Candler, Emory Honor Alumni

September 27, 2019

Five Candler alumni have received recent honors from Candler and Emory University. On September 19, Dean Jan Love awarded the Rev. Carolyn Abrams 92T and the Rev. Robert Lee Abrams 92T, retired elders in the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC), with the school’s 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Achievement, in recognition of decades of service to the church, university, and society. Love also awarded the Rev. Michael Zdorow 12T, senior pastor of Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Melbourne, Florida, with Candler’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Faithful and Creative Leadership, in recognition of nearly a decade of service to the community and the church. On September 25, the Rev. Alisha Gordon 15T and the Rev. Kimberly Jackson 09T were announced as members of Emory’s 2019 40 Under Forty list, which honors a multitalented and accomplished group of young professionals.

The Recipients

  • Carolyn Abrams 92T (pictured top left), founder and former pastor of H.A. Brown Memorial UMC in Wiggins, Mississippi, was the first woman in the Mississippi Conference to successfully merge churches to build a new congregation. She served as CEO of Faith in Community Ministries, an organization that delivered relief services to the greater Stone County community of Mississippi. H.A. Brown and Faith in Community Ministries raised nearly $100,000 to support residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. At Candler, she was a volunteer coordinator for a shelter for homeless women and children, and served as a chaplain at Grady Hospital. She has served on countless boards, including Moore Community House, Wesley Foundation, Black Clergy Women of the United Methodist Church, Native American Parish, and the Candler Alumni Council.
  • Robert Abrams 92T (top right), former pastor of Mt. Pleasant UMC and Riley Chapel UMC in Gulfport, Mississippi, is a longtime community leader on issues of homelessness and prison ministry. While at Candler, he helped to coordinate a homeless outreach ministry at St. Mark’s UMC and led demonstrations at Atlanta City Hall to bring attention to the city’s homeless community. When he returned to Mississippi, he initiated a prison ministry in Harrison County that led to the building of the first non-denominational chapel on prison grounds. He founded Hattiesburg Integrity Oversight, Inc., a civic organization that recently led a fight against increased water and sewer rates and the environmental impact of wastewater spray fields in Hattiesburg.

Together, Carolyn and Robert Abrams received the Foundation for Evangelism’s Harry Denman Evangelism Award for the Mississippi Conference.

  • Michael Zdorow 12T (bottom right) was born in Florida into a Roman Catholic–Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholic family that experienced oppression and refugee status during World War II. In 2002, he went to Russia as an independent missionary, and began the process of entering The United Methodist Church. When he returned home, he transferred his church membership and elder candidacy to the Florida Annual Conference. After graduating from Candler, Zdorow was a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of the UMC, serving as pastor of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, an international, ecumenical, and English-speaking ministry in Moscow, Russia. After the adoption of Russia’s 2016 Yarovaya Law, which severely restricts the work of religious groups, the ministry was often harassed by police and participants threatened with deportation. Under Zdorow’s leadership, it continued providing medical and refugee resettlement services to Moscow’s refugee community, despite these threats. In 2019, he was appointed senior pastor of Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Melbourne, Florida.
  • Alisha Gordon 15T (bottom left) is Executive Minister of Programs at The Riverside Church in New York City, where she oversees all program ministries, a food pantry, a shower ministry for the homeless, and a distribution program for people in need of clothing for interviews. She previously served as Executive for Spiritual Growth for United Methodist Women. Gordon left her job teaching high school English to enroll at Candler, where she was the inaugural recipient of the Burt H. Masters Scholarship for second-career students.
  • Kim Jackson 09T (bottom middle) is Interim Vicar at the Church of the Common Ground, an Episcopal church community on the streets of downtown Atlanta that intentionally strives to build community and care for the spiritual needs of the homeless. The first black LGBTQ+ person ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Jackson has also served as chaplain at the Absalom Jones Center and the Atlanta University Center, and as associate rector of All Saints Episcopal Church. She is currently a candidate to represent Georgia State Senate District 41.

Nominate a classmate for an award

You can nominate Candler alumni to receive the following awards. Learn more here, or click on each one for details.