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Gary Burns

Gary has served as the director of the communication and native ministries departments for the Lake Union conference since 2003. He is also the editor of the Lake Union Herald, and prayer ministry coordinator. He is a graduate of Columbia Union College, and received his Master's degree in Religious Education from Andrews University in 1997.

Gary was one of the first broadcast Television health news reporters in 1978 with the Alive & Well evening news segment on WKEF, an NBC affiliate in Dayton, Ohio. He also launched two educational segments, “Stay Well” and “Our Chemical World,” with the same station, while working as producer for KMC-TV, a health education network at Kettering Medical Center.

In 1980, he was recruited by Associated Medical Institutions to establish Life International Productions, a commercial television production company, advertising agency and recording studio in South Florida. Years of producing commercials, special events and syndicated programs took its toll on his spiritual health, and he resigned his position as CEO and left the world of media in 1984.

After taking an 18-month sabbatical, Gary entered full-time ministry in 1985, at the prompting of his mentor, Walter Wright. Gary's ministry, initiated and sustained by prayer, has focused on young people and their families as a pastor for the Ohio Conference in Hicksville, Bryan and Defiance, Ohio, receiving his practical pastoral training through Walter Wright in the Allegheny West Conference. In 1990 he was called to be youth pastor at Pioneer Memorial Church in Berrien Springs, Michigan. From 1995 through 2002, he served as pastor of the Dakota Adventist Academy Church; and coordinator for youth and young adult ministries, and camp director for the Dakota Conference.

Burns has served with the North American Division Prayer Ministries team, directing teen prayer conferences since 1995. He is a member of the National Prayer Committee, the Denominational Prayer Leaders Network, the Pastor's Prayer Network and is a representative to the annual National Day of Prayer event in Washington, D.C.

Burns has conducted a number of mission trips around the world, giving young people opportunities to serve the World Church by conducting evangelistic meetings, vacation Bible schools, presenting drug-free programs in high schools, and building churches, schools and orphanages. In addition, he recently co-founded the Shae Foundation, along with filmmaker Terry Benedict, to help people discover their creative gifts and use them to make a positive difference in the global community. He is actively involved in mentoring young people to that end.

Gary and his wife, Maryann (Wilson), live in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Their adult children are: Josie, Tyler, Ryan and Dario Coggins. 


Jon Corder

Jon Corder, is the associate treasurer for the Lake Union Conference, joining our Lake Union team in May of 2016. Prior to his coming to the Lake Union, Corder has served as the North Pacific Union Conference Association treasurer since 2011.
Corder has been active in church financial leadership for several decades. At the North Pacific Union Conference Association he was responsible for the revolving fund, Charitable Gift Annuity and Trust programs, as well as directing the yearly audit process for all association funds.

He began his career at Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif. For nearly a decade, he served in such roles as assistant chief accountant, director of student finance and controller. In 1987, he moved his family to Spokane, Wash., to begin work at the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC), where he was under-treasurer until 1997. He then served as Upper Columbia Academy vice-principal for finance for two years before returning to the UCC as vice-president for finance, a position he held for nearly nine years. He then served for three years in that role for the Oregon Conference before joining the North Pacific Union as association treasurer.

Corder brings not only his Master of Business Administration expertise to this new Lake Union role, but also more than three decades of church financial experience. His wife, Cheri, has worked with the Oregon Conference as departmental director for Women, Families, Health and Adventist Community Services ministries. The Corders have two adult children. 

Linda Fuchs

Linda Fuchs is the Education Superintendent for the Lake Union Conference. Fuchs began her classroom teaching experience in 1976, at the Pontiac Junior Academy, grades 3rd - 6th after completing her B.S. degree in Elementary Education at Atlantic Union College, South Lancaster, MA, and went on to complete her M.A. Degree in Educational Leadership at Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, in 1979. She has also taught in two one-room schools at Farmington SDA Elementary in Farmington Hills, MI, and Camden SDA School in Camden, ME, and enjoyed the home school experience teaching her son 3rd grade.

Fuchs taught for seven years at Adelphian Junior Academy, Holly, MI, and eight years at Ruth Murdoch Elementary school, Berrien Springs, MI. From 1999-2015 she was a supervising instructor and contract instructor for the Department of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum at Andrews University. She comes to the Lake Union having served as Superintendent for the Michigan Conference from July 2003 to October 2015.  

Randy Griffin

Randy Griffin, D.D.S., began full-time employment as director of the Lake Union Adventist Community Health Initiative on January 15, 2015. 

Randy was a pastor's kid whose parents served as missionaries in Brazil and Uruguay before returning to the States to pastorates in Texas and Arkansas. Griffin earned a bachelor of arts in biology at Southwestern Adventist University in 1990 and, in 1994, earned the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Indiana University School of Dentistry.

He practiced dentistry from 1994–2012, and opened a private practice in 1996, in which he managed all aspects of the business. In addition to servicing fee-for-service patients, Randy also provided dental services for lower income/needy patients for a reduced rate or charged no fees. Since 2011, Randy also has volunteered as a consulting dentist at Hope Clinic in Cicero, a clinic for low-income individuals, and has been instrumental in the coordination of dental volunteers and supplies.

From January 2013 through November 2014, Randy served as nighttime program director for the Forever Faithful International Pathfinder Camporee, held August 12–17, 2014, in Oshkosh, Wis. Approximately 47,000 Pathfinders attended the event.

Since 2003, Randy also has participated in various overseas mission trips, including destinations such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Nepal, St. Lucia, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Ecuador and Fiji. He donated his dental services and supplies on many of these trips, and also participated in evangelism initiatives. Griffin co-presented a nightly evangelistic series in Pradesh, India, in 2006.

Randy and his wife Kathy (Brewer) Griffin have been married 25 years. Kathy is an English teacher and director of development and recruiting at Indiana Academy in Cicero. The Griffins have three sons: Mitchell, Nick and Gabe. 

Ruth Horton

In 2015, Ruth Horton was invited to serve as associate director of education of the Lake Union Conference. From the early age of 17 to today, Ruth has nurtured a life-long career in education. Her drive for learning drew her away from the scenic island of Dominica, where she was born and grew up, to hone the skills and transformative practices she would need as a teacher and educational leader.

As an educator in both public and parochial schools, at the elementary through university levels, Ruth has embraced the truth that “knowledge of God is the foundation of all right education” Counsels to Teachers, p. 422. As such, Ruth has served in the East Caribbean Conference, beginning in 1977, and subsequently in the Michigan, Illinois, Lake Region conferences, then back to Illinois, as teacher and administrator. She has also served as a public school teacher and administrator both in Michigan and Illinois.

In 2007, Ruth accepted the call to serve as Educational Superintendent of the Lake Region Conference, and in 2011, she returned to the Illinois Conference to serve as Educational Superintendent.

A speaker/presenter, Ruth frequently speaks at churches and conducts workshops, including in education, personal ministries and women’s ministries. She also presents at conferences and conventions.

Ruth holds a B.A. and M.A. from Andrews University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from National-Louis University. She is married to Michael Horton, ministerial director of the Lake Region Conference and pastor of the Emmanuel SDA Church in Chicago Heights, Illinois. They have three sons: Michael, Elijah and Isaiah.

Ruth enjoys her family, gardening, reading, learning and consulting. She relishes the work of education and desires to follow God’s leading in her work and for her life.  


Carmelo Mercado

Carmelo Mercado was born and raised in the Catholic faith in New York City to parents who originally were from Puerto Rico. In 1965, his mother discovered and was baptized into the Adventist faith, and then led her family to begin to study the Bible as well. Three years later, Carmelo made his decision to be baptized into the Adventist faith.

In 1971, he came to Andrews University to begin his pre-med studies. In 1974, he decided to take a year off from his studies and go to Bolivia as a student missionary to pastor a small church in the Beni province. There he felt the call of God to become a minister instead of a physician. He graduated from Andrews in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, and that same fall enrolled in the Master of Divinity program, from which he graduated in 1979.

Carmelo began pastoring in the Indiana Conference, in Hammond, Indiana. In 1980, he received from It Is Written a request for Bible information from a family who lived in East Chicago, Indiana. He gave the family Bible studies and baptized the mother, father and their daughter, Rosanne, in the Adventist faith. In 1986, he married Rosanne, who currently works as an occupational therapist at St. Joseph hospital in South Bend, Indiana.

Carmelo had the opportunity to serve his entire pastoral ministry in Indiana, serving in cities like Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, Richmond, Connersville, New Castle, Indianapolis, Brownsburg, Martinsville and Fort Wayne. He also served as Hispanic coordinator for the Indiana Conference for five years, and also served as NET '98 Hispanic coordinator in 1998.

Carmelo has served in his current role as general vice president for 11 years. He is also Multicultural Ministries director for the Lake Union and secretary for the Adventist-laymen's Services & Industries (ASI) Lake Union chapter. 


Debbie Michel

Debbie Michel is the Asssociate Director of Communication and Managing Editor of the Lake Union Herald. She received her Master of Science degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York, New York, in 1994 and her Bachelor of Science degree in TV & Radio; Journalism concentration from Brooklyn College at City University in 1991. Michel began her professional career in 1990, as a media buyer, then became an associate literary agent in 1992, and then in 1995, she became a news associate for Dateline NBC and Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, New York, New York. In 1996 she became the Associate Producer/Producer for Dateline NBC, where she also produced news segments and documentaries for clients such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Good Housekeeping magazine; produced MSNBC Headliners and Legends documentaries, booked high-profile newsmakers for exclusive interviews, field produced breaking news stories and shot digital video. It was through her association with Jean-Ires Michel, a Seventh-day Adventist videographer, that she became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In 2008, Debbie joined the faculty of Andrews University as associate professor of communication where she taught Journalism and communication, assisted with development of a new major curriculum, served as advisor to journalism students and developed Envision, a student-created and produced magazine, of which Debbie was the Editor-in-Chief.

Debbie and Jean-Ires have one daughter, Christiana.  


Nicholas Miller

Nicholas Miller joined our Lake Union team in 2016 serving as our Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director and legal counsel while continuing to serve as associate professor of Church History at the Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University.

Miller received his Bachelor’s degree in 1989 from Pacific Union College, Angwin, Calif., where he was the Student Association president; National Merit Scholar and Taft Law Scholar. Prior to attending PUC, he studied at Newbold College, Bracknell, England, where he was editor of the student paper, The Prism. He was in the top 10 percent of his class at Columbia University School of law, New York, New York, where he received his JD in 1992, was a Stone Scholar and served on the Board of Editors, Columbia Law Review. He also served as president of the local chapter of the Christian Legal Society. Miller went on to get his Masters degree and PhD in 2010 from the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, in Religious and legal history from the Reformation to present, with a focus on Western Europe and North America church/state developments.

Miller served on the Council on Religious Freedom, Rockville, Maryland, from 1997 to 2000 as Executive Director and Attorney. He appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Mitchell v. Helms; and authored and contributed to a number of other Supreme Court briefs in addition to a broad spectrum of work in the area of religious freedom.

In addition to a number of scholarly publications, Miller has written two books: The Religious Roots of the First Amendment: Dissenting Protestants and the Separation of Church and State, Oxford University Press, 20 12, and General Editor and contributor to Homosexuality, Marriage, and the Church: Biblical, Counseling, and Religious Liber ty Issues, Andrews University Press, 2012.  

Steve Poenitz

Steve Poenitz hails originally from Ft. Worth, Texas. At seven years of age an elementary school teacher affirmed his calling to ministry by preparing him to preach a 12-minute sermon at the Texas Camp Meeting on the Second Coming of Jesus. He credits a dorm roommate at Chisholm Trail Academy with modeling the importance of a daily relationship with Jesus. After a student missionary stint at Bangkok, Thailand, and graduation from Southwestern Adventist University, he began pastoring the New Jersey Conference where he was ordained in 1980.


Later, he pastored in Kansas City, KS; Grants Pass, OR; Napa, CA; and Greeneville, TN. In 2008 he was called to serve as Ministerial Secretary in the Indiana Conference, and later in 2015 he was invited to serve as their president. He now serves as Executive Secretary and Ministerial Director of the Lake Union Conference.


Having completed his MDiv and DMin studies, he covets the life-long learning model touted by his professor’s colleagues at Andrews University. He appreciates the mentor and mentee opportunities with colleagues in ministry. It’s been an added blessing for Steve to partner with his wife, Erney, in ministry.


Sean Parker

Sean Parker was born in upstate New York and raised in Vermont. He attended Adventist schools from third grade through college. Parker received a B.S. in Computer Science from Atlantic Union College in 1992. Recently, he completed an M.S. in Computer Science from Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts.

Parker worked for 12 years for his alma mater, Atlantic Union College, and held various positions including programmer, network administrator and director of information technology. In Fall 2004, he joined the Lake Union Conference Information Systems (LUCIS) development team and was the associate director until named director on October 7, 2010. 

Parker has been married to Eva (Bleuer) Parker for 18 years. They have one daughter and two sons. 


Glynn C.W. Scott

Glynn C.W. Scott has served in the Lake Union Conference since 2000 as associate treasurer and then as treasurer from 2003 to the present time. Prior to serving in the Lake Union, Glynn was secretary/treasurer for the Bermuda Conference from 1997 to 1998 and treasurer for 1999. Prior to the Bermuda Conference, Glynn served as an auditor for Coopers & Lybrand, Price Waterhouse and financial analysis for Fidelity Investments (Boston).

Glynn holds a B.S. in Accounting and Business Administration from Atlantic Union College. He is married to Donna-Mae (Young) Scott, and they have two boys, Glenn Jr. and Clifton. 


Maurice Valentine

Maurice R. Valentine II, joined our Lake Union team as executive secretary on Nov. 15, 2015. Today, Valentine serves as the Lake Union president. He is married to Sharon (Livingston) Valentine. They come to us from the Mid-America Union where Maurice has served as president of the Central States Conference since 2012. From 2011-2012, he served as vice-president for administration (executive secretary) for the Mid-America Union. He also served as the union ministerial director from 2006-2012.

Before serving at the union, Valentine was assistant to the president in the Central States Conference where he began his pastoral ministry in 1985. During the next 28 years, he pastored a dozen churches in Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska.

Maurice received a B.A. degree in theology and an A.S. degree in communications from Oakwood University in 1985. He completed his Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University in 1992.

Maurice brings many gifts, talents and productive years of experience to the Lake Union. His experiences include serving on institutional boards, ministry advisories, strategic plan development, evangelism strategies and pastoral development. He has conducted a number of workshops and forums, served as guest professor and presenter at Union College, provided assistance for health systems in assessing missional outreach, to mention a few. “I support nurture and mission as the chief objectives of the church by assisting, resourcing, and connecting church leaders through the development of collaborative ministry networks which in turn foment the growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by enhancing discipleship at all levels,” says Valentine. The Valentines enjoy taking walks in nature and listening to Christian music of all genres. 


Ron Whitehead

w/pathfinder uniform

Ron Whitehead has served in four North American Division (NAD) Union Headquarters as a local pastor, conference youth director and church ministries director. He also served the NAD as associate youth director and led five International Pathfinder Camporees. Whitehead currently serves Kingdom-building efforts in the following ways: Assistant to the President of Andrews University for Spiritual Life, Executive Director for the Center for Youth Evangelism, Assistant Professor for Youth Ministry, Lake Union Conference Youth Ministries Coordinator.

Ron is married to Betty Lou (Becker) Whitehead. Together they have three adult children: Stacy, Heidi and Ryan.

Whitehead's hobbies include, but are not limited to, antique and classic cars, tournament ski boats, Christian drama like Passion plays, large events and business/ministry "investments."

His favorite Bible text is John 14:1-3 because it reminds him not to "sweat the small stuff" because we are all just passing through, and that soon he will be together with those he loves.