United Methodist Association of Communicators

Connecting with colleagues. Sharing our story with the world.

Communicators of the Year

2016 Communicator of the Year – Mark Doyal


Mark Doyal is the director of communications in the Michigan Area, which encompasses the soon-to-merge Detroit and West Michigan conferences. He comes to communications ministry after years of running an advertising agency.

He “brings a non-anxious presence, wisdom and guidance that has been described as invaluable,” said the Rev. Arthur McClanahan, Iowa Conference’s director of communications and 2013 Communicator of the Year.

He is someone who makes the extra effort to tell the church’s story, McClanahan said, recalling how his friend once stuck his neck and head out of a moving car to capture important video.

Doyal has guided church leaders in communicating about crises, whether they are the church’s response to environmental disaster or all-too-human controversy. He also has helped conferences move toward unification and helped Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey make the difficult announcement that she planned to retire because of health concerns

“I can’t recount all the many ways he has helped this area,” Kiesey said. “He is a great gift to me personally, to the area, and to The United Methodist Church.”


2014 Co-Communicators of the Year – Phileas Jusu and Julu Swen

Phileas Jusu, communicator for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, and Julu Swen, editor and publisher of West African Writers, an online publication about United Methodist happenings in West Africa, were named Communicators of the Year by the United Methodist Association of Communicators Oct. 25, 2014, in Savannah, Ga.

Swen also assists the denomination in Liberia with coverage for United Methodist Communications.

Vicki Brown, news editor for United Methodist News Service, praised their coverage of the outbreak that has now claimed nearly 5,000 lives, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“Phileas and Julu are brave men,” Brown told UMAC members. “When they travel to cover the church’s anti-Ebola efforts, they increase their chances of being exposed to a virus that claims the lives of 7 out of 10 people who get it.”

Jusu’s writing career began in 1996 after rebel soldiers invaded the campus of Njala University College during the 1991-2002 civil war. Jusu, who had been writing for a tabloid, said he stayed on to report on the war, the economy and politics because, “practically speaking, I did not have many options.”

Swen worked for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia as an inquiry officer, conducting interviews with victims and perpetrators of Liberia’s civil war, which involved two conflicts that ended in 2003. He also researched issues related to the war, including controversial issues addressed by the commission.

Read the full story.

2013 Communicator of the Year – Rev. Arthur McClanahan

Rev. Arthur McClanahan, communications director for the Iowa Annual Conference, was named Communicator of the Year.

McClanahan has served as the director of communications in the Iowa Annual (regional) Conference since 2005. He is a frequent collaborator with United Methodist Communications, working with the agency team to cover eight General Conferences.

Read the story here.

Rev. Arthur McClanahan

2012 Communicators of the Year – Lisa Elliott Diehl and Kathryn Witte

Lisa Elliott Diehl, director of marketing and communications for the Kansas East and Kansas West Annual Conferences, and Kathryn Witte, director of communications, marketing and camping for the Nebraska Annual Conference, were named co-communicators of the year for 2012.

Read the story here.

Lisa Diehl and Kathryn Witte
Lisa Diehl & Kathryn Witte
UMNS photo by Kathleen Barry

2011 Communicator of the Year – Rev. Larry Hollon

The Rev. Larry Hollon, General Secretary, United Methodist Communications was named the 2011 UMAC Communicator of the Year.

(Read Oct. 21 UMNS story, Hollon named top communicator, by Kathy Noble.)


Rev. Larry Hollon

2010 Communicator of the Year – Mark Barden



 Mark Barden, Western North Carolina Annual Conference

At an Awards Gala on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010, the United Methodist Association of Communicators named Mark Barden, Director of Communications from the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, as its 2010 Communicator of the Year.

"The sheer quantity of work he produces, his creativity, his amazing array of skill sets – everything from finance and computer skills to photography, writing, video production and teaching – is nothing less than inspiring," said Marty Folsom, who nominated Barden. "Mark finds a way to use his entire being in his work and in his life."

Read the full story from United Methodist News Service.


Mark Barden

2009 Communicator of the Year – Robin Russell



Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter Managing Editor

The United Methodist Association of Communicators has named Robin Russell, Managing Editor of the United Methodist Reporter, as its 2009 Communicator of the Year. The award was announced at a gala on Thursday, Oct. 22, as part of UMAC’s annual gathering, held in Nashville this year.

Read the full story from the United Methodist Reporter.


Robin Russell 2009 Communicator of the Year

Robin Russell

2008 Communicator of the Year – Mike DuBose



 Mike Dubose, United Methodist News Service Staff Photographer

We are proud to announce Mike DuBose as 2008 Communicator of the Year. He is a photographer for United Methodist Communications, and has spent many years in ministry photographing the denomination at work in the world. He joined United Methodist Communications in 1995 after working for The Tennessean newspaper.


 Mike DuBose

Mike DuBose


 Past Communicators of the Year

2016   Mark Doyal
2014   Phileas Jusu and Julu Swen
2013   The Rev. Arthur McClanahan
2012   Lisa Elliott Diehl & Kathryn Witte
2011   Rev. Larry Hollon
2010   Mark Barden
2009   Robin Russell
2008   Mike DuBose
2007   Jane Dennis
2006   The Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston
2005   Dana E. Jones
2004   Dawn Hand
2003   Jacqueline E. Vaughan
2002   The Rev. Alvin J. Horton
2001   The Rev. Robert Robertson
2000   Alice Smith
1999   The Rev. Boyce Bowdon
1998   Rev. James (Jim) Skillington
1997   Shirley Struchen
1996   The Rev. Dan Gangler
1995   M. Garlinda Burton
1994   Betty Thompson
1993   Bettie W. Story
1992   Robert Lear
1991   Laura Okumu
1990   The Rev. Elizabeth Beams
1989   Tom McAnally
1998   Rich Peck
1987   The Rev. Judith L. Weidman