disciples Leadership

  • Néstor Gómez

    Rev. Dr. Néstor Gómez serves as Lead Pastor of The First Congregational Church in Stamford CT. He has served in both Spanish and English-speaking churches, at various times as associate pastor and lead pastor in the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He has been active in Regional Church activities working in the New Congregation Nurturing Team. Néstor serves as a Second vice moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), member of the Division of Overseas Ministries Board of Directors and representative of Common Global Ministries Board, and board member of the National Council of Churches. Néstor has a PhD in Religion and Social Change and postgraduate studies at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey. He has been an affiliate faculty at Universidad Bautista, Regis University, Columbia College and Claremont School of Theology. Teaching is one of his passions! In his free time, Néstor enjoys reading, walking, traveling and listening to music.

  • Nina Merkle Nestlerode

    Rev. Nina Merkle Nestlerode is Lead Pastor of Good Shepherd Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Madedonia, OH (outside of Cleveland & Akron). Nina is married to a DOC ordained clergy, Rev. Dr. Glenn Nestlerode. Together, they have served as Co-Senior Pastors (sharing a 1.5 full time position) at both First Christian Church of Ponca City, OK and Canton, IL. She was also the Interim Senior Pastor at All Pilgrims Christian Church (DOC/UCC) in Seattle, Washington for two years, after serving in her first call as Associate Pastor at First Christian Church Orange, CA for four years. Nina is the joyful mother of both a middle-school son, Gabriel, and an adult step-daughter, Elizabeth She is also a second career pastor, having worked for Cheveron Corporation in San Francisco for 8 years as Senior Financial Analyst. She holds a degree in Business from University of Oregon and a Master of Divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion. She is a former board member and alum of both Disciples Seminary Foundation and Bethany Fellows. Nina strongly supports the prayerful community and modeling of Bethany Fellows and has continued to seek retreats with co-alums to nurture this sacred time in her own ministry.

  • Darren Phelps

    Rev. Dr. Darren W. Phelps grew up in Queens, NY. He is well known as a community activist, educator, and a nonprofit senior executive. Darren is a much sought after conference speaker, mentor, lecturer, and preacher. His career spans 30 years. He is ordained clergy in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination. Currently, he serves on the boards of the National Convocation, and on the The National Benevolent Association (NBA) where he serves as the Vice Chair. Darren has served churches in Virginia, Washington DC, and Florida. A graduate of Virginia State University and United Theological Seminary. He has two daughters and five grandchildren. Darren spends his free time traveling, watching cartoons, and exploring new foods and customs. He published his first book in 2021 titled: The Misunderstood Journey: A story of staring down trauma, loss, and disappointment to live in health, wholeness, and joy.

  • David Shirey

    Rev. David Shirey is Senior Minister of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lexington, KY. He also served congregations in Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina, and Indiana. From 2002-2014 he served as founding pastor of Coolwater Christian Church in Scottsdale, AZ. David and Jennie have three children: Will, Betsy, and Laura, a daughter-in-law, Kassie, and two grandchildren, Hayden and Blair. His hobbies include running, hiking, and writing.  


    Born and raised in Warren, Ohio, David received his undergraduate degree in Religious Studies from Indiana University and his Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School. 

  • JEnn Simmons

    Rev. Jenn Simmons (she/her/hers) serves as the Lead Pastor at National Avenue Christian Church in Springfield, MO. In pastoral work, she serves alongside an incredible staff to curate space for people to experience the sacred and pursue the work of justice. Serving at NACC, she has been called to do anti-racist work and deepen community relationships. She is a Bethany Fellows Alum. National Avenue Christian Church is currently enrolled in the Bethany Fellows Congregational Project. Rev. Simmons and congregation appreciate the work of the Fellows to build and invest in sacred community.

    In addition to getting to share in a family with two really great kiddos, Jenn loves being outside, yoga and running.

  • Melanie Harrell Delaney

    Rev. Melanie Harrell Delaney now serves as Co-Director/Pastor of Bethany Fellows after 10 years as the Lead Pastor of Good Shepherd Christian Church in Macedonia, Ohio. Melanie is a Bethany Fellows alum, and is grateful to be able to serve the Bethany Fellows which sustained and enriched not only her ministry, but the entire congregation as they grew.


    Melanie holds a degree in Sociology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Master of Divinity Degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN (where she is also a proud alum of the Disciples Divinity House.) She was ordained into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 2009.


    Melanie is married to Rev. Tyler Delaney (a chaplain for the Cleveland Clinic.) They have three school-age children, Olivia, Owen and Clayton, who keep them grounded and joyful.

  • Kim Gage Ryan

    Rev. Kim Gage Ryan serves as Co-Director/Pastor of Bethany Fellows— a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) ministry supporting young clergy in their first five years of ministry. Building on 25 years of congregational experience in Indiana and Missouri, she also consults with congregations to help expand their ministries to reach their goals and visions— specifically in the areas of Christian Education, Evangelism, Welcome and Hospitality and Spiritual Gifts Empowerment.


    She is an active member at Olivet Christian Church in Columbia, MO.


    Born and raised in Amarillo, TX, Kim graduated from Texas Tech University in 1980 and Brite Divinity School in 1984. She has two sons—Gage and Keller and one sweet grandson—Oliver.

  • Gary Straub

    Rev. Dr. Gary Straub brings strong congregational experience to Bethany Fellows. He has pastored three large congregations over 35 yrs and 12 interims since. He currently serves as a Bethany Mentor, Board Member and helps pastors navigate compensation negotiations.


    Straub has authored 4 titles for Chalice Press, including “Your Calling as an Elder” and “Tactful Advice on finding your Next Pastor.”


    Educated with a BA from Ozark Bible College, a Masters and Doctorate in Pastoral Psychology from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a Masters of Theology from Princeton Seminary, Straub is also certified as a Spiritual Director through work at Shalem Institute and credentialed as a Valwood Leadership Coach.


    Married to a Psychiatric Nurse in private practice, Geneva and Gary celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They enjoy living in Louisville KY with 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren. They are active members of Beargrass Christian Church in St. Matthews

  • Rob Crawford  (current leave of absence)

    Rev. Dr. Robert E. Crawford is the senior minister at Southern Hills Christian Church in Edmond, OK. Rob holds a B.A. from Phillips University, as well as an M.Div. and a D.Min. from Phillips Theological Seminary. Rob is a Bethany Fellow alum and said “yes” to being a Bethany leader because he believes the Bethany circle is a safe place for clergy to be loved, affirmed, and challenged.  Rob became an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Dec. 31st, 2000, serving several congregations in the Oklahoma region since.


    Rob’s ministry has focused on the importance of Disciples identity and inclusion.  Working to develop ecumenical partnerships, as well as advocating for peace and social justice issues are Rob’s passions. Rob was a Disciples Peace Fellowship Intern in 1998, later served on their board, and was privileged to serve as their moderator for part of that time. His Doctoral work has informed his belief that relationship is more important than ‘being right,’ and that when it comes to prayer, presence is more important than words. Rob tries to teach and practice the understanding that 'listening is prayer'.  He strongly believes that sabbath-keeping, which is part of the ethos developed with the Bethany Fellowship, is critical for the holistic health of any clergy person committed to a lifelong call in ministry.