New Officer Candidates

The following Elder and Deacon candidates will stand for election at a called Congregational meeting on Sunday, April 28, following the 10:30 am service. These biographies have been provided by the candidates to help you know them better as you prayerfully consider voting for them as elders or deacons of the church. They have provided information about their life, their faith in Jesus Christ, their family and their work. Reading these biographies can be a great way to come prepared to meet and greet these candidates who will be available to you on March 31, April 7 and 14 before the service in the lobby at 1255 Collier.


Carter Griffith

I grew up in the PCA church (reformed mom, catholic dad), made a profession of faith in middle school, and used to argue theology with my Jesuit priests in high school. However, I often think of my mid-20’s as the time I finally gave my life (hopes, dreams, etc.) to God. Loose morality and serving myself first was a one-way ticket to misery, and God mercifully rescued me through a combination of a torn ACL, service in an old-folks home, a bad car accident, and youth ministry. So…I don’t exactly know when I came to faith, but I do know God has been pursuing me my entire life.

I’ve been at Westside partially since day 1 as my wife (then awkward best friend) was part of the plant team while we were both doing youth ministry at ChristChurch. Westside is special to me in that its humility and no-frills approach make it clear it’s all about Jesus. The people are warm and welcoming, and the joy of our salvation is palpable. I particularly love the absence of things that distract and detract from the cross like gossip, ego, and laser-shows. I’ve been involved in youth ministry in one form or fashion for 15 years, and have been blessed to learn from Claude and Jason. I volunteer in the nursery, but with 4 kids, we’d better! I have been in a small men’s bible study for almost 20 years, which has been a HUGE source of blessing and accountability.

I met Liz on a service project where she was babysitting the Henegar girls. A life-altering moment for me; Liz has no recollection. We [re-]met at ChristChurch and became friends through youth ministry, pickup soccer games, work at the old-folks home, and an erroneous assumption the other was not interested.  We were married in 2009. We now have four children – a delightful chaos that proves that the mercies of the Lord are indeed new every morning.

I work on the support team (finance, accounting, HR) at Urjanet, a tech company in midtown. We aggregate utility bills to save people money and make the world more sustainable. I came of age in the 90’s, as my ipod playlists and ability to quote Simpsons, Seinfeld, and Point Break bear witness. Our family loves to laugh; surely a lower-case spiritual gift? I love to run (but am out of practice) and play soccer – I have arranged a friendly Sunday pickup game that is on year 13 and has been kicked off of some of the best fields in Atlanta.

Byron Johnson

Byron Johnson grew up in Cartersville, GA. Although he did not grow up in a Christian home, Byron came to faith in Christ at the age of 16 after hearing the gospel from his oldest brother. After graduating from high school, Byron attended the University of West Georgia (UWG) in Carrollton, GA. It was at UWG, that Byron’s faith in Christ began to soar. Within a couple of days of arriving on campus in the fall of 1985, it was very clear that God was up to something significant in his life. Byron was approached by two young men (Alan Love and Mike Hearon) in his residential hall and was invited to play basketball. In the midst of the conversations that transpired, Byron discovered that these two men were Christians and the two of them along with their wives had just moved to Carrollton to start a new ministry on campus known as Campus Outreach (CO) and he was one of the first students they had met. Two days later, one of the men (Alan Love) started meeting with him one-on-one and began the discipleship process with him. For the next four and half years, Byron would enjoy and benefit greatly from this discipleship relationship.

Also, during his time at UWG, Byron took the things that he had learned and began to invest in the lives of other students through this same process of life on life discipleship (2 Timothy 2:2). Byron seized the numerous opportunities to grow and develop in his relationship with Christ. He would participate in retreats, conferences, and mission projects both foreign and domestic while involved with CO as a student. God used these opportunities, along with discipleship and the local church to give him a passion for evangelism and discipleship. More specifically, it was during a two-month foreign mission project in the summer of 1988 in Mexico City, Mexico between his junior and senior year at UWG that he felt God’s call on his life into full-time vocational ministry. Months earlier he had heard a story about the lack of African-American missionaries. That story gripped his heart and he answered the call to missions. Byron graduated from UWG in 1990. He spent the next year and a half in Cartersville developing a network that would serve as the foundation for him to raise support and pursue missions.

For 20 years (1992-2012) Byron served as a missionary with CO. He is the Founder and Executive Director of VISION 9:38 (2012). Byron has a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). He continues to disciple and mentor young African-American college students at Morehouse College. He currently serves as a consultant/advisor to several ministries and mission agencies.

Byron is married to Kim and they have five children (Kelsey, James Byron II, Kaitlyn, Jordan, and Jonathan). Kim was also involved with CO. Kim graduated from Troy in 1990. Byron met Kim on a summer mission project hosted by CO while the two of them were in college. They were married in 1993. They have been members of Atlanta Westside (AWPC) for 4 years. Byron co-teaches an adult Sunday School class. Kim is involved in the prayer ministry at AWPC. Both are actively engaged in the life of AWPC, serving in various volunteer roles.

Will Shearer

Our family has been attending Westside since 2011. We have been privileged to be part of God’s amazing work and the growth of His Kingdom via Westside. I love Westside’s commitment to preaching and teaching the Gospel faithfully through both Old and New Testament passages with genuine passion and compassion to model Christ’s love in grace. Moreover, we’ve been drawn in by Westside’s unrelenting willingness in humility to wrestle with and speak plainly about the hard and real questions applicable to our community and society as a whole. Over the years, I have been involved as part of communion teams, Men’s Bible Study, Community Group Co-Leader, Pre-marital Counseling, and PAWKids. I remain active with PAWKids and expect to re-engage with our Community Group after this season of officer training.

I attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life in high school, but I truly came to saving faith with a greater understanding of the Gospel and my need for grace through the ministry of Reformed University Fellowship beginning my sophomore year in college (SMU in Dallas, TX).

Ann and I started dating October of our freshman year at college and have been married for 20 years. We have three amazing children, Brown, Helen & Hayes. We cherish these years together as a family and we love spending time on our patio with our two yellow labs (Burton & Bella). We love serving together and fiercely raise awareness and money to fund a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. We count our trips as a family, whether to the lake, beach, mountains or anywhere really, among some our greatest memories together.

I am a corporate/mergers & acquisitions lawyer by training but have spent the last decade as head of strategy and general counsel for an alcohol beverage distribution business headquartered in Atlanta. I am a native Atlantan. With a 16 yr old, 13 yr old and 10 yr old, you are most likely to find me engaged with them in one of their activities on any given weekend. Besides family, my hobbies include golf and hunting.

Lance Walker

Attending church on Sunday mornings and being active in youth group was a normal routine in Lance’s South Georgia childhood. While attending a Methodist church and a Baptist middle school, Lance was heavily influenced by the teachings of both denominations. Confirmed in the church in sixth grade and responding to an altar call while in school, Lance became a child of God at the age of thirteen. While in college at UGA, Lance joined a fraternity during his freshman year. The Lord used a fraternity brother and an invitation to participate in a Bible study as a way to help Lance grow significantly in his faith. He spent the second half of his college years investing in a college ministry called Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) and attending a PCA church in Athens.

Upon graduation, Lance had the opportunity to intern with Cru and continue to invest in the college ministry at UGA. The other job opportunity was to return to his hometown and work for the family business. Saying “yes” to the Cru internship in 2008 has now resulted in eleven years as a campus minister with Cru. During his five years in ministry at UGA, he met his wife Brooke who also is on staff with Cru. Lance and Brooke married in 2012 and then served overseas with Cru for nine months in France. Upon returning home to Georgia in 2014, they were relocated to Atlanta and were assigned to the Cru staff team on the campuses of GT and GSU. Lance enjoys training and equipping college students to share the gospel with confidence and to be spiritual leaders in their area of influence on campus.

Lance and Brooke were quickly connected to Atlanta Westside through friends, and they became members in the Spring of 2015. Since moving to Atlanta, they have added two Walker boys to the family, Campbell (4) and Caleb (2). While at AWPC, Lance has participated in community groups, played on the men’s softball team, and co-lead a seminar on evangelism.  He currently is in the teaching rotation for the adult Sunday school class and contributes to “Redemptive Unity” through strategic planning and teaching. Outside of the church, Lance simply enjoys being outside with his family and tackling light projects around the house. He hopes to return to his childhood hobbies of hunting and fishing as his boys grow older.


Rebecca Rhodes

I came to faith in Christ as a child. I grew up in a Presbyterian church in Rome, GA, and I am thankful that Christ came to me at a young age through many people – my parents, grandparents, and many mentors.

I got involved with Westside through Christ Church. I had been there for a year or so when I learned about the plant; I even was able to go to the first service. I, however, struggled for a year or so thinking about where I should land. I eventually decided to join Westside because many of the tenets of the church spoke to the way the Lord created me; specifically, the hope and desire for a space in Atlanta that was a neighborhood, where you saw church members and attendees around the community.  The church has blessed me through friendships that feel like family and challenging and encouraging teaching that draws me closer to Him.

I have been involved with the Children’s ministry here – teaching Children’s worship in a variety of capacities since the beginning as well as serving on the Children’s Board. I also was a part of the quad ministry. I also am involved with a community group and help organize as hostess.

I live with my sister, Sarah Rhodes, and Jackie Hawkins and Sally Mercer, who are all part of the church.

I am a 5th grade teacher at Pace Academy and the director of the Global Leadership Program in the Lower School. Through this, I get to travel with children around the world as well as focus on a variety of global issues and how we as humans affect the world.

I love to cook and host people. I also love to run or exercise. I love to travel and I am thankful that my job allows for me to see many new parts of the world…and not surprisingly, as a teacher, I love to read.

AJ Wright

Growing up, my parents/grandparents did not bring me to church or expose me to Christianity. Toward the end of 8th grade, one of my friends started inviting me to go to youth group with him at Asbury United Methodist Church. Starting my freshman year of high school, I attended a weekly small group of 9th grade boys. That is where I began to learn about the gospel and see/feel God at work both in my heart and all around me. As God revealed himself to me and the more that I saw my sin, the more I knew that he was all I needed. At a back to school church retreat during 10th grade, I professed my faith in Christ and have truly never been the same since. God gave me a new heart and I’m overwhelmed with how He rescued me.

I started coming to Westside within the first month or two of moving to Atlanta in July 2013 after having graduated from Auburn University in May 2013. I luckily had one close friend from Auburn who had moved here at the same time that I did (Terry Bryan). Terry had heard about Westside through another friend of ours and so we decided to check it out at the same time. Although at first it was tough to transition from college to adulthood, it got a lot easier to make friends/community the more consistently I came and invested in the church. Many of the people of this church have walked with me through many peaks and valleys with everything in between. Westside has been a huge blessing to me and is a place I call home.

I was active on Sunday Setup since October 2014 until the time we moved to 1255 Collier. I have also been serving on the communion team for a while. I have gone to various small groups varying from EHS, all men’s bible studies that Josh Lyons used to lead, the men’s study at Defoor, and the Westside marriage class, among other groups. One other ministry in which I’ve enjoyed serving is mentoring a boy named Quinton through MentorLife.

My wife, Ellen, and I met at Westside in the fall of 2014, got engaged in August 2017 a few short months after taking the Westside marriage class, and then got married on May 27, 2017. We’ve been proud residents of Knight Park/Howell Station since we’ve been married, which is also home to several other Westsiders.

I work for a company called Walker & Dunlop, which is a commercial real estate finance company. I started in January 2015 and have been working with the same origination team which provides debt on apartments.

I love playing and watching sports, the primary of which would be soccer. In an ideal week, I try to play soccer twice a week. Additionally, I like to run races (typically half-marathons but have also done 1 Ragnar relay); however, I am certainly far from being a disciplined runner. Ellen and I also enjoy riding our bikes when it’s warm outside. If you ever came to Boyd Elementary for a service, you likely saw our bikes locked on the front rails of the entrance to the school!

Ellen Wright

I grew up in the church and began a Christian at a young age. Kanakuk Kamps played a large part in my faith around the age of 13 when I began to have a personal relationship with Christ. I started going to Westside when I was a sophomore in high school in 2008. Immediately, Westside was a place where I was challenged in my faith, made connections, and experienced the body of Christ. Westside was much smaller back then, so I got plugged in quickly and developed lasting friendships with people from different backgrounds and stages of life. Westside has been a huge blessing in my life and helped facilitate growth in my walk with Christ. I even met my husband, AJ, here! We got married in May 2017 and enjoy biking to church together.

I have served on a Setup Team, Communion team, nursery volunteer, and community group leader. I am currently only active in Communion and nursery. I was also involved in a quad as part of the women’s ministry discipleship program. 

I work in Information Technology at Chick-fil-A. I like to stay active (running, biking, yoga), work in the garden, and read. I also love all things French and the Tar Heels.

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