Antiracism Initiative

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Antiracism Team Report AC2022-MP4-1280.mp4 from Iowa Annual Conference on Vimeo.


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.

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 who is a graduate from Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University, Rev. Funchess is author of a children’s book entitled Rise! and is the founder of MLK New Jerusalem LLC.

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.

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.

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. 

Rita Carter 

I am a retired special education paraeducator living in Windsor Heights with my retired clergy husband and our cat. We have two married children, a grandson, and a granddaughter, who all live outside of Iowa.  I am an active member of Aldersgate UMC in Urbandale.

I represent the Iowa chapter of Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), a national faith and social justice organization for advocacy and action that was involved in creating of the first Methodist Social Creed. I am also the Iowa member of the national Program Advisory Group of United Women in Faith (formerly United Methodist Women) and am active in my local church unit. Participation in the Iowa Conference Legislative Advocacy Team at the Iowa Capitol, mentoring children in several church and community projects, leadership in Iowans for Gun Safety, and advocating for migrant and refugee concerns are among my other involvements.

I have come to see that my racial/cultural learnings and experiences in my life have been too limited. The 2020 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 systems we move in toward antiracist, equitable policies. These efforts include the Iowa United Methodist Church both locally and conference-wide. May we all join together to make it so!

Rev. Ruth Yan

Ordained Deacon who has been doing outreach ministry to the Asian immigrants in Waterloo/Cedar Falls communities in the past 15 years. Throughout her ministry, Ruth has served as the Director of International Students and Families at Wesley Foundation of UNI. Dr Ruth Lingxin Yan, currently serves as the Director of Library Services at Allen College, Waterloo Iowa.

I am greatly honored to be serving with the Anti-Racism Leadership Team. I grew up in China and came to US to seek my further degrees in Multicultural education at UNI. Campus ministry Wesley Foundation’s outreach to the international families has deeply impacted my faith and ministry journey. In addition, I witnessed the affects racism had on the multicultural groups, through doing my multicultural education research projects in local communities,. It is my hope that UMC will be the good witness to guide other denominations in ending racism within churches, and beyond. My prayer is that we can honestly confess our sins of racism to God and continue to pray for a humble heart to love others who are culturally different from us. I sincerely hope that all Methodist churches can practice intentional love to outreach the marginalized population in our communities. Through God’s grace, we can all learn to practice intentional love to care those who are culturally different from us and love immigrants/refugees as Jesus modelled.

Roberta (Bobby Jo) Paige

I grew up in Iowa as a PK, preacher’s kid.  I have lived several places after graduating from nursing school and am now retired.  I returned to Iowa and have a small acreage outside Grundy Center with 4 cats, a horse and donkey.  I enjoy horse camping, gardening, granny basketball, traveling and certainly time with family and friends.  I am a graduate of School of Lay Ministry.  My church home is Jubilee United Methodist Freedom Center in Waterloo.  I am the Iowa Conference Social Action Coordinator for United Women in Faith and active in the Iowa Methodist Federation for Social Action.

I pray that by being a member of the Antiracial Committee I can learn and also help others to understand the many injustices that affect people of color. I pray we will do something about these injustices!