; Cascade UMC; Jones Memorial UMC; Abundant Life UMC – (new church start), District Superintendent of the Central South District. He received his Master of Divinity of Gammon Seminary @ ITC.

Life experiences growing up in South Louisiana during very turbulent racial times, has experiences of successfully navigated a new church   in Lufkin, Texas in 1991.  34 years of leading the Texas Conf. in seeking to become more racially sensitive