After four-and-a-half years of working with the Greater Northwest Area’s Innovation Vitality (IV) Team as the director of innovation for an engaged church, Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber is moving on to a new position as executive director of a national non-profit. His last day will be Sept. 26.
Barber, who began as part of the IV Team in February 2018, has based his work out of the Oregon-Idaho Conference offices in Portland, but his impact has been felt far and wide as we seek to become innovative, anti-racist, inclusive, justice-seeking United Methodists in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Alaska. Barber is well-known for saying “Innovation happens at the intersection of difference.”
“I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to disrupt the system and see what the church looks like on the ground,” said Barber. “I’ve taken that shot and I’ve done so unapologetically.”
In his tenure with the Greater Northwest Area, Barber created a summer internship program for young people of color to explore ministry. He has established a pipeline for people of color to find leadership opportunities within the church and has supported the planters and innovators of color serving as local church pastors. All of these efforts have meant thinking outside of the box and disrupting systems already in place to make real change. Barber convened the Racial Justice Strategy group in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, which is digging deeply into the challenging work of dismantling racism.
In 2021 he received national recognition as one of the five Tom Locke Innovative Leaders for 2021 by Wesleyan Investive. The award recognizes individuals doing entrepreneurial, innovative work in the life of the church.
Barber is confident the planters and innovators he’s worked with across the Greater Northwest Area will continue to thrive as change-makers within the life of the church and their communities.
“There’s just story after story of things happening,” he said.
Barber has a keen eye for injustice and a heart that beats for equity, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky observed.
“In a majority white, mainline, protestant church like The United Methodist Church, Dr. Barber challenges how ‘the ways we’ve always done it’ reinforces generational racism and exclusion,” Stanovsky said. “It isn’t comfortable, to see that you’re part of the problem, but it can be life-giving – like a breath of fresh air.”
The IV Team will continue to guide the practices of inclusion, innovation and multiplication across the Greater Northwest Area in partnership with elected leaders, cabinet, local congregations, planters and innovators, and others. The values Barber has helped to embed will be a measurement of success moving forward, according to Kristina Gonzalez, who has served as the director of innovation for an inclusive church and recently stepped into the role of executive director for innovation and vitality.
“Rev. Dr. Barber has been willing to occupy the difficult space between our stated aspirations and our practices. I will be ever grateful for his courage, creativity, transparency and clarity of vision, all of which call us to love of neighbor and community,” said Gonzalez.
While doing this tectonic-shifting work in The UMC, Barber established partnerships with other non-profits he’s associated with, such as The Voices Project and Black Santa PDX, to bring more diverse voices and perspectives into our collective work as people of faith.
There is certainly more work to do, but Barber said he’s proud of the shifts that have been made across the Greater Northwest Area, including investing significant financial resources in people of color, the majority of which have been Black people, leading ministry opportunities in the church.
“I haven’t done that work alone,” he said.
Barber’s prophetic and passionate Christian witness and Christ-centered care for traditionally marginalized communities will continue to influence the Greater Northwest Area long into the future.
Individuals are encouraged to offer well wishes to Barber using this Kudoboard platform.