Staff and Board

Executive Officers:

Co-President: Rev. Verdell Taylor at St. Luke AME

Rev. Verdell Taylor, Jr. has been an ordained pastor since 1980 and pastor of St. Luke AME for the last 18 years. He has served as a leader on several boards in the community including most recently a Trustee at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. In addition to serving as pastor, Rev. Taylor is also on staff as a therapist at Christian Psychological Services, and Diversity Director at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. He is married, and has two daughters and three grandchildren. Along with Fr. Gary Teske, Rev. Verdell Taylor was the first pastor to call for the creation of this organization in Lawrence. He also served as Co-President with Fr. Mike Scully during the justice ministry organization’s initial stages of development. St Luke AME sits on the corner of 9th and New York in East Lawrence. It was the childhood church home of poet Langston Hughes and the meeting grounds for civil rights leaders in Lawrence during the 1950s-70s.

Co-President: Rev. Kathy Williams at First United Methodist

Pastor Kathy grew up in Wichita, Kansas. She has a psychology degree from Kansas State University, a Masters in School Psychology from Emporia State University, and a Masters in Divinity from St Paul School of Theology. Before going into full time ministry, Pastor Kathy worked as a school psychologist in Emporia, Kansas for nearly twenty years. She began full time ministry in March 2005, and served for six years as a pastoral assistant at Grace United Methodist Church in Emporia, Kansas. In June 2011, she was appointed to Asbury Mt Olive United Methodist Church in Topeka, Kansas. She was instrumental during her two years at Asbury in establishing a justice ministry in Topeka known as the Topeka Justice & Unity Ministry Project (Topeka JUMP). She moved to Lawrence in July 2013 and began serving as Pastor of Outreach at St James United Methodist church in Kansas City. Earlier this year, she accepted the Associate Pastor position at First United Methodist Church. She is married to Earl Williams and has a 22-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter. First United Methodist Church has two campuses: one in downtown Lawrence, and another on 6th street at the far western edge of the city.

Co-Vice President: Rev. Mary Newburg Gale at First Presbyterian

Rev. Gale is a native Texan. She received her Religious Studies undergraduate degree from Austin College before going on to obtain her Masters in Divinity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. In August 2004, she became Associate Pastor for Children and Youth and Teaching Elder at First Presbyterian with a focus on education across generations. Rev. Gale also serves as the Presbyterian USA Moderator of the Synod of Mid-America. Pastor Mary was instrumental in lifting up justice ministry at First Presbyterian through a sermon series she led in May, as well as recruiting a team of nearly twelve people to host house meetings during the October Listening Process. Pastor Mary is happily married with two children. First Presbyterian Church is located at 2415 Clinton Parkway.

Co-Vice President: Pastor Justin Jenkins at Velocity Church

Son of a United Methodist pastor, Pastor Justin was exposed to church leadership from an early age. As a young adult, Pastor Justin spent three years as a missionary overseas including time in Thailand where he helped to establish a children’s home for kids involved in prostitution. After attending Rhema Bible training college, he worked as Associate Pastor of a church in Minnesota before coming to Lawrence to found Velocity Church in 2009. For the first three years, Pastor Justin served at Velocity while working fulltime at the Schwan Food Company delivery service. In the summer of 2013, he was able to focus his time exclusively on ministry. He is married to Marissa and has three sons, Reece, Oliver, and Grant. He was among six clergy at the first meeting to explore justice as a form of ministry in Lawrence. Also, Pastor Justin served as Co-Vice-President with Rev. John McDermott during the justice ministry organization’s initial stages of development. Velocity Church currently worships at the Lawrence Art Center at 940 New Hampshire.

Corresponding Secretary: Virgil Dean, Immanuel Lutheran

Virgil W. Dean is a native of Franklin County, Kansas, who has lived in Lawrence since 1983. He has been editor or consulting editor of Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains for twenty-five years and has been researching and writing about Kansas and regional history for thirty years. A former public school in Garden City and Emporia, Virgil has been a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Kansas, an adjunct professor at Washburn and Emporia State universities, and a humanities scholar for a variety of Kansas Humanities Council projects. Virgil received his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Emporia State University and his PhD in U.S. history from KU. Soon after finishing his doctoral program, Virgil became involved in the local preservation community and subsequently served a total of fifteen years on the board of the Lawrence Preservation Alliance and six years on the city’s Historic Resources Commission. He has been a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church for about twenty-five years and has served in a variety of official positions: elder, vice president, president, past president, chair of the Board of Outreach and the Social Ministry Committee, and co-coordinator of Immanuel’s Family Promise ministry.

Recording Secretary: Pat Lechtenberg, St John’s Catholic Church

Born and raised in southcentral Kansas; moved during elementary school years to Wichita;   undergraduate degree from Sacred Heart College (now Kansas Newman University); ASCP certified medical technologist for seven years in chemistry lab of St. Francis Hospital in Wichita (now Via Christi at St. Francis); married Michael and with first two children, Michelle and Drew, moved to Lawrence in 1970; various parish volunteer positions throughout life; state medical liaison of Kansas La Leche League for three years and LLL group leader for ten years; three more children, Grant, Susan and Matthew, born in Lawrence; first director of Birthright of Lawrence for two years; researcher for large area credit bureau for five years; masters in pastoral studies from Loyola of New Orleans; pastoral associate at St. John parish from 1986-2005; certified catechist  in first two levels of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd; fostered two teens, Milivoje and Anja from Belgrade during the Yugoslavian wars; KSU extension master gardener since 1995; CASA volunteer for three years; 52 blessed years of marriage; 10 grandchildren; Barker neighborhood residents for 45 years.

Treasurer: Rev. Randy Weinkauf, Immanuel Lutheran Church

Pr. Randy Weinkauf has served as Parish Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and University Student Center, Lawrence since 2009. Prior to serving at Immanuel, Pr. Randy served as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Hilo, Hawaii (2003-2009); The Lutheran Church of Guam, Hagåtña, Guam (1997-2002); Redeemer Lutheran Church, Rolla, Missouri (1987-1997); and St. Peter Lutheran Church, Westgate, Iowa (1981-1987).  He also served as mission coordinator/developer of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Independence, Iowa (1985-1987) and the Lutheran/Episcopal mission on Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (2001-2002). From 1988-1997, Pr. Randy served as a chaplain in the United States Naval Reserve. He has been a member of various Rotary clubs for over 20 years. He has been involved with Justice Matters since its very beginnings. Pr. Randy is married. He and his wife Nancy have four children and six grandchildren. 



Lead Organizer: Ben MacConnell, Trinity Lutheran

Ben grew up in Bay Village, Ohio. His father made a career as a fundraiser for the United Way and his mom, an elementary school teacher. He graduated from Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana in 1995 with a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice. After college, Ben became a full time missionary with the Church of the Brethren initially serving at a homeless cafe in Chicago, and then later with Hnuti DUHA, an environmental group in the Czech Republic. In 1997, he was accepted into GreenCorps, an environmental advocacy training program based in Boston. During his training year, he worked to preserve clean water resources, to prevent global climate change, and to ensure the clean-up of toxic waste sites in low-income neighborhoods. In 1999, he went to work with Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together (CLOUT) in Louisville, Kentucky. He assisted efforts to end gang violence among youth, to improve reading in low-performing public schools, and to remove neighborhood eyesores in the south end of Louisville. In 2001, Ben moved to the east side of Lawrence where he and his family now reside. He telecommuted and traveled extensively on staff with the Direct Action & Research Training (DART) Center for 13 years. He assisted DART's efforts to hire and train new organizers going into the field of justice ministry. In July 2014, he became the Lead Organizer of Justice Matters in Lawrence, Kansas. He is married to Sarah Rooney, who works as the Volunteer Coordinator for Visiting Nurses of Douglas County. They have a biological son, Micah, and several foster children. He was baptized with his son at his church, Trinity Lutheran, and seeks to follow Jesus.
Associate Organizer: Katie Sears, Velocity Church

Katie was born in Topeka and has lived in eastern Kansas for most of her life. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Kansas, as well as a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. After 12 years working her way up the ranks of government outsourced call centers, Katie joined the Justice Matters family in 2016. She is a proud member of Velocity Church, where she committed her life to Christ in 2015. Katie is happily married to Jon Ruhlen, who loves bicycles and serves as a research attorney for the Kansas Supreme Court. They have two cats and two dogs.

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