LAKELAND – Two familiar faces at the Florida Conference have been selected to work in the newly created Missional Engagement department under the leadership of Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans.
Rev. Harold Lewis, who has been working to encourage black church development at the conference since 2009, will become director of Justice and Multicultural Ministries.
Icel Rodriguez, Global Missions director in Connectional Ministries since 2010, will keep her current position but report to Campbell-Evans beginning in June.
Bishop Ken Carter and the appointive cabinet announced those changes today in anticipation of the Annual Conference, when the new office, with Campbell-Evans as its executive director, is expected to be approved. The Annual Conference is scheduled for June 13-15 at the Lakeland Center.
The appointment of Campbell-Evans to lead the Missional Engagement department was announced in January. Campbell-Evans has been serving as senior pastor of Saint Paul's UMC, Tallahassee, for nine years. His previous experience includes a stint as district superintendent and as an executive with the General Board of Global Ministries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
"The vision for the new office of Missional Engagement is increasing the mission-minded culture of the Florida Conference," Campbell-Evans said. "We are focusing on how we engage as missionaries in our neighborhoods and across cultures and across the globe so that our lives are transformed and the world is transformed as we embody in tangible ways the love of Christ.
"Emil Brunner once noted that 'the church exists by mission like a fire exists by burning.' I am ecstatic about working with Icel and Harold, who both have a passion for mission and justice and multicultural ministry, and look forward to the creative, "burning" ways we will serve local churches, the districts and the conference as a whole."
The talents, skills and experience of Lewis and Rodriguez in their respective mission fields will complement the leadership of Campbell-Evans, Carter predicted.
"Florida is blessed with a profound multicultural diversity," Carter said. "This is both a gift and a challenge to the church and our mission. I am grateful for the leadership that is emerging across the conference and am confident that our new structure will help us to be more present to these blessings and opportunities. Harold Lewis and Icel Rodriguez are respected leaders in our conference and across the connection.”
Lewis has been serving a dual role as director of the Black Church Office in both the Center for Congregational Excellence and the New Church Development department of the Florida Conference.
A Mississippi native, he was ordained in the Mississippi Annual Conference, where he served five years as senior pastor of Wesley UMC. He later served 11 years as senior pastor at Lincoln Park UMC in Washington, D.C.
Before joining the Florida Conference in 2009, Lewis chaired the Ethnic Local Church and Concerns Committee of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, as well as the Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century initiative there. He is a certified Clergy Coach, as well as a certified Nonprofit Consultant.
Rodriguez grew up in Cuba, the daughter of Methodist Church leaders, during a time of religious intolerance by the Communist government there. She spent time in Sweden and Costa Rica before moving to New York in 1999 and working for two years in the United Methodist Committee on Relief's refugee section.
She joined the Florida Conference in 2001 as an administrative assistant in the Operation Evangelization office. In 2003, she married Rev. Armando Rodriguez Jr., currently senior pastor of John Wesley UMC, Tallahassee, and later began working in Global Missions, then led by Rev. Larry Rankin, who has since retired.
She and her husband served as host missionaries in war-torn Angola for about a year beginning in 2009, and Icel became Global Missions director at the conference on her return to Florida in 2010.