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Racial justice agency names Erin Hawkins as CEO

By John Coleman*
Aug. 14, 2007 | WASHINGTON (UMNS)


Erin M. Hawkins

The United Methodist agency that monitors and advocates for racial inclusiveness has elected staff executive Erin M. Hawkins as its new chief executive.

Hawkins will become general secretary of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race effective Sept. 1, and will officially be installed at the agency's fall board meeting in October. At 31, she is possibly the youngest top executive of a denominational agency, according to the commission.

She has served as associate general secretary — a staff executive position — since 2001.

"We had outstanding and diverse candidates seeking this important position, all of whom were eager to provide leadership for the critical work we have ahead of us," said Bishop Linda Lee, president of the commission's board of directors and leader of the church's Wisconsin Area.

"We are moving into a fifth decade for this commission with a new, visionary and proactive strategic plan for dismantling racism and building up racial/ethnic inclusiveness in our denomination," Lee said. "Our search committee and board members are convinced that Erin has the optimal gifts of wisdom, experience, energy and faithfulness to lead us forward into that promising future."

Hawkins led the commission’s staff in developing a six-year strategic plan and a new agency evaluation plan approved by the board in March. In addition, she has provided monitoring, consultation, resources and training to general agencies and annual conferences to help them pursue goals of racial/ethnic diversity and inclusiveness in their leadership, programs and operations.

She has been the commission’s staff representative and resource consultant to the Southeastern Jurisdiction, Black Methodists for Church Renewal, The United Methodist Church’s Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century Initiative and other ministries serving the denomination’s black constituency. She is a Harry Hosier Life Member of BMCR.

Excited to lead

"I am honored and excited by the opportunity to lead this agency that has accomplished so much over four decades in its pursuit of racial justice and inclusiveness, and to take it to the next level," Hawkins said. "We are ready to support and lead the church as it answers God's essential call to make disciples of Jesus Christ who embrace racial inclusiveness and reconciliation as a prerequisite to transforming the world for Christ. If we want to invite more people of color into our predominantly white denomination, they must see themselves more among our leadership and our ministries."

Before joining the Commission on Religion and Race, Hawkins was a legislative assistant to U.S. Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.). She has a bachelor's degree in business administration and two master's degrees, one in public affairs from Indiana University and one in organizational development from United Methodist-related American University in Washington.

A native of Los Angeles, Hawkins is a lifelong member of Saint Mark United Methodist Church there, and has taught Sunday school and served as an usher, liturgist and choir member. A certified lay speaker, she has been a grant writer and program developer, a California-Pacific Annual Conference youth delegate, and a frequent preacher, keynote speaker and facilitator for local, district, conference and churchwide events.

Hawkins succeeds the Rev. Chester Jones, who left the commission July 31 to become a district superintendent in the Arkansas Conference. Jones had led the agency since 1999. The Rev. Yolanda Pupo-Ortiz, who retired from the commission as an associate general secretary in 2005, is serving as interim top executive for one month until Hawkins assumes her new duties.

*Coleman is communications specialist with the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race.

News media contact: Tim Tanton or Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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