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Locke Innovative Leaders

Investing in Courageous Leaders

The Locke Innovative Leader Award lifts up the work of spiritual entrepreneurs who envision new ways to serve their mission field and inspire others to join them in growing the impact of the church and nourishing their communities.

This award is named in honor of former Wesleyan Impact Partners President Tom Locke who was committed to investing in bold leaders who advance the church and create flourishing communities that change the world.

Inspiring Qualities


Locke Innovative Leader Award recipients serve people and their communities with innovative approaches that heighten the church’s impact in the world. Each leader embodies inspiring qualities:

  • Proven themselves in the innovation space and demonstrated great potential for the future
  • Positively impact the Wesleyan ecosystem
  • Live out 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
  • Committed to life-long learning with a willingness to experiment, fail, reflect, learn, and try again


Meet the 2024 Honorees

Doing the work of God in the Neighborhood

Jonathan Brooks

Speaker, writer, and community activist, Jonathan Brooks, "Pastah J," is the lead pastor at Lawndale Community Church in Chicago, Illinois. Jonathan embodies the connection between personal and social holiness through preaching and community engagement. His entire career has been summarized as a masterclass in leading a congregation toward the work of God in the neighborhood.

Abundance through the wisdom of our elders

Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III

Community organizer, ordained reverend, and budding farmer, Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III founded the Black Church Food Security Network in Baltimore, Maryland, to promote food security and create abundance through covenant relationships between churches and farmers, linking communities to the wisdom of their elders. Heber demonstrates "the world is my parish," emphasizing the importance of loving one's neighbors by addressing food deserts in communities.

Innovating to Love People Well

Rev. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean

Distinguished Locke Innovative Leader Award honoree. 

Ordained pastor, professor, and author, Rev. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean is Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Her work has focused on building meaningful connections among youth, culture, and the church. Her most recent work on Christian social innovation shows how the ultimate purpose of innovation is living out God’s love.

Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

Carlos Huerta

Leader, natural bridge-builder, and networker, Carlos Huerta is the executive director of the Center for Community Transformation at Fresno Pacific University in Fresno, California. Carlos embodies loving your neighbor as yourself, teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship in Spanish alongside Biblical stewardship principles, empowering young leaders to shape Valley communities positively.

A Platform that Empowers People

Moy Mendez

Motivator and changemaker, Moy Mendez is the founder and executive director of Hope Center in Blue Island, Illinois. Moy has built a platform that empowers people, helps them see their potential, and increases their agency. He fosters a culture of hope and well-being through agriculture, technology, auto mechanics, and an artist's Makers lab, helping members of his community connect Sunday’s worship to Monday’s work.

Courageous Spiritual Entrepreneurs

Meet the 2023 Honorees

Radical Grace for All

Rev. Michael Gienger

Community organizer and changemaker, Michael Gienger leads Galveston Central Church to be a creative community where radical grace is believed and practiced. Known for his tenacious solidarity with the poor, he is the co-founder of Galveston Housing Plus, an organization that innovates new approaches to address homelessness across the city.

When Black Single Mothers Thrive, We All Do

Rev. Alisha Gordon

Teacher, faith leader, and social strategist, Alisha Gordon is Founder and Executive Director of The Current Project. Alisha helps Black single mothers get small businesses off the ground through financial support and training, so they live into their dreams and “create space for economic stability and social liberation.”

Inward Transformation for Outward Transformation

Rev. Tyler Sit

Community organizer and social entrepreneur, Tyler Sit is Founder of New City Church and Co-Founder of Intersect Planting Network. New City Church reflects the vision from Revelation of a new city where all tribes are welcomed, there is no violence, and the earth is renewed. Tyler’s congregation, led by BIPOC leaders, is realizing this vision by focusing on centering marginalized voices, community organizing, and eco-justice.

Reimagining Finance for Greater Social Impact

Rev. Dr. Sidney Williams

Social impact advisor and community builder, Sidney Williams is Pastor, Bethel AME Church, and President & CEO, Crossing Capital Group. Through his FISHing Differently framework, he helps churches and nonprofits engage with impact investors to fund ministries that accelerate sustained thriving in underfinanced communities.

Meet the 2022 Honorees


Discipleship for Racial Healing

Rev. David M. Bailey

Public theologian and culture-maker David M. Bailey founded Arrabon to cultivate Christian communities to pursue racial healing and reconciliation through spiritual formation and cultural training. He helps churches better understand their neighborhoods to have a deeper, lasting impact.

Made by Women. Survivor Strong.

Dr. Kit Evans-Ford

Trainer and activist Kit Evans-Ford founded Argrow’s House of Healing and Hope to promote non-violence and healing from abuse. A bath and body social enterprise, Argrow’s House employs female survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

The Church’s Mission Still Matters

Shannon Hopkins

Shannon Hopkins is a networker and social entrepreneur who co-founded RootedGood, dedicated to enabling faith-based organizations to adopt an economic model that drives growth and resilience. It empowers these organizations to be the church the world needs today.

Local Gifts Grow the Entire Community

Coté Soerens

Coté Soerens is a visionary convener who co-founded Resistencia Coffee to be a community hub, encouraging fellowship and innovation to create a more equitable neighborhood. Along with her neighbors, Coté brings love, joy, and grace to the neighborhood through food, the environment and housing.

Meet the 2021 Honorees


Hip-Hop Infused Transformative Justice

Emmanuel Andre

Emmanuel Andre founded both the Northside Transformative Law Center and Circles and Ciphers, a transformative justice organization led by and for young people impacted by violence. It respects the wisdom of all people and is driven by imagination expressed in the arts.

Healing the Healers

Rev. Jennifer Bailey

Jennifer Bailey is founder and Executive Director of Faith Matters Network, catalyzing change by equipping community organizers, faith leaders, and activists with resources that nourish and sustain them spiritually. She also co-founded The People’s Supper, an organization that fosters lasting change by building trust through sharing meals together.

God is in the Common Good

Rev. Leroy Barber

Leroy Barber founded The Voices Project to gather leaders of color from across many different fields for conversations about their challenges and triumphs in the communities they serve. His initiative expresses his deeply held belief that we all have a duty to serve God by nurturing the common good.

Gifts and Talents in Every Neighborhood

De'amon Harges

De'Amon Harges, a “roving listener,” uses an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach to build neighborhoods by finding God in the great wealth of gifts and talents in that neighborhood. His nonprofit, The Learning Tree, influences government, nonprofits and other organizations to improve the lives people and the community.

Bold Witness for Spiritual and Community Renewal

Rev. Dr. Matt Russell

Matt Russell is co-founder and co-managing Director of Project Curate, which works with religious, academic and community organizations by curating and bringing together different voices and traditions to realize a radical vision of a more just and equitable world. He is also Co-Founder and Executive Director of Iconoclast Artists, a program that empowers young artists throughout the community.