The newly created Leadership Council Advisory Team (LCAT) met for the first time last month. The group was formed to help BIC U.S. work toward the fifth priority of Project 250: to increase the number of appropriately qualified women and people of color serving and advising on the BIC U.S. Leadership Council.
“Leadership Council wanted to create the LCAT to ensure that conversations had by Leadership Council accurately reflected the diversity of BIC U.S.,” said Alan Robinson, national director of BIC U.S.
The advisory council includes a representative from each BIC U.S. conference and BIC U.S. World Missions. They were nominated by their regional bishop or leader and then approved by Leadership Council. Collectively, they are adding to the depth of church conversation as group members engage both with Leadership Council and the broader church.
We are pleased to introduce you to the eight members of this team.
Robert Alegre Jr. – Allegheny Conference
Robert was born into the Brethren in Christ family and has served the Church his whole life. A member of Iglesia La Roca in Roanoke, Va., he has served as Music Director for over 15 years. He also spent a few years serving as the Sunday school teacher for pre-teens.
Robert has a bachelor’s degree in International Business from Liberty University. For many years, he managed several offices for a local Credit Union that served the underbanked and offered credit and budgeting classes to those in the community. He recently left 10+ years of banking to pursue his passion in the world of construction.
Robert currently resides in Roanoke, Va. with his wife, Zurelvys, and their two sons, Noah, and Matthew.
Heather Brickner – Atlantic Conference
Heather is the lead pastor and co-founder of Branch & Vine in Lancaster City, Pa. Branch & Vine is a network of congregations (20-50 persons) that exists to embrace and share the love of Jesus throughout Lancaster. They currently have two faith communities in two neighborhoods of the fifteen neighborhoods in the city and hope to expand to all fifteen.
Heather holds a master’s degree from Wesley Seminary (Indiana) in Ministry Leadership and a bachelor’s degree from Messiah University in Christian Ministry. Additionally, she serves on the ministry leadership team of the Atlantic Conference in leadership development.
Heather and her husband, Micah, live in Lancaster City with their son, Lucas. You will find them tending their front-yard garden, walking around their neighborhood, and volunteering with Church World Service to help welcome newly arrived refugees to the city.
Ingrid Cantrell – Pacific Conference
Ingrid is originally from rural Virginia but now lives in California. She began her Brethren in Christ journey at New Community Church in Pomona, Calif., and currently attends Gracepoint BIC in Ontario, Calif.
Ingrid serves God wherever the Lord leads. As a stay-at-home mom, she worked part time as a church secretary. Since then, she has served on a variety of BIC committees and boards, and currently serves on the Pacific Conference Board of Directors as Conference Secretary.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management with a concentration in logistics and a master’s in organizational management with a focus in facilities management. She has two daughters, 23 and 19 years old.
Magbys Hernandez – Southeast Conference
Magbys was born in Camaguey, Cuba, and immigrated to the United States as a young child. She felt a call to ministry early in life and looked for ways to serve as she grew up. She was a young adult group leader at her parent’s BIC church and eventually served as a local youth pastor. Magbys and her husband later became the Southeast Regional Conference youth and young adult pastors and organized camps, retreats, and conferences for over 15 local Southeast churches.
Despite many years in academic and corporate roles, her true passion was always to serve the Church, and she became the regional assistant for the Southeast Regional Conference in 2012. She holds a degree in Organizational Leadership from Trinity International University and is now working towards her certification as a Spiritual Formation Coach. Her number one ministry is her family as she raises two beautiful girls with her husband.
Tracie Hunter – Great Lakes Conference
Tracie is the senior pastor of Western Hills BIC in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2009, she became the first African American Senior pastor in the Brethren in Christ denomination in North America and the first female pastor of Cincinnati’s local BIC congregation. She is passionate about seeing people and communities restored and has led over 200 prayer walks in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s toughest neighborhoods to rebuild communities and curb urban violence. In addition, she has taught over 100 churches how to organize prayer walking missions in their own communities.
Her impressive career has spanned many different fields from lawyer and Judge to journalist and pastor. At the heart of everything she does is a vision to help individuals of all ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds embrace Christ and to reach their full intellectual, physical, and spiritual potential.
Jay Johnson – Midwest Conference
Jay has been the lead pastor at Zion Brethren in Christ Church in Abilene, Kans. since 2011. He became a Jesus follower in August 1976 and was called to preach in 1983. He was recently ordained by the BIC. Jay worked in secular and Christian radio for almost 40 years.
He and his wife A’Lisa have four children (James, Jessica, Jeshua and Alex) and four grandchildren (Shyler, Ja’Mya, Michael and Rylee).
Melissa Lowther – Susquehanna Conference
Melissa serves as discipleship pastor at Grantham BIC. She grew up in Phoenixville, Pa., and felt called to ministry from an early age. She graduated from the University of Valley Forge with a degree in Theological Studies and a minor in Church Music. She later received a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where she also taught Biblical Greek for two years. Upon graduation from seminary, Melissa joined the staff of North Shore Community Baptist Church (north of Boston), first as the Office Administrator and then as the Ministry Associate for Discipleship.
Melissa has been married since 2014 to her husband Greg, who is an organist and works remotely for a software company in Boston. They have a young son named Emmett. Melissa enjoys all things chocolate, exploring local places with her family, singing harmony, and crafting with her son (because it’s the only time anyone compliments her artwork!).
Becky Owen – BIC U.S. World Missions
From an early age, Becky felt called to be a teacher, a missionary, and a mom. She was inspired by many missionary presentations she saw at church growing up. She has a degree in music education from Messiah College (now Messiah University) and a master’s in Higher Education from Geneva College.
She and her husband, Jonathan, were married in 2004 and attended Grantham (Pa.) BIC for several years. In 2012, they deployed to Malawi with World Missions where they served at the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi and supported the Malawian BIC church. These were formational years living cross-culturally, serving alongside national pastors and teachers, and being a part of the international community of missionaries and workers.
In 2021, they discerned it was time to step away from serving in Malawi and transitioned back to Pennsylvania. They have two children, Micah and Rachel.
Jennifer Lancaster, Project 250 Coordinator
Contact Jennifer for more information about Project 250 and the Leadership Council Advisory Team.