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The Role of Elder at Oakland City Church


The Calling and Character of Elders

The church lives and thrives under the lordship of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Certain men and women are called to serve under Christ and lead the church in obedience to Jesus. In the New Testament, these leaders are called elders.

The apostles give us direction in the New Testament to appoint elders to oversee the church. They form a community of mature, faithful servant leaders who seek, through prayer and study of the Word of God, to lead the church with courage, obedience and faithfulness through storms of division, discouragement and distress.

At Oakland City Church, we are part of the Reformed Church of America (RCA). As a protestant denomination in the Reformed tradition, the pastors and laypeople serve together as elders. Pastors have a special duty to preach and teach, while lay elders have a responsibility to oversee the church.

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Our Current Elders


Top: Adrian Walker, Josh McPaul, Nic Bekaert, Susan Broadnax, Bryan Ricks
Bottom: Sally Steele, Jeannette Brantley, Amy Gammelgard, Stacy Ladenberger


Elder Testimonies

Adrian Walker "I accepted Jesus into my life at an early age (~7 years old), technically during a ride when I really thought I might die (somewhat comical I know). Though I was young, I distinctly remember my family and world before and after us starting to attend church and Christ being a part of our lives...a distinct difference in my whole family. Over time, my faith has developed and morphed in many different ways. My personality type lends itself to always be very curious and question everything, so I spent some of my teenage years really searching to find what my faith meant to me and if Christianity was it although I never really left the faith. In college, I really began to take more to it and share my faith in a more constructive way with those around me. Since then, as I entered into my career and my life path has taken me many places, I feel that every year I get more wisdom from God and my faith continues to strengthen. I continue to pray consistently for wisdom and hope that I'll continue to learn from both Christians and non-Christians alike on how to be a better follower of Christ."

Amy Gammelgard "I grew up as a pastors kid. Loving Jesus and people (Christian and not), serving, forgiving, going to church (practically living at church)... that was family's mode of operation. I loved Jesus. I wanted all my friends to know Him. I had no questions or doubts... until I became an adult and saw so much pain and damage The Church and Christians (these supposed Jesus-followers) were inflicting on these people I loved. And people I didn't even know. It was a long season working through the difference between Jesus and The Word, and how (broken) people and institutions run by (broken) people represent Jesus and The Word. And finding out I'm pretty broken myself. But thank God for grace and faith and the person of Christ. Now I know: I continually to need Him, we all do. There's no hope otherwise. To love and serve Him and His (broken) people and church-- like Jesus did-- is the most precious and life giving and challenging pursuit. And it's worth it. To the journey!"

Bryan Ricks "I was raised in a family in which faith was seen as a fact of life. However, to a child "faith" can be quite 2-dimensional and disconnected from everyday decisions. It wasn't until becoming an adult and facing adversities that I began to understand the reality of's not so much something you do, but rather the source that drives your decisions, actions and viewpoints around all facets of your life. I consider my walk of faith in Jesus Christ to be my true compass and source of accountability. While I struggle daily with controlling my life and surrounds (which tests my faith by definition), I take solace in the fact that my connection to a faith community helps to keep me grounded in the Source of real power."

Jeannette Brantley "Like many within the household of faith, my journey with the Lord began in childhood Sunday school classes and vacation Bible school. As a child I enjoyed the bible stories of the ancients and God was in many ways right up there with Santa. At the age of 21, I found myself in a place of deep struggle and no real clue of where to even begin making sense out of my life that was going nowhere. Through a set of circumstances that God used, I met an older woman who shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with me in a way I had not ever heard before..sitting in my mother's living room I received Jesus Christ into my life..that woman who became my godmother discipled me and helped me grow deeply into my faith. Along this journey I have been blessed with some wise teachers and fellow companions who have supported my walk with God. As I grow deeper into God..I know that part of my call on this faith journey is to walk along others in the same way that others have walked with me. I moved to Oakland a few years back to be closer to my family. I also serve as a Spiritual Director. It’s my passion to see people deepen their true spiritual calling, and to move beyond a faith that lives in your head. I have loved worshipping and serving at Oakland City Church. Helping to develop the Well, a place of centering prayer and yoga has been important to me. I feel passionate about helping our church fully live into her calling."

Nic Bekaert “I grew up an atheist in Cameroon with French parents, went to college at UC Santa Cruz where I became a believer after befriending some folks from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I always had strong convictions about social justice stemming from my parents’ lifestyle and beliefs as well as the environment I grew up in. What drew me to the faith was discovering that the Gospel and Scripture were very much aligned with some of my core values of caring for the poor & oppressed. In Jesus I found my Creator and the best possible expression of love and care for the least of these. I was on leadership with IVCF but although I was groomed to go on staff, I couldn’t resist the urge to immerse myself among the urban poor, a place where I felt God would surely be in tangible and powerful ways. I was inspired by John Perkins’ “Three R’s” (Reconciliation, Relocation & Redistribution) and perhaps a hint of a messianic complex. I moved to East Oakland immediately after graduation, did a year-long urban internship (with Harbor House) and have lived in the San Antonio/Fruitvale for the past 24 years. After several years of urban ministry at Harbor House working primarily with local youth, it became clear that the youth we were influencing & discipling needed a more formal setting to grow in their faith. They needed a church where they would feel welcome & accepted despite their checkered past. A small team of “relocators” like me gathered for a year to pray, seeking God’s discernment about whether to plant a church. Eventually we founded New Hope Covenant Church to be a church for and of the local urban poor. I served in a variety of leadership capacities until 2008, when my family & I decided to become full-time missionaries in Guatemala for 4 years. After returning to Oakland in 2012, my wife Maurine & I joined Servant Partners full-time with a renewed vision of local leadership development, community development, and church planting among the urban poor. We joined OCC in Feb 2015 for spiritual replenishment allowing us to focus on our ministry. I am very excited about the mission & vision of OCC, particularly its costly prophetic commitment to being anti-racist. I feel drawn to participate in this call and to bring my limited experience & perspective to it. Social justice is only “noise” if it doesn’t have love, and I believe love in this context primarily boils down to restored relationships across ethnocultural lines. It’s one thing to believe I am not prejudiced or racist, it’s another to have genuine, restorative relationships with people I don’t “belong” with. I’m aware of the challenges and difficulties that this entails, I feel passionate about engaging with others in this process, and I’m eager to serve as I’m able.”

Sally Steele "I grew up culturally Catholic in Italy, where it is generally speaking the assumed faith. I remember as a child going to church with my family on holidays, and then on occasion with my mom throughout the year, and feeling drawn to the mystery of faith. Yet while I always remember feeling God's closeness, I wasn't immersed in the life of the church enough to really understand the tenets of the faith or what it meant to trust and follow Christ. It wasn't until my last couple of years of college that I began exploring my faith in earnest, attending a variety of campus ministries, joining a bible study and spending time reflecting on and discussing God's Word. Truthfully, it was a mixture of genuine curiosity and pride at wanting to know "the answers" during those discussions that led me to dig deeper into my faith. My final year of college, during a particularly low point, I went for a walk to clear my head and felt in a very tangible way the Lord's presence and an inner prodding to step into a life with Him, to lean into His grace, and to move from a theological exercise to surrendered relationship. The years since then have been marked with triumphs and failures, and an ever-deepening understanding of who I am and who He is. While I have a deep admiration and respect for the Catholic tradition, my search landed me closer to reformed theology, where I've continued to wrestle with my faith and have sought to follow Christ. The journey continues...."

Susan Broadnax "I came to faith in Christ at a time when I had run through all the principles and strategies I thought would result in a productive and satisfying life. When I realized I was at the end of my resources, I heard a voice in my heart that confirmed that my course would only achieve spiritual death. The knowledge that that voice imparted was that Jesus was the only way to what I desired and that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light”.  The experience was so overwhelming that I made a commitment to follow Jesus.  I recognized the need to learn as much as I could about God, Jesus and where I fit.  I committed to study the scriptures and to know as much as I could learn about my God and Savior and our relationship.  These commitments were made more than 40 years ago and I had no clue how powerful and life altering they would be. The study of the word has become foundational to my life.  The impact has not been intellectual necessarily but spiritual and has deepened and broadened my relationship with God.  The more I know God and His character the more I trust Him and love Him.  The impact of this relationship and process on me has been extraordinary.  I have been and am being regenerated and am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  I am constantly being changed and made a vessel that can be used for the purpose for which I was created. I am grateful for the finished work of Christ which allows me access to the Father and for the Holy Spirit that gives me power to do the work he requires of me now and for the hope of eternal life in the presence of God. I am humbled and grateful for the Christ in my life. Recently I had been in prayer about how I might serve at Oakland City Church.  Over a period of weeks, the Holy Spirit drew me into extensive unsolicited conversations and a flow of information about service as an elder.  I felt over time that in this season I was being drawn in this direction.  I am still praying that if this is not the direction in which I am being led that the Lord would eliminate access and make his purpose clear to me."

Stacy Ladenburger "I was blessed to grow up in a wonderful Christian home where I heard and observed the gospel message over and over again. My parents became Christians as adults, which I think added a freshness and awe to the message that still lingers with me. I accepted Christ when I was very young, but I recall moments along the way when I grasped what this meant in new, deeper ways. We attended an Evangelical Free church, and all of us were involved - it was a great community, especially as I didn't have a lot of Christian friends outside of it. During college, my faith was challenged, as it so often goes during this formative time! Ultimately, though, being at Calvin College, a Christian Reformed liberal arts school, added a deep intellectual component to my understanding of my faith. The concept of an arc to our story - creation, fall, redemption, restoration - resonated with me and has transformed how I see myself as a Christ-follower in the world. As with everything in my life, my faith was simpler when I was young. Now, it feels harder and more complicated, with more questions and challenges. And yet with this complexity comes richness, and for that I'm grateful. Being part of OCC has been a great gift. I've long valued being part of a diverse congregation that challenges me in varied ways, and I was grateful to find that at OCC after moving to the Bay Area several years ago. My husband, Ben, and I have been so glad to be part of this community, and we've been especially blessed by our small group over the past year."