Meet the Clergy New to Minnesota in 2023

August 02, 2023

By: Karla Hovde

This year, 19 clergy are starting their first appointment or assignment in the Minnesota Conference—some newly credentialed and some experienced. During a recent orientation, we asked each new church leader to introduce themselves to the rest of the conference. Find out what drew them here, what they’re excited about in their appointments, their spiritual gifts, what they appreciate about The United Methodist Church, and some fun facts about them.


Lisa Braun

Appointed to: Detroit Lakes and Hawley UMCs

Braun is a lifelong Methodist and a newly licensed local pastor. Helping others is her top spiritual gift. In this appointment, she is looking forward to growing in her abilities and confidence as a pastor. She also hopes to partner and serve with nearby UMCs. The open and welcoming nature of The UMC is her favorite part of the denomination. She wants people to know that she loves her job!

Joy Bruder

Appointed to: Arlington UMC and Church of the Maples (Norwood Young America)

Service is Bruder’s strongest spiritual gift. She comes to the Minnesota Conference as clergy from another denomination. Knowing there is support from the conference when needed is what Bruder most appreciates about The UMC.

Jojo Coffin-Langdon

Appointed as a chaplain at Moments Hospice (Duluth)

Coffin-Langdon is a newly licensed local pastor.

James Crandall

Appointed to: Grace UMC (Warren) and Angus Tabor Presbyterian Church

Crandall is a newly licensed local pastor.

Elisa Berry Fonseca

Assigned to: All Peoples Project (Inver Grove Heights)

Fonesca joins the Minnesota Conference as an assigned lay person who is excited to plant a new faith community. She says she most looks forward to helping people experience God, and teaching is her top spiritual gift. She loves The UMC’s Wesleyan heritage. In addition to serving as a church planter, Fonseca is also an artist.


Jose “Angel” and Lourdes Franco

Appointed to: Christo En Tu Ayuda (Worthington)

Angel Franco is a newly licensed local pastor, and he and his wife Lourdes are planting a Spanish-speaking congregation in Worthington. They appreciate that the Minnesota Conference offers support for Hispanic ministries. They were attracted to The UMC because the denomination accepts Latinos of many different nationalities. Angel’s primary spiritual gift is serving the community in the love of Christ, and Lourdes names her gifts as evangelism, bringing food to those who need it, and ministering to married couples. Lourdes shares that even though she doesn’t speak much English, she loves to talk with everyone and is especially passionate about helping unhoused people and couples with marital challenges.

Lynn C. Gardner

Appointed to: Christ UMC (Maplewood)


Gardner is a retired elder returning to the Minnesota Conference after 23 years spent in rural ministry in the Iowa Conference. She is excited about returning to the place where she was born and being closer to her children and grandchildren. In this appointment, she looks forward to meeting new people and learning about the community. She names being a prayer partner as her strongest spiritual gift. She loves The UMC’s connectional system and its teachings about prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. She says she would love to meet people who share her love of yarn and crafts.

Betty Johnson

Appointed to: Thief River Falls UMC

Johnson comes to the Minnesota Conference as clergy from another denomination, The Wesleyan Church.

Christy Key-Sturlaugson

Appointed to: Aldersgate UMC (St. Louis Park) and Bethel UMC (Mound)

Sturlaugson, a newly licensed local pastor, is looking forward to using her gifts in ministry. She says the Spirit clearly led her to The UMC, and she appreciates the inclusion of all people and the order that Methodism brings. Her strongest spiritual gift is discernment, and she says she is both excited to join the conference and a bit intimidated by all there is to learn. She can’t wait to connect with fellow clergy.

Mark Marston

Appointed to: Park UMC (Brainerd)

Marston comes as an elder from the Mountain Sky Conference, where he served in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is happy to return to the Minnesota Conference, where he served 23 years ago. He thinks the Brainerd Lakes area is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and he is excited about this appointment because of the people who live there. Marston says Christ has touched his life in profound ways. He loves The UMC because of its theology and its purposeful approach to understanding God, Christ, and the church.

Celia Navas

Church planting: ​​Isaiah 61:1 (Monticello and Park Rapids)

Navas leads this thriving new Hispanic ministry in partnership with Community UMC in Monticello and its pastor, Rev. Ralph Holbrook. She is passionate about sharing the gospel.

Dennis M. Oglesby, Jr.

Appointed to: Camphor Memorial UMC (St. Paul)

Oglesby is an elder from the Northern Illinois Conference who returned to Minnesota based on an invitation to serve at Camphor Memorial UMC. He is very excited for this appointment, where he looks forward to reconnecting with clergy colleagues and learning about the local community. Servant leadership is his top spiritual gift. He is drawn to The UMC because of its Wesleyan heritage.

Ruth Sanders

Appointed to: Wesley UMC (Crookston)

Sanders is a Presbyterian pastor who has lived in Crookston for 32 years and began serving Wesley UMC late last year. She loves that the congregation exudes the love of Christ in the community. She looks forward to walking alongside the congregation and experiencing growth in the Spirit as the body of Christ. Her spiritual gifts are preaching, prayer, and connection. Sanders loves the inclusive nature of the UMC.

Galen Spinler

Assigned to: Alden UMC

Spinler serves as an assigned lay person. He looks forward to building up this small congregation by reaching out to the community. He is passionate about preaching the good news and has been involved in music ministry for over 50 years. A recent convert from the Roman Catholic tradition, he feels comfortable with his new UMC faith home. He loves the UMC’s openness, non-judgemental attitude, and willingness to love everyone who comes through the door. “Same God, different church pew”, he says.

Vickie Spyhalski

Appointed to: First UMC (Austin)

Spyhalski, a newly licensed local pastor, looks forward to restoring a healthy spiritual community in this appointment. She appreciates that The UMC is a big tent that welcomes all. Spyhalski, whose top spiritual gift is healing, is open to and excited by all the opportunities for collaboration that are available in the Minnesota Conference. 

Joshua H. Steward

Appointed to: Hope UMC (Duluth)

Steward comes to Minnesota as an elder from the Iowa Conference. He is looking forward to being closer to family in Minnesota and to building ministry in this appointment. Empathy is his top spiritual gift, and he appreciates the three kinds of grace taught by The UMC.

Roger Wolsey

Appointed to: Centenary UMC (Mankato)

Wolsey is an elder in the Minnesota Conference returning to the state after 20 years serving in the Iowa and Rocky Mountain Conferences. He is happy to be back in his home state and to live closer to family. He feels this church is a good match for him theologically and energetically. Communication—both preaching and writing—is his top spiritual gift. He says what he loves most about the UMC is the Wesleyan ecumenical spirit of being Christians first—and its ability to embrace diversity of thought and engage in ministry together. He is passionate about nature photography, especially cloudscapes and sunsets. Ask him about his Nature Church ministry.

Jer Yang

Appointed to: Wheelock UMC (St. Paul)

Yang is a licensed local pastor who comes from Sacramento, California. He says after much prayer, God, the church, and the conference brought him to Minnesota.  Leadership and relational skills are his top spiritual gifts, and in his appointment, he looks forward to spreading the good news of Jesus. He appreciates the structure, the openness, and the support offered by The UMC. He says people should know that he is sometimes quiet and other times open to conversation.

We thank God for these new leaders among us. Join us in welcoming them to our conference in the comments below, or reach out to them and say hello!

Karla Hovde is the communications specialist for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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