Who We Are

Identity Statement

Because the radical message of holiness requires a fresh momentum of bold women leaders, Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy is committed to advancing Christ’s Kingdom by engaging, empowering, and equipping women to lead in the Church at every level.

Vision

We envision God’s Kingdom reality where the biblical foundations of gender equality are fully lived out across the Church as women and men lead together, following their holy calling.

Mission

Advancing Christ’s Kingdom by engaging, empowering, and equipping women to lead at every level in the Church, by:

  • Networking, training, affirming, and inspiring through biennial conferences
  • Ongoing networking and mentoring across denominations (Mentoring Initiative currently under development)
  • Collaborating with denominational leaders to support their women clergy
  • Providing a resource hub for expert research, articles, and teaching 

We Believe

  • Scripture affirms God’s call and blessing on both women and men.
  • From the beginning of Creation, God intended men and women relate to each other and to the world in egalitarian ways.
  • The Holy Spirit has been poured out on God’s daughters and sons.
  • The full participation of women at every level of ministry is a core value of our Wesleyan/Holiness heritage.
  • Christ’s Church is most effective when women and men work together, both leading based on gifts and calling, not gender.
  • We are stronger together than we are alone; a collaborative effort across denominations is required to see God’s Kingdom mandate fulfilled.

Our History

Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy was initiated through the vision of Dr. Susie Stanley, a minister in the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.) and a professor of theology and church history at Western Evangelical Seminary (and later at Messiah College). 

After bringing together women ministers in her own denomination for mutual encouragement and support in 1989, she began strategizing on a larger scale and dreamed of bringing together women ministers of sister denominations.  That same year, women in the Wesleyan Church held a similar conference.

 

Stanley developed contacts in the Wesleyan Church, the Free Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army, the Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical Friends.  Although their denominations ordained women to the ministry, many women ministers in these churches felt isolated and alone, especially those who were pastors.  So the women in Stanley’s network planned a conference that would gather women from across North America. Brought together in Christian conference, they would find strength from learning each other’s stories and know that they were not alone. Seed money was provided by leaders from several denominations, underscoring support for the project’s objectives. 

 

The first conference in this series was named “Come to the Water.” It was held in April 1994 at a retreat center in Glorieta, N.M., where 375 clergy women participated.  The gathering was characterized by strong preaching, spirited song, ample testimony, and personal sharing.  Many participants stated that it was the best conference they had ever attended. 

 

Interest and enthusiasm was so strong that another conference was held in 1996, and conferences have continued to be held every other year thereafter. Each biennial conference has drawn hundreds of participants. 

 

In the interim between conferences, WHWC has published newsletters, booklets on issues for women in ministry, a book titled Faith and Gender Equity:  Lesson Plans Across the College Curriculum (2007), and used social media to keep participants connected. 

 

Susie Stanley chaired the organization until 2006.  Today, the chair rotates among representatives from the sponsoring denominations. 

 

WHWC provides one of the few platforms where women clergy of Wesleyan Holiness churches, along with women students preparing for ministry in Wesleyan Holiness colleges and universities, can meet together in interdenominational fellowship and support.  Throughout its history, WHWC has remained true to its call to develop and encourage female leadership and ministry. 

 

Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy (WHWC) Board of Directors

Each board member represents one of five supporting denominations. The five board members elect the officers of WHWC. The board oversees the Planning Committee and the Academic Initiatives Committee. (If you’re interested in serving on these committees, please contact your denominational representative.)

 
 

Rev. Dr. Mari Gonlag, President

(The Wesleyan Church)

Mari is professor of religion at Southern Wesleyan University (Central, SC) and founder/director of the Center for Women in Ministry of The Wesleyan Church.  She is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church where she has served as a solo pastor, staff minister, and, for six years, as the director of ministerial studies for the denomination.  In 1996 she transitioned into educational ministry, serving first as a professor at Bethany Bible College (now Kingswood University) in New Brunswick. Canada, and, since 1998, at Southern Wesleyan.  Mari has been involved in a variety of ways in the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy organization and Come to the Water Conference since the earliest meetings that gave birth to them.

mgonlag@swu.edu


 

Rev. Julie Gray, Vice President

(Free Methodist Church)

Julie Gray is Sr. Pastor at Aldersgate Free Methodist Church on the far eastside of Indianapolis, Indiana. She is a country girl in whom God planted a love for the city and diverse peoples during her 24 years serving in an inner-city Church in Seattle, WA. She and her husband, Marvin-also an ordained minister, have four children: two currently in college and two still in high school. Julie’s passion is to see the Bride of Christ alive and beautiful and fulfilling its mission in building the Kingdom of God. pastorjulie@aldersgatefmc.org.


 

Rev. Dr. Susan Armstrong, Secretary

(Church of the Nazarene)

Susan Armstrong is ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. She was a professor of music before receiving her call to pastoral ministry. Since then she has served as Worship Pastor for churches in Idaho, Ohio, and Illinois. Susan has degrees from Point Loma Nazarene University, The University of Oklahoma, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and Olivet Nazarene University. She currently serves as Worship Pastor at Manteno Church of the Nazarene in Manteno, IL. Susan serves on the Nazarene Women Clergy Council and has been associated with WHWC since 2000. She and her husband have a son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. sarmstrong@mantenonazarene.org


 

Rev. Dr. Karen Jones-Porter, Treasurer

(Church of the Nazarene)

Karen Jones-Porter is Director of Continuing Education at Southern Africa Nazarene University in Manzini, Swaziland. Previously she served as Executive Pastor alongside her husband Rev. John Porter at Chester, SC, First Church of the Nazarene. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Northwest Nazarene University and Trevecca Nazarene University. For eight years, she served as a Nazarene missionary at the Eurasia Regional Office in Switzerland and the Southern Europe Field Office in Portugal. She is an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene. She holds a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership, a Masters of Arts in Missiology, and a Masters in Business Administration, as well as a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Cross-Cultural Communication. She and John enjoy walking and bicycling.
kejkc@yahoo.com


 

Rev. Carey Richards, Conference Director

Carey Richards serves as co-pastor of Millerton Wesleyan Church along with her husband, Luke.  Previously, they served as co-pastors of Pocono Lake Wesleyan Church.  She is a graduate of Houghton College and Asbury Theological Seminary.  She and her husband also have a toddler daughter named Junia. carey.whwc@gmail.com


 

Rev. Carron Odokara

(Church of God, Anderson)

Carron is an Associate Pastor at Farmington Hills Church of God in southeast Michigan and regularly serves churches around the state as a preacher and teacher. Carron also works as an IT process improvement manager at Ford Motor Company. In the past, Carron has served the Church of God as Michigan’s Chair for the Board of Directors, and as the national Ministries Council Vice-Chair. Carron has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, a master’s degree in computer engineering, and a master of divinity degree. Carron is also working on a Ph.D. in organizational leadership. carron_odokara@yahoo.com


 

Rev. Pauline Peifer

(Brethren in Christ)

Pauline Peifer serves as a bishop in the Brethren in Christ Church.  After 25 years as pastor’s wife and the untimely death of her first husband, after a mid-life career change from health care administration to pastoral ministry and ordination, and after eight years as associate and executive pastor at the Grantham Church adjacent to Messiah College, she was called to be the first woman bishop in her denomination. Pauline is a graduate of Messiah College and Harrisburg Hospital School of Nursing.  She and her current husband are parents to a blended family of 5 children and 14 grandchildren. paulinepeifer@gmail.com


 

Rev. Andrea Summers

(Wesleyan Church)

Andrea is a pastor, writer, preacher and mother of four. She is the Director of SACRED ALLIANCE, a new center advancing the gifts of women in ministry and leadership at Wesley Seminary. She also serves the Lausanne Movement, facilitating mentoring relationships for their Younger Leaders global initiative.  An ordained minister and a graduate of Asbury Seminary, Andrea has served as pastor in the local church and as a denominational leader for The Wesleyan Denomination. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband Jeremy and their four children.  andrealsummers@gmail.com