Coaches and Staff

The PINNE program team is comprised of experienced and enthusiastic coaches and leaders. Each coach will use dialogue and appreciative inquiry to help clergy participants think creatively, develop their own solutions, identify resources, grow professionally and spiritually, and maximize their creative and innovative potential. Coaching conversations and dialogue will leave each clergy participant encouraged, refreshed, and inspired toward action.

Rev. Dr. George Cladis

George Cladis is a graduate of the University of Colorado (B.A. Religious Studies), Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (D.Min.). His Doctor of Ministry Project at Austin informed his book Leading the Team-Based Church (Jossey-Bass/J. Wiley) where Cladis argues for a theologically relevant, collaborative model of organizational leadership and management. He has over thirty publications including devotionals, sermons series on work and faith, and articles on church leadership and management. His work history includes Pastor of small, medium and large churches, church and organizational consultant, entrepreneurial coach, adjunct professor and visiting lecturer, Vice President of Operations of a manufacturing company, COO of a nonprofit social service agency, Executive Pastor of multi-site churches, and initiator of social entrepreneurial enterprises. Board memberships include service as a college and seminary trustee, mission boards, seminary field education boards, and social service agencies. He currently serves as Executive Pastor of Faith Community Church, a multisite congregation in the Greater Boston area. Cladis is engaged in research on the relationship of efficiencies in ecological systems to organizational management (biomimicry applied to management theory) and also creating new models of self-sustaining small churches in New England. George is married to a business owner and accountant, Lori DePaoli Cladis, and their marital motto is Eat Pray Love (credit: Elizabeth Gilbert). George and Lori have five children.

Rev. Dr. James H. Latimer

Jim has coached numerous pastors and leadership teams these past ten years. He is especially good at helping leaders and teams get unstuck and move forward, with particular emphases on leadership development and governance effectiveness. This includes serving many years as a staff coach with CPR (the Center for Progressive Renewal), and serving on the faculty of coaching4clergy. He is especially good at cultivating leaders and bringing them to action. An ordained UCC pastor, he has served congregations in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. His diverse background includes degrees in divinity, engineering, business and Asian Studies.  He loves singing, tennis, cross-country skiing, foreign languages and speed rollerblading. He was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rev. Dr. Lawrence Peers

Rev. Dr. Lawrence Peers is a popular national retreat leader, consultant. and leadership coach. He is a certified Immunity to Change® facilitator, Leadership Circle Coach®  and a Professional Certified Coach.  His approach has been honed through his background and experiences which draw upon his expertise in organizational dynamics, counseling, spiritual psychology, and leadership coaching. He has often worked with leaders and organizations during times of change, transition or promise.  He has masters degrees in psychology and theology, a post-master’s certificate in counseling psychology and doctoral degrees in Congregational Studies from Hartford Seminary and in Organizational Change from Pepperdine University. He is on the adjunct faculty of Lancaster Theological Seminary and Hartford Seminary. In addition to his coaching and training work, Larry has extensive experience in Appreciative Inquiry, Future Search and other whole systems, participatory consulting processes. He is a Strozzi Institute Associate and is affiliated with the Congregational Consulting Group. Larry is a former Alban Institute Senior Consultant and was most recently a Director of the Pastoral Excellence Network.

Rev. Dr. Michael Piazza

Michael Piazza is a spiritual visionary, author, and social justice advocate. He served for more than 20 years as senior pastor and later dean of the Cathedral of Hope UCC in Dallas, Texas, where, under his leadership, the congregation grew from 180 members to almost 4,000, becoming the largest progressive and inclusive congregation in the South. He is the author of a dozen books including Liberating the Gospels; Gay by God; The Real antiChrist: How America Sold its Soul; and his latest, Vital Vintage Church, and was named by “Advocate Magazine” as one of the most influential leaders in the lesbian and gay community. He is a graduate of Valdosta State University and Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He received his doctorate from Hartford Seminary, where he is a faculty associate teaching congregational renewal. Rev. Piazza and his late partner, Bill Eure, met in 1980 and were married for 35 years. Together, they raised two wonderful daughters. In his spare time, Rev. Piazza enjoys online prophetic advocacy and agitation and can be found on Twitter (@RevMikePiazza) and Facebook (Rev. Michael Piazza). He also writes a daily blog/devotion called “Liberating Word.”

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Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper

Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City, a co-founder of the New Sanctuary Movement there and also a co-founder of Bricks and Mortals: RemovethePews.Com in NYC.  Her joy is combining spiritual nurture with public capacity in order to grow strong congregations who know how to make their way in the worldly world.  She is the author of 38 books, most recently  Never Enough time: A Practical and Spiritual Guide  Moving from Time Famine to Time Feast.   For fun, she gardens and plays tennis and builds congregations.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Benjamin K. Watts

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Benjamin K. Watts  is a 1995 graduate of Hartford Seminary and  a 1986 graduate of Yale University Divinity School. Dr. Watts is Director of the Black Ministries Program and a Faculty Associate in Religion and Community Life at Hartford Seminary. Dr. Watts believes in the notion of living one’s liturgy in an applied context. His commitment to research includes spirituality and public life…living faith in the public square. He has worked to understand the relevance of race and culture in marginalized communities beyond their religious hegemony.  Dr. Watts is committed to interfaith dialogue, interrelatedness and the notion of the interconnectedness of all living things.  This theology transcends the parochialism of the Christian context in which he serves. Dr. Watts is the Senior Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church of New London, Connecticut, where he has served for more than 26 years. He was elevated and consecrated to the sacred office of Bishop by the International Bishops Conference in 2008. He is a member of the Churches Covered and Connected in Covenant (CCCC).

Allison Norton, Project Director 

Allison Norton is the PINNE Project Director and Hartford Seminary Associate Faculty in Migration Studies and Congregational Life. She holds a Ph.D from Fuller Theological Seminary, with her thesis “Passing on the Faith: A Mixed Methods Study of Intergenerational Religious Transmission in Transnational African Immigrant Congregations in the United States.” Her research and publications explore the transnational dimension of African Pentecostalism and the changing American religious landscape, the role of migration on the worldwide expansion of the Christian faith, and the religious identities of the “new” second generation. Allison’s experience with Africans in Ghana and the US included serving as registrar and certificate course educator at the Pan African University College in Winneba, Ghana and her role as an ordained deaconess in the Church of Pentecost.

Scott L. Thumma, Principal Investigator


Scott L. Thumma is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Hartford Seminary and director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford, Connecticut.
He has published 100’s of webpages, numerous research reports, articles and chapters in addition to co-authoring three books, The Other 80 PercentBeyond Megachurch Myths and Gay Religion.  He has researched and written on megachurches, evangelicalism, gay religious life, drag and religion, the rise of nondenominational churches, and the impact of the Internet technology and social media on church dynamics. With Leadership Network, he has done six national studies of megachurches as well as a 50,000 person survey of megachurch attenders and two national studies of nondenominational churches.  Scott directs the Doctor of Ministry program and the Thriving in Ministry grant.  He co-leads the Faith Communities Today national research project.  He is also on the organizing committee for the 2020 US Religion Census effort.  For 10 years he has co-directed a dissemination project for Lilly Endowment that includes managing the Insights into Religion Portal.  Scott consults with churches and religious organizations on congregational vitality and member engagement.