Better Together will feature insightful plenary speakers from dynamic, national leaders as well as keynotes and breakout sessions from each Association.

Plenary Speakers

Alexia Salvatierra (Formal Fuller Photo)
Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra
Academic Dean for Centro Latino at Fuller Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra

Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra is the Academic Dean for Centro Latino at Fuller Theological Seminary. She is the co-author of Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World and Buried Seeds: Learning from the Resilience of Vibrant Marginalized Christian Communities, and as part of a team, God’s Resistance: Mobilizing Faith to Defend Immigrants.

She is a Lutheran Pastor with over 40 years of experience in congregational (English and Spanish) and community ministry, including church-based service and community development programs, congregational/community organizing and legislative advocacy. 

Dr. Salvatierra is a consultant for a variety of organizations, including World Vision, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and the Christian Community Development Association. She has been a national leader in the areas of working poverty and immigration for over 25 years and has founded multiple programs and organizations both in the US and overseas. These included a gang prevention program for at-risk immigrant youth, a community computer center, and an intergenerational community garden where the elderly taught at-risk youth to grow produce for sale as well as a collaborative of UC students, homeless leaders, and congregation members providing emergency services in the streets of Santa Cruz and the migrant farmworker camps in Watsonville. In the Philippines, she trained urban poor women in Manila to serve as chaplains to their neighbors. 

Rev. Dr. James Choung
Vice President of Strategy & Innovation for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA
Rev. Dr. James Choung

Rev. Dr. James Choung serves as Vice President of Strategy & Innovation — overseeing evangelism, discipleship & leadership development, planting, global engagement & justice, multiethnic initiatives, and the Creative Labs — at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA.

He is ordained through a local Vineyard USA church, and has written three books — the latest being a co-written book titled Longing for Revival. He speaks frequently and consults at campuses, churches, seminaries, and conferences, and most recently taught a doctoral course on evangelism at Fuller Theological Seminary. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, Outreach Magazine, Seminary Now, and

James wrote his D. Min. dissertation on postmodern leadership development also at Fuller Theological Seminary, received his M. Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and studied management science and marketing at MIT. He has previously served on the pastoral staff of a Boston-area urban church plant, of a megachurch in Seoul, and led an LA-adjacent house church. As for other interests, he has led worship at various national conferences including the Urbana Student Missions Conference, and serves on boards for higher education and overseas for-profit and non-profit startups.

For fun, he likes to travel with his wife, laugh with his two sons, spoil his daughter, bask in Los Angeles’ endless summer, and swing a racket in hopes of playing something like tennis.

Dr. Charles A. Montgomery, Jr
Associations Strategic Coordinator for Vineyard USA
Dr. Charles A. Montgomery, Jr

Dr. Charles A. Montgomery, Jr serves as the Associations Strategic Coordinator for Vineyard USA and Teaching Pastor at Vineyard Columbus.

Charles also founded a successful multiethnic Campus (Vineyard Columbus East) and has pastored there since 2012. His passion is to develop Beloved Communities as espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, an alumnus of Charles’ alma mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Charles has a B.A. in Mathematics from Morehouse, a Master of Divinity from Emory University (Ga) and a PhD in Ethical and Creative Leadership from Union Institute University (OH).

He has earned several credentials in Diversity Training and is a Certified Spiritual Director through the Sustainable School of Faith.

He considers his greatest accomplishment (ok, grace) being married to his childhood crush, Kimberly. Charles and Kimberly are avid Buckeye fans (Go Bucks!) and make their home in Columbus Ohio.

VUSA Team - Jay Pathak preferred
Jay Pathak
National Director of Vineyard USA
Jay Pathak

Jay Pathak is the National Director of Vineyard USA, starting in January 2022. He also serves as the Lead Pastor of the Mile High Vineyard, a family of neighborhood churches in Denver, that he, Danielle and a small team planted in 2001.

Jay co-wrote the book, The Art of Neighboring, with Dave Runyon. His passion for sharing his faith with the people around him is at the center of his calling. He is a humble, empowering leader who is passionate about raising up leaders around him. His strengths, in particular, lie in strategically placing people on teams where they thrive. Additionally, he regularly thinks of ministry in context of culture and developing relationships and partnerships in the city, government, and across denominational lines.

Jay has lead in various contexts throughout the Vineyard starting as an intern for Rich Nathan at the Columbus Vineyard in his early ministry days, and stretching into various positions of translocal leadership including serving on the Vineyard USA Executive Team for many years. He is a sought after speaker and coach, while keeping strong ties to the local community.

Jay has a BA in Philosophy from The Ohio State University and is a graduate of the Vineyard Leadership Institute.

Rev. Dr. Catherine Gilliard
Superintendent of the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Southeast Conference
Rev. Dr. Catherine Gilliard

Rev. Dr. Catherine Gilliard currently serves as Superintendent of the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Southeast Conference.

She was the first African American woman to serve as an ECC superintendent, the first black president of the Covenant ministerium, the first African American to serve as chair of the Covenant’s Executive Board, the highest governing body of the denomination, the first black president of the Association for Covenant Clergy Women (ACCW) and the first woman to serve as president of the African American Ministers Association. Gilliard was also the first black woman church planter in the Covenant. She has served as the only black member of many of the denomination’s leadership boards and associations. In her last pastorate, she served as co-pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Gilliard holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design from the University of Kansas School of Architecture, and an MDiv and DMin from North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. She holds certification in Enneagram and Marriage, is an Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Qualified Assessor, a COACH Model ministry coach and adjunct professor at North Park Theological Seminary.

She and her husband, Deric, have lived in the metro-Atlanta area for over forty years and have four adult children.

Debby Wright
Debby Wright
National Director of Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland
Debby Wright

Debby Wright, together with her husband John, lead Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland and are the founding pastors of Trent Vineyard church in Nottingham UK, which they started in 1996.

Debby lived in Chile until she was 14, with earthquakes and military coups most days! Upon returning to England, Debby trained as a dancer and artist and married John. She was part of St Andrew’s Chorleywood where she first encountered John Wimber and later trained under him at the Anaheim Vineyard. 

John and Debby helped start the first Vineyard in Europe and have been serving together in pastoral ministry for more than 30 years. She has two sons, two fabulous daughters-in-law, and three beautiful grandsons. 

Keynote Speakers

Additional keynote speakers to be announced in the coming months!

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Geno Olison
VUSA Black Pastors & Leaders Association
Geno Olison

Geno Olison is the leader of the Black Pastors and Leaders Association for Vineyard USA and lead pastor of the South Suburban Vineyard Church just outside of Chicago.

Geno grew up on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, where he came to faith in the Full Gospel church founded by his parents. In 1999, he moved to Urbana, Illinois to attend the University of Illinois and began attending the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois in 2001.

After graduating from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Communications, Geno worked in the TV news business and spent several years in sales and marketing while attending and serving at the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois. Sensing a call to plant a multicultural, multi-ethnic Vineyard, Geno and his wife, Shannon, began the process of preparing to plant a church, serving in various roles and positions at church, attending trainings, and building an intentionally diverse team.

The South Suburban Vineyard Church officially landed in the south suburbs of Chicago in June 2009. Since that time, the church has become a picture of the vision given to Geno and Shannon – a beautiful, multicultural expression of a Vineyard church. He desires to help other pastors, leaders, and church communities see the value and importance of being a diverse church on mission.

Geno has served on the Vineyard USA Executive Team and has worked with teams of talented people to create the Better Together conference which focuses on race, reconciliation, and the multiethnic church. As a musician and songwriter, Geno’s worked with Vineyard Worship to develop Vineyard Soul, a multi-cultural, gospel-leaning expression of worship music in the Vineyard.

Geno’s most important role, though, is parenting his four awesome boys with his wife Shannon.

Rubén Quintero
VUSA Hispanic Association
Rubén Quintero

Rubén Quintero loves Jesus Christ, he is pastor of Imperial Valley Vineyard church in El Centro, CA, and is a chaplain for Fresh Harvest, Inc, which allows him to serve hundreds of immigrants who work in agriculture in the US.

He is a CPA graduate from UABC in Mexicali, Mexico, and holds a Master’s in Theology from San Diego Christian University.

He is passionate about planting churches among the Hispanics in the U.S. Rubén is happily married to Vaneza and they have 3 wonderful boys – Rubén (18), David (16), and Iván (14). He likes traveling and baseball, so he expects to visit the 30 MLB stadiums during his lifetime.

Melanie Forsythe-Lee
VUSA Women’s Association
Melanie Forsythe-Lee

Melanie Forsythe-Lee is the Lead Pastor of LIFE vineyard church, a vibrant faith community in the heart of Columbus, Ohio. She came to faith in the post Christian landscape of Australia. There, Melanie was a youth pastor for many years before moving to America alongside her now late husband and co-founder of LIFE vineyard.

Melanie is unapologetically in love with the Gospel, and full of hope and vision for the future of local church.

Melanie leads the Women’s Association for Vineyard USA, which is committed to actualizing the full potential of every woman leader in the local church through connection, support, development and advocacy.

She is married to Andrew and a mother to three young adults.

Kirk 1 (1)
Kirk Yamaguchi
VUSA AAPI Association
Kirk Yamaguchi

Kirk Yamaguchi is the interim leader of the AAPI Association and Pastor Emeritus of Canyon View Vineyard Church in Grand Junction, CO, and also works with Convoy of Hope as a liaison for church networking.

Before leading Canyon View Vineyard, Kirk and Jane planted a Vineyard in Canyon City, CO.


Mary Anne de la Torre
North Jersey Vineyard
Mary Anne de la Torre

Mary Anne de la Torre was born in the Philippines and immigrated to NJ when she was almost 7 years old. After attending college in Pennsylvania, she began her teaching career but was quickly called into ministry.

She serves as the Senior Associate/NextGen Pastor at North Jersey Vineyard overseeing the Children’s and Youth Ministries and also supervises some staff members as well as serving on the Executive Leadership Team. Mary Anne also joyfully serves with the AAPI and Women’s Associations.

Mary Anne and her husband Rich have two kids, Marcus and Noemi. She loves to travel, spend time with her family, and works part-time as a donut connoisseur. She tries to run to offset all the donuts in her spare time.

Panel Discussion

Panel discussion with Dr. Korie Little Edwards & Vineyard practitioners who have fostered Beloved Community in their churches.

Dr. Korie Little Edwards
The Ohio State University
Dr. Korie Little Edwards

Dr. Korie Little Edwards is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at The Ohio State University and leading scholar of race and religion in the United States, with a particular focus on multiracial churches and the black church.

She is the author or co-author of numerous books and articles, including The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches, Smart Suits, Tattered Boots: Black Ministers Mobilizing the Black Church in the Twenty-First Century, and Estranged Pioneers: Race, Faith and Leadership in a Diverse World (in production with Oxford University Press).

Building and expanding knowledge is a calling of sorts for me, one I came to a bit circuitously. My original plan was to have a long, solid career as a civil engineer. For a first generation college student who grew up in the rustbelt city of Pittsburgh, engineering made good sense. However, to paraphrase a common adage, best laid plans often go awry. Once my sociological imagination was awakened, that is once I came to an awareness that how we experience life is in no small part impacted by social forces outside of ourselves, there was no turning back. I knew in my spirit I was to take another path. So, after working professionally as an engineer for four years, I left engineering and pursued a career in sociology. I received my PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in sociology. For nearly twenty years I have been a professor in the Department of Sociology at The Ohio State University.

My research and intellectual interests focus on if and how religion reproduces or dismantles racial hierarchies in the United States and, conversely, how race impacts religion. I have authored numerous articles and books on the topic. I also have had the opportunity to direct or co-direct several funded research projects totaling nearly 1.85 million grant dollars. One of these is a national study of multiracial church pastors called The Religious Leadership and Diversity Project (RLDP). The RLDP is the most in-depth, comprehensive project ever conducted on leaders of multiracial congregations. In addition to conducting research, I am an active member of the academy serving in multiple roles including President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR), an international, interdisciplinary association, and Editor-in-Chief for the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (JSSR).  

Ultimately, my greatest desire from the beginning of this journey has been that my scholarship has helpful and practical implications for churches and their leaders. I am exceedingly grateful for the opportunities I have had to connect my scholarship and faith.  

Little Edwards is also a highly sought-after national and international speaker and co-host of The Elusive Dream Podcast.

Rich & Marlene Nathan
Rich & Marlene Nathan
Vineyard Columbus
Kevin Fischer
Miami Vineyard
Kevin Fischer

Kevin Fischer serves as lead pastor of Miami Vineyard Community Church, an outward-focused, multi-cultural church that every year experiences hundreds of people making first time decisions for Christ.

Kevin’s passion is to see every person experience the life-changing power of Jesus and grow to become everything God designed them to be.

Kevin and Debbie have five adult kids, two grandkids, and too many cats. Kevin loves apples, ice cream, and deep-dish pizza. He also loves watching and playing sports of all kinds; but his one true passion is cheering on his beloved Green Bay Packers.

Phil Chorlian
North Jersey Vineyard
Phil Chorlian

Phil is the founding pastor of the North Jersey Vineyard Church, which he planted in 1997. By God’s grace, the NJV is a growing, diverse community that sees lots of salvations and baptisms, and serves the wider community in a variety of ways.

As Lead Pastor, Phil does the majority of the preaching for NJV. In addition, he leads the pastoral staff, raises up new leaders, and communicates and implements vision and strategy for the church.

During the years Phil has served the wider Vineyard movement in a variety of ways. Currently, Phil is the Vineyard East Regional Leader, serving the almost 70 churches that make up the Vineyard East Region.

Phil is happily married to Norma, his wife of over 30 years, and they have four adult children.

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Steve Nicholson
Evanston Vineyard
Steve Nicholson

Steve Nicholson began ministering as a college student through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the early 1970s. After graduation, he moved to the Chicago area where he and several other twenty-something leaders founded a church. That fellowship, begun in 1976 in Evanston, Illinois, placed a high priority on contemporary worship, biblical teaching, openness to the Holy Spirit, and committed relationships as a church family.

In 1981, Steve and a team from the fellowship established a new church in Humboldt Park, a neighborhood in Chicago’s inner city. Both churches joined Vineyard USA in August of 1985, and Steve transferred leadership of the Humboldt Park Vineyard to one of his team members in 1986.

The Evanston Vineyard has since planted nine other congregations in the Chicago area, and another fifteen in other cities or countries. Steve led Vineyard USA’s church planting task force for over twenty years. Steve has ministered to and trained church leaders in India, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Turkey, Lebanon, Brazil, Chile and several Central Asian countries as well as in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The Evanston Vineyard is a diverse congregation from over 50 nations of the world with no majority racial or cultural group. Since 1986 the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been a regular and ongoing strength and emphasis of the Evanston Vineyard.
Steve and his wife, Cindy, live in Chicago. They have three adult children and eight grandchildren.