Meet Your Affirmation Leadership

Biographical information about our leadership.

Mary Lynn Ragan Clunn:  I’m an attorney currently living in Alexandria, VA.  I have been active in the UMC for many years on the local, district, conference and denominational level with churches in NC, NJ, NY, VA and DC.  I was asked to join the Affirmation Council in late 2013.  I am an ally and happily married to Rev. Steve Clunn.  We have three adult children (Drew, Ally, and Julia) and a new granddaughter named Clementine.  I am a passionate humanitarian with commitments to social justice and human rights, children and youth issues, gender-neutral language and UNC basketball.

Ann Craig:  After 22 years working at General Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist Women with one foot in the closet and one foot out, I became the first director of religion at GLAAD where I worked with 20 or more LGBTQ faith groups like Affirmation.  What an ecumenical and interfaith experience!  Today, I am a consultant to The Fellowship Global working to win the hearts and minds of faith leaders in East and West Africa and helping shine a light on the historic role played by Metropolitan Community Churches in marriage equality and so much more.  It’s good to be back with Affirmation on the Council.

Ben Roe: I grew up in parsonages in Arkansas and Nebraska, and graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University and Claremont School of Theology. I’ve been a United Methodist minister in Nebraska, a sexuality educator, pastoral counselor, and activist, as well as Unix applications software programmer and educator. I surrendered my clergy credentials in 1996 and served nine years as a
communications staffer at the Rocky Mountain Conference until 2010. I’m currently maintaining the web sites of Affirmation and the Western Methodist Justice Movement. I’ve worked for inclusion of LGBTQI persons in the United Methodist Church for years, attending my first Affirmation meeting in Dayton, while exploring my newly-acknowledged “bisexual” orientation. Since then, I’ve come to see gender and orientation as non-binary continua, with all kinds of gradations and complications! I and my partner Maggie have been together for over 50 years, many of those involved in sexuality education and advocacy activities, including with the UMC, PFLAG and RMN. (Maggie served on the Affirmation Council and Reconciling Congregation Program board at the time of the "graduation" of the RCP from its Affirmation “mother,” as well as another time in the 90s with RCP.)

Derrick Spiva: I’m a Ph.D. M.F.A. and a Fulbright-Hays Africana studies scholar in religion with post-doctoral seminar studies at Cairo University in Egypt and Hebrew University in Israel. I’m a lecturer for the Africana Studies Department, College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. I’m currently an adjunct faculty member of New York Theological Seminary. I served on the RMN board for 5 years. I was also chair of United Methodists of Color during my board tenure. Before joining RMN, I served 5 years as a senior pastor for Sierra Vista and Saint Marks UMCs in Fresno, CA. As an Educational / Entertainment specialist, I produced the hit series "Through Our Eyes"
for PBS, and the Black Family Network over 12 seasons. I wrote and co-produced the film “Heresy” featured at the 1997 Reel Pride Film Festival winning a “Telly Award”. I co-created the “CEED” Broadcasting Internet Network. I’ve been recognized for outstanding service in education by the NAACP and the United States Congress for African American Studies, Performing Arts and Media.

Bea Soots: I am an Elder in the Detroit Annual Conference the United Methodist Church, having studied at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, specializing in urban and justice ministries.  I did not grow up in a church, but as a teenager, the Methodist Episcopal Church in my home town made a place for me to be a kid in community safely.  I have served mostly urban congregations in Southeast Michigan.  I began serving on the Council of Affirmations in 2017.  I am committed to participating in public witness and pastoral leadership that lead our church into more genuine Biblical Hospitality.

Jim Palmquist: I rejoined the Affirmation National Council for a second term in 2016.  In my first term, I served as Co-Coordinator from 2004 to 2008.  I am retired after a diverse business career in computer systems, sales, logistics, and non-profit management.  In addition, I was a Naval Aviator and an Adjunct Professor at Temple University on the graduate level and taught at Penn State and two other universities.  For AARP of Pennsylvania, I served as Volunteer State President for five years ending in 2016.  AARP PA has 1.8 million members.  For the ACLU in Pennsylvania, I serve as a regional volunteer leader.  I am married, have three children and five grandchildren.  My role on the National Council is Treasurer.

Gary Shephard is co-convenor, a long-time member, and serves as newsletter editor and mailing list manager.