Executive Committee Biographies 2013-2016



World President

Rev. Sandy Boyce (Australia)

Sandy is a Deacon in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church , a city congregation in the heart of Adelaide. Sandy’s role is primarily focused on connecting church and community, and includes a focus on social justice, advocacy, reconciliation, music and the arts, a community garden, homelessness, and seminars and symposiums of community interest. Sandy is married to Geoff, Coordinating Chaplain at Flinders University and has three adult children, and two grandchildren.

“Hospitality has shaped ministry at Pilgrim Uniting Church, which includes how we understand partnering with and hosting community groups who use our facilities in the city. For instance, we partner with the SA Unions and government agencies to offer an annual memorial service for loved ones who have died at work, held on International Workers Memorial Day each year. The service provides meaningful rituals and ways to remember loved ones, acknowledging the grief and sorrow of families and friends for loved ones who have died, as well as holding hope for the future. We hold a similar memorial service for friends and families of those who have died while homeless, in partnership with Homelessness SA and other community and government agencies”

Doris Horn

DIAKONIA Region Asia-Pacific (DAP)

Regional President

Emma Cantor is a United Methodist Women’s Regional Missionary with Women, Children and Youth, assigned to the East Asia/Pacific region to facilitate gender training and leadership development.

A native of the Cagayan Valley, Philippines, Emma earned a BA degree in Christian Education from Harris Memorial College and an MA in Women and Religion and Feminist Theology from the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies with St. Scholasticas College in Manila.

Following completion of her BA degree, Emma worked with the United Methodist Church  as a fulltime deaconess doing Christian Education in a local church and teaching high school students at the Northern Philippines Academy. She was a coordinator for the Board of Discipleship for the Northern Philippines Annual Conference at the same time an Annual Youth Coordinator for several years. Then she was called to work with the Institute of Religion and Culture as a staff for five years doing administrative functions. After IRC, she moved to work with the Women’s Desk of the National Council of Churches for 11 years. As a staff, she helped women in vulnerable situations, women sex workers at the US bases and helped found Batis Center for Women, catering to Filipino women migrants in Japan. She was called back to work with the Phil. Central Conference  Board of Women’s Work as Executive Secretary. At the moment, Emma is appointed  by the Bishop of the UMC responding to the call of the United Methodist Women to work as a regional missionary doing international ministries with women, youth and children in the Asia Pacific.

Deaconess Emma A. Cantor (Philippines)

Emma Cantor

The Rev'd Dr Alison McRae (Deacon)
Alison is a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia.  
Member organisation is: Diakonia: Uniting Church in Australia (DUCA)
Alison serves as Vice-President of Asia-Pacific Region (DAP)

Short bio
Alison McRae is a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia. She was one of the first Deacons to be ordained in the Uniting Church following the formal renewal of the Diaconate in 1992. Alison has previously served as Alternate to President of DAP (elected at the 1992 World Assembly in Canada). She has attended World Assemblies in Canada, Australia, England, Germany.
Alison is familiar with much of the structure of WORLD Diakonia, has made visits to study diaconal ministry in various parts of the world (for example USA, Canada, Philippines, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland) and was involved in the formulation of guidelines for DAP in the early 1990’s. Her doctorate is in diaconal theology and is titled ‘De-Centred ministry: A Diaconal view of mission and church’.

Ministry story
Alison currently works as a Patrol Minister with Frontier Services, an agency of the Uniting Church in Australia that provides ministry to many of the most remote and isolated communities and people in the country. Her ministry area borders some of the most popular alpine ski fields of Australia and covers the remote mountainous region of the south eastern corner of Australia. In the small communities she serves she is involved in community development, pastoral visiting and worship leadership. She has previously served in Community Development and Outreach Ministry on the outskirts of Melbourne, and she has also served as Deacon Advisor at the Uniting Church Theological College in Melbourne, Victoria where she taught diaconal studies and was Acting Director of Field Education.

Rev. Dr. Alison McRae (Australia)

Alison McRae

DIAKONIA of the Americas and the Caribbean (DOTAC)

Regional President

Deaconess Lisa Scherzer Polito Lutheran Deaconess Association DOTAC Region; President of DOTAC; one of the vice-presidents of DIAKONIA

Consecrated in 1990, Lisa served as a chaplain with people with developmental disabilities. Since 2001, Lisa has been at the Lutheran Deaconess Association office in Valparaiso University. Lisa began attending DIAKONIA World Assemblies in 1996 in Friedrichroda, Germany. Lisa is married to Carmine Polito, a civil engineering professor at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind., USA. Find out more about the LDA at www.theLDA.org.

The mission of the LDA is to prepare and support women and men for ministries of service, and advance the church's diaconal mission. We also encourage and support all Christians' service and provide resources for you. The LDA is fortunate to have wise foremothers who say the importance of working within DIAKONIA and DOTAC, encouraging many of us to attend assemblies. In 2013 in Berlin, we were pleased to have over 30 people from our community in attendance, including three of our students. In February the students did a presentation on the importance of attending assemblies for the other students, encouraging them to begin planning for 2017.


Deaconess Lisa Polito (USA)

Lisa Polito

Rev'd Gillian Wilson.

I am an ordained deacon in the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA), and the Director of the Wesley Diaconal Community – MCCA - a member of DOTAC.
I was born in Guyana, South America.  My spirituality was nurtured and shaped by my grandmother and mother who even though poor in pocket were rich in hope. My mother’s mantra, “Education repays itself” and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” guided my formation.  It was sustained and strengthened by the church family in a little chapel – Kitty Methodist Church. 
I worked in accounts and finance (before offering for full time ministry), and after training, as a deacon in the Tobago Circuit of the South Caribbean District. I now live and work in Jamaica where I am permitted to serve an external organization, and have been employed as Librarian at the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI) since 2003. The UTCWI is a regional ecumenical college that prepares men and women for ministry. I am able to interact with students during their ministerial formation. 
In carrying out the functions of the Director, WDC I have the privilege of representing the community locally, regionally and internationally: reports of these events are relayed to the members of the community.  I am grateful for the exposure to the wider diaconal community and as a member of the executive of DIAKONIA World pledge to promote diaconal work and ministry throughout the MCCA.

P.S. My two sons, two daughters-in-law, and eight grand children reside in the United States of America.   

Gillian Wilson (Jamaica)

DIAKONIA Region Africa-Europe (DRAE)

Regional President

Rev Marianne Uri Øverland in Church of Norway (Evangelical-Lutheran)
President DIAKONIA-DRAE (Region Africa-Europe)

Marianne belongs to the diaconal fellowship at Lovisenberg in Oslo, Norway. She is forstanderinne (leading sister) but will leave the position at the end of June 2014.
From July 2014 she will be the director of a Church organisation (IKO) promoting Christian education and running a publishing house.
Marianne is married to Atle (Sommerfeldt), a bishop in the Church of Norway – Borg Diocese. They have one adult daughter.

The diaconal fellowship at Lovisenberg is the oldest one in Norway, founded in 1868. It was at the same time also the founding of the first school for nurses in the country.
For the deaconesses and the other sisters, it has always been very important that their service as health workers has been based on Christianity and that their consecration has been into the Church of Norway. Nowadays even deacons, pastors and missionaries are members of the fellowship.
Ora et labora – pray and work – are two important words in our service.

Rev. Marianne Uri Øverland (Norway)

Marianne Overland

UK, Ireland

Deacon Ann Wren - Secretary of The Diaconal Association of the Church of England (DACE) in UK representing Group 1 on DRAE Executive

Short bio
I was made a Deaconess in 1985 and ordained Deacon in Durham Cathedral in 1987 serving in an inner city parish in Gateshead, also acting as Bishop's Advisor for Women's Ministry. My husband Christopher is a priest and we moved to Blackpool in 1998, a seaside town with levels of high deprivation and
transience. As a parish deacon I do pastoral work and manage a Church School for
1,000 11-15 year old children. I am Diocesan Director for Adult Church Education
and a national trainer for Mothers' Union's Parenting Programme since 2002.

Ministry story
My first gifting was music and I served as a Church organist from my early
teens. Through music I met the Franciscan Community and was professed in the
Third Order in 1975. Being a Franciscan has shaped and inspired my spirituality
and ministry best described in Francis' own words,"Preach the gospel but only
use words if you have to.", himself being a deacon. Deacons in the UK are quite scattered serving in parishes, schools, hospitals and prisons, all work collaboratively with ordained and secular professionals to reach out to and transform people of the margins of society. I still sing and play and often find this creates a way to reach people in difficulty or pastoral need.

Deacon Ann Wren (United Kingdom)

Ann Wren

Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia Sr. Elly Urio (Tanzania)
Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda Deaconess Ibironke Oworu (Nigeria)
Kaiserswerther Verband (Germany), Austria, France, Hungary

Deaconess Ulrike Kellner

German Editor DIAKONIA News

My name is Ulrike Kellner and I live together with my husband in Munich, Germany. My two adult daughters live in the United States of America since many years. I belong to the Kaiserswerther Sisterhood, the first motherhouse Theodor Fliedner founded in 1836. I have a degree in theology and social management.

When I started working for the Kaiserswerth Sisterhood in 1996, I hardly knew anything about deaconesses at all. But very soon the sisters and their rich history fascinated me. It was a very exciting time, as the three sisterhoods under the umbrella of the motherhouse joined together, discussing in a three year process their new rule and their way into the future. The new rule allowed the sisters to be married and so I was among the first group to be consecrated into the new sisterhood. In 2001 I was asked to be the new DIAKONIA World Secretary and was appointed as such at the DIAKONIA World Assembly in Brisbane, Australia. It was an honor and a challenge to work for the international DIAKONIA family for 12 years. And I am very happy to continue as German Editor of the DIAKONIA.

Diakonisse Ulrike Kellner

Ulrike Kellner

Zehlendorfer Verband (Germany)

My name is Sabine Ritter. I am a consecrated diaconal sister from Hanover, Germany. I grew up in a small town in the former German Democratic Republic. In this town I went to school, and later I studied to become a nurse. After the fall of the wall I moved to Hanover and started to work in a Lutheran hospital and had my first contacts with my sisterhood.
After I joined the diaconal sisterhood I have worked as a nurse in different departments and educated in professional and spiritual ways.
For the past seven years I have mainly worked as a spokesperson for the sisterhood. In this ministry I can look after the nurses from their beginning in the community until they leave the sisterhood.
I support the professional and diaconal training in our own health and nursing school. Spiritual support and their counseling for all sisters are dear to my heart. I accompany the sisters in their ministry in the hospitals, in their time of being in a family and particularly our retired sisters. Organizing and the implementation of retreats, study tours, diaconal activities and services, projects, publicity and meetings and all the paperwork are a part of my duties.
An important task is the networking with other sisterhoods in the umbrella association. There are diaconal seminars for students and for sisters, occupation policy and the work for DIAKONIA. For the past four years I have been the Secretary of the DRAE region and enjoy learning about the manifold ways of diakonia.

Diakonieschwester Sabine Ritter

Finland, Sweden

My name is Kersti Raustorp and I live in Sweden with my husband, Anders and two adult children, Johan and Maria. My friends often describe me as networking, social and good at see things in wide perspectives.

Ministry story
Since the beginning of 1980 I have been working in the church with children, youth and social work from different perspectives. After many years as an Assembly Educationalist in parishes I studied to become a Deacon and was ordained 1990. After the ordination I worked at Diakonistiftelsen Samariterhemmet for some years. I worked with social work and education for deacons, shorter educations in areas of human resources and social work.  These have become the areas that I have  been involved in since; International diaconal training, Social work in church, Emergency response, Ethics, Crisis Management, Human Recourses, Health and wellness by definition physical, emotional, spiritual, social and/or environmental imbalance.  I also had the opportunity to edit and contribute to two books in Diaconal work in Rome and Diaconal work with Youth in Sweden.
After moving to the south of Sweden I worked in a town parish and as a University Deacon. At present I work with companies: counseling working groups, CEO, employees, unemployed people and with Security communication in high risk working places (MTO - human, technique, organization).
I am a member of the Samariterhemmet board and Uppsala CityMission. My interest of international diaconal work has been with me since 1983 when I first visited former German Democratic Republic parishes. It made me experience the fact that even if people sometimes have extremely different opportunities and living conditions, the core in being a Christian is the same. The main purpose for diaconia is to be a sign of Christ’s will on earth.  Together we have a lot to share.

Kersti Raustorp (Sweden)

Kersti Raustorp

Europäischer Verband freikirchlicher Diakoniewerke, DGD (Germany), Netherlands, Switzerland

My name is Sr. Elisabeth Meier.

I belong to the Sisterhood of Bethesda in Basel, Switzerland, related to the Methodist Church. In DIAKONIA DRAE (Region Africa - Europe) I am a member of the Executive Committee and in DIAKONIA World EC I am an alternate member.

As a trained Nurse I worked for 4 years in a Mission Hospital in Thailand. As I had to return to Switzerland for health reason I trained as a Director in Nursing and started work at the Bethesda-Hospital - belonging to the "Diakonat Bethesda". Two years later, in 1983, I joined the Sisterhood, a step I have never regretted! A few years ago I returned to Thailand for another 4 years to be the Manager of the Guesthouse of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship in Bangkok. 

By now I enjoy my "active retirement"! Within the Sisterhood of 38 mostly older Sisters I am responsible for the financial administration and I am involved in caring for Sisters who need assistance. We all live together in the same house, having our regular prayers three times a day. Intersession is one of our main ministries. I am also involved in the "Stadtgebet" - prayer for our town in the cathedral of Basel. The last years I continued to give support to the Guest House in Bangkok.

It is good to see how diaconal work worldwide can have so many different faces and jet all the ones involved in it have the same goal: Showing God's love to people in need.

Diakonisse Elisabeth Meier (Switzerland)

Elisabeth Meier


Secretary Sr. Traude Leitenberger (Germany)
Sr. Traude Leitenberger

I have served as the secretary of DIAKONIA since May 1, 2014.
I am a diaconal sister of the Stuttgart motherhouse (Evangelische Diakonissenanstalt Stuttgart) and also a deacon with the Evangelical Church of Baden-Württemberg.
I worked as a nurse and was qualified in tropical medicine, parish nursing, and nursing management. I worked at the university hospital of Tübingen and with mobile services throughout Germany. I also worked in Halifax, England; in Maubeuge, France; in a camp for fugitives in the Republic of Djibouti; and for some years in Chamba, Ghana.
From 2001 until November 2012, when I retired, I led the Stuttgart community of diaconal sisters and brothers. This community has about 350 members. In the tradition of Kaiserswerth motherhouses, both our members and the employees of our institution receive diaconal education in addition to their professional education.
Our sisterhood maintains partnerships with the Emmanuel Sisters in Bafut, Cameroon and with an Orthodox community of women in Cluj, Romania.
The basic Christian order of diakonia in community has guided and motivated me in my professional life. My life has been enriched and shaped by working with people of different faiths and cultures as we have lived together and learned from each other.

I am honored that I have been asked to serve as DIAKONIA’s secretary, and I thank those responsible for the faith they have put in me. I look forward with great joy to working for DIAKONIA.


Traude Leitenberger

Treasurer Ms. Laura Lazar (USA)
Laura K. Lazar, Deaconess, Lutheran Deaconess Association, DOTAC

Short bio
I love city life and currently live in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. I completed training as a deaconess and then did graduate work in business administration. I taught accounting at the college and university level for many years. Now I am studying for a certificate to teach English as a foreign language and plan to seek an international position teaching English.

Ministry story
Much of my volunteer work has been as a treasurer on various boards of directors for nonprofit organizations. In addition to DIAKONIA, I have served on the boards of a food shelter, a literacy advocacy organization, my deaconess conference, and an advocacy organization on behalf of gay and lesbians within the church. I enjoy this work and find great satisfaction in doing it.

Laura Lazaar, Treasurer
Editor DIAKONIA-News Ms. Laura Lazar (USA)
Editor DIAKONIA-Nachrichten Diakonisse Ulrike Kellner (Germany)
Webmaster Deaconess Diane Kaufmann (USA)

Correct as of July 2014