Dr. Louise Branscomb was a dedicated layperson in the North Alabama Conference. She was a tireless advocate for the vulnerable and collaborated with both laity and clergy to seek justice in the life of the church and its ministries.
In 1990 North Alabama’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) named the newly created Barrier Breaker Award in honor of Dr. Branscomb, the first recipient. COSROW has continued to present the award in annual recognition of people who do impactful ministry with and on behalf of women and minority persons.
COSROW offers this following summary of the 2019 nominees, to lift up their hearts and ministries so that the North Alabama Conference might be inspired by them. The recipient of this year’s Branscomb Barrier Breaker award will be named and will speak to the Annual Conference on Monday, June 3. COSROW also invites you to attend the annual breakfast with the nominees and hear the announcement of this year’s winner. The breakfast will be on Monday, June 3, at 7 a.m. in East Hall 2 at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. Reserve your breakfast tickets at www.umcna.org/ac19reservations by Wednesday, May 15.
Rev. Stephanie Arnold is the first female senior pastor of the historic Birmingham First United Methodist Church (founded 1872). Since becoming Birmingham First’s senior pastor, she has led the church in increasing both worship attendance and giving. Along with North Alabama COSROW, Stephanie helped to produce and distribute the #HerTruth video, which raises awareness about discrimination and sexual harassment in the church and seeks inclusion and equity for all the church’s voices. Stephanie advocates for victims of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in her local community and beyond through serving on the UMC’s Inter-Agency Sexual Task Force. Stephanie also serves on the General Board of Church and Society and regularly advocates for the Social Principles of the UMC through her ministries. Stephanie has been nominated for the award by both church members and clergy colleagues. Stephanie “actively supports and mentors younger female clergy and candidates, like myself, in order to help grow the female leadership of the UMC” - Melissa Scott, nominator.
Rev. Dave Barnhart founded St. Junia house church in the name of the female apostle Junia, whom the Apostle Paul called “prominent among the apostles” (Romans 16:7). Dave has led St. Junia house church to grow quickly into a network of six house churches around North Alabama. In his ministry, Dave is a faithful ally of women, ethnic minority persons, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. He is known around Birmingham and beyond for his ministries of seeking justice and inclusivity. As an author, he uses his voice to pursue justice beyond his local community, having published God Shows No Partiality and Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church and maintaining a blog (davebarnhart.wordpress.com). Dave is one of the leaders of the Birmingham Faith in Action Hub. He regularly supports COSROW, United Methodist Women and other organizations that lift up women and children such as YWCA Birmingham, Girls Inc. and Girls Rock Birmingham. “And one of the best things is that Dave is humble and kind. He is one of the most caring, thoughtful, intelligent, and prayerful colleagues I know” - Melissa Patrick, nominator.
Rev. Sandra Locke-Godbey is a pioneer of women in ministry in the North Alabama Conference and opened the door for others to follow. Sandra found ways to balance family and ministry, sometimes having to make her own way, as the appointive system was not always understanding of a pastor being a wife and mother. Sandra served in local churches and in extension ministries, as God led, in order to answer her calling to both church and family. Sandra made it work, while also encouraging those who would follow her path as women in ministry. As a retired pastor, Sandra has continued to serve her community in Emmaus, Celebrate Recovery, the Committee on the Superintendency of the Northwest District, and active involvement in Wesley Memorial UMC Decatur. Through WMUMC Sandra provides free pastoral counseling to community members who would not be able to afford a counselor. She encourages people to break through the barriers of poverty and isolation. Throughout her ministry, Sandra helped to forge the path for other women in ministry, by encouraging other female candidates and clergy. “She was speaking to the youth at my home church. I was about to enter seminary… just home visiting. She took the time to talk with me, encouraging me to follow my call, regardless of where God led” - Dorothy Ann Webster, nominator.
Rev. Lucy Morales serves the North Alabama Conference as the Hispanic/Latino Ministries Strategist and as an associate pastor of Trinity UMC Huntsville. With Trinity UMC Lucy has helped to develop the church’s multicultural ministry working with the Latino community through providing translation, preaching, and musical leadership in worship, and through developing a ministry of English as a Second Language classes (ESL). As Conference Hispanic/Latino Ministries Strategist, Lucy consults with churches around the conference to discern opportunities and equip churches to serve multicultural, multilingual communities. Lucy has helped to recruit Latino and Spanish-speaking clergy to our conference and also trains laity for ministry roles. She also trains church members and staff in how to offer ESL classes to help the church welcome and serve immigrants. Lucy is passionate about making the church a place of welcome and participation of all people from all cultures. “I am personally grateful that Lucy encouraged and mentored me and trained our church on ESL ministry, which has given us a vibrant connection with our community” - Sarah Smoot, nominator.
Rev. Dorothy Ann Webster has served as pastor of both small and large churches around North Alabama. She has consistently helped her churches to bring about much needed changes. She has also served as District Superintendent of the Cheaha District, where she showed courage in the midst of difficult situations. She is one of the early female clergy members of the North Alabama Conference and as such has often taken risks to make way for future female clergy. Some examples of her local church ministries reaching women and children are leading St. Paul’s Huntsville to purchase computers for the use of neighborhood children and implementing a tutoring ministry at First UMC Lineville. Dorothy Ann has served as spiritual director on Emmaus walks and Chrysalis flights. She has mentored and welcomed new ministers through service on District and Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry and licensing school. Dorothy Ann actively encourages and empowers other female clergy and women leaders of the church. “She treats all people with respect and values each person. She has been a great influence on my ministry. She has encouraged me” - Abi Carslisle-Wilke, nominator.