A Brief History
It’s difficult to write a history of advocacy for women in the Free Methodist church, because those of us on this team stand on the shoulders of so many women who have walked this path. When exactly did advocacy “start”? With the first FM woman who woke up one morning and said—“This is not right. I’m going to do something.”
So many others have “done something” since. We are only the latest nine. We are grateful for their tireless, courageous work of education and advocacy. We build on it.
AWLFMC started with a Facebook message between two of us in February 2021.
“Do you want to do something?”
We messaged four other amazing and brave women with the same question. They gave the same answer.
And so here we are. Six of us as a core team began meeting monthly to decide what that something would be. We quickly determined it had to include resources for our pastors and leaders to learn more about the culture in North America and how it affects women, especially the church culture. We needed to talk honestly about what we’ve experienced and allow those stories to be heard, unvarnished. We wanted a gathering place for women in the FMC to feel heard, seen, valued, and energized.
Above all, we want to advocate for women to be treated with the dignity and equality afforded to ezer kenegdo images of God—in the church, in leadership, in marriage—everywhere.
AWLFMC continues to expand beyond its original six to include women at quarterly meetings where we can learn from one another's experience and hear their needs. We plan action teams to pursue different projects as expertise and passion dictate. If you’re interested in either of these options, contact us.
Meet The Team
Rev. Soo Ji Alvarez
Soo Ji Alvarez is the Lead Pastor of The Avenue, a multi-ethnic Free Methodist church in Riverside, CA. She is also the Program Coordinator for How To Fuel Your Passion, an online program designed to equip Asian American and Latina women faith leaders and the Conference Director for Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy. She has been ordained with the Free Methodist Church since 2011 and has been a national speaker and strong advocate for women in ministry, gender equality, diversity, justice and the AAPI community. Soo Ji is Korean-Canadian and loves doing life and ministry with her Mexican-American husband Joe. They have 2 amazing kids, Juaquin and Nayara and a puppy named Oso.
Rev. AmeliaCleveland-Traylor, MD
Rev. Amelia Cleveland-Traylor, MD was ordained as elder in the FMC in 2005. Her ministry responsibilities have included pastoral care, praise and worship leader, women’s ministry director, youth ministry, small group leadership, and faith and fitness. Amelia has served on the MEG and MAC in the Ohio Conference, been a member of the Genesis BOA, and was Superintendent of the River Conference from 2018-2022. She currently serves on the FMC Board of Administration. She has a special interest in justice and advocacy with pending studies of justice and advocacy at Fuller Theological Seminary beginning in fall 2022. She is also a board-certified obstetrician gynecologist and has a focus in indigent health care and women’s health.
Rev. Dr. Sheila Houston
Pastor Sheila Houston is a leader in the Sex Trafficking Movement. She has led teams to work directly with victims of domestic sex trafficking throughout Seattle and internationally, working directly involved with over 2,500 victims. From 2008-2011 she also led street teams that worked directly with men involved in pimping. Sheila is a Free Methodist Pastor currently serving in Detroit Michigan at Arise Ministries Detroit. Her credentials include an Executive Master of Not-For-Profit Leadership, Seattle University; Post Master Certificate in Transforming Spirituality, Seattle University; BA Organizational Behavior, Seattle Pacific University; Pastoral Leadership Certificate and a Doctor of Ministry from School of Theology, Seattle University.
Rev. Dr. Laura Hunt
Laura J. Hunt adjuncts for several undergraduate and graduate institutions worldwide. Her PhD used semiotics and the poetics of allusions for biblical interpretation; it is published as Jesus Caesar: A Roman Reading of the Johannine Trial Narrative. She continues to work and publish in academia, particularly on the Gospel of John and 1 Peter. Her tagline, “Making the Academic Practical,” guides her work as Associate Pastor of New Beginnings in SE Michigan and her book on 1 Cor 1-4, The Not-Very-Persecuted Church. She loves languages, coarse bread, and smelly cheeses.
Rev. Marianne Pēna
Marianne Peña is a Pastor and planter of a bilingual Free Methodist Church in North Houston, Texas, Essential Church. She and her husband, William, co-pastored a multi-generational, multi-cultural, and bilingual church in Miami, Florida for eight years before being called out to plant. Marianne has been an ordained elder in the FMC since 2018. She holds an MA in Organizational Management from Spring Arbor University and a Graduate Certificate in Discipleship and Spiritual Formation from Wesley Biblical Seminary. Marianne is passionate about helping believers walk in the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit and seeing women thrive within their context while experiencing the fullness of what God has for them. Marianne and William have three lively boys, Shiloh, Micah, and Mason.
Rev. Jill Richardson
Jill Richardson pastors Real Hope Community Church in suburban Chicago. Her doctorate is in Church Leadership in a Changing Context, with a focus on the next generation and preaching. She has written or contributed to 8 books, and her articles have appeared in leading national magazines and websites. Her tagline is “Reframed: Picturing Faith what the Next Generation,” and her passion is to work with the next generation to create a healthy church for the 21st century. She’s also a writer, speaker, and (fairly) intrepid traveler. You can find her work or contact her at jillmrichardson.com.
Dr. Michelle Roberts
Michelle Roberts, a member of the Free Methodist Church since 2002 and one of the church plant leaders of Light & Life West, Long Beach, CA. She served as the co-leader of the ministry support team, “Life Support” where she assisted with groups/classes coming together for healing and support. She ministered as the online church platform leader, communications administrator, social media content developer, program developer and website administrator. 2019, Michelle became the Assistant Director of African Heritage Network. She is also the founder of JKLM Corp, a Non-Profit organization for small business technical support, workshops, graphic design assistance and an entrepreneurial hub for charitable organizations with limited resources.
Rev. Katie Sawade Hall
Katie Sawade Hall is Associate Pastor at Community of the Savior, a Free Methodist congregation in Rochester, NY. She holds an MDiv from Duke Divinity School. Katie has been an ordained elder in the FMC since 2015 and spent the first five years of her pastoral ministry as a children’s pastor in Southern Indiana. She is especially interested in the intersections of liturgy, spiritual formation, and justice. Katie is married to Andy, who is a native of Lancashire, UK, and they have two daughters, Ellie and Zoe, and a golden retriever named Scout.
Rev. Heather Baker Utley
Heather Baker Utley is pastor and planter for a Free Methodist house church, Tapestry Church, in San Antonio, Texas. She also works in the areas of web design and social media for several Free Methodist-affiliated organizations, including Light + Life Communications and Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy. She holds an MDiv from Seattle Pacific Seminary and has been ordained in the FMC since 2017. She has 17 years of experience working for churches and nonprofits in Ohio and Washington State in the areas of youth ministry, children’s ministry, administration and communications.
Create and maintain lines of communication that include women leaders at all levels. Ensure they have the information they require to advocate for themselves and find opportunities in the Free Methodist Church.
Create a resource center of information regarding gender issues.
Work to equip new young pastors, new pastors, CMCs (ministry candidates), and women in new pastoral roles with the mentoring, communication, and opportunities they require for full use of their gifts and opportunities.
PROCESSING, HEALING, SHARING STRATEGIES
Create a safe space for women who have experienced sexual abuse, assault, or harassment either from an FMC leader or a person defended by one to tell their stories and find advocacy.
ADDRESSING PROMOTIONAL SYSTEM
Educate the FMC about gender bias and women’s unique life stages so that women can begin to make up a more representative portion of leadership and pastoral candidates.
SEXIST PATTERNS OF BEHAVIORS
Offer training on patterns of sexism and power.
Work to educate and screen pastoral candidates regarding egalitarian beliefs.