BJC announces 2023 class of BJC Fellows

This is the eighth class of BJC Fellows, and the total number of faith freedom leaders named as BJC Fellows now stands at 78.

Aug 17, 2023

Media Contact: Karlee Marshall / [email protected] 


WILLIAMSBURG, VA – BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) is pleased to announce the 2023 class of BJC Fellows, our latest cohort of young professionals who are rising to new challenges and defending faith freedom for all in their communities. The BJC Fellows come from diverse theological, educational and geographic backgrounds, and they are united in their call to defend this foundational American ideal.

The BJC Fellows completed an intensive training seminar over five days in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, to equip them for advocacy to protect religious freedom. BJC staff and other legal and theological experts, plus Colonial Williamsburg’s own historic interpreters, provided a rapid education in the historical, legal and theological underpinnings of religious liberty during the seminar. 

“BJC’s efforts in training and equipping the next generation of religious liberty advocates have never been more important. This year’s class of BJC Fellows cultivated a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities that exist in the religious freedom legal landscape, all through a social justice lens,” said Dr. Sabrina E. Dent, director of the BJC Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation, which serves as the home of the BJC Fellows Program.As a member of the 2015 inaugural class of the BJC Fellows, I am honored to now lead this program. We have an incredible and energetic group of leaders in this year’s class, and we are looking forward to seeing the great and critical work they will continue to do in their own communities across the country to advance faith freedom for all.”

This is the eighth class of BJC Fellows since the program began in 2015, and the total number of faith freedom leaders named as BJC Fellows now stands at 78. 

The BJC Fellows are available for interview requests. You can access individual and group photos of the 2023 class of BJC Fellows here. All photos can be credited as “Courtesy of BJC.” 

Here are the members of the class of 2023 BJC Fellows:

  • Dr. Mehmet Saracoglu (Fairfax, Va.)
    Dr. Mehmet Saracoglu serves as the director of the Center for Faith, Identity, and Globalization at the Rumi Forum. A graduate of Istanbul Technical University and the University of Kentucky, Mehmet has been active in the interfaith dialogue and intercultural understanding space for the last 20 years.

  • Kari O’Brien Baumann (Greensboro, N.C.)
    Kari O’Brien Baumann is the pastor to children and families at College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C., and a recent graduate of Wake Forest University School of Divinity. A former school librarian, Kari enjoys bringing literature, especially picture books, into faith education. She lives in Greensboro with her husband Mike, a public school teacher, and her son Atticus, a middle school student.
  • Natalie Copeland (St. Cloud, Minn.)
    Natalie Copeland is the founder and executive director of Unite Cloud, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing social justice in central Minnesota. She is also a trainer with the CARE (Community Anti-Racism Education) team at St. Cloud State University and a member of the St. Cloud Area School Board. Natalie is available as a consultant and facilitator in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, hosting workshops such as “Dismantling White Saviorism” and “Anti Racism Personal and Professional: Doing Our Own Work.”
  • Maggie Clark (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
    Maggie Clark serves as an adjunct philosophy professor at Vance-Granville Community College and is a student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Edinburgh, Maggie has a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy with a concentration in Politics and Economics, and a master’s degree in Philosophy.
  • Rev. Don Abram (Chicago, Ill.)
    The Rev. Don Abram is the founder and president of Pride in the Pews, a nonprofit building bridges and creating solutions that empower Black LGBTQ+ communities to thrive in the church and beyond. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Don has strategically recruited Black congregations, trained ministers, created data-collecting mechanisms, and analyzed engagement strategies to maximize impact, equipping more than 100 community leaders with new ways to advocate for their communities and create LGBTQ+ affirming stories.
  • Rev. Hannah Phillips Mollenkamp (Evanston, Ill.)
    The Rev. Hannah Phillips Mollenkamp is the associate pastor over youth, family, and young adult ministries at Sycamore United Methodist Church in Sycamore, Ill.. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and dual degrees in English Literature and German from the University of North Texas. A musician, writer and published poet, Hannah is passionate about helping others embrace their own creativity, both as a spiritual practice and as a means of social change.
  • Abigail Villagrana (Waco, Texas)
    Abigail Villagrana is a Master of Divinity student at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. A graduate of Dallas Baptist University, she currently serves as a resident chaplain in one of Baylor University’s residence halls and serves as a volunteer chaplain for asylum seekers at the Naomi House operated by DaySpring Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.
  • Amethyst Holmes (Washington, D.C.)
    Amethyst Holmes is an Ethical Leadership & Racial Justice Fellow at the Howard University School of Divinity. She holds a B.A. in journalism from the University of Alabama, and she has experience as a reporter and nonprofit communications leader.  Her work has been featured in Christianity Today, Interfaith America Magazine and Religion News Service.
  • Rev. Rachel Baltimore (Lorton, Va.)
    The Rev. Rachel K. Baltimore is the assistant pastor of the International Community Baptist Church in Chantilly, Va., and serves under the leadership of the senior pastor, Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore. Rachel was ordained in December 2022 and has served on the CAB Outreach International Ministries, Inc. Missionary Team since age 17. She was recently appointed a Missional Leader and is currently the executive secretary of the Ecumenical Global Mission Alliance (Mission Reformation). A Life Member of the Northern Virginia Baptist Association Women’s Ministry, Rachel serves as the co-chair of the Helen B. Webb Scholarship committee.
  • Minister Bobbie Newell, Jr. (Richmond, Va.)
    Minister Bobbie Charles Newell Jr., is a 2021 magna cum laude graduate of Virginia Union University, where he majored in criminal justice. He hails from the “World’s Borough,” Queens, N.Y. Bobbie previously served as the 86th Student Government Association President at Virginia Union as well as the 2nd Vice President for the Virginia Association of Chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha. He is a student  at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology of Virginia Union University. Bobbie currently serves as the youth pastor at Cedar Street Baptist Church under the leadership of the senior pastor, Dr. Anthony M. Chandler. 

    BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) is an 87-year-old religiously based organization working to defend faith freedom for all and protect the institutional separation of church and state in the historic Baptist tradition.