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Wesleyan Impact Partners Announces 2024 Locke Innovative Leader Award Honorees

Jan 23, 2024

Spiritual Entrepreneurs Build Thriving Neighborhoods and Communities

AUSTIN, Texas (Jan. 23, 2024) – Wesleyan Impact Partners, a national nonprofit dedicated to investing in growing the church's impact and nourishing the communities it serves, announces its 2024 Locke Innovative Leader Award honorees. These five spiritual innovators are creating new ways to transform lives and neighborhoods through asset-based community development, creative partnerships, social entrepreneurship, and capacity building.

Each Locke Innovative Leader Award honoree receives a $50,000 stipend and becomes part of an ongoing learning community to nurture their spirit and missions over the coming years. To date, Wesleyan Impact Partners has invested nearly $1 million in Locke Innovative Leaders.

“The Locke Innovative Leader Award was created to honor and embolden innovators across the Wesleyan ecosystem who create new practices and ministries that help more people experience God’s love,” said Rev. Lisa Greenwood, President and CEO of Wesleyan Impact Partners. “This year’s honorees deeply embody that innovative spirit, demonstrating what it means to engage our neighborhoods and change systems at the grassroots level.”

The 2024 Locke Innovative Leaders are:

Jonathan Brooks, "Pastah J," is the lead pastor at Lawndale Community Church in Chicago, Illinois. Known for his dynamic, inspired work in youth development, holistic health, arts, and restorative justice, Brooks embodies the connection between personal and social holiness through preaching and community engagement.

Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III founded the Black Church Food Security Network in Baltimore, Maryland. What began as a church basement farmers market has become a vast network connecting churches, church gardens, and the Black community. Brown creates abundance through covenant relationships between churches and farmers, linking communities to the wisdom of their elders.

Carlos Huerta is the executive director of the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) at Fresno Pacific University in Fresno, California. Under his leadership, the CCT offers programs in social entrepreneurship, financial literacy, ministry leadership training, and soft-skills job training. Huerta embodies loving your neighbor as yourself and is dedicated to teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship courses through a theological lens in Spanish.

Moy Mendez is the executive director of Hope Center in Blue Island, Illinois. The Hope Center fosters a culture of hope and well-being through agriculture, technology, auto mechanics, and an artist's Makers lab, helping community members see their potential and increase their sense of personal agency. Seeing this as the future of evangelism, the Hope Center also helps other communities create their own versions of its ministry.

This year, Wesleyan Impact Partners is also introducing a Distinguished Locke Innovative Leader Award to recognize a leader who has successfully created innovations at a local level while actively working to bring about change at a systemic level. The 2024 Distinguished Locke Innovative Leader Award honoree is Rev. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Dean specializes in practical theology, youth and young adult ministry, and Christian social innovation, authoring several influential books on youth, church, and culture. Her most recent book, Innovating for Love: Joining God's Expedition through Christian Social Innovation, shows how innovation is essential and core to living out God’s love -- "I don't think we want to make our goal innovation. We want to make our goal loving more people. And to do that well, we have to innovate."

"Each Locke Innovative Leader is both rooted and reaching. Rooted in their communities, traditions, the church and Wesleyan values, and reaching for a better life for everyone by gathering the imaginations, assets, and innovations of their local communities,” said Rev. Dr. Blair Thompson, chief learning and innovation officer for Wesleyan Impact Partners. “We are excited to have them join our growing cohort of Locke Innovative Leaders and learn from them to multiply our collective impact on the Wesleyan movement."

The 2024 Locke Innovative Leader Award honorees will be recognized at Gathering Imaginations, a curated event with catalytic leaders from across the spiritual ecosystem, March 4 and 5, in Houston, Texas. The program will feature a keynote address from Diana Butler Bass and 10-minute conversational talks by each of the honorees. The event will provide inspiration, deep and thoughtful conversation, and nurturing for all the participants, as they do their work of creating a world grounded in love, generosity, and belonging.

About the Locke Innovative Leader Award

The Locke Innovative Leader Award shines a bright light on innovation and entrepreneurship across the Wesleyan ecosystem, raising up courageous leaders' ministries and voices, creatively reaching more people with the Gospel, and loving more people well.

The church is called to strengthen its witness through traditional congregations and innovative faith communities that further the Gospel. This mixed ecology of the church's witness requires diverse leaders, particularly those with an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to see beyond existing practices and models. The Locke Innovative Leader Award seeks to embolden this entrepreneurial spirit, increase innovation across the Wesleyan ecosystem, and celebrate the courage to try new things and learn.

Each recipient is a proven innovator with a promising future who has positively impacted the Wesleyan ecosystem, working directly at the intersection of faith and individual and communal transformation. Each recipient lives a deep spiritual faith, focusing on people, populations, and communities that are not effectively reached or well-resourced. They are each committed to life-long learning and active

experimenting, with the resilience and spirit to fail, learn, and try again. To learn more, visit

About Wesleyan Impact Partners

Wesleyan Impact Partners is a national nonprofit fueled by impact investors, borrowers, and donors who invest in ministries and innovative leaders courageously doing God's work in the world – partnering in a Spirit-led movement to bring about human flourishing grounded in love, generosity, and belonging. Throughout its 55-plus-year history, Wesleyan Impact Partners has made thousands of loans totaling over half a billion dollars, empowering churches across the United States to pursue their God-sized dreams while also lifting up the work of courageous spiritual entrepreneurs across the Wesleyan Ecosystem through the nationally recognized Locke Innovative Leader Award and its nationally recognized thought leadership in Igniting Imagination®. Our work is made possible through partnerships across the country with impact-focused investors, donors, and Methodist foundations. Based in Austin, Texas, the organization is led by President & CEO Rev. Lisa Greenwood, who is also President & CEO of the Texas Methodist Foundation. To learn more, visit