Self-Development of People welcomes new national committee members

Newly elected representatives attend two-day orientation session in Louisville

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

New SDOP national committee members gather in Louisville for orientation session. Front (L-R): Elizabeth Swee, Rebecca Davis, Mandy Adams-Henderson. Back (L-R): Richard Morrow, Wayne Steele, Phil Tom, Samantha Davis, Tracy Dace. (Photo by Scott O’Neill)

LOUISVILLE — Eight newly elected national committee members to the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP), which empowers economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people through its Presbyterian and ecumenical partners, gathered in Louisville recently for a two-day orientation session. The training session prepares members for promoting and interpreting the SDOP ministry to congregations, mid-councils, community groups of economically poor and oppressed people and those interested in the ministry. Committee members also review grant applications and make funding decisions based on the ministry’s criteria and mandate.

The SDOP national committee currently numbers 17 people. The eight new members elected by the 223rd General Assembly (2018) in June are:

  • Mandy Adams Henderson, New Albany, IN
  • Tracy Dace, Savoy, IL
  • Rev. Rebecca Davis, Clinton, SC
  • Samantha Davis, Washington, DC
  • Richard Morrow, North Wales, PA
  • Rev. Gail Porter Nelson, Louisville, KY (not in attendance)
  • Elizabeth Swee, Moorhead, MN
  • Rev. Phil Tom, Mount Vernon, NY

The Rev. Wayne Steele from Louisville, who was elected in 2017, also attended the orientation.

“SDOP is proud and excited to welcome our new committee members,” said Alonzo Johnson, coordinator for the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People. “They are all incredibly talented and committed to doing the work of justice, community-building and anti-poverty. Their gifts and skills will serve the church well now and in the future as we engage in Christ’s ministry.”

SDOP staff and national committee members finish up two days of meetings at PC(USA) headquarters. (Photo by Scott O’Neill)

The orientation outlined SDOP’s history, the grant application process, committee member roles and responsibilities, and provided training to aid in identifying potential projects for funding. During a break in Wednesday’s session members had an opportunity to meet with PC(USA) staff.

Rebecca Davis, an ordained Presbyterian minister and associate professor for Christian Education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina said the chance to work with SDOP is an extension of her lifelong mission.

“For most of my ministry I’ve had a deep commitment to issues of poverty, justice ministries, child advocacy and helping children and families who live in the margins. My goal as a committee member is to hear people’s stories, walk with them as much as I can and lend a hand if possible.”

SDOP funded projects totaling more than $400,000 in 2017. In today’s economic climate, SDOP funding is important according to Dace.

“SDOP funding is critical when you think about the issues we’re facing in society,” said Dace, founder and chief visionary officer for DREAAM House in Champaign, Illinois. “It’s powerful to see community voices organizing the resistance as a result of the negative stuff that is happening, so funding is vital to support those wanting to roll up their sleeves and do something to support their own people.”

Steele, pastor at Peace Presbyterian Church in Louisville, has a history with SDOP that dates back 25 years when he served on a SDOP committee in Wilcox County, Alabama, one of the poorest counties in the country.

“I have a love for SDOP because it empowers individuals to pull themselves up from the bootstraps and contribute to their community, better themselves, and enhance their outlook on life,” he said.

As a national committee member, Steele also wants to tell others about the good works performed by SDOP.

“I’m hoping to create more awareness about SDOP; it’s one of the best-kept secrets in our denomination. We’ve done a marvelous job with a women’s group in Georgia. The women’s group can’t say ‘thank you’ to our denomination, but I surely can in my travels through the presbyteries and synods. It’s important that people know their dollars matter and are definitely making a difference,” said Steele.

Rebecca Davis echoed that sentiment.

“I’m going to take these stories to my seminary students. We don’t teach them to just read and examine text, but to read the world around them and SDOP provides an opportunity to see beyond themselves and the walls of the church. In some ways the church is at its very best when it’s out on the streets and in people’s lives.”


Funding for Self-Development of People projects is made possible through the One Great Hour of Sharing.

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