Rev. Harold "Russell" Ewell II serves as Associate Pastor of The Village Church of St. Louis (UMC) and as Co-Chair of The United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities. As a person with a disability in pre-ADA America, Russell and his parents were thrust into a life of advocacy the day he was enrolled into kindergarten. Ophthalmologists and educators forewarned, "Blind students could not succeed in integrated classrooms," so "don't dream of one day seeing your son graduate from high school."
Proving conventional wisdom wrong, Russell graduated from Normandy Sr. High (St. Louis MO) and went on to earn a B.S. in Sociology from Southern Illinois University (Edwardsville). In 2009 he graduated from Eden Theological Seminary (Webster Groves, MO), becoming the first blind person to successfully negotiate the academic rigors in Eden's 168-year history. Russell also has the distinction of being the first blind person to be ordained in the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church. For the past 20 years, he has worked in the Disability Rights field for several influential agencies and organizations.
Russell is consistently invited to both preach and lectures at events across the country. The subjects of his presentations include; Disability Advocacy and Awareness, The Disability Rights Movement, The Intersections of Religion and Disability, and The Intersectionality of Disability Theology and Black Liberation Theology. When engaging The Church and academia on their theology of disability, Russell advocates for a more liberating and inclusive theology. He is passionate about empowering the disenfranchised and assisting all people in realizing their potential, purpose and worth in The Church and in society.