Board of Directors
James R. Granberry
Founder, Board CHAIR
James Granberry, a 2004 graduate of Furman University, is one of the co-founders of Mere Christianity Forum, having been involved with the organization since its inception as a book discussion group on his freshman hall in 2000. Since these humble beginnings James has been able to use his background in management and finance coupled with his passion in religious and philosophical inquiry to help continue to grow the organization.
James is a Managing Partner at OakPoint Properties — a boutique real estate investment and advisory firm in Nashville, TN which he co-founded with two partners. Before OakPoint, he played an integral role in the acquisition, asset management, and disposition of over $200 million in commercial and multi-family properties for Freeman Webb Companies, a large privately-held real estate investment firm.
James has a BA in Business Administration from Furman University and holds an MBA from Vanderbilt, where he focused on Finance and Strategy with an emphasis in Real Estate Investment/Development.
James grew up in Dallas, Texas, and enjoys reading, philosophy, playing golf, running, and the never-ending pursuit of Faith, Reason, and of course…Tomfoolery.
Founder, BOARD DIRECTOR,
Chief tomfoolery officer
Along with James Granberry, Shawn Plunkett created Mere Christianity Forum in the fall of 2000. Leveraging mediocre Photoshop skills and a willingness to talk to anyone, Shawn grew a weekly book discussion into an thriving community thoughtfully exploring Christian faith at Furman University. Recognizing the need of a dedicated space to explore faith in lived community, Shawn founded Vista House, MCF's intentional Christian community on an eight acre property just outside of Furman's campus in 2003.
Shawn served the first Executive Director of Mere Christianity Forum from 2003 until 2005 and served as Board Chair from 2003-2015. At some point during his time at Furman University, Shawn found time to major in Philosophy with a concentration in Classics. He then studied ethics and comedy (!) graduating with honors from Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina in 2008. After a few years in non-profit consulting, Shawn dove head first into leadership coaching after completing a program at Georgetown University in 2011.
Shawn now lives in San Francisco where he coaches seed-stage startup founders.
BOARD DIRECTOR, Former Executive Director
Gary Eichelberger, who previously served as Mere Christianity Forum’s first Executive Director from 2005-2007, is now an Episcopal priest serving as the Rector at Saint Andrews Episcopal Church in Greenville, South Carolina.
Prior to his ordination to the priesthood in January 2014, Gary practiced law for over a decade primarily focused in civil litigation at law firms in Charleston, South Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina. Gary also has experience in international missions having spent a year living and working in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he served as a theology lecturer at two seminaries, as well as three months in Lilongwe, Malawi, where he served as guest lecturer at the Anglican seminary there.
Gary graduated from Furman University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1994 and subsequently earned joint degrees from the Schools of Law and Divinity at Duke University (Juris Doctor/Master of Theological Studies) in 2009. In preparation for ordination to the priesthood, Gary spent a year in an Anglican Studies program at the School of the Theology at the University of the South and is currently completing thesis work toward a Master of Sacred Theology.
Gary grew up on a horse farm in the small town of Ninety Six, South Carolina, and now lives in Greenville with his wife and three children.
Donna Meyer is originally from Massachusetts and is Director of Mission/Ministry Formation/Spiritual Care for the Bon Secours St. Francis Health System.
Donna’s attraction to spirituality led her to study theology where she developed an interest in spiritual direction and formation, which she continues to do. She is grateful for all the stories people have shared with her, for her teachers, her spiritual directors, friends, and family—all have made an impact on her life.
Donna is an RN, has a BA (magna cum laude) from Smith College, Northampton, MA and a Masters of Divinity from Weston Jesuit School of Theology, now part of Boston College. She completed 5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education and the Ministry Leadership Intensive of University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Executive Education and the Bon Secours Center for Ministry Leadership. She’s a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a lector in her church, a Bon Secours Associate, and serves on various committees in the health system.
She likes to read, cook, and garden. She and her husband, Paul, have three adult children, four grandchildren, and one very large goldendoodle.
Bryan previously served as interim Assistant Director of Mere Christianity Forum for two different stints where he grew to love the mission and work of the organization. A native of East Tennessee, he now finds his home with his wife and daughter on the other side of the mountains in Asheville, NC. He graduated from Furman University in 2003.
Bryan most recently graduated from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. During his time there, he focused extensively on different residential intentional community models (including the Vista House!) and how to implement a series of them in Asheville. He works for Missional Wisdom Foundation as a prior of residential intentional communities and as a cultivator of community at Haw Creek Commons. His vocational history is as varied as they come – city planning, campus ministry, small business entrepreneurship, fundraising, church staffing, consulting. After a long, experimental, and revelatory journey, he can say that he has been led by the Spirit to where he is today.
Bryan is in the ordination process with the United Methodist Church. Along with MCF, spending time at his church, Haywood Street Congregation, allowed him to live into his calling more fully. He likes to spend time in community, hike, cook, read, and take on adventures.
Chris graduated from Furman University in 2003 with a degree in Religion and a concentration in the Classics. He connected early on with the Forum through its initial book study in 2000 – and even went on to lead a book discussion group on his favorite C.S. Lewis work, “Till We Have Faces” as the Forum grew through Shawn and James’ leadership.
Since graduation, he has worked with his family’s now fourth generation real estate development and investment firm where he was in charge of acquiring, entitling, developing, and selling more than $50MM in residential subdivisions, industrial parks, commercial REO and notes, retail centers, and single-family rental portfolios.
In 2015, Chris and his wife Kacy and two children Hays and Evie Mae returned to Greenville and are grateful to be back involved with the Forum and its work at Furman and the greater Greenville community.
As a Furman student, Mallory lived at the Vista House twice as a Servant Scholar and then as a resident for her Junior and Senior years. Being a part of MCF and living at the Vista House was filled with plenty of tomfoolery and created a community of friends that remain important parts of her life today.
Mallory graduated from Furman in 2013 with a degree in Sociology and Concentration in Poverty Studies. During her time at Furman and through the Servant Scholars program, she discovered her passion for cooking and serving others her various creations. Her time at the Vista House led her to Project Host, a local non-profit organization that uses food as a tool to nourish the hungry and train the unemployed. After Furman, Mallory attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY where she specialized in Baking and Pastry Arts and graduated with high honors (and perfect attendance).
In pursuit of the ultimate baking experience, Mallory made her way to King Arthur Flour in Vermont and through several kitchens in New York before she ultimately deciding to move to California and learn about baking in a wood-fire oven. Although Big Sur was exceptional in many ways, her desire to prepare food for more than restaurant goers led her back to Greenville where she now serves as a Chef Instructor and Bakery Manager for the CC Pearce Community Culinary School at Project Host. Returning to Greenville in 2016 has been a joy for Mallory to reconnect with the organization and friends that largely shaped her life and career.
Janna Pennington is a 2004 graduate of Furman University, where she majored in history and participated in some of Mere Christianity Forum’s first book discussions and programs. She recently moved back to Greenville and is excited to get involved (again) with MCF.
Janna has worked in higher education for the past thirteen years and is passionate about developing student leaders and connecting colleges with their communities through service-learning and civic engagement programming. She served as Georgia Southern University’s first Service-Learning Coordinator from 2008-2010 and then directed the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement at Samford University from 2010-2015. Janna currently teaches courses at Greenville Technical College that promote student development through the use of various personality assessments, service-learning projects, and critical thinking activities.
When she’s not teaching, Janna enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, gardening, and hiking. She and her husband Buck (also a Furman graduate) have two adventurous sons, Bo and Harry.
Dr. David fink
faculty Advisor, board Director
David C. Fink is Assistant Professor of Religion at Furman University, where he teaches courses on the history of Christianity and Christian theology in the pre-modern world. He earned his BA in English from the University of Minnesota (2001), MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (2004), and PhD from Duke University (2010).
Prior to joining the faculty at Furman in 2013, he taught at Duke, Wake Forest, and Aurora Universities. In addition to his academic vocation, he also serves as a chaplain in the US Air Force Reserve, assigned to Joint Base Charleston, SC.
His wife Sarah is a fourth grade teacher and curriculum coordinator at Veritas Preparatory School in Greenville, SC, where their four children attend. When not taken up with the duties of fatherhood, academia, and chaplaincy, Dr. Fink enjoys hiking the foothills of the upstate and reading science fiction.
Ansley is a sophomore mathematics major at Furman University. She is originally from Spartanburg, SC, and has a passion for education which is leading her to pursue a teaching certificate in mathematics. Ansley first encountered Mere Christianity Forum and the Vista House during the Summer Connections Program before her freshman year, and she has been involved with the organization ever since. She serves on the Student Board for MCF and is also one of the Vista House Coordinators for this year. In addition to her leadership role in MCF, she is also vice president of Dintonation, Furman’s only all-female a cappella group.
Ansley enjoys cooking (and baking!) as well as gardening. She is currently living in Furman’s Greenbelt Community, which is a residential engaged living option for students who are interested in exploring sustainable living and reducing their environmental footprint on the earth. One of her favorite things to do is to take a long walk around the lake with a friend and chat about life.
Last summer, Ansley spent seven weeks interning with Mission UpReach, a Christian nonprofit in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras. This experience helped her gain a deeper understanding of foreign missions and also solidified to her the importance of personal relationships in ministry. Ansley is excited to be serving on the Board of Directors with MCF and looking forward to the organization’s future!