MIND endorsements for clergy delegates

Kun Sum Cho immigrated from Korea at age 19 and has lived in the U.S. for 36 years. He received his theological training at Union Theological Seminary.  His work has centered around racial and cross-cultural issues, and a growing awareness of LGBTQ struggles. He advocates for “Christ’s inclusive table for people of every age, race, culture, nationality, theological perspective, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, mental and physical ability, economic condition, and marital status.” He brings the following experience in addition to this commitment: chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry (2008-2012); National Federation of Asian American UMC – coordinator, NYAC Asian Caucus; member of the Bishop’s Task Force for Cross-Racial & Cross-Cultural Appointment Ministry; member of the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conference delegations; Committee on Korean reconciliation and reunification (chair, 2009-2012, currently chair of its Korean Peace Movement sub-committee). Kun Sam’s strong and clear voice brings the interests and concerns of Asian American to all the work he undertakes.  His significant experience in cross-racial and cross-cultural appointment ministry provides a crucial perspective to the direction our general church ministry will take.

Hermon Darden is senior pastor of the vibrant and growing Vanderveer Park Church in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. He has extensive experience in urban ministry and the issues which effect youth and marginalized people. Hermon has learned that many systemic problems for the church and community are the same in urban and rural settings.  He understands that the United Methodist delegates to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences must seek a unique unity which allows divergent expression and service from both clergy and laity. Hermon has served as a leader in the New York Conference in many roles: as Conference Council on Ministries chair (antecedent to the Connectional Table); chair of the NYAC chapter of Black Methodists for Church Renewal; chair of the Conference Commission on Religion and Race; vice chair of BOOM; co-coordinator of the first ad hoc committee to create diversity in the NYAC General Conference delegation. He is currently a member of COSROW and the Black College Fund Commission. Hermon served NEJ Black Methodists for Church Renewal as their jurisdictional coordinator for Episcopal candidate interviews in 1984 and 1988.  He has traveled extensively on behalf on the conference. He participated in the first delegation to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. His understanding of UM global ministry and mission is enhanced by his participation with conference delegations to Nicaragua, Haiti and Korea. Mission and educational interests have led him to visit Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. He learned about Rwanda and Kenya by visiting with the World Vision Organization. Hermon has a long-term commitment to coalition building for the purpose of strengthening the United Methodist Church. He has worked to create inclusiveness and unity in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul Fleck (seeking specifically a Jurisdictional Conference delegate seat) has been pastor at New Milford UMC since July 2010 and was selected as one of 24 pastors to be a leader for Vital Congregations Incubator Training. He is equally committed to mission-oriented local church work and a gospel that embraces social justice, believing, “[w]e need to move from ‘giving a person a fish’ and ‘teaching a person to fish’ to ‘giving folks access to the pond.’” From late 2012 to February 2014 Paul served part-time as staff coordinator for the Conference Board of Church & Society (CBCS), where he spearheaded multiple efforts on gun violence and other issues. He served as the bus coordinator for the multi-group effort to attend the 50th anniversary march on Washington.  Active in MFSA, Paul advocated at the 2012 General Conference as part of the Love Your Neighbor/Common Witness Coalition; he was a reserve lay delegate to the 2008 General Conference from New England.  A former attorney, Paul drafted the Judicial Council brief overturning “Plan UMC,” an effort to usurp the legislative and fiscal authority of General Conference that would have diminished the racial and gender justice work in the church.  Chair of MIND’s Legal Team, Paul successfully defended three resolutions/actions before the Judicial Council involving the advancement of LGBTQ rights within the church.  He recently served as assistant counsel to Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree, who faced church prosecution for officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son.  Paul co-chairs the NYAC Immigration Task Force, where he helped organize the Know Your Neighbor, Know Yourself symposium.

Vicki Flippin is the is pastor of Social Justice, Exploring Faith, and Inter-generational Ministries at The Church of the Village, a progressive, multi-racial, and Reconciling church in Manhattan. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School (’08) and the University of Chicago (’05). She currently serves as secretary for the Conference Commission on Religion and Race and on the steering committee of MIND, working for both racial and LGBTQ equality with equal fervor. Vicki also serves as the CORR liaison to the MFSA steering Committee.  A proud signer and clergy recruiter for the Covenant of Conscience, she is committed to the practice of marriage equality in the UMC and had the privilege of preaching at the Reconciling Ministries Network 2013 Convocation. Well-versed in intercultural competence, anti-racism, and privilege, she has authored a number of articles on these topics that have been published by the Huffington Post.  Vicki was chosen to participate in the Lewis Fellows Program for young clergy at Wesley Seminary.  She is a member of an extensive network of lay and clergy young adults who are extremely invested in the future of the UMC. Many of these young people hope to be elected to their conference's delegations, and Vicki would be honored to join this future-oriented movement that is hoping to make meaningful and forward-thinking change in the church. Her service to the church also includes work on the conference’s Commission on Higher Education and Campus Ministries and its Strategic Economic Analysis Task Force, as well as the Northeastern Jurisdiction's Young Adult Council. She helped plan the conference's Coloring Beyond the Lines project.

Timothy Riss has been a member of NYAC since 1980, during which time he has served in rural, suburban and urban churches. He has also played myriad leadership roles in the connection, including secretary for several district committees, chairperson of a dozen district and conference agencies, and secretary and vice-chair of a jurisdictional committee. He currently serves as the treasurer of the national MFSA and chairperson of the Policy, By-Laws, and Legislation Committee of the General Board of Global Ministries.  He has been a member of the NYAC MFSA since seminary days, and served on the steering committee until taking a leave of absence in order to help the church seek a just resolution of the complaint made against Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree. Tim has deep institutional knowledge and experience at General Conference. He served as an alternate to the 1996 General Conference and as a delegate to every General Conference since then. He played an active role in the 2012 General Conference fight to keep the general agencies that challenge our racism and sexism as well as the guaranteed appointment system that provides due process protections for clergy whose ministries might be inconvenient to some cabinets and local churches.

Denise Smartt Sears is the district superintendent for NYAC’s Metropolitan District. She is passionate about living out the challenge of being a church of “open hearts, open minds and open doors,” and intentionally works to build an inclusive community within the life of the church. In addition to her pastoral ministry prior to becoming a superintendent, Denise has served in multiple other capacities. She is a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry, is on the Northeast Jurisdiction Restructure Committee, and has served in numerous leadership roles in the national Black Methodists for Church Renewal, including as an observer to the 2012 General Conference. Sears was appointed to be one of five NYAC Team Vital members, appointed to a national group led by Bishop John Scholl in an effort to strengthen our churches and provide leadership. Her passion to build the beloved community of God led her to write two GCORR Action Fund grants over the past three years, designed to deepen the conversation of cultural competency.  She believes that it is not enough to tolerate others, we must accept God’s call to truly accept one another as one in Christ Jesus. She holds a BS from Dillard University, a MS from Bank Street College of Education, and both an MDiv and a DMin from Drew University. Denise invites you to watch this video about her General Conference candidacy.

Sara Thompson Tweedy has served in numerous capacities during her 13 years of ministry in NYAC. She worked in parish ministry for seven years, chaired the Catskill-Hudson District Council on Ministry, served as the business manager for the Bishop’s Convocation, and as a member on the Conference Board of Higher Education and the Committee on the Status and Role of Women. She is currently part-time staff at Memorial/Central Korean UMC in White Plains, and on a full-time basis is appointed to AIEM at SUNY Sullivan as the Dean of Student Development Services, where she works with students who have been left behind by unjust educational policies. She has served on the steering committee of MIND since 2008 and is on the Inclusive Study Group set up by the conference in 2012. She would bring deep skills as an administrator and an equally deep passion for justice to the General Conference delegation. As an out lesbian clergy person, Sara speaks from a place of authenticity about the harm being done to LGBTQ people in the name of “covenant.” She has come to learn from personal experience that hearts, minds, and doors open when people have an opportunity to hear from and talk with those being marginalized. Sara hopes to be one such voice on our conference’s behalf. In addition to addressing the injustice against LGBTQ people in our church and society, other justice issues are equally dear to her: issues of immigration reform so that immigrants and their children are not further victimized, dehumanizing police practices such as stop and frisk, the horrible crime of trafficking women and girls, and social inequalities that leave large portions of our citizenry academically under-prepared and socially disadvantaged.

Javier Viera is the executive minister at Christ Church United Methodist in New York City. After two decades in pastoral ministry, he will become the dean at Drew Theological Seminary on July 1, a post that builds on his considerable administrative experience and his scholarly work. In addition to an MDiv from Duke and a Masters of Sacred Theology from Yale, he holds a doctorate in education from Columbia University. Among other things, Javier heads Christ Church’s outreach ministries, locally, nationally and internationally, and is a consummate bridge-builder. He is committed to a diverse church that advocates equally for the rights of all people, regardless of race, sexuality, ethnicity, immigration status, sex, gender identity or expression, or physical ability. In addition to civic leadership positions, his service in the church includes: the Board of Ordained Ministry of both the NEJ and NYAC; the board of directors of the City Society and the Home for the Aged; chair of the Conference Commission on Race and Religion; and MFSA.