About Our Speakers & Preachers


Tuesday Morning Plenary

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Elaine Heath
Dr. Elaine Heath's scholarly work is interdisciplinary, integrating pastoral, biblical, and spiritual theology in ways that bridge the gap between academy, church, and world. Her current research interests focus on community as a means of healing trauma, emergent forms of Christianity, and alternative forms of theological education for the church in rapidly changing contexts.

Heath is the author of numerous books and articles, the most recent of which is Healing the Wounds of Sexual Abuse: Reading the Bible with Survivors (2019), a republication with updates of a previous volume: We Were the Least of These: Reading the Bible with Survivors of Sexual Abuse (2011). Her other publications include Five Means of Grace: Experience God's Love the Wesleyan Way (2017), The Mystic Way of Evangelism, Revised and Updated 2nd Edition (2017),  God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church (2016), Missional.Monastic.Mainline (co-authored with Larry Duggins, 2014),   Longing for Spring: A New Vision for Wesleyan Communities (co-authored with Scott Kisker, 2010, and Naked Faith: The Mystical Theology of Phoebe Palmer (2009).

Heath’s vocational journey includes having served as Dean of the Divinity School at Duke University, and the McCreless Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. She is a pioneer in new forms of theological education. In that capacity Heath is co-founder of the Missional Wisdom Foundation, a non-profit educational organization that equips clergy and laity to develop diverse forms of Christian community and  social enterprise. Most recently she co-founded Neighborhood Seminary, a contextualized model of missional theological education for laity. Heath is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and served in pastoral ministry prior to her academic ministry. She lives with her husband at Spring Forest, an intentional Christian Community and farm in rural North Carolina where she serves as Abbess.

Monday Evening Worship

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Sharma Lewis
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis, resident bishop of the Richmond episcopal area, 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 held a distinguished record of service in the North Georgia Conference including her appointment as district superintendent of the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District in 2010. In 2007, Bishop Lewis’ remarkable pastoral leadership at Wesley Chapel, a three-year tenure, led to over 600 new and restored members and worship attendance doubled. While there, her visibility as a strong spiritual and pastoral leader propelled her into numerous leadership roles in the local community, including Hands on Henry County and Many Hearts, Many Hands McDonough. Her ministry here culminated as she received the Harry Denman Award for Evangelism in 2010 as well as the G. Ross Freeman Leadership Award. Prior to these roles, Bishop Lewis was appointed in 1999 as the associate (and subsequently senior associate) pastor of the 8,000-member Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta and as senior pastor of the Powers Ferry UMC, a cross-racial assignment in Marietta, Ga.

Bishop Lewis has offered her gifts to The United Methodist Church in a variety of ways including as a board member of the Wesley Woods Foundation, SEJ Committee on the Episcopacy, Cabinet representative for United Methodist Women and the Committee for Equitable Compensation. She is currently a board member and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Evangelism for the World Methodist Council (WCC) of The United Methodist Church, a member of the Black Clergywomen and Black Methodist for Church Renewal (BMCR) of The United Methodist Church. Bishop Lewis has also been appointed as liaison to the Interagency Sexual Ethics Task Force (IASETF), a taskforce of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. Bishop Lewis serves on the Board of Governors for Wesley Theological Seminary and as ex-officio of the six United Methodist colleges in the Virginia Conference. She is also a member of the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) Committee on Coordination and Accountability (CCA) and a member of the Study Commission Ministry (GBHEM). The North Georgia Conference honored Bishop Lewis by electing her as the first African-American female to lead the delegation to the 2012 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. In 2015, she was once again voted to lead the delegation to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences.

Bishop Lewis was born and raised in Statesboro, Ga. in a loving Methodist family where individuals have answered God’s call to serve the church and to minister to God’s people. A graduate of Mercer University (B.S., Biology, 1985), the University of West Georgia (M.S., Biology, 1988) and Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center (M.Div., 1999), Bishop Lewis worked as a research biologist and chemist prior to surrendering to God’s call upon her life. She has led mission experiences to Jamaica, Kenya and the Philippines. Bishop Lewis is a member of the Atlanta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She has received the Delta Sigma Theta Pinnacle and Torch Award. She is the recipient of the 2014 Gammon Theological Seminary Distinguished Alumna and Trailblazer Award given by The National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter.

Wednesday Evening Worship


Telley Gadson
Reverend Telley Lynnette Gadson, the Immediate Past President of the National Black Clergy Women of the United Methodist Church (BCWUMC) and the youngest to be elected and serve in this leadership capacity, is the Senior Pastor of Saint Mark United Methodist Church (“THE 9-1-1” of Taylors/Greenville, South Carolina).  She is the only daughter of the Honorable Herbert Gadson and "Missionary" Linda Dingle Gadson, and was born on February 28, 1974. A native of Hollywood, South Carolina, Reverend Gadson is a fall 1995 graduate of the University of South Carolina, she was named to the Dean's List, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in Religious Studies. In the spring of 1999, she graduated from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (Atlanta, GA) with a Master of Divinity degree and Certification in Black Church Studies.  Preaching since the age of 18, she is an ordained Elder, in full Connection, in the South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Reverend Gadson has been blessed by God with an anointing that has enabled her to share on local, state-wide, regional, and national platforms; from Hollywood, South Carolina (her hometown) to Tacoma, Washington.  In December of 2010 and in April of 2011, Reverend Gadson was a special guest at the White House at the invitation of President Barack Obama. Most recently, she has become a published author as the 2016 writer of the African American History Month Daily Devotional for the United Methodist Church with a journal entitled, “Don’t Forget Who You Are!” 

Affectionately known as “PASTOR T,” Reverend Gadson is a member of numerous church-related, community, academic, and national organizations.  With sensitivity and a warm smile as her hallmarks, Reverend Telley Lynnette Gadson is recognized as a ministry mentor, a church leadership coach, a national leader and some have even said “national evangelist” in the United Methodist Church.  She models her life after the African-American spiritual: "If I can help somebody as I travel along the way, then my living shall not be in vain.

Thursday Morning Worship

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Sue Haupert-Johnson
Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson is the episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference. She was elected bishop by the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church and consecrated July 15, 2016. She began service in North Georgia on September 1, 2016. Bishop Haupert-Johnson (or “Bishop Sue”) is in her third year as bishop is to the North Georgia Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church 

A Florida native, Bishop Haupert-Johnson is a graduate of the University of Florida (B.S. in Business Administration), University of Florida College of Law (J.D.), and Candler School of Theology at Emory University (M.Div.). She was a federal law clerk and a litigator with the Tampa law firm of Carlton, Fields before she answered her call to ministry.

After graduating summa cum laude from Candler, she was ordained a deacon in the Florida Annual Conference in 1996 and an elder in 1998. She subsequently served pastoral appointments as an associate pastor at 4,500-member First UMC, Lakeland; as pastor of a 300- member rural/suburban church, Hillsborough UMC, Tampa; and as a lead pastor of two large- membership churches, First UMC, Cape Coral, and First UMC, Ocala. Bishop Haupert-Johnson served as the North Central District Superintendent of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church from 2013-2016.

As district superintendent, she guided a diverse area of very large and very small churches, urban, suburban, and rural churches; a large camp and retreat center; and a vibrant campus ministry. She was the “missional strategist” for this region, equipping and resourcing churches for ministry and helping them work together to reach their mission fields for Jesus Christ.

She was the Florida Conference’s clergy delegation leader for General Conference 2016. She represented the Florida Conference at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference four times and the United Methodist General Conference in 2008, 2012 and 2016. She was chair of the Judicial Administration Legislative Committee at the 2012 General Conference.

As bishop of the North Georgia Conference, Bishop Haupert-Johnson has led with passion and integrity in a challenging time for the denomination. Her emphasis has been on unity in Christ and steadfastness to our mission. She has called on North Georgia to live into the prayer from our communion liturgy, that we may be “one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.”

Bishop Haupert-Johnson is known for mission-driven and fruitful appointment making and her work on alignment of focus at the annual conference level. She serves on the Board of Directors for Global Ministries and on The General Council on Finance and Administration Apportionment Sustainability Task Force. She serves on the Emory University Board of Trustees as well as eight United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Georgia, and on numerous ministry and agency boards.

Bishop Haupert-Johnson is married to Rev. Allen Johnson. They have a daughter, Samantha. She enjoys NCAA football and basketball, all things Broadway, reading and movies.