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Speakers announced for Orlando 2017

1.11. 2017 Written By: The Mennonite Staff 495 Times read

The Mennonite Church USA Convention Planning staff has announced the speakers for adult and youth worship sessions, as well as several large seminar events, at the biennial convention in Orlando. Florida, this summer, July 4-8. The convention theme is “Love is a Verb.”

“Especially during worship, we wanted a diverse group of Anabaptist speakers who share common values of who we are in the Mennonite church, but also bring some different perspectives from across the breadth and width of our church,” said Glen Guyton, chief operating officer and director of convention planning for MC USA.

Guyton noted that while the majority of the worship speakers are from within MC USA, the staff planned space for high profile seminar speakers to help “resource and add capacity to our work in the church.”

In addition, the convention planning team put out an open invitation to MC USA members to present short “Menno Talks.” Each day, seven presenters will speak, sharing 20 slides for 20 seconds each. Topics for MennoTalks include celebrating women; race, religion and justice; and global and local peacemaking. “We know that there are other voices who may not be on the main stage but who could share interesting thoughts and perspectives, too,” said Guyton.

Featured seminar speakers:

Rachel Held Evans is a New York Times best-selling author and popular blogger who writes about faith, doubt, and life in the Bible Belt. Her books include Faith Unraveled (2010), A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012), and Searching for Sunday (2015). . She also served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Rachel lives with her husband, Dan, in Dayton, Tennessee. They worship at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee.


Crystal Washington is the owner of CWM Enterprises in Houston and co-founder of Socialtunities, a social media instructional brand aimed at training everyone in strategically using social media. She hosts a weekly technology segment on Houston’s Fox television affiliate and has appeared in Black Enterprise Magazine, Essence and She has been interviewed by ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, Associated Press, and many radio stations and magazines.


Mark DeVries has served as a youth pastor for 36 years, 28 of those at First Presbyterian Church Nashville (Tennessee), where he has recently stepped into a volunteer role. Mark is the president of Ministry Architects, a consulting team that moves churches “beyond stuck” and strategically forward. He is a graduate of Baylor University and Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of several books, including Family-Based Youth Ministry, Sustainable Youth Ministry, and most recently, Building Your Volunteer Team, which he co-authored with Nate Stratman. Mark and his wife, Susan, live in Nashville.

Youth worship speakers

Remilyn Mondez, from the Philippines, was one of the Young Anabaptist speakers at the 2015 Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Pennsylvania. She spoke about Walking in Conflict Reconciliation, sharing about her personal childhood experiences on church conflict. She was an International Visitors’ Exchange Program (IVEP) participant of Mennonite Central Committee in 2004 and was the Philippine delegate to the Global Youth Summit in Asuncion, Paraguay in 2009. She works as an assistant professor in English and Communication and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Communication Studies.


Kim Litwiller is a follower of Jesus fully committed to marriage, motherhood and ministry. She’s a wife, mother and pastor. She and her husband, Marc, are blessed with three amazing kids. In 12 years of ministry she has served as a youth pastor, retreat speaker, Bible study leader, worship planner/leader, and pastoral mentor, in addition to her current roles at Illinois Mennonite Conference as associate conference minister and East Peoria Mennonite Church as pastor.


Lisa Cameron serves on the senior management team at the YWCA Lancaster in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She has also been involved with various theater projects, including direction of the fall shows at Lancaster Mennonite School. She has a Master of Arts degree in counseling from Western Michigan University and undergraduate degrees in theater and psychology from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Married to a United Methodist deacon, Lisa and her husband, Eddie, have a son, James. She is a member of Blossom Hill Mennonite Church.


Melody M. Pannell has served in the field of social work, higher education and Christian ministry for more than 25 years and has worked extensively in leadership development for adolescents and young adults. Born and raised in Harlem, New York City, she grew up attending Seventh Avenue Mennonite Church in Harlem. She graduated from EMU in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and youth ministry. She also holds a Master’s in Social Work from Fordham University in New York and recently obtained a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Education degree from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, where she had worked as university counselor. She is now assistant professor of social work in the Department of Applied Social Sciences back at her undergraduate alma mater, EMU.

Scott Roth hails from Red Hill, Pennsylvania. He is director of East Coast Operations of Common Good / Project Haven, acting executive director of Upper Perk Community Thrift Shop, acting conference minister of Eastern District Conference, associate pastor of Perkiomenville Mennonite Church, founder of Love Upper Perk, and director of Bike and Sol (a community bicycle shop). He has a wife, Heather; and two children, Rowan and Ashlyn.

Adult worship speakers

Malinda Elizabeth Berry lives with her family in Elkhart, Indiana, where she is assistant professor of theology and ethics at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Over the past several years, her professional and personal commitments to peace theology have led her to practices related to group identity and personal healing, including the Circle way and nonviolent communication. Malinda is a member of Fellowship of Hope Mennonite Church in Elkhart.


Drew G. I Hart is a professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, with 10 years of pastoral experience. He has been regularly dialoguing with both Black and/or Anabaptist communities on matters of faith, community, and ethics. Through both personal experience and academic research, he has explored the intersections of Black faith and Anabaptism. His recent book published by Herald Press, Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, utilizes compelling everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s witness in society. Drew’s blog, Taking Jesus Seriously, is hosted at The Christian Century, and he speaks regularly in churches, colleges and conferences. Drew and his family live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Phil Kniss has served as senior pastor at Park View Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, since 1996. This is his third pastorate, following Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg (1991-1996), and Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Gainesville, Florida (1983-1990), where he was founding pastor. He holds a Master of Divinity from Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg and a Doctor of Ministry from Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. Married to Irene Hershberger Kniss, a legal nurse consultant and clinic director, the couple has three daughters, two sons-in-law and two grandchildren.


Registration for convention opens on January 17. 

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