7 Questions with Michael Malcom

Name: Michael Malcom

Current title: Founder and Executive Director

Current organisation: People's Justice Council

The Reverend Michael Malcom is the Founder and Executive Director of The People's Justice Council and Alabama Interfaith Power and Light and a licensed and ordained United Church of Christ Minister. Rev Malcom is the former Senior Pastor of Rush Memorial Congregational UCC in Atlanta, GA. He is also the Environmental Justice Representative for the Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ. He is currently the co-chair of the Building Power from the Grassroots Task Force with Climate Action Network International, and the co-chair of the Environmental Justice working group for the Southeast Climate and Energy Network. He currently serves as the International Liaison for the US Climate Action Network and co-chair of the Faith Working Group for the Climate Strike Coalition.

Rev Malcom’s academic journey began at Beulah Heights University where he graduated May 2008 with an undergraduate in Biblical Education and Leadership. He was accepted to and began attending The Interdenominational Theological Center where he earned a Master of Divinity Degree in 2011. Due to his understanding of the role of a pastor he completed five units of Clinical Pastoral Education at The Atlanta VA Medical Center and AnMed Health Hospital in Anderson, SC. In May of 2016 Rev Malcom graduated from Terry School of Business MBA program at the University of Georgia. In October of 2017 he completed a post master’s human resource management course at Cornell University. In 2019 he completed the Convergence Leader Project with the Center for Progressive Renewal and the Just Energy Academy with Partnership for Southern Equity.

Michael’s varied experience is coalescing in a powerful way to create an unparalleled opportunity for faith communities throughout Alabama to unite and raise their voice against environmental racism, economic oppression, environmental injustice and climate change.

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1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?

I have found resources to be the most challenging. When I say resources I mean time, talent, and treasure. I have found that the need for ministry is always great. The passion for ministry is not always a match for the work. It is hard to do ministry with limited resources.

2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I was born into ministry. My family has been very involved in our family churches for my entire life. My call to the preaching ministry came when I was eight years old. It was later when I decided to embrace the call and get trained to effectively do this ministry.

Perhaps, I should say that that was my first call. My second call came some years ago as I sat in a conference listening to Rev Kate Mosley and Rev Dr Gerald Durley. Rev Durley said, "How can I preach to them in the pulpit, shout at them in the pews, but they can't breathe in public?" That question quickened something within me that broadened my view of care. I saw the conditions of the people I serve and feel that God is grieved. The role of the prophet is to speak to the people and let them know that God is grieved.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

This is a good question. I don't. In the age of covid, my routine has consisted of an early morning walk and workout. This time is also my devotion because I'm alone. Afterwards, I turn on my computer and start my day. I am in meetings and answering emails. There are also times that I am speaking, writing, presenting, and consulting. I'm usually up at 5 am CST and end my day at 9 pm CST. Prior to covid, I would be traveling significantly to do many of these things in person.

4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

There are several books. One of the most profound books is Rev Dr Howard Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited. The reason this book blessed me tremendously is because of its view of the Beloved Community. This is where Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr got his Beloved Community from. I find courage in creating a just world through this vision.

5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

The most recent significant leadership lesson that I've found is that this is a walk of faith. There are times that you'll have a vision, only. In those times you'll need faith to overcome fear. I've learned that my faith is built when I celebrate the small victories.

6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?

This is an interesting question. I'm not exactly sure how to develop a healthy leadership pipeline. I feel that both leadership and church life are too nuanced to say that there is a one size fit all. I will instead of give some of the elements that should be included in developing a healthy leadership pipeline. You need to make sure that transparency and grace are present. Leaders are human and growing. Allow them to be both.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?

Ministry is ever evolving. I started off in ministry desiring to follow in my grandfather and uncles footsteps. I had an idea of being a pastor of a church. I went to seminary. I went to business school. I started pastoring a historic church. One day I sat at my computer struggling to gather my thoughts for Sunday morning. I was struggling because I was analyzing a document to ensure that it addressed equity in climate policy. As I sat there, God said that it was time for me to choose. Would I continue to hide in the safety of the sanctuary or would I engage in public ministry. Today, I am a minister in the Environmental Justice Movement.