The Christian Church in the Upper Midwest
(Disciples of Christ)
Rev. April G. Johnson
Rev. April G. Johnson serves as the Minister of Reconciliation for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. She brings to this work a deep passion for racial understanding, justice and compassion. As Minister of Reconciliation, Rev. Johnson facilitates the churchwide process of awareness, analysis and action toward healing the fractures in the body of Christ that are caused by systemic racism. She collaborates with organizer trainers, regional and congregational staff leadership, anti-racism teams and ecumenical partners in her efforts to guide this work. Rev. Johnson has added mediation to the toolbox of Anti-Racism skills and practices in the church’s pursuit to embody a Pro-Reconciling identity. In her capacity as both pastor and administrator, Rev. Johnson emphasizes the importance of building relationships across differences as one of the critical ways that we actualize God’s plan for humanity and creation.
Prior to this role, Rev. Johnson served Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois as Assistant Dean of Students /Director of Diversity Services and as Associate College Chaplain. During her time at the College, Rev. Johnson provided leadership in developing a campus climate of welcome and inclusion. She also led several cross-cultural short-term service-learning opportunities for students in Belize, Central America and Kenya, East Africa. It was the joy of her ministry at the College to accompany young adults in self-discovery and intercultural competencies.
Rev. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana in Urban Planning, and a Master of Divinity from Howard University in Washington, DC. She is currently a Doctor of Ministry candidate at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Rev. Sandhya Jha
Sandhya Jha serves as founder/director of the Oakland Peace Center a collective of 40 organizations working to create equity, access and dignity as the means of creating peace in Oakland and the Bay Area. A multiply published author and widely requested public speaker and anti-oppression trainer, Sandhya’s over 20 years of community organizing experience position her to help cultivate sustainable social movement work at the local and regional level. An ordained pastor with a masters in public policy, Sandhya is comfortable in the pulpit, on the picket line or hanging out with friends and friends-to-be over a good cup of tea and a good story.
Rev. Dr. Dietra Wise Baker
Rev. Dr. Dietra Wise Baker has been serving in a contract position as NBA Organizing Specialist with the Ferguson Justice Initiative. Effective February 1, 2018, she transitioned to Program Coordinator for Advocacy and Activism, a new .50 FTE staff position with the NBA. This work flows from NBA's mission to "advocate for the well-being of humanity" and is done in collaboration and consistent communication with fellow NBA staff to equip the NBA and our ministry partners to deepen engagement in advocacy and activism. Following the trajectory of the work begun with the Ferguson Justice Initiative, these efforts utilize relationships, wisdom, and processes built and tested through that work.
Based in St. Louis, MO, Dietra will nurture engagement strategies with the NBA and our partners to transform root causes of social injustice. This includes equipping and training partners to address the critical social justice issues most relevant to their work, and collaborating with NBA staff to cultivate partnerships across the life of the church to coordinate efforts related to social justice theology, action, and advocacy.
Dietra previously served as chaplain and program development manager for Episcopal City Mission, a nonprofit providing chaplaincy services to incarcerated children in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. Currently, Dietra is organizing the “Break the Pipeline” campaign aiming to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in Missouri. In August 2014, she became the clergy caucus co-leader of the Gamaliel Networks' Metropolitan Congregations United, an organization that resourced clergy and congregations in the early stages of the Ferguson movement. She planted Liberation Christian Church (DOC) in April 2009 seeking to create a church that offers a complete gospel, liberating lives and liberating communities.
Dietra has a Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C.; a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO; and her Doctorate of Ministry in Preaching degree from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO. Pastor Dietra loves to dance, sing, and teach. She is married to Cornell R. Baker, and they have a daughter, Alexis Baker and son Cornell "Deuce" Baker II.
Elona Street-Stewart, Delaware-Nanticoke, is the Synod Executive for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., providing leadership and vision, supporting congregations, presbyteries and ecclesial partners, while building relationships with diverse and emerging communities. She has an extensive background in public service and community empowerment at local and national levels.
Recognized for advocacy on race and social justice, she serves on several General Assembly work groups and remains active in a variety of nonprofit boards, professional councils and legislative initiatives for education and equity. Prior to her executive service, she developed 9 family centers with a Minnesota family service collaborative and was the first American Indian elected to an urban school board in Minnesota, serving 12 years on Saint Paul Public Schools Board of Education.
She credits her relationships with strong, independent women for helping her succeed. An Upward Bound student from Philadelphia, she experienced early higher education at Swarthmore College and graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a BA in Anthropology.
Rev. Pedro Ramos Goycolea
The Rev. Pedro Ramos Goycolea serves as Pastor of Desert Dove Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona. He works with his congregation and partner institutions for the advancement of the community through local collaborations. Following God’s calling, Pedro and his wife, Alejandra, migrated to the United States in 2006 from Sonora, Mexico. He holds an M.Div. Degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, and is an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Pedro’s call to parish ministry has always intertwined with community organizing and social activism. He served as Program Director for the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice. Currently, he is working on different initiatives oriented towards the development of progressive Disciples Latinx leadership.
He is also an amateur musician and a steady progressive voice. Pedro and Alejandra reside in Sahuarita, AZ, with their two boys, Santiago and Agustin.
Rev. Danny Givens Jr.
Danny Givens is a heartfelt activist and orator who received a life changing gift of forgiveness from an off-duty police officer he shot during a botched robbery in 1996. Propelled by forgiveness, Danny began his journey toward reconciliation and resiliency prior to his release from incarceration in 2008. He later went on to receive his B.A. in Christian Ministry from Bethel University in 2011, accompanied by a three-year residency as an Interfaith Minister at Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2016.
Danny is now the Senior Pastor of Above Every Name Ministries, a young cutting edge congregation in the Twin Cities that prides itself in being a “Church for the People.” An advocate for Racial Justice in black, brown, and indigenous communities, Danny devotes his time to the #BlackLivesMatterMpls movement in the role of Clergy Liaison. Parallel to activist work, he is one of the Founding Members of Black Clergy United for Change (BCUC), a collective of black clergy committed to the work of Racial Justice and Social Transformation in urban communities. In addition to the litany of actions and peaceful demonstrations Danny has organized, he continues to convene tables where traditional and non-traditional faith leaders covenant to work at the intersections of faith, race, and justice. Danny provides racial justice consulting for congregations using a praxis curriculum he created for faith leaders looking to deepen justice work from the pulpit and beyond.
Over the years Mr. Givens has received multiple awards for his grassroots organizing and justice work including the following but not limited to: TakeAction Minnesota - Leadership Award 2015, OutFront Minnesota - Justice Award 2016, Interfatih In Action of Greater St. Paul - Local Legend Award 2016, and Kaleo Center for Faith, Justice and Social Transformation - Lifetime Achievement Award 2016.
A native of the historic Rondo community in St. Paul, Minnesota, Danny values moments of adventure and spontaneity amidst local and international travels with his wife Natasha. Between travels and meaningful time with family, he continues to lend his voice personally and professionally to diverse audiences across the country. Danny now resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and three children.
Rev. David Bell
Rev. David Bell is Minister for Indigenous Justice of Yakama Christian Mission; Pastor of Wilbur Memorial United Methodist Church; raises grass-fed beef and alfalfa at JustLiving Farm; and regularly writes and speaks on economic justice, anti-racism, the Doctrine of Discovery, environmental sustainability, Landscape Theology, and historical trauma experienced by indigenous children and elders. For two decades David has called the landscape of the Yakama home.