Alumni Profile: Steve Horswill-Johnston

Rev, Steve Horswill-Johnston poses for photo. Courtesy photo.
Rev, Steve Horswill-Johnston poses for photo. Courtesy photo.

Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston is a four-time Emmy-winning communications executive who serves as the Chief Communications Officer for Discipleship Ministries, an international agency of The United Methodist Church. Based in Nashville, Steve developed the official brand promise of The United Methodist Church: “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors,” as well as created and produced “Chuck Knows Church.”

He says, “I realized very early on the UMC didn’t consider itself a brand, let alone a brand that needed to be managed. Today, we are the most recognized mainline denomination in the USA through our brand. Most of the time, that’s good.

Steve graduated from Claremont School of Theology in 1989, and almost exactly ten years later, he found himself writing the legislation for the 2000 General Conference to accept the “Open Hearts” campaign. He says, “It was honestly the greatest honor of my life. I just wanted to combine communications and church, and this message was a message of hope after 9/11.”

Claremont School of Theology is one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries supported by the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment of the United Methodist Church.

He says, “There were many people who thought a branding campaign was treating the church like toothpaste. The church is a lifestyle brand, a sacred brand. And that brand ultimately is us. A brand is not a thing or a logo, it’s us. It’s who we are. How we live, what we think, and what we believe.”

Steve is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, and had served as pastor of two churches in the Los Angeles area and as the Director of Communications of the California-Pacific Conference before moving to Nashville. Through the years, Steve has remained connected to CST as a regular donor and by serving on the board of trustees.

He says, “I don’t know if I’d be a complete Christian without Claremont School of Theology. It came at a time when I was working in film and television, and I needed to immerse myself in the church. I chose CST because of Jack Coogan. He is a highly-recognized film aficionado and documentary film expert, and I wanted to sit at his feet and learn from him. I would not have stayed with the church without him. In fact, we’re still in contact – he keeps me on my feet and on my toes. CST deepened my Christian walk and opened me to serving the church as a full-time vocation. It was truly life-changing. It is the most unique campus and collection of professors in the world, and I’m a progressive Christian who really wants people to know Jesus. There’s no place like it. It was such a pivotal time for me.”

Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston embodies CST’s brand of progressive Christian theology, and we are proud of his accomplishments and grateful for the ways he has passionately, creatively, and loyally served the church. It is for these reasons and more that Steve has been chosen as one of CST’s Distinguished Alumni/ae.

Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Ministerial Education Fund is at the heart of preparing people for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The 13 United Methodist seminaries help students to discover their calling through the challenging curriculum. The fund enables the church to increase financial support for recruiting and educating ordained and diaconal ministers and to equip annual conferences to meet increased demands. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.