Dorothee Benz has spent a lifetime dedicated to social justice work, a call fueled directly by her faith and her understanding of the Gospel imperative to welcome and defend the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed. As a young adult she had planned to go into ministry, but the year she came out as a lesbian was the year the UMC voted to bar gays and lesbians from ministry. She is a founding member and chair of MIND and is deeply committed to the struggle to end the UMC’s prejudice and wholesale discrimination against gays and lesbians. She was the lead organizer for the My Brother’s Keeper: People of Faith Confront Hate Crimes symposium that brought together an unprecedented coalition in our conference to address issues of violence facing communities of color, immigrants and LGBTQ people; and helped organize six NYAC buses that went to the 50th anniversary march on Washington in August 2013. As MIND’s visibility has grown, Benz has become an emerging national leader in the Reconciling movement, and a sought-after speaker and teacher. In 2013, she served as the theologian in residence at FUMC in Boulder, Colorado and co-led (with NYAC native Bruce Robbins) a strategic planning workshop for the national marriage equality movement within the UMC at the Reconciling Ministries Network Convocation. This summer she will be a keynote speaker at the Western Methodist Justice Movement’s Stepping Out in Faith retreat. Benz holds a PhD from the City University of New York and a BA from Harvard University. She is the director of communications at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She is the recipient (with Fred Brewington) of the 2012 Gwen and C. Dale White Award from MFSA.
Fred Brewington is a civil rights attorney and has served on the last three NYAC General Conference delegations. He was the first elected lay delegate in 2008 and 2012; and in 2008 served to chair the Section on Church and Society. Fred has served on the General Board of Church and Society for two quadrennia and during that time chaired the GBCS Trustees. He now serves on the Connectional Table and the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. In 2012 he was part of the team that worked on the brief defending guaranteed appointments and successfully argued that case. He has been an unflagging witness for a church that embodies full inclusiveness, arguing passionately that race, color, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, physical challenges or any other human aspects that God has blessed us with should not and must not be separating factors. He is equally keen on the ours being a church that celebrates both women and men in all aspects of our church in leadership, participation and all levels of consideration, recognizing that too often the voice of authority and decisions has remained male.
Carolyn Hardin Engelhardt has deep experience in service to the church. She served on the General Conference delegation in 2008 and 2012 and on the Jurisdictional Conference delegation from 1980 to 2004. Engelhardt is a member of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals as well as its Vision Table. In NYAC, she has worked on numerous committees and task forces, including the Board of Ordained Ministry (2004-2012), the Bishop’s Task Forces on Cross-Cultural/Cross-Racial Appointments (2003-2005), and the Homosexuality Study (2006-2007). Carolyn also serves on the steering committee of MIND and is a longtime active member of MFSA. She holds an MDiv from SMU and a BA from Hendrix College. She has been the director of the Ministry Resource Center at the Yale Divinity School since 1985. She is the recipient of the Francis Asbury Award of the New York Annual Conference for Higher Education (2004) and the Gwen and C. Dale White MFSA Award for Social Justice (2011). Carolyn believes that General Conference delegates must be willing to commit themselves to the work involved to responsibly serve, including reading, study and meetings as well as discussion, discernment, critical thinking and an ability to see the big picture. It is a job that requires immense dedication, which she is prepared to bring.
Dorlimar Lebrón Malavé, a native of Puerto Rico born to a committed Christian family, has been a member of NYAC since 1991. She is a young adult who has already served in a wide diversity of ministries on the local, district, annual conference and global levels, including: youth ministry coordinator at Community UMC in Massapequa, NY; NYAC Worship Team member: MARCHA New York Annual Conference representative and Education for Advocacy Team member; active member in campus ministries and Students for Educational Rights at The City College of New York; young adult delegate at Encuentro de Mujeres (the Latin American and Caribbean Methodist women Leadership Conference in Kawaii, Peru); musician at United Methodist Women Latina Women Consultation in Dallas, TX ; and Worship Design Team member for “Imagine what’s NEXT” conference. She is able to articulate thoughts and analysis clearly and ready to enter into dialogue with brothers and sisters who may think differently or have a different lived experience and faith. Fully bilingual, Dorlimar is a team player and has a passion for justice, because God is a God of justice. That commitment is not found solely in human compassion or social analysis, though these are valid motives for a commitment to justice. But as a believer in Christ, her commitment to justice is rooted in the unmerited, undeserved love of God, and is demanded by this love. Her commitment to all forms of justice is no more an option than the love that she has for all of God’s creation.
Roena Littlejohn is a lifelong Methodist, born to the late Rev. Esau B. Anderson, pastor in the Central Jurisdiction Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church until his death in 1968. She was one of seven children and grew up in a house where scripture was read daily. She was active in church affairs from her youngest days, and remains so. At Golden Hill UMC, she holds many leadership positions, including as a member of the church council, chair of the SPRC, trustee and teacher in both adult and children studies. In the Connecticut District, she has served on the District Council on Ministries, Committee on the District Superintendency, Nominating Committee and in other capacities. She served as the CT organizer for the NYAC bus trip to the 50th anniversary march on Washington. Conference-wide, Roena is the chair of the Commission on Religion and Race and was elected the first alternate in the 2012 General Conference delegation. She is a member of the Inclusive Study Group and the Vision Table. She is an active UMW member at all levels of the church. She brings skills from a professional career in human resource and office management to her service in the church as well as a commitment to hard work. She believes the time right for all conferences to vacate the judgment seat, read the Bible and become the church that embodies full inclusiveness, beginning by truly opening our hearts, opening our minds, and swinging wide the doors for ALL to enter without judgment.
Ximena Varas is a Christ-centered disciple focusing her ministry on the least, the last, and the lost. She commits herself to ministry with the marginalized both inside and outside of her local church community, within NYAC as a whole, and within and outside of the greater UMC. Knowing we are all created in the image of the living God, Ximena works well in both cross-cultural and multi-cultural settings and is a skilled team-builder. She was a central part of a working group that organized the My Brother’s Keeper: People of Faith Confront Hate Crimes symposium and led the working group that rolled out the conference’s immigration reform symposium (Know Your Neighbor, Know Yourself). An early signer of the Covenant of Conscience, Ximena consistently advocates for the full inclusion of all in the UMC, believing that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters should have the same rights as anyone else in our church. We are all of sacred worth, without exception. One of the first certified lay ministers in the conference, Ximena presently serves as director of that program. She also serves as vice chair of the Connectional Ministries Visioning Table, as a member of Team Vital, as a member off the NYAC Hispanic/Latino National Plan, as Connecticut district lay leader, and as a member of the Committees on the Episcopacy and Superintendency. Ximena began her conference involvement as one of the founders and co-chair of the Immigration Task Force, and the cause of the immigrants in our midst still remains of utmost importance to her. She would bring organization, commitment, and a strong work ethic to the General/Jurisdictional Conference delegation. She understands what it means to be on the margins; she also understand what it means to include others in the conversation, engage in constructive dialogue, and resolve differences diplomatically.