2017 Proctor Institute Great Preachers and Plenary Speakers Bios

Rev. Traci Blackmon 

Rev. Traci Blackmon (Wednesday Great Preacher) is the Acting Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries for The United Church of Christ (UCC) and Senior Pastor of Christ The King UCC in Florissant, MO. Initially ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Blackmon served in various ministry capacities for nine years, prior to becoming ordained in the UCC and installed as the first woman pastor at Christ The King UCC. Rev. Blackmon's communal leadership and work in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, MO has gained her international recognition and appointment to the Ferguson Commission by Governor Jay Nixon and to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships for the White House by President Barack H. Obama. Rev. Blackmon co-authored the White Privilege curriculum for the UCC and toured the nation with Rev. Dr. William Barber, Rev. Dr. James Forbes, and Sister Simone Campbell proclaiming the need for a “Moral Revival” in this nation. Her numerous awards and recognitions include The White House President’s Volunteer Service Award, the 2015 Ebony Magazine Power 100 and the NAACP - Rosa Parks Award. Rev. Blackmon holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Birmingham-Southern College and a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary.


Dr. America Bracho

Dr. America Bracho (Tuesday Children and Justice Plenary Speaker) is the Executive Director of Latino Health Access, a center for health promotion and disease prevention located in Santa Ana, California. Created under her leadership to assist with the multiple health needs of Latinos, Latino Health Access trains community health workers as leaders of wellness and change and facilitates empowerment using participatory approaches to community health education. Dr. Bracho worked as a physician in her native Venezuela. In the U.S. she created the AIDS projects for Latino Family Services in Detroit and has been a trainer, presenter and consultant for numerous government and private agencies including The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Council of La Raza, John Hopkins University, The U.S.-Mexico Border Association, and the Texas Department of Health. Dr. Bracho serves as a consultant for the Pan-American Health Organization and in the past, hosted a daily radio talk show and was a local newspaper columnist. Dr. Bracho earned multiple degrees from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, including a medical degree from the Luis Razetti Medical School, and a Master’s degree in Public Health with a specialty in Health Education and Health Behavior.


Sister Simone Campbell 

Sister Simone Campbell (Tuesday Children and Justice Plenary Speaker) has served as Executive Director of NETWORK since 2004. She lobbies on issues that help “mend the gaps” in income and wealth in the U.S., focused specifically on how they disproportionately affect people of color and women — around the country, she is a noted speaker and educator on these public policy issues. During the 2010 congressional debate about healthcare reform, she wrote the “nuns’ letter” supporting the reform bill and got 59 leaders of Catholic Sisters to sign on. Sister Campbell has led four cross-country “Nuns on the Bus” trips, focused on economic justice, comprehensive immigration reform, voter turnout, and bridging divides in politics and society. She is the author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community. Sister Simone’s many media appearances include 60 MinutesThe Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of JERICHO, a California interfaith public policy organization; as the general director of her religious community, the Sisters of Social Service; and as founder and lead attorney for the Community Law Center in Oakland, California. Her numerous awards include a “Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award” and the “Defender of Democracy Award” from the international Parliamentarians for Global Action.


Marian Wright Edelman 

The President of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), Mrs. Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Under her leadership, the Washington-based CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families. She began her career in the mid-1960s when, as the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1968, she moved to Washington, D.C. as counsel for the Poor People's March that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death. Mrs. Edelman founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund. For two years she directed the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and in 1973 began CDF. Mrs. Edelman has received many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings, which include: The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, and I'm Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children. A graduate of Spelman College, Mrs. Edelman holds a law degree from Yale University. She is married to Peter Edelman, a professor at Georgetown Law School. They have three sons, Joshua, Jonah, and Ezra; two granddaughters, Ellika and Zoe; and two grandsons, Elijah and Levi.


Rev. Willie Dwayne Francois, III 

Rev. Willie Dwayne Francois, III (Monday Great Preacher) is the Senior Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville, NJ. Previously, he served at First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in Harlem and Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church of Houston, as a member of the Young Preachers’ Leadership Team of the Academy of Preachers, the director of the Young Ministers’ Corner of the African American Lectionary, and as a research assistant for Dr. Jonathan L. Walton — a civil rights scholar for the imaging of the King Paper collection through the Martin Luther King Center. Rev. Francois holds an adjunct position in the African American Studies program at the University of Houston and has published various articles and sermons. Additionally, he is a founding fellow of Emerging Millennials Leadership Alliance — a movement committed to dismantling the racialized prison industrial complex in America — and co-chairs the Theological Working Group of the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality. Rev. Francois is a graduate of Morehouse College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Religion, and holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, where he was awarded the Hopkins Shareholders Award — the school’s highest academic recognition.


Rev. Dr. Frederick Hayes 

Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III (Closing Preacher) is the Senior Pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church where he has served the Dallas community since 1983 and formed alliances with local community leaders and city officials to fight domestic violence and poverty. Dr. Hayes organized a Faith Summit on Poverty and works with the Center for Responsible Lending to fight predatory lending in Texas and nationwide. He has been a frequent White House guest to address issues ranging from the state of the economy to voting and civil rights and was applauded by President Barack Obama for starting the THR!VE Intern and Leadership Program. Dr. Haynes is the author of Healing Our Broken Village and Soul Fitness, a radio host, chairs the board of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and serves on the boards of the Conference of National Black Churches, the National Action Network, and Paul Quinn College. Dr. Haynes’ numerous honors include the Ebony Magazine’s 2012 Power 100 List, the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, and an invitation to give remarks at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service at Washington National Cathedral. Dr. Haynes graduated from Bishop College with a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and English, earned a Masters of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and received his Doctorate in Ministry from the Graduate Theological Foundation.


Rev. Cynthia Jarvis 

Rev. Cynthia Jarvis (Tuesday Great Preacher) is the minister and head of staff of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. She was ordained in 1974 to be the assistant minister of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wooster, Ohio, then served as Director of Field Education and Assistant Professor of Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, and as the Associate Minister for Pastoral Care at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, N.J. Rev. Jarvis is co-editor of a seven volume biblical commentary for Westminster John Knox Press entitled Feasting on the Gospels, and is also co-editor of two books: Loving God with the Mind: The Pastor as Theologian and The Power to Comprehend with All the Saints: The Formation and Practice of a Pastor-Theologian. Currently she is writing a book of personal theological essays on the frescoes of Fra Angelico in the Cloisters of San Marco in Florence. Rev. Jarvis is a graduate of Denison University and earned her Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School where she was awarded the Tillet Prize in Theology.


The Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner 

Dr. Eileen W. Lindner (Tuesday Bible/Theological Study Teacher) is the Proctor Theologian-in-Residence and pastor of The Presbyterian Church at Tenafly in New Jersey. She previously served at the Presbytery of the Palisades (Northern New Jersey) and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Dr. Lindner is editor of the NCC’s annual Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. A graduate of Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania, Dr. Lindner holds master’s degrees from Aurora University (counseling psychology), McCormick Theological Seminary (theology) and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary, New York. She has also done post-doctoral work at the University of Edinburgh and Harvard. Dr. Lindner is the author of Thus Far On The Way: Toward a Theology of Child Advocacy, When Churches Mind the Children, and numerous articles and publications.


Dr. Otis Moss, III 

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III (Morning Devotions Preacher) is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. Dr. Moss received his Bachelor of Arts in religion and philosophy from Morehouse College and his Masters of Divinity from Yale University where he was awarded the FTE Benjamin Elijah Mays Scholarship in Religion and the Yale Universtiy Magee Fellowship. Dr. Moss received his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He is the former pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta, GA., his first pastorate, where the church grew from 125 members to over 2100 disciples during his tenure. Dr. Moss' many honors and awards include, most recently, the 2016 NAACP Chairman's Award and delivering the Yale University Lyman Beecher Lectures in 2014. He published his first book, Redemption in a Red Light District in 1999 and co-authored The Gospel Re-Mix; How to Reach the Hip-Hop Generation and, with his father Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., co-wrote Preach! The Power and Purpose Behind Our Praise in 2012. He followed The Gospel According to the Wiz and Other Sermons from Cinema (2014) with his most recent book, Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair based on his Lyman Beecher Lectures. His sermons, articles and poetry have appeared in numerous other publications such as Power in the Pulpit II: America’s Most Effective Preachers, Joy to the World: Sermons From America’s Pulpit, Sound The Trumpet: Messages of Hope for Black Men, The Audacity of Faith: Christian Leaders Reflect on the Election of Barack Obama, Sojourners Magazine and The African American Pulpit Journal. Dr. Moss is an ordained minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ, carrying dual standing in both denominations. He is a life member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, board member of the Christian Century Magazine,  and Co-Pastor-in-Residence of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy. Dr. Moss is married to his college sweetheart, the former Monica Brown of Orlando, Fl, a Spelman College and Columbia University graduate. They are the proud parents of two creative and humorous children, Elijah Wynton and Makayla Elon.


Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. 

The Rev. Dr. Moss, Jr., (Morning Devotions Preacher) is the Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to his post at Olivet, he served as co-pastor with Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College, his Master of Divinity from Morehouse School of Religion/ITC, and his Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary. For more than 30 years, Dr. Moss has been directly involved in the civil rights movement as a religious leader and community activist and espouses the nonviolent approach for affecting social and political change. He has a strong philosophical bond to Mahatma Gandhi, Howard Thurman, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Moss is the recipient of many honors, including four honorary doctorates and a citation in 2000 from the Howard University College of Medicine. He has long served in leadership capacities including chairman of the Board of Trustees of Morehouse College. He is a life member of the NAACP and served as a consultant to former President Jimmy Carter. He was the Lyman Beecher Lecturer for Yale University Divinity School in 2004. Dr. Moss has been selected twice by Ebony magazine as one of "America's 15 Greatest Black Preachers" and listed as one of 30 people who have defined Cleveland in the last 30 years.


Brittany Packnett 

Brittany Packnett (Wednesday Children and Justice Plenary Speaker) is the Vice-President of National and Community Alliances for Teach for America. She has been an elementary school teacher, legislative staffer, education policy advocate, and executive director of Teach For America-St. Louis (TFA-STL). Under her leadership TFA-STL launched a local institute, increased fundraising and diversity, and invested in culturally responsive pedagogy for the 20,000 students in corps member and alumni classrooms. Catalyzed by the death of Michael Brown, Ms. Packnett is a Ferguson protestor and served on President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force and the Ferguson Commission, helping to bring protestor voices to policy change in the wake of Ferguson. In 2015, she helped launch Campaign Zero, a comprehensive policy platform to end police violence. Ms. Packnett was named one of TIME’s 12 New Faces of Black Leadership, to the Root and Ebony 100 lists, and shares the 2015 Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership with fellow activist DeRay Mckesson. She is an alumna of Washington University in St. Louis and American University.


The Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce 

The Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce (Wednesday and Thursday Bible/Theological Study Teacher) is serving as the Chief Religion Curator & Director of the Center for African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture for 2016-2017. She is also the Director of the Center for Black Church Studies and Associate Professor of Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Her most recent book, Hell Without Fires: Slavery, Christianity, and the African American Spiritual Narrative and her forthcoming book, Religious Ecstasy and African American Cultural Expression, focus on the historical and contemporary significance of the African American religious tradition. Rev. Dr. Pierce has written extensively on the relationship between faith, race and gender for academic and trade journals, including Time Magazine, Christian Century, Theology Today, and Christianity & Literature. She is an ordained minister, mentor, community activist and board member of a foster care agency. Her frequent appearances on television and radio includes work as a MSNBC commentator. Her numerous recognitions include fellowships from the Ford, Mellon, and Pew Foundations, and in 2015 selection as one of The Root 100 Most Influential African Americans. Rev. Dr. Pierce holds a Ph.D. and two Master of Arts degrees from Cornell University and undergraduate degrees from Princeton University.


The Rev. Dr. Luke Powery 

The Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery (Thursday Great Preacher) is the Dean of Duke University Chapel and Associate Professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School. Previously, he served as the Perry and Georgia Engle Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained by the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Dr. Powery has served in churches throughout Switzerland, Canada and the United States; written two books, Spirit Speech: Lament and Celebration in Preaching and Dem Dry Bones: Preaching, Death, and Hope; co-authored an introductory textbook on preaching, Ways of the Word: Learning to Preach for Your Time and Place; and is currently working on two devotional books of meditations on the spirituals for the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent. Dr. Powery served on the executive lectionary team for The African-American Lectionary and is the recipient of numerous scholastic fellowships and awards. In 2008, the African-American Pulpit named him one of 20 outstanding black ministers under the age of 40 who are helping shape the future direction of the church. In 2014, he was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College for his ethical and spiritual leadership in the academy, church and broader society. Rev. Dr. Powell holds a Bachelor of Arts in music from Stanford University, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Theology from Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto.


Wendy Puriefoy 

Wendy Puriefoy (Thursday Children and Justice Plenary Speaker) is the former Director of Education at the Barr Foundation where she led efforts to break the links between zip code and school achievement in Boston and former President of Public Education Network serving from 1991-2012. Deeply involved in school reform since the 1970s, she began by serving as a Special Monitor of the court-ordered desegregation plan for Boston’s public schools. Previously, she served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The Boston Foundation, a community foundation with an endowment of over $750 million. She serves on the boards of the Children’s Defense Fund, Independent Sector, Demos, Hasbro Children’s Foundation, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Milton Hershey School, and the National Center for Family Philanthropy. She received a Bachelor of Arts from William Smith College and holds Master of Arts degrees in African American studies, American studies and American colonial history, all from Boston University.


Dr. Patrick B. Reyes 

Dr. Patrick B. Reyes (Wednesday Children and Justice Plenary Speaker) is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Doctoral Initiatives at the Forum for Theological Exploration, and a Latinx practical theologian, educator, administrator and institutional strategist. At the Forum for Theological Exploration, he supports scholars of color and works with institutional leaders on a number of inclusive excellence initiatives. Dr. Reyes helps communities, organizations and individuals excavate their stories to create strategies and practices that promote thriving. He is the author of the book, Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community, and Surviving to Adulthood, and was previously the assistant dean for Academic Affairs and the director of the Center of Community Engagement at Trinity Lutheran College in Everett, Washington. Previously, Dr. Reyes was the director of communications at Tools for Decision Group. He has over 15 years of experience working with gang-affiliated, farmworker and religious communities on compassion and spiritual practices for healing and founded two groups that foster community and decolonize religious and spiritual traditions. Dr. Reyes holds a Ph.D. and Master of Arts from Claremont School of Theology, a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology and a Bachelor of Arts from California State University, Sacramento.


Dr. Terrell Strayhorn 

Dr. Terrell Strayhorn (Thursday Children and Justice Plenary Speaker) is Professor of Higher Education and serves as the Director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise at The Ohio State University. Previously, Dr. Strayhorn was Special Assistant to the Provost at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Research Associate at the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington, D.C. He is author of 10 books including College Students’ Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for All Students, over 60 book chapters, and many other scholarly publications. A sought-after speaker, Dr. Strayhorn maintains an active research agenda focusing on major policy issues in education including student access and achievement; issues of race, equity and diversity; impact of college on students; and student learning and development. Known for using the hashtag #DoGoodWork on social media, Dr. Strayhorn was named one of the country’s top diversity scholars by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education in 2011, one of Business First’s “Top 40 under 40,” one of the “Top 20 to Know in Education,” and became the youngest full professor in Ohio State’s history. Dr. Strayhorn received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia (UVA), a Master of Education degree in educational policy from the Curry School of Education at UVA, and Ph.D. in higher education from Virginia Tech.


Dr. Mark Lewis Taylor 

Dr. Mark Lewis Taylor (Wednesday Children and Justice Plenary Speaker) is the Princeton Seminary Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture. A member of the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Taylor frequently teaches and lectures in churches and supports church communities in their efforts to organize on justice and peace issues. Since 1987, he has studied regularly in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico, where he analyzes the cultural and political dynamics of the churches as they move closer to a contextualized Mayan theology that also facilitates resistance to military repression. Dr. Taylor is coordinator for Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and his regular teaching duties focus on the theologies of Paul Tillich and Gustavo Gutierrez, with full courses also on White racism as theological challenge, feminist and womanist theologies, empire and capital in theological perspective, and cultural-political hermeneutics. He is the author of numerous books including The Theological and the Political: On the Weight of the World; Religion, Politics, and the Christian Right: Post-9/11 Politics and American Empire; The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America; and Remembering Esperanza: A Cultural Political Theology for North American Praxis. Dr. Taylor holds a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.