Wesleyan Investive Announces Inaugural Tom Locke Innovative Leader Award Honoring Pioneers in Spiritual Entrepreneurship and Courageous Christian Ministry

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Wesleyan Investive, formerly the United Methodist Development Fund, is pleased to announce the honorees of its inaugural Tom Locke Innovative Leader Award. This award recognizes five individuals from across the country who exemplify innovative spiritual leadership and missionally driven entrepreneurship.

"We are thrilled to honor these remarkable individuals who show us a new imagination for what the church can do for the sake of the world," said Roland Fernandes, Wesleyan Investive Board Chair.

The award is named after Wesleyan Investive President Tom Locke who holds a strong belief that investment in bold, enterprising leaders with inventive approaches to ministry not only advances the church but creates flourishing communities. "It is Tom’s vision that inspired us to create this award in his honor. He saw a critical need for courageous, creative leadership in the church and responded with a spirit of entrepreneurship and financial resources to help identify and embolden those making a difference in our communities," added Mr. Fernandes.

The church expanding its approach to ministry is more necessary today than ever before. According to Pew Research Center the church is continuing to lose members (currently 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009). Wesleyan Investive not only wants to recognize and invest in those thinking outside the box with their ministries but ensure that their work continues to grow. In addition to the recognition by Wesleyan Investive, the Tom Locke Innovative Leader Award includes an invitation to participate in a facilitated cohort with fellow 2021 award recipients, so that they may continue to learn from each other and grow together and a cash award to honor their innovation and dedication.

The Tom Locke Innovative Leader Award recognizes individuals who exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Have proven themselves in the innovation space and demonstrated evidence indicating great potential for the future.

  • Positively impacted the Methodist ecosystem.

  • Live out of a deep spiritual faith and work at the intersection of faith and individual and communal transformation.

  • Invest in people, populations and communities not currently effectively reached or well-resourced, especially by the church.

  • Are committed to life-long learning with a willingness to experiment, fail, reflect, learn and try again.

2021 Tom Locke Innovative Leader Award Recipients:

Emmanuel Andre, Attorney, Mentor, Restorative Justice Practitioner – Chicago, Ill.
Founder of Northside Transformative Law Center, a space where community members, families, and professionals come together to advocate for and accompany individuals who are navigating the criminal justice system; Founder of Circles and Ciphers, a hip-hop infused restorative justice organization for young people impacted by violence; Connected to United Church of Rogers Park, a United Methodist congregation.

Jennifer Bailey, Pastor, Public Theologian, National Leader in the Multi-Faith Movement for Justice – Nashville, TN
Founder and Executive Director of Faith Matters Network, whose mission is to catalyze personal and social change by equipping community organizers, faith leaders, and activists with resources for connection, spiritual sustainability, and accompaniment. Co-Founder of People’s Supper, which has gathered more than 10,000 people around tables since 2016 for bridging and healing conversations. Named one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress and Associate Minister, Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Leroy Barber, Pastor, Entrepreneur, Professor, Author – Portland, Ore.
Co-Founder of The Voices Project, which gathers leaders of color across fields, who pursue and work for change, for important conversations about the current challenges and triumphs within communities of color and their role as cultural influencers. Author of Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World, 2016. Director of Innovation for an Engaged Church in the Greater Northwest Area of the UMC.

DeAmon Harges, The Original "Roving Listener", Artist, Neighborhood Organizer – Indianapolis, Ind.
Founder of The Learning Tree, a non-profit that uses the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach with city governments and organizations to improve the quality of lives of people, communities, schools and businesses. Named one of the eight most influential neighborhood organizers on the ground by the Kettering Foundation. Connected to Broadway United Methodist Church.

Matt Russell, Pastor, Entrepreneur, Theologian, Professor, Connector – Houston, Texas
Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director of projectCURATE, a non-profit educational and social enterprise incubator that seeks to build bridges across cultural, economic, religious, and racial divides Co-Founder and Executive Director of Iconoclast Artists, a creative writing and arts program that gives young creative minds a chance to speak through written, visual, and performance art. Executive Pastor at Chapelwood United Methodist Church.

Award recipients will be honored at a virtual event on Sunday, May 16 at 7 pm CT / 8 pm ET, additional event details can be found at award.wesleyaninvestive.org.

About Wesleyan Investive

Wesleyan Investive, formerly the United Methodist Development Fund, is a national nonprofit that invests in congregations, leaders, and missionally driven innovation while catalyzing good works within communities. Over the course of its 50-year history, Wesleyan Investive has made over 2,000 loans totaling more than $500 million, encouraging churches across the United States to pursue their God-sized dreams. The work is made possible through partnerships with impact-focused investors and Methodist foundations across the country. Based in Austin, Texas, the organization is led by President Tom Locke.

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