Antiracism Initiative

The Antiracism Leadership Team

The Antiracism Leadership Team work is to help the Iowa Annual Conference become fully antiracist at all levels of ministry. Because we live in a culture that is so resistant and uncomfortable with discussions of racism, Bishop Laurie formed this team so that the Iowa Conference has antiracism as its primary focus. Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck, Director of Clergy and Leadership Excellence, will facilitate this team as a child team of the Transformational Leadership L3 Operational Team. 

This team is charged with creating a pathway toward a fully antiracist conference, it is Bishop Laurie's hope there can be developed a plan with various points of entry for individuals and communities of faith as we pursue comprehensive change throughout the Iowa Conference. Bishop Laurie understands antiracism to be an active process of identifying, evaluating, and changing systems, organizational structures, policies, practices, and attitudes and is inclusive of the analysis of the intersectionality of various forms of power and oppression at work in our society, church, and lives. 
Although there are many reasons why such an initiative is important, here are a few of the most significant that speak to the Iowa Conference, whether we find ourselves in urban, suburban, town, or country areas.

  • Build compassionate relationships that facilitate honest and courageous conversations about our racial identities and experiences.
  • Equip our clergy, laity, and congregations to do antiracism and equity work within their communities. 
  • Deepen our understanding of our own (individual and corporate) complicity and cultivate spaces and opportunities for learning, confession, and action.

Team Members

Rev. Abraham L. Funchess, Jr.

Rev. Abraham L. Funchess, Jr., is the oldest son of Abraham and Bernice Funchess of St. Matthews, South Carolina. Recipient of many awards and recognitions, Funchess is most proud of receiving the W.E.B DuBois Award for Social Activism from Hampton University in Virginia and the Bishop James S. Thomas Leadership Award from former Bishop Julius C. Trimble of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Funchess is currently pastor and building administrator of Jubilee UMC Freedom Center ( and executive director at Waterloo Commission on Human Rights.

Married to Veronica McGee with one son Solomon Diara Akello at Iowa State, Rev. Funchess is author of a children’s book entitled Rise! and is the founder of MLK New Jerusalem LLC. Funchess is currently working on his second book entitled “People Get Ready.

I am excited about this work with the Antiracism Task Force because it is a recognition that there are forces we each meet along our spiritual migrations that can serve to devalue and assault people, especially Black people, indigenous people and other people of color.  This work suggests that we choose to live a courageous Christianity that embraces racial/ethnic difference, speaks truth to power, and shares the liberating love of Christ with all whom we meet.  We are Easter people, filled with resurrection power and hope.


Deb Streff

Cedar Rapids, St. Paul's Methodist Church 

My name is Deb Streff. I am the Social Action Coordinator for the United Methodist Women's Conference. I am involved in educating United Methodist Women throughout the conference on topics of racism, mass incarceration, climate justice, domestic violence as well as other topics.




Felicia Coe

Associate Director of Connectional Ministries for the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

My career with the Iowa United Methodist Conference began with my passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion by supporting the Leadership Development Minister for Social Justice and Advocacy. In the last 10 years, my role has expanded to include working with many conference boards and agencies like the Commission on Status and Role of Women (COSROW), Commission on Religion and Race (CORR), and the legislative efforts of our Advocacy Team. In addition to my work with Connectional Ministries, I am also the coordinator of the Iowa Annual Conference Session. I am grateful for the opportunity to use my passion to create action within the Iowa Conference.

My hopes are that we include and uplift new and diverse voices in our continued ministry within the conference . I commit to listen to and amplify the voices of those most vulnerable in our communities and support the mission of the Antiracism Team by equipping leaders and allies with resources to do the same. I also pledge to empower decision makers to take action in consultation with our most marginalized neighbors, taking their narratives and perspective into consideration.


Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Thompson

Des Moines Burns & Des Moines St. John's 

Ordained Elder who has pastored congregations in Fort Madison, Farmington & Bonaparte, Des Moines and Clear Lake.  Graduate of the School for Lay Ministry.  Prior to entering ordained ministry, served as a church musician as well as UMYF leader.  For 20 years owned the Potpourri Fine Arts Academy in Ottumwa.  Holds a Permanent Professional Teaching Certificate in the state of Iowa.

I have a dream that one day our conference, our local congregations and our communities will be inclusive, equitable, and antiracist.


Rev. Jerry M. Spencer

Radcliffe, St. John's - Ellsworth UMC

I am Rev. Jerry M. Spencer, I currently serve part-time for the Ellsworth and St. John's- Radcliffe churches as their pastor. I am also a full-time Sergeant for the Story City Police Department. 

I currently live in Roland, IA with my wife and son, our cat and two dogs. My daughter lives in Story City with her fiancé and thier daughter. My wife works for Story County Emergency Management.

I am honored to be serving with the Anit-Racism Leadership Team. I grew up in a mixed-race family, where I witnessed the affects racism had on my adopted sister.  

It is my hope in serving on the team we find an end to racism within the United Methodist Church.  It is important to find ways to connect the disconnected, and to help heal those who have been hurt from the effects of racism.  My dream is for the UMC to be the guiding light to others in ending racism with in a church, and beyond. 


Rev. Nate Nims

Rev. Nate Nims, Grace UMC, Des Moines

Rev. Nate Nims is currently appointed to Grace Des Moines and was previously appointed to Waterloo First and Fairfield First. He received his Masters of Divinity from Drew Theological Seminary and majored in religion at Simpson College. Throughout his ministry, Nate has served as a member and chair of the Iowa Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, as well as a member and chair of the board at Threehouse, a Wesley Foundation at the University of Northern Iowa. Nate has also been a Residency in Ministry facilitator, clergy mentor, has volunteered with numerous community boards and agencies, and currently serves on the Board of Ordained Ministry.

Our conference needs to celebrate and reclaim our Wesleyan heritage of personal piety and social holiness. God continues to be at work in the world, bending the moral arc of the universe towards justice and the church needs to join God at forefront of this redemption and renewal of all things. For too long, the intersecting sins of racism, bigotry, and apathy have kept predominantly white denominations and churches from seeing, celebrating, and centering the image of God in our siblings that are Black, Indigenous, People of Color. As United Methodists, we are called to create disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and this transformation must transcend the racism that continually separates us from the ability to truly love our neighbor as we love ourselves. My prayer is that we might enter into the perfecting work of God's love, confronting the sins that we find in ourselves and our society, so that our conference and churches can fully reflect and witness to God's justice, grace, and peace.


Nitza Dovenspike

Indianola First UMC in Indianola 

Born and raised in the country of Panama, I moved to Iowa in the early 1990’s. As a member of Indianola First United Methodist church I have been blessed by a welcoming community that has helped me and my family in our journey to learn and grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. I have worked with Hispanic/Latino ministries across the conference and graduated from the School for Lay Ministry.   

My hope is that the work of our group will equip local communities of faith and congregations to actively and faithfully live the love of neighbor through actions that engage with brothers and sisters across the conference to address systemic issues of racial inequality.

That all conference processes are intentionally examined and modified to remove racial injustice practices.
That programs used for the formation of disciples includes learning about cultural differences and how to love neighbors from all cultures and backgrounds.      


Rev. Padma Templeton

I am a Local Licensed Pastor in my first appointment at Sheldahl-Slater UMC. I was born in India, grew up in Canada and moved to America 20 years ago. Being a person of color of Indian descent I have experienced both the prejudice and privilege of racism. 

Learning about the evolution of racism through a theological lens has been of particular interest to me. My call to ministry has always been driven by missions and social justice. My experience with antiblackness and colorism cross culturally, I hope, will help the team build an antiracist Conference from the inside out.


Rita Carter 

Aldersgate UMC, Urbandale

Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA)

I am a retired special education paraeducator living in Windsor Heights with my retired clergy husband and cat. We have two adult married children and two grandchildren living in other states.

I have been a 40-year member of Methodist Federation for Social Action, a national social justice faith advocacy and action organization with an Iowa chapter. I am also an active church and United Methodist Women member, a lobbyist with the Iowa Conference Legislative Advocacy Team at the Iowa Capitol, and a volunteer with children in several church and community projects, Iowans for Gun Safety, and migrant/refugee concerns.

I have come to see that my racial/cultural learnings and experiences over the years have been too limited. The murder of George Floyd jarred me into a recommitment to seek out more antiracist voices of color, to educate myself and others about historical racial injustices, and to work with as many others as possible to address the current inequities in the many systems we move in toward antiracist, equitable policies, including the Iowa United Methodist Church. I hope you’ll join with me!


Rev Dr. Willy Mafuta, Ph.D, Th.D

Senior Pastor of New Hampton UMC

He is a social Ethicist and theologian who writes and researches in the Intersection of Religions, Race and Politics. 

Willy brings his multicultural experiences in social dynamics and cultural competency having pastored, studied and lived in four different countries. Willy believes that the uplifting of Humanity to the full image of God is the task endowed to all of us. The church should therefore combat mechanism and systems that denigrate this core value of our Christian faith. He looks forward to contributing towards this effort in our connection.  


Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck 

Director of Clergy and Leadership Excellence of the Iowa Conference and is in her twenty-third year under appointment.

She holds a BA from Morningside College, MDiv/evangelism specialization from Saint Paul School of Theology, and DMin in church leadership excellence from Wesley Theological Seminary.  Lanette's ministry in and with the local faith communities and with clergy and lay leadership is deeply rooted in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22), the Great Commission (Matthew 28), the Great Requirement (Micah 6.8), and the Great Call of the Church (Acts 1 & 2).  Lanette facilitates the Antiracist Leadership Team and is guided by the vision of "kingdom on earth as it is in heaven."