Keynote Speakers

David Leong, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Missiology at Seattle Pacific University and Seminary, where he directs the Global and Urban Ministry program. Dr. Leong’s teaching and research examine the theological meaning of the city, and he is passionate about churches engaging their neighborhood communities with creativity and compassion to bridge racial and cultural divisions. David lives in Seattle’s beautifully diverse Rainier Valley with his wife and two sons.

Jonathan Walton is a social ethicist and scholar of American religions who joined the faculty of Harvard Divinity School in July 2010 and was appointed Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in Harvard’s Memorial Church in 2012.

Formerly an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of California, Riverside, Professor Walton’s research addresses the intersections of religion, politics, and media culture. He is the author of Watch This! The Ethics and Aesthetics of Black Televangelism. He has also published widely in scholarly journals such as Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation and Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. His work and insights have also been featured in several national and international news outlets including the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC.

Walton earned his PhD in Religion & Society and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. He also holds a BA in Political Science from Morehouse College in Atlanta. He serves on several professional boards and committees, which include the Board of Trustees at Princeton Theological Seminary, and the National Advisory Board of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.   


Kathryn Z. Johnston is the head of staff at Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church in south central Pennsylvania. Originally from the New Jersey shore, she graduated from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and earned her M.Div at Princeton Seminary in 2000. She values a team approach in multiple-staff ministry, and focuses on equipping church leaders both practically and spiritually. She currently serves on the NEXT Church advisory team after a term on the strategy team. Kathryn and her wife, Rev. Martha Spong, have a 13-year-old son at home and two sons and a daughter “adulting” in Los Angeles, Boston, and Japan. To get her mind off being head of staff, she plays softball, but not in church leagues.

Billy Honor is a minister, public theologian, and cultural critic whose progressive and compelling insights have made him a sought after preacher, lecturer, and social commentator.

Billy is currently the organizing Pastor of Pulse Church in downtown Atlanta. Pulse began in fall 2015 and is already widely known for its progressive faith witness and social justice advocacy. Prior to organizing Pulse, Billy was the Pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in College Park, GA, which became the fastest growing predominantly African American Presbyterian congregation in the United States. In addition to pastoring, Bill is also the founder and facilitator of an independent public scholarship ministry called “Truth on the Loose” that focuses on promoting quality social commentary and criticism on faith and culture.

Since 2008 he has facilitated a respected blog called “The Critical Cleric” that maintains a diverse and growing readership and his sermons and writings have been featured in Huffington Post, the Root.com, Presbyterians Today magazine, Yahoo Voices, Odyssey Network  and Day1 Media Ministry.

Billy holds a bachelors of arts in Biblical Education with honors from Beulah Heights Christian University in Atlanta, Georgia, a Master of Divinity degree from Johnson C. Smith Seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, and completed Master of Theology degree with honors from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, where his research focused on the intersection of theology, race and cultural criticism.

Billy has also served on the board of trustees of several institutions, including Columbia Theological Seminary, Johnson C. Smith Seminary and the Interdenominational Theological Center. He has also been an adjunct professor of religious studies and guest lecturer at various theological institutions throughout the United States and is currently working on completing his first book project scheduled to be released next year.

He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Kaldeen who is an HR professional and special events consultant.

Jennifer Barchi serves as the solo pastor of Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church on the west side of Baltimore City, MD, where she focuses on redevelopment and reconciliation, and is the author of The Joy Thieves. A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and Stanford University, she has served congregations in Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Groomsport, Northern Ireland. She loves writing, hiking, hanging from the ceiling on aerial silks, and just about anything that involves creativity. Jennifer currently lives in west Baltimore with her wife, Lauren, and their dog, Cinnamon.


Elizabeth Nix (Betsy) is an associate professor of history and the chair of the Division of Legal, Ethical and Historical Studies at the University of Baltimore. An American studies graduate of Yale University, Betsy received her Ph.D. in American studies from Boston University. She was part of the steering committee for the award-winning Baltimore ’68. With project organizers, she co-edited an anthology entitled Baltimore ’68: Riots and Rebirth in an American City (Temple University Press, 2011). She co-wrote Introduction to Public History: Interpreting the Past, Engaging Audiences. Her work and interviews with her about Baltimore’s history have appeared in Slate, Time Magazine, CNN, NPR, and The New York Times. A life-long Presbyterian, Betsy and her husband Andy Imparato have been members of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church for 18 years.

Sheri Parks is the associate dean for research, interdisciplinary scholarship, and programming for the College of Arts and Humanities, and an associate professor of American studies at hte University of Maryland.

Parks’ research focuses on public aesthetics and the ways in which people find and create meaning and beauty in their everyday lives, with specific emphasis on race, gender, and social class. She also studies popular culture as public mythology and its effect upon individuals, families, and minority cultures.

Parks is a frequent public speaker and has appeared in and on national and local media. She has long been a radio host on both WYPR and WTMD and currently serves as a regular contributor to WYPR’s Midday with Dan Rodricks.

She is the author of Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture.

John E. Schmidt is pastor and head of staff at Central Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. A native of Louisiana, John served with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and as a PC(USA) Missionary in Japan before taking a call to parish ministry. He was a founding board member of HopeSprings, a ministry in the Baltimore area committed to removing the stigma of HIV/AIDS and mobilizing church volunteers to serve people impacted by AIDS. John currently serves as chair of the Commission for Thriving Congregations in the Presbytery of Baltimore. John and his wife Debbie have been married for 42 years, and have two children and 4 grandchildren. Their daughter and son-in-law are both ordained in the PC(USA).

Turnaround Tuesday was born of the engagement of BUILD member churches with their communities and has grown into a jobs movement that is making a unique and powerful contribution to the fight against recidivism and for neighborhood revitalization in Baltimore City. Sponsored by BUILD, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, a broad-based community power organization,  Turnaround Tuesday has connected 366 people to employment with living wages and high retention rates in 2.5 years. Turnaround Tuesday’s community-based, open door approach makes it uniquely accessible to jobseekers experiencing any barriers to employment, and it works especially hard to attract and employ returning citizens. A combination of intensive relationship building with participants and employers including the delivery of essential skills, leadership development, and issue organizing experiences has made Turnaround Tuesday into one of Baltimore’s most respected jobs pipelines.