2019 Speakers

SPEAKERS FOR THE GATHERING 2019

We are fortunate to attract a stellar group of practitioners and writers, doers and thinkers, and people who nimbly and expertly handle all of the above.

One benefit to cultivating a wildly impressive, yet humble and transparent community is that we can learn from each other in a setting where pain is met with compassion, mistakes are greeted with knowing solidarity, and wisdom is shared and received with grace and gratitude. The Gathering’s own participants play a vital role in the conversations and classes that are offered throughout the event. Part of our core mission is to educate — and this always includes an emphasis on peer learning.

Here is a partial, and growing, list of this year’s speakers:

Michael Allen

Michael Allen is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Together Chicago, a nonprofit focused on economic development, education, violence reduction, gospel justice, and faith community mobilization. He also serves as the Pastor of Uptown Baptist Church and Vice Chairman of the Board of the Pacific Garden Mission, a Christian ministry that has served the Chicago area by providing refuge and training programs for the homeless since 1877. Hailing from Jamaica, he and his Brazilian wife Marilza have four Jamzillian children.Read more...

David Blankenhorn

David Blankenhorn is president of Better Angels, a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. Before co-founding Better Angels, David led the Institute for American Values, a think tank on civil society that he founded in 1988. He was born in 1955; grew up in Jackson, Mississippi; graduated from Harvard College in 1977; received an M.A. in history from the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, in 1979; and lives today in New York City. Read more...

Robin Bruce

Robin Bruce serves as President of the David Weekley Family Foundation where she’s honored to partner with exemplary entrepreneurs confronting the greatest challenges of our day.  Prior to joining DWFF in 2017, Robin spent four years as the CEO of the Acton School of Business, an award-winning entrepreneurial MBA program in Austin, Texas. In her role, Robin had the privilege of walking alongside extraordinary individuals in their journey to become principled entrepreneurs. Robin holds an MBA from The Acton School of Business and a BA from Vanderbilt University. She received the Texas Business Hall of Fame’s 2010 Award for entrepreneurial achievement. Robin and her husband Taylor live in Austin with their two sons and a giant goldendoodle. Read more...

Elizabeth Carlock Phillips

Elizabeth Carlock Phillips is a social entrepreneur and millennial philanthropist at the helm of Phillips Philanthropies, which includes the Phillips Foundation. Since 2013, she has led the foundation’s implementation of Generational Grants, Original Programs, and Impact Investing, including a “total portfolio activation” approach. Elizabeth is a governor-appointed trustee of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and serves on the boards of Texas Women’s Foundation, The Dallas Foundation, Say Yes to Education, and Women Moving Millions, along with other affiliations. She has been featured in stories by Barron’s, Bloomberg BRIEF, The Dallas Morning News, Forbes, and The Financial Times. Elizabeth and her husband Kevin are cofounders of The ImPact and principals of Phillips Enterprises. They enjoy life with their three children in Dallas and Greensboro.Read more...

Jean Case

Jean Case, the CEO of the Case Foundation and Chairman of the National Geographic Society, is a philanthropist, investor, and Internet and impact investing pioneer who advocates for the importance of embracing a more fearless approach to innovate and bring about transformational breakthroughs. Her career in the private sector, including as a senior executive at AOL, spanned nearly two decades before co-founding the Case Foundation in 1997. In addition, Jean currently serves on the boards of Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2), and the White House Historical Association, as well as on the advisory boards of the Brain Trust Accelerator Fund, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. In January 2019, Jean published her first book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and PurposeRead more...

Francis Collins

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, is an American physician-scientist. Under his direction, the international Human Genome Project produced the first finished sequence of human DNA in 2003. Since 2009, he has served as the 16th Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. Francis received a doctorate in physical chemistry from Yale University, and a medical degree from the University of North Carolina. An atheist in graduate school, he became a Christian in medical school and has sought ways to emphasize the harmony of science and faith. He is the author of The Language of God; Belief; and The Language of Science and Faith. Collins founded The BioLogos Foundation in November 2007 and served as president until August 2009 when his official duties as NIH Director required him to step down. Read more...

Alfa Demmellash

Alfa Demmellash is the CEO and Co-Founder of Rising Tide Capital, a nonprofit that provides underserved entrepreneurs with the resources needed to grow successful businesses. They provide intensive business management training coupled with year-round coaching and mentorship to over 1,000 entrepreneurs annually. She also co-founded Future Tide Partners, which equips cross-sector leaders to shift capital, policy, and culture to respond to a new world of work in service to a flourishing future economy. Her work has been recognized by President Barack Obama, CNN, which named her a CNN Hero, and Forbes, which named her as one of the Most Powerful Women Changing the World. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Alfa now lives in New Jersey with her husband and two little boys.

Read more...

David Dillon

David Dillon is Co-Founder and Senior Managing Partner of the Dillon Kane Group, a privately-held group of global companies with 325 employees that invests in, builds, and revitalizes technology-driven businesses. He is also one of the founders of Together Chicago, a collaborative effort to tackle the root causes of gun violence in the city. David helps pull together of a coalition of city officials with faith, nonprofit, and business leaders. In his career, David has built technology for financial services, overseen information technology for major banks, and run the New Ventures Group for Citadel Investment Group. Raised by his missionary parents in Japan, David moved to Chicago to earn degrees from Wheaton College, Northern Illinois University and the DePaul University Graduate School of Business. He and his wife Michele have two grown daughters and a newborn granddaughter.Read more...

Jimmy Dorrell

Jimmy Dorrell, with his wife Janet, founded Mission Waco / Mission World in 1992. The Dorrells moved into a blighted North Waco neighborhood in 1982 and began incarnationally serving their community by seeking to empower the poor and marginalized. He founded the Texas Christian Community Development Network. He is pastor of Church Under the Bridge and has written three books. Jimmy is adjunct professor at Baylor University and Truett Theological Seminary. He was recognized as the 2016 “Wacoan of the Year,” presented by Wacoan Magazine in recognition of his civic contributions. Jimmy completed two degrees from Baylor University, a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1978), and a Doctor of Ministry degree (2001) from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Dorrells received the Baylor Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017. He and Janet have nine grandchildren. Read more...

Christine Emba

Christine Emba writes about ideas and society for the Opinions section of The Washington Post, focusing on the bigger questions that underlie our day-to-day politics and decisions. Before joining The Post in 2015, Christine was the Hilton Kramer Fellow in Criticism at the New Criterion and a deputy editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow, and is working on a book about modern sexual ethics after #MeToo. Christine graduated from Princeton University in 2010 and lives in Washington DC. Read more...

Ryan Frederick

Ryan is the Founder and CEO of SmartLiving 360, a real estate development and advisory firm focused on creating places that help people thrive in the age of longevity. Ryan is particularly interested in making it easier for people of all ages to connect and create together.  He is working on his first book and publishes a monthly consumer blog on the intersection of health, well-being, and longevity – often with a link to the importance of place. Ryan is a long-time participant and former board member of The Gathering. Ryan, his wife, Abi, and their children are recent transplants to Austin via Baltimore and, previously, San Francisco. Read more...

Marc Freedman

Marc Freedman is President and CEO of Encore.org. He is the author of five books, including most recently, How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. He co-founded Experience Corps to mobilize people over 50 to improve the prospects of low-income elementary schools, and the Purpose Prize, an annual award for social innovators in the second half of life. Marc was named a Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the World Economic Forum, and has been honored with the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. A former visiting fellow at Stanford University, King’s College, London, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, he holds an MBA from Yale University. He lives with his wife and three sons in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read more...

Mark Gerson

Mark Gerson is the Co-Founder and Chairman of African Mission Healthcare, which supports the work of Christian medical missionaries serving in Africa. Mark and his wife, Rabbi Erica Gerson, are responsible for the L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service — and now for the L’Chaim Network of Outstanding Mission Teaching Hospitals. Mark is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of United Hatzalah, which is the crowd-sourced network of volunteer first responders in Israel. He is the Co-Founder of the Gerson Lehrman Group, a business intelligence firm that connects its network of 650,000 experts to 1400 companies in 40 countries. Read more...

Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson is a nationally syndicated columnist who appears twice weekly in the Washington Post and in nearly 100 other newspapers. He is the author of Heroic Conservatism and coauthor of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era. He appears regularly on the PBS NewsHour, Face the Nation on CBS News, and other programs. Michael serves as Senior Advisor at ONE, a bipartisan organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases. Michael was a top aide to President George W. Bush as Assistant to the President for Policy and Strategic Planning. Prior to that appointment, he served in the White House as Deputy Assistant to the President, Director of Presidential Speechwriting, Assistant to the President for Speechwriting and Policy Advisor. He is a graduate of Wheaton College. Read more...

Michael Gibson

Michael Gibson is the Founder and General Partner of the 1517 Fund, which invests in technology companies started by young founders, often those who bypass the traditional college path. Named after the year that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to a church door, and in recognition of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, the 1517 Fund operates on a thesis that we’re living in a similar age where “great social transformations (are) wrought by technology.” He was vice president for grants at the Thiel Foundation and a principal at Thiel Capital. For nearly five years working for Peter Thiel, Michael has contributed research to Peter’s global macro hedge fund, assisted in teaching a course at Stanford Law School on sovereignty and technological change, and helped run the Thiel Fellowship. He serves on the board of the Seasteading Institute. Before his academic apostasy, he was working towards a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Oxford. He has written on innovation and technology for MIT’s Technology Review, The Atlantic, and ForbesRead more...

Josh Good

Josh Good is the Director of the Faith Angle Forum, a program of the Ethics & Public Policy Center which helps mainstream journalists better understand religion in American culture and public life. Before joining EPPC in 2018, Josh served for three years as a director of the Kern Family Foundation’s Faith, Work, and Economics Program and, prior to that, as manager of the Values & Capitalism Initiative—a special outreach program to Christian colleges—at the American Enterprise Institute. Josh previously worked on responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage programs, and on a national public-private partnership that strengthened connections between African American congregations and businesses in serving ex-prisoners. His writing has appeared in National Review, World Magazine, The American, and The Federalist, and he holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Covenant College and a master’s degree in Christianity and culture from Harvard University.Read more...

Peter Greer

Peter Greer is President and CEO of HOPE International, a global Christ-centered microenterprise development organization serving throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Prior to joining HOPE, Peter worked as a microfinance advisor in Cambodia and Zimbabwe and as Managing Director of Urwego Community Bank in Rwanda. He is a graduate of Messiah College and received a master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Peter has co-authored over 10 books, including Mission Drift, which was selected as a 2015 Book Award Winner from Christianity Today. He is husband to Laurel and dad to three children. Read more...

Andy Gullahorn and Jill Phillips

Andy Gullahorn and Jill Phillips are musicians. They met on their first day of school at Belmont University in 1994. They started playing music together not long after that, and have been ever since. Together, they have made 16 records and three kids (ages 17, 14, and 11). Jill loves any show on BBC, cooking, and trying to figure out where the last name “Gullahorn” came from on Ancestry.com. Andy loves bowling, basketball, badminton, disc golf, burning Christmas trees, and pretty much anything that involves a healthy combination of competition and immaturity. Although they have made their living as traveling musicians for the past 20 years, they would say that their favorite and most important job is being good parents, neighbors, and friends in their immediate community. Read more...

Deborah Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma is President of BioLogos. She is a frequent speaker on science and Christian faith at universities, churches, and public venues like the National Press Club. Her work appears in several recent books, including Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Design and Christ and the Created Order. Her book Origins presents the agreements and disagreements among Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. She also co-edited the anthology Delight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church. Previously, Deborah served as professor and chair of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College. She is a research scientist, with several publications on galaxies and the universe. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Bethel University and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Read more...

Larry James

Larry James is the CEO of CitySquare, and has served in the organization’s leadership since 1994. CitySquare is a faith-based, human and community development corporation that battles the causes and effects of poverty through service, advocacy, and friendship. Larry has been involved in developing and implementing holistic, justice-focused approaches to congregational and community service and outreach throughout his career. Larry’s book, The Wealth of the Poor: How Valuing Every Neighbor Restores Hope in Our Cities, offers a memoir and commentary on his approach to urban community development. His second book, House Rules: Insights for Innovative Leaders, is a resource for leaders in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. He served as chair of former Mayor Tom Leppert’s Work Group on Housing, chair of Mayor Mike Rawlings’s Poverty Task Force, and co-chair with Mayor Rawlings of Neighbor Up’s Collective Impact Leadership Council that directs work in Southern Dallas as a part of the mayor’s GrowSouth initiative. In 2016, D Magazine named Larry one of the 500 most powerful business leaders in Dallas-Fort Worth. He is a member of the ministerial staff at Highland Park United Methodist Church. He is married to Brenda, and they have two daughters and four grandchildren. Read more...

Kurt Keilhacker

Kurt Keilhacker is a General Partner and Co-Founder of Elementum Ventures, an investment fund aimed at early-stage technology companies. He’s served as GM, CEO, or CFO of companies throughout Silicon Valley and around the world. With multi-billion-dollar exits and IPOs, Kurt has proven startup experience and he thrives on applying it to new and emerging markets. Before Elementum, Kurt founded and invested in more than 50 companies across the US and Europe through TechFund and TechFund Europe. In nonprofits, Kurt serves as the Board Chair of Praxis, and formerly, The Veritas Forum and Gordon College. He is a trustee at Wheaton College and serves on the Dean’s Council at Harvard Divinity School. He holds an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College, an MBA from the University of Chicago, an MLA from Stanford, and an MTS from Harvard.Read more...

Tom Lin

Tom Lin is the CEO of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and serves on the boards of the Crowell Trust, Fuller Theological Seminary, and the Lausanne Movement. In previous roles, Tom has worked at Fortune 500 companies, pioneered an evangelical student movement in Mongolia, directed the Urbana Student Missions Conference, and served as Vice-Chair of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Tom is also the author of Pursuing God’s Call and Losing Face, Finding Grace and contributing author to Still Evangelical? He has a B.A. in economics from Harvard University, and holds an M.A. in global leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. Tom, his wife Nancy, and their two daughters live in Madison, WI.Read more...

Sally Lloyd-Jones

Sally is a New York Times best-selling author—and sometimes a performer. She is to blame for over 20 books, including The Jesus Storybook Bible, an American Library Association Notable and Platinum Book which has sold over 2.5 million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages. Born in Kampala, Uganda, raised in East and West Africa and at a boarding school in the New Forest, England, Sally moved to America in 1989 and lives in Manhattan. She enjoys dividing her time between the front half of her apartment and the back. Read more...

Julius Mbeya

Julius Mbeya is the Managing Director of Lwala Community Alliance, where he works with communities in Kenya to catalyze their own change through innovative programming that is moving to scale. Prior to Lwala, he worked with MS ActionAid Denmark as an advisor offering capacity development across the world. He also worked for the United Nations Development Programme in Kenya and for the World Bank-funded Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project. The author of several books and articles, Julius has an MA in political science and public administration from the University of Nairobi, a post-graduate diploma in healthcare management from the Kenya Institute of Management, and a post-graduate diploma in peacebuilding and conflict resolution from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Read more...

Linda McCarty

Rev. Linda L. McCarty is President and CEO of Faith In Practice, an ecumenical Christian nonprofit serving in Guatemala. Taking an integrated approach to healthcare in the short-term mission setting, about 1,300 U.S. and 1,000 Guatemalan volunteers serve 30,000 patients annually through Faith In Practice. Healthcare ranges from complex orthopedic surgeries to general medical visits, all while sharing God’s love. Faith In Practice leverages partnerships to provide efficient and effective care, receiving a Charity Navigator four-star rating for 14 consecutive years, placing in the top 1% of all nonprofits. Linda is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and worked as an attorney, graduating from the University of Chicago Divinity School and DePaul University College of Law. Linda is motivated by a strong sense of call, recognizing that as we bring healing in Jesus’s name, we ourselves are healed. Read more...

Alister McGrath

Alister McGrath is Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University. A former atheist, he has a special interest in Christian apologetics, especially the work of C. S. Lewis, and the relation of science and faith. He is also an ordained minister in the Church of England, and preaches regularly in village churches and Oxford college chapels. He has published extensively, including an award-winning biography of C.S. Lewis, and an international bestseller criticizing the “New Atheism” of Richard Dawkins. Alister has doctorate degrees in molecular biophysics, theology, and intellectual history. He is married, with two grown children, and resides in a market town in the beautiful area of the Cotswolds, not far from Oxford. Read more...

Maritza Perez

Maritza Santiago Perez is a real estate agent and serves as a director on the Waco Association of Realtors Board. She is also on the board of Mission Waco / Mission World. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Maritza previously worked as a clinic administrator and director of a Federal Rural Health Initiative Project, where she met her future husband, Rafael. After moving to Waco in 1998, she was a homemaker for 15 years before entering the real estate industry. She obtained a BA in business administration from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaquez Campus.

Read more...

Kirsten Powers

Kirsten Powers is an author, USA Today columnist, and CNN political analyst where she regularly appears on Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, and The Lead with Jake Tapper.  Prior to CNN, Kirsten was a political analyst at Fox News. Before her career in journalism, Kirsten was a political appointee in the Clinton Administration, from 1993-1998, where she last served as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public Affairs. She later worked in New York state and city Democratic politics, including serving as press secretary for Andrew Cuomo’s 2002 governor’s race and as a consultant to the New York State Democratic Committee. She was also Vice President for International Communications at America Online, where she was responsible for day-to-day communications of AOL’s international businesses and oversaw the public launches of AOL in Brazil, Argentina, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Australia. Read more...

Byron Sanders

Byron Sanders is President and CEO of Big Thought, a creative learning enterprise equipping youth of all ages to thrive in a 21st century world. A Presidential Leadership Scholar, he believes deeply in the power of youth agency to change the world and our responsibility to build systems that value it. Previously, he was Vice President and Institutional Client Advisor for U.S. Trust where he advised nonprofit institutions on investment management strategy. He has also served as Executive Director of the Dallas Education Foundation. Byron serves on the board of CitySquare, in addition to the United Way’s Community Impact Council (Dallas), Social Venture Partners Dallas, and The ChildCareGroup. He is a graduate of the University of Tulsa with a B.A. in business administration and marketing, and he and his wife live with their two young children in the Dallas area.Read more...

Shannon Sedgwick Davis

Shannon Sedgwick Davis is the CEO of Bridgeway Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to ending and preventing mass atrocities around the world, and the author of To Stop A Warlord. As an attorney, activist, and passionate advocate for social justice, she has guided Bridgeway Foundation in pioneering solutions to seemingly intractable issues around the world. Shannon and the Bridgeway Foundation have been credited for their pivotal role in mobilizing awareness, civilian protection, and recovery efforts against the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, the first-ever indictee of the International Criminal Court. Before joining Bridgeway Foundation in 2007, she served as Vice President of Geneva Global and was the Director of Public Affairs at the International Justice Mission. Shannon is an honors graduate of McMurry University and Baylor Law School. She currently serves on the advisory council of the Elders and is a board member of several organizations, including Humanity United, charity: water, This Bar Saves Lives, Verdant Frontiers, Virunga Fund Inc., and formerly, TOMS LLC. Read more...

Anne Snyder

Anne Snyder is the Editor-in-Chief of Comment Magazine and the author of The Fabric of Character: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Renewing our Social and Moral Landscape. Since 2016 she has directed The Philanthropy Roundtable‘s Character Initiative, a program that seeks to help American foundations and business leaders strengthen “the middle ring” of morally formative institutions. She is also a Senior Fellow at The Trinity Forum and a Fellow at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, a Houston-based think tank that explores how cities can drive opportunity for the bulk of their citizens. From 2014 to 2017 Anne worked for Laity Lodge and the H.E. Butt Family Foundation in Texas, and before that she worked at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, World Affairs Journal and The New York Times. She holds an MA from Georgetown University and a BA  from Wheaton College. Anne serves as a trustee for the Center for Public Justice, and has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, City Journal, Philanthropy Magazine and elsewhere.

Read more...

John Townsend

Dr. John Townsend is a New York Times bestselling author, leadership consultant and psychologist. He has written more than 30 books, selling 10 million copies, including the Boundaries series and his newest books, Leading From Your Gut and People Fuel. John personally coaches families and family businesses. He founded the Townsend Leadership Group, which develops leaders nationwide, with a team of partners that he trained. John founded the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University Irvine, offering online graduate degrees in leadership, coaching, and counseling. A resident of Newport Beach, John and his wife Barbi have two adult sons. One of John’s hobbies is playing in Southern California venues with his and his sons’ band, The Bandits. Read more...