Since its founding in 2010, State of Formation has been a virtual home for emerging religious and ethical leaders to share their learning, their challenges and their hopes. We are now entering into a new phase in the State of Formation community, with the added presence of Emeritus Scholars. These are bloggers who previously contributed regularly to SoF, but have now moved out into the world, and assumed a different role in our community.
Our Emeritus Scholars, listed below, will occasionally be invited to write guest posts, and will be a resource for current Contributing Scholars navigating their own inter-faith journeys.
Neil Krishan Aggarwal (2010) is a resident psychiatrist through the Department of Psychiatry and Hindu Fellow through the Chaplain’s Office at Yale University. His area concentration is South Asia and his topical concentrations are cultural psychiatry, psychiatric anthropology, and global mental health. He is particularly interested in the possibilities of dialogue between religion and medicine within Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam.
Elise Alexander (2013) is a second-year MTS student at Harvard Divinity School, where she follows the Religion, Ethics, and Politics track. Hailing originally from Savannah, GA, she received BAs in Religious Studies and International Studies from American University in Washington, DC, where she began studying Arabic. Since then, she has studied in Aleppo, Syria, during the beginning phases of the current conflict, and in Tangiers, Morocco. Her academic interest in religious diversity in the Middle East began with her attending the conference of Friends of Sabeel, an ecumenical Christian Palestinian community organization, and was only intensified by her time in Aleppo, where her dorm hall included Sunnis, an Alawi, and two Assyrian Christians. While there, she began research for her senior capstone on Protestants in the Levant by visiting with and interviewing Assyrian and Armenian pastors. Her other assorted interests include liberation theolog y, translation, Sacred Harp singing, and conflict resolution.
Adina Allen (2010) is a second year rabbinical student in Hebrew College’s transdenominational program in Boston, MA and is a current Wexner Fellow. Adina graduated from Tufts University (’05) with degrees in Environmental Studies and Anthropology. After graduation was accepted as member of Adamah: the Jewish Environmental Leadership Fellowship. As an Adamah Fellow she was part of a spiritually rich, pluralistic, and environmentally minded Jewish community and spent her time learning Jewish texts, farming, and exploring her Jewish identity. She has served as an Adamah Board member since 2007. In 2006 Adina moved to the Bay Area where she served as the Executive Assistant to the writer/activist Rabbi Michael Lerner. Subsequently, Adina became the Assistant Editor of Tikkun magazine and helped to lead the magazine during its shift towards being a Jewish publication focused on progressive interfaith issues. Adina moved back to Boston in 2008 to begin her rabbinic studies. In 2009 she envisioned and co-created Emunah v’Omanut: an interactive event and multi-media art exhibit at Hebrew College that gave voice to the myriad ways that members of that community explore, integrate and wrestle with Judaism. Adina also co-founded The Movement Minyan to explore the complex dynamics of prayer through the body. This summer Adina earned her yoga teacher certification and she currently teaches classes in the Boston area. In the spring of 2010, with the help of the PresenTense Fellowship, Adina co-founded Attar with her husband Jeff Kasowitz. Attar is a spiritually grounded, community-based approach to sustainability that engages the Jewish community in reimagining the world we want to live in by combining text study, innovative ritual practice, and sustainable living skill development. In her free time she enjoys baking, fermenting, gardening, and making music.
Michael J. Altman (2010) is a doctoral student in the American Religious Cultures program of study within the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and English from the College of Charleston (2006), as well as a Master’s of Arts degree in Religion from Duke University (2008). As his program of study indicates, Michael is particularly interested in the relationship between religions and culture. How is this thing called “religion” constructed in culture? Does it work as a cross-cultural category? He argues that any inter-religious dialogue must first come to terms with the ways religion is imagined in public discourse. We create the terms for what counts as “religion” as we discuss it in our public discourse. So, any conversations about the role of religion in a plural society or world must take account of the ways religion is imagined. Michael also tries to historicize inter-religious dialogue and public discourse about religion by drawing upon his training in American religious history. He believes that discussions, conflicts, and disagreements of today are connected to those of the past and that we must bring a historical consciousness to contemporary debates. Currently, Michael is doing research for a dissertation analyzing the representation of Hinduism and India in 19th century American culture. In short, his project asks, “What did Americans know about Hinduism and how did it shape their sense of what counted as ‘American’?” Besides his academic research, Michael is also a guest blogger for Religion Dispatches and a contributor to the Religion in American History Blog. In the future, Michael hopes to finish his doctorate and continue his academic research into American religious history and the history of Asian religions in American culture. Twitter: @MichaelJAltman Website: http://michaelaltman.wordpress.com.
Edward Anderson (2012) is a native of Atlanta, GA and a recent cum laude graduate of Morehouse College with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science. Currently, he is a Master of Interreligious Studies student at Claremont Lincoln University in southern California. As a community organizer, grant writer, and public speaker, he seeks to be an agent for social justice and a pluralistic society. His interests include Christian mysticism, Sufism, philosophy, politics, pluralism, pop-culture, psychoanalytics, international relations and post-colonialism. He hopes that, through his writings, he inspires fellow millienals and world leaders to allow their passions to lead their ambitions and heal the broken body of the sacred. His passion for inter-faith work stems from his time as a Chapel Assistant at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel and as Co- Founder of the M.O.V.E. Foundation. He is a proponent of the inward journey and believes that we must cultivate our interior lives through meditation before we can reach our actualized potential. He often states that it is within silence that one finds self resolve and strength, for it is within silence that contemplation and meditation take place. He is a true believer that contemplation is the precursor to an individual’s never ending journey to find self resolve. He also enjoys listening to Coldplay, Michael Jackson, and John Coltrane while enjoying the company of friends and nature. Tweet him @Rich_GuArdain.
Damien Arthur (2011) is enrolled in a Ph.D. program at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. He has completed a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) from Boston University in Religion, Culture, and Personality and graduated third in his class with the honors designation of magna cum laude. His Bachelors degree (B.A.) is in Biblical Criticism and Theological Studies from Gordon College in Wenham, MA. His Ph.D. is in Political Science and Public Policy. The major fields of his degree are in American Political Development, American Public Policy, and Public Administration. His minor field is in Higher Education Administration and Policy. He is also completing a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. Most of his interests focus on the intersections of religion and politics, along with many derivatives of this such as gender, sexuality, and other morality policies. He is interested in the socio-political impacts of religion on the political process/public policy and how these phenomena affect our daily religious and political lives, particularly social, racial, and religious oppression. He hopes, through the State of Formation, to critically, analytically, and rationally question and articulate contemporary and progressive thoughts about difficult questions of faith, justice, and truth in order that we might learn more about one another and pursue a more responsible citizenship. He is an unashamed life-long student, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, a husband to Joni, and a father to Sophia Katherine. You can follow him on twitter @damien_arthur.
Rose Aslan (2011) is a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of Religious Studies, where she specializes in Islamic Studies. Her academic studies focus on pilgrimage, sacred space, and sectarian identity formation in Iraq. She received her MA in Arab and Islamic Civilizations from the American University in Cairo and her BA in Religious Studies from the University of British Columbia. She has lived and studied in Egypt for over five years, part of that time as a Fulbright Scholar, as well as in Armenia and Iran. With the Muslim Peacemaker Teams based in Najaf, Iraq, she spent five weeks embedded with Iraqi families. She met with Iraqis from all walks of life throughout the country, engaged in intra-Muslim dialogue, and gave lectures about Muslim life and culture in America. An active community member in the Chapel Hill area, she strives to create connections between people of diverse faiths in the area and participates in several local interfaith dialogue and action groups. She is dedicated to spreading awareness and understanding about Islam in American society as well as bridging the faith divide and contributing towards a pluralistic understanding of American society. She is aspires to become a public scholar, combining her academic interests with her interfaith activist work.
Brad Bannon is a student at Harvard Divinity School studying comparative theology (Hindu-Christian). After studying music and finance at Furman University (’97), he moved from South Carolina to Manhattan to work on Wall Street. Becoming disenchanted with the ‘ethics’ (ahem) of institutional finance, he entered seminary at Drew Theological School (MDiv ’06). He and his wife, Elizabeth, then moved to Bangalore, India where he studied Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy (LPh, ’08) and she volunteered with an NGO in a nearby village. A full week before starting his doctorate at Harvard, Elizabeth and Brad gained a new companion in this journey of life: their daughter Leela Mae. On deck is the newest member of the family, currently nicknamed “Cashew,” due in March 2011. In other words, the Bannons are in a State of Formation! Brad is a candidate for ordination in the United Church of Christ. His doctoral research explores epistemology through a comparative study of the apophatic theologies of Nicholas of Cusa and Sankaracarya.
DeShannon Barnes-Bowens (2013) is an initiated priestess in the Yoruba-Ifa spiritual tradition and an ordained Interfaith-Interspiritual minister through One Spirit Learning Alliance where she serves as a dean to first year seminary students and teaches African spirituality. Currently, she works as a psychotherapist and professional development trainer through her organization ILERA offering: holistic therapeutic support for survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones, transformative programs on vicarious trauma & wellness, and educational forums to discuss the intersection of sexuality & spirituality. DeShannon is the author of Hush Hush: An African American Family Breaks Their Silence on Sexuality & Sexual Abuse (2007, 2015), and the first recipient of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists, Bill T. Jones Award. As a member of CONNECT’s Ending Child Sexual Abuse Faith Collaborative, DeShannon served as their lead trainer and coordinator for the Safe Faith Community Project to help religious groups in New York City prevent child sexual abuse. Find out more about her work at ilera.com.
Sarah J. Blake (2011) is an ordained minister with the Church of God, Anderson, IN and is the author of two chapters in Discipleship That Transforms: An Introduction to Christian Education from a Wesleyan Holiness Perspective (Warner Press, 2011). She provides written articles as well as teachings and seminars on topics of special interest in ministry. Her areas of focus include biblical studies, online ministry, disability issues, chronic illness, and divorce. Sarah graduated with an M.Div. from Anderson University Scool of Theology in 2009 with professional distinction in Hebrew. In addition to two years of Hebrew, she studied two years of Greek and served as a teaching assistant in an introductory greek course. Sarah’s experience with religious work includes two years as a co-moderator of the religion and ethics forum on a national dialup service prior to her introduction to the Internet. Since getting on the Internet in 1995, she has moderated several online support groups for people with disabilities. She maintains a web site with information about living with disability and Christian spirituality. Sarah’s work with the interfaith forum and her interactions with persons with disabilities have provided her exposure to worldviews that are very different from her own. In her ministry and writing, she seeks to maintain faithfulness to a Wesleyan reading of Scripture while also respecting the experience and questions of people with whom she interacts.
Reverend G. Jacob Bolton (2012) is the Associate Pastor of Huguenot Memorial Church. A native of Michigan, he played intercollegiate baseball at Kalamazoo College and is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Jacob is a GreenFaith Fellow, a Certified Christian Educator and has served as the President of the Pelham Interfaith Council. He lives in Pelham, New York with his wife and son.
Elizabeth Bonney (2010) is a seeker, devoted to questioning faith and challenging oppressive social systems. Raised in Overland Park, KS, she attended an all-female Catholic high school and was ordained as an Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) at age seventeen. During high school, Elizabeth began advocating for the rights of LGBT persons and other oppressed communities; social activism remains a driving force as she discerns her vocation. She graduated from William Jewell College (’09)–a historically Baptist institution–with majors in Religion, Philosophy, and Gender Studies & Human Sexuality. Elizabeth is currently in the process of converting to Judaism, and draws much spiritual inspiration from Hasidic teachings. Much of her faith and dedication to matters of social justice have been impacted deeply by her international experiences in more than twenty countries around the world. Her passion for interfaith and inter-cultural engagement brought her to the Parliament of the World Religions in 2009, and she envisions a vocation that includes service within a multi-faith context. Named as the William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Scholar, Elizabeth is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and currently serves as an intern for the Yale Chaplain’s Office.
Andrew Bowen (2012), once a fervent enemy of religion, is now a perpetual student and champion for inter-religious peace and reconciliation. In 2011, Andrew created Project Conversion, a year-long personal immersion into the culture, practices, beliefs, and rituals of 12 belief systems from around the world as a personal intervention after years of animosity toward faith. His mission: Help create a seamless humanity. Coverage of his efforts has appeared in The Huffington Post, The American Baha’i, The Washington Post, Religion News Service, the Charlotte Observer, NPR’s Interfaith Voices Radio, the Vatican Insider, and more. His fiction and essays splash the murky waters of religion and spirituality, and have appeared in over a dozen venues such as decomP, Prick of the Spindle, Pulp Metal Magazine, and Charlotte Viewpoint. He now speaks and writes about his Project Conversion experience, teaches his personal philosophy, The Path of Immersion, and assists in the effort to end the war between, within, and outside the world of faith. Here, he will explore the dynamic nature of our increasingly pluralistic society as people across the spiritual/philosophical spectrum seek out and explore their own paths.
Tim Brauhn (2010) is an interfaith activist commonly found at the intersection of copywriting, social media, and big-picture pragmatism (a by-product of his youth on a farm in northern Illinois). After slam-dunking a BA in English at Aurora University, he stayed on in a resident fellowship at the Helena Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action, where he represented the university to area religious groups and civic associations. Tim worked closely with students to build interfaith dialogue on campus, and presented public lectures on topics of interreligious interaction to the campus community. These lectures led him to the University of Denver’s prestigious Josef Korbel School of International Studies, where in 2009 he received his Master of Arts degree in International Studies with a concentration in Religion and Politics in the Middle East and Central Asia. He was eyeing a career at a think tank when he fell in with The 1010 Project, a humanitarian agency that promotes business education in Kenya. He coordinated grantwriting and social media with The 1010 Project for a year before heading off to San Jose, California as an inaugural Faiths Act Fellow, a partnership of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Interfaith Youth Core. In addition to periodically dressing up as a Mansquito (the Fellowship targeted malaria as a social action issue), Tim also worked to build an intercollegiate interfaith network in the Bay Area. He has recently returned to the Mile High City and spends most of his time making fake meat (seriously, he runs the Denver Seitan Company). Tim identifies as a Catholic Hindu, or perhaps a Catholic and a Hindu, or perhaps Catholic/Hindu. Punctuation and semantics are obviously very important to him as he moves through the State of Formation crowd.
Patrick Brown (2011) is studying for an MA in Theology at Catholic Theological Union. He is focusing on systematic theology with a minor in Inter-religious dialogue. In the spring of 2011 he graduated from DePaul University with a BA in Digital Cinema. Raised Roman-Catholic, Patrick has always appreciated the wealth of diversity among the Christian denominations and religions at large. He has worked closely with children and people with disabilities in a variety of both religious and secular capacities. He is constantly challenged and enriched by his relationships with people from a variety of faith traditions, including his fiance. He is looking forward to enriching his understanding of his own religious identity in dialogue with others. He is especially interested in issues of Justice and peace and how they interact with the religious landscape. He is committed to promoting dialogues of life and action.
Rebecca Bryan is currently serving as the ministerial intern and sabbatical minister for All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation in New London, CT. Rebecca will be graduating from Andover Newton Theological School with a Masters of Divinity in May, 2015. Rebecca completed her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Hartford Hospital in 2012/2013 where she also became certified in guided imagery. She is deeply committed to interfaith work and developing partnerships with diverse faith communities. In her earlier career, she worked in the nonprofit sector and had an active fundraising consulting practice. She loves yoga, reading and spending time with family and friends. Rebecca and her husband Bart have two children, Ginger (21) and Jacob (16). They live in West, Hartford, CT.
Tiffany Buchanan (2011) is a Master of Divinity student at McCormick Theological Seminary. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Sociology, specializing in Organizations and Institutions, as well as Social Psychology at Northern Illinois University. She also completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology at Northern Illinois University Magna Cum Laude. Her research at the undergraduate and graduate level has been centered in assessing social stratification at the micro and macro level, with particular emphasis on educational, race, class and gender iniquity. She spent the better part of seven years studying worldview systems as a cultural social fact, which led her on several study abroad trips to Ghana, West Africa which culminated in a theoretical work dissecting the development of the social self. She has served as a panelist for the African American Leadership conference at Northern Illinois University. She has received numerous departmental awards, including the James Massey Social Justice Award and first place research paper award for the upper division, entitled: “Production of the Ideal Conformist.” She was the guest moderator for the International Erasing Racism program hosted at Northern Illinois University. She has been a guest lecturer since 2006 presenting her research on worldview systems, some which include: “Race, Racism and Worldviews”, “Worldviews, Culture and Socialization”, “Relationships, Worldviews and Empowerment”, and “Race, Worldviews and Social Healing.” She has worked at the collegiate level as Adjunct Sociology Faculty with several universities with extensive experience in both the ground campus and online virtual classroom for over three years. She is the Founder and Executive Director of “Love Learning Empowerment” a non-profit education outreach firm, while also serving as the Executive Director of Royal Dynasty Construction, Inc. Her first book, “Love is the Divine Source of Healing: Lessons on Becoming an Authentic Radiant Woman of God” will be published and available this winter. But of all her accomplishments, she is most proud to be the mother to Renato Gene, her son, a freshman at Martin Luther King College Prep.
Susan Butterworth is a second year Master of Divinity candidate at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her area of special competency is Anglican, Global, Ecumenical and Interfaith Studies. She writes for the episcopaldigitalnetwork website Sermons That Work and the educational publisher Cengage and teaches English at the college level. She is interested in college chaplaincy and is in the process of writing a thesis and planned book on the anti-apartheid work of the Anglican dean of Johannesburg Cathedral, Gonville ffrench-Beytagh.
Rebecca Cohen (2012) is a second year Master’s student in Historical and Systematic Theology at the Catholic University of America (CUA). She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University with a double major in Theology and Philosophy. As a Roman Catholic, Rebecca hopes to work for the improvement of interreligious relations from within the Catholic Church, with a particular concern for Jewish-Catholic relations. Since recognizing her calling, Rebecca has interned with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Church Relations, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. She has also had the privilege to take part in an undergraduate fellowship at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs to investigate the uses of new social media in interreligious dialogue and several national and international dialogues. Currently, she works as the Youth Director at the Interfaith Families Project and the Graduate Student Assistant at the Institute for Interreligious Study and Dialogue at CUA. Through State of Formation, Rebecca hopes to critically investigate issues pertaining to interreligious dialogue that arise in study and life, thus clarifying her own thoughts and hopefully those of her readers.
Michael VZ Collins (née Michael VanZandt) (2011) , serves as a community organizer and advocate for green initiatives and design-build projects in Boston’s underserved communities. Reared in the culturally Catholic mill-town, Lee, of the western Massachusetts hinterlands, Mike’s moral imagination came to formation and received the sacraments with papal approval and under the tutelage of the Sisters of St. Joseph. At Boston College, classes on human rights and normative social ethics merged service projects and political activism to create a forum of applying ethics into praxis. Exposed to the Sant’Egidio lay Catholic community in Rome while studying at the Gregorian, Mike gravitated to issues of immigration and capital punishment. However, thus far, the 150 students whom Mike taught, at what is now Cristo Rey Boston, have had the greatest impact on his personal and vocational development. The multi-cultural, multi-religious urban high school classrooms altered Mike’s sense of vocation and purpose as a student and teacher of religion and ethics. Holding a Master’s in Social Ethics, Mike is presently studying Arabic and Islam part-time while he prepares applications for Master’s programs in Islamic studies, with the aspiration of one day becoming a professor of comparative ethics. He can be reached through multimedia sources such as email (email@example.com) or twitter (@VZCollins).
Andy Cook (2011) has a longstanding interest in religion, spirituality, and civic engagement. Growing up in the Conservative Jewish tradition, Andy learned from an early age the importance of asking questions, knowing why one believes what they do, and placing importance on the work of improving our world. After graduating from Colby College (2009) with a degree in political science and a minor in Jewish Studies, Andy worked for two years in communications and public affairs for the Minnesota House Republican Caucus. This fall, he began a new position at the Regions Hospital Foundation in Saint Paul, Minnesota, supporting the hospital in its mission of delivering quality, compassionate care to all who need it. These educational and professional experiences have helped to shape Andy’s world view, and to affirm the value of collaborating with others while maintaining both principle and an open mind. Andy’s faith journey includes the preparation and learning for Bar Mitzvah and confirmation, studies at Colby, and teaching experience at his Synagogue’s Shabbat Morning Program and at the Minneapolis Talmud Torah. He continues exploring ideas of faith and spirituality with people of diverse religious backgrounds, and seeks to bring his tradition along as we all write our story of humanity and progress.
Phillipe Copeland is author of the blog, Baha’i Thought which offers commentary on issues of religion, society, and culture based on the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Baha’i Thought received a 2010 Award of Excellence in Internet Communication from the Religion Communicator’s Council, a Best of the Web award from The Daily Reviewer, and is featured on the Religion Newswriter’s Association website. He is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D candidate in social work at Simmons College in Boston, MA. His area of research is the use of religion or spirituality to cope with work-related stress and its implications for burnout.
Charlotte Dando (2012) is currently studying for a Masters in Religions at SOAS, University of London. Even though she has had a life-long fascination of religion and spirituality it wasn’t until she was twenty four that she began to pursue this interest seriously through academia and interfaith work. It was then that she enrolled to study BA Religions in the Contemporary World at King’s College, London. She was amongst the founding members of the King’s College London Interfaith Network and graduated in 2011 with first class honours. Charlotte has spent much of her adult life working in the not-for-profit sector including a six month stint at a children’s development centre in rural Uganda. Her work has led her to develop skills and interests in training, facilitation, marketing and project management. Charlotte is passionate about inter-cultural and interfaith understanding and was a member of the 2011-2012 cohort of Faiths Act Fellows: an interfaith social action programme lead by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. She is a member of United Religions Initiative (URI) European Young Leaders group and works with Three Faiths Forum (3FF) as a freelance facilitator, working to develop interfaith learning amongst high school students. Charlotte self-identifies as a Liberal Quaker but draws inspiration from numerous religious traditions. She lives with her husband Jonathan in Brixton, south London (UK). Her writing is fuelled by a fine selection of loose leaf tea and home-cooked vegetarian cuisine. Contact Charlotte via Twitter: @CharlotteDando
Caitlin Michelle Desjardins (2012) is a 3rd Year M.Div Student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. She grew up in Madison, WI attending a small Baptist Congregation, then a large Evangelical congregation. In college she attended a mid-sized Anglican Church and eventually found her home in the Mennonite Church! She has, on occasion, referred to herself as “Denominational”, having discovered such rich gifts in each denomination she has been a part of. Though committed to membership and leadership in the Mennonite Church, she continues to explore different rich expressions of Christian faith both Catholic and Protestant. She has particularly enjoyed her exposure and participation in the Deaf Church and has a passion for lifting up Deaf leaders for the Church and fully integrating Deaf people into congregational life. Caitlin was a 2011 Fund For Theological Education Ministry Fellow. Her academic interests include Children’s Spirituality, Death and Grief, Food Justice/Agrarian Issues, intersections of Literature and Theology, Contemplative Spirituality and Sexual Ethics. After spending a summer with the Sisters of Grandchamp, an ecumenical community of Sisters in Switzerland, she has a burgeoning interest in monastic expressions of faith. She’s also enjoyes exploring the history and practices of Buddhism. Caitlin is a classical harpist, teaches gardening and writing in local elementary schools, and can often be found drawing with chalk or in the children’s section of the library. She drinks copious amounts of tea. You can contact her via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Benjamin B. DeVan is a doctoral candidate at Durham University, UK, and a visiting scholar at Emory University. He completed his MA in Counseling at Asbury Seminary, MDiv at Duke, and ThM at Harvard. His writing has appeared in venues ranging from Journal of Religion and Society to Journal of Inter-Religious Studies, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women and Islam, The Huffington Post, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Books & Culture, Wesleyan Theological Journal, Journal of Comparative Theology (at Harvard Divinity School), Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Women’s Studies, Patheos and many others. He has taught religion, philosophy, humanities (including a course centering around twentieth century African-American literature), and once gave a January term mini-course at MIT: “Religion: Bringing the World Together or Tearing the World Apart?” Ben is currently searching for a full-time faculty appointment where he hopes to enjoy mutual enrichment with religiously diverse students and colleagues. You can write Ben at email@example.com.
Anna DeWeese received her Master of Arts degree in Systematic Theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 2009, and her Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Hendrix College in 2006. The focus of her academic work was on interfaith and intra-Christian dialogue, as well as Christian social justice, particularly racial justice. While at Union, she worked closely with the Interfaith Caucus and Students for Peace & Justice, co-convened a chapter of the Beatitudes Society on campus, and sang with the Seminary and Gospel choirs. Currently she works for the CARE for Teachers NYC program at Fordham University, as part of a federally-funded research project seeking to study the effects of a mindfulness-based professional development program for teachers. She also works for the Interfaith Community, a non-profit organization based in New York City that provides religious education to Jewish-Christian interfaith families. She serves on the national board for Church Women United as a Young Church Women United representative, and a personal essay on her faith journey throughout college was selected for inclusion in Kissing the Chapel, Praying in the Frat House: Wrestling with Faith and College (Copeland, ed., Rowman & Littlefied, 2014).
Shelley Donaldson (2014) holds a Master’s Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and is currently a Master’s of Theology student where she is studying Interfaith Dialogue from the Presbyterian Church USA perspective. She is particularly interested in religious education inside and outside of religious institutions that is easily accessible for anyone. She spends her spare time learning Arabic, painting, and attempting to make the perfect Southern biscuit.
Joshua Eaton (2010) is an editor, writer, and translator. He has served as co-editor-in-chief of Cult/ure: The Graduate Journal of Harvard Divinity School and as a writer with the Natural Dharma Fellowship, where he founded Dana Wiki, which helps Buddhist organizations get involved in social service. His writing has appeared in Tikkun Daily, Cult/ure, HBomb, Flagpole, and other publications. Currently, Joshua is a contributor to the Zen Peacemakers’ Bearing Witness Blog and is working on translating several works on Buddhism from Tibetan into English. He is also editing a book-length anthology of Buddhist teachings on social justice. Joshua holds a MDiv in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University and a BA in Psychology from the University of West Georgia. His resume, samples of his writing, and a complete list of his publications can be found at his website.
Nicole Edine is a writer, digital and social media content producer, scholar, and advocate. She is currently serving as the Associate Editor for the Huffington Post’s Social Impact Platforms. She is a versatile digital storyteller with a passion for supporting non-profit organizations and social good causes. She is passionate about the intersections of religious and historical literacy, interfaith dialogue, global citizenship, human socio-cultural development, social justice, and technology. Nicole received a Bachelor of the Arts in Archaeology and Religion from Boston University in 2009 and a Master of the Arts in Religious Studies from New York University in 2011, and has conducted academic research in the fields of Anthropology (Archaeological and Sociocultural), Religious Studies, Asian Studies, Sociology, American Studies, History, International Relations, Political Science, Art History, and Digital Communications. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, and Religious Freedom USA, among other publications.
Kufre Ekpenyong (2012) is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University and a full-time staffer at Sunstone Magazine, a periodical of Mormon experience, scholarship, issues, and art. He enjoys the pure experiential practice of living out his faith, but he also enjoys taking an active critical look at Mormonism’s history, contemporary state, and future. He sees something of a disconnect between the utopian, egalitarian character of early nineteenth-century Mormonism and the more-conservative, semi-bureaucratic character of modern Mormonism, but he also sees a remarkable historical continuity in terms of the movement’s continuing willingness to affirm the limitless potential and infinite worth of the human mind and personality. His awareness of the individual value of every person as a unique child of God motivates him to appreciate all varieties of human cultural expression, including the many varieties of religious belief. Kufre recently returned from serving in Salt Lake City as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has also served within the Church as an elders’ quorum president and elders’ quorum secretary, working in both cases to aid in the spiritual development of male peers within his congregation. Kufre’s long-term career goal is to collaborate with periodicals devoted to issues in religious studies, literary studies, and/or cultural studies. In addition to his current work with Sunstone, he has also interned in the past with Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and has taken part in volunteer work for the Utah Humanities Council. Kufre welcomes email correspondence at kekpenyong[at]gmail[dot]com.
Ahmed Elewa (2012) is a graduate student at the Islamic American University where he is researching “responsibility” in Shariah and Islamic Jurisprudence. He is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts Medical School where he studies early embryo development. Upon receiving his Masters Degree in Biomedical Sciences in 2007, Ahmed spent two years working as a community organizer and interfaith coordinator in Boston before moving to Egypt to pursue advanced religious studies. He is currently enrolled in the College of Shariah and Law at al-Azhar University. In 2010 Ahmed published his first novel in Arabic (alRawda) which highlights the paradoxes inherent in biculturalism. A year later he published a memoir, “Ground Zero Mosque: The confessions of a Western-Middle-Eastern Muslim” to narrate his personal encounter with these paradoxes. Using State of Formation as a medium, Ahmed continues to develop his thoughts on personal and social multiculturalism and how religion, science and history interact within individuals and societies. Follow him on twitter @albostoni.
Margaret Ellsworth (2012) is an MA student at Claremont School of Theology, studying worship, spirituality, and the arts. She received her BA in English Lit from Pacific Lutheran University. At PLU, Margaret led both the creative writing group and the contemporary worship band; the creative interplay between ministry and the arts has fascinated her ever since. She has worked as an intern and freelance editor with Augsburg Fortress Publishers and Clayfire, a web project designed to give leaders resources for creative, interactive worship. After finishing her MA, Margaret hopes to write and develop resources for congregations that help them tell the story of God in their own contexts. She also plans to continue her writing for general audiences. As a State of Formation scholar, Margaret looks forward to exploring the overlap between religion and culture, as well as the challenges and blessings she faces as a Christian marrying into a Buddhist family. Margaret lives with her husband Drew in Claremont, California. She tweets @ResoluteMag and blogs at Scribble Out Loud.
Nathan F. Elmore (2011) received a M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago, in 1999, back before the dawn of the 21st century. Throughout the 2000s, his pastoral ministry has included leadership experiences in a Christian & Missionary Alliance mega-church in Salem, Oregon, a mid-size interdenominational university church in Clemson, South Carolina, and a small Virginia Baptist church plant in Richmond, Virginia. Emblematic of a vocational shift toward concentrated work in Christian-Muslim relations—focused on peacemaking and reconciliation—Nathan is a practitioner-consultant with Peace Catalyst International even as he serves the Virginia Baptists as collegiate minister at Virginia Commonwealth University(VCU) in Richmond. Currently he’s working toward a M.A. in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations through Hartford Seminary. He writes at www.nathanfelmore.com; connect connect with him at www.twitter.com/elmorelian.
Anthony Fatta (2010) is currently a 2nd year Master of Divinity candidate at Vanderbilt Divinity School (VDS) in Nashville, TN and a member of the United Methodist Church (Christian). He holds a BA from Syracuse University with concentrations in Political Science and Religion. He co-founded Mosaic, a VDS student group seeking to expose future leaders to other faith traditions and instill the importance of interfaith cooperation in any facet of ministry. Currently, Mosaic educates Divinity students about Islamophobia, especially in Nashville and surrounding areas. Anthony’s academic and vocational interests include: theologies of religious pluralism, comparative theology, interfaith marriage/families and pastoral care, Jewish-Christian relations and congregational ministry in a religiously diverse world. Anthony is very excited to be writing for State of Formation and hopes that this endeavor will be a challenge to wrestle with critical issues, which in turn will encourage readers to do the same. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog.
Christopher Fici is a writer/teacher in the bhakti-yoga or Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition of the Vedic/Hindu spiritual culture. Born and raised as a Catholic in Detroit, Michigan, Christopher encountered Eastern spirituality while doing his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan. After getting his Bachelor’s degree in Cinema Studies in 2004, he had what could accurately be described as a “quarter-life crisis”, and through that time of questioning, he became aware and convinced that his spiritual journey was of the utmost importance. In 2006, he moved to a Vaisnava community in West Virginia, where he began to train as a monk/minister, and assisted with the community’s organic farm project, the Small Farm Training Center. In early 2009, he moved to the Bhaktivedanta Ashram monastic community at The Bhakti Center in the East Village of Manhattan. There Christopher became involved in outreach and educational programs at New York University and Columbia University, where he helped to teach courses on the spiritual art of vegetarian/vegan cooking, the philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, and the ancient yet timeless practice of mantra meditation. As a budding freelance writer, he began, and continues to publish, with the Huffington Post, Beliefnet, Elephant Journal, Good Business International, ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) News, and now State of Formation. Christopher also edits a blog on the bridge between spirituality and sustainability called The Yoga of Ecology. After retiring from his monastic journey in the summer of 2012, Christopher is now working for his Master’s degree in interfaith studies/social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. He hopes to springboard off this experience into work in the fields of ecological justice and sustainability, particularly in the realm of food justice.
David Fisher (2012) is a 2012 graduate of Oberlin College with a degree in Jewish studies and environmental studies. He also completed extensive coursework in religious studies and peace and conflict studies. His experiences provide the foundation for working to establish a non-profit, interfaith social venture, Interfaith Appalachia. IA is an emerging organization that brings people together across differences of religion, politics, and environmental perspective for service, dialogue, and community development in the central Appalachian region. The main focus is immersive, interfaith service-learning through an alternative break model. As the founding Director for IA, David witnesses to the power of personal friendships forged across difference. He has held positions including a Dialogue Facilitator for the Auburn Seminary’s Face to Face/Faith to Faith program, a Research Fellow for the Sustainable Endowments Institute, Theatre Educator at Prozdor Hebrew High School, and several positions at Oberlin College’s Bonner Center for Service and Learning. David is a member of the Dalai Lama Fellowship’s Global Learning Community, Udall Scholars Alumni Association, AmeriCorps Alums, Interfaith Youth Core Alumni, and Arava Institute for Environmental Studies Alumni. He has published writing on the intersection of peacemaking, religion, and the environment, and received multiple grants for research in this area while an undergraduate. David now splits his time between Harlan County, Kentucky, and Boston, MA. Organizing Interfaith Appalachia, he enjoys focuses on collaboration with community groups while in Kentucky, and with colleges and universities through while working out of Hebrew College in Boston. He can be reached at David[at]InterfaithAppalachia.org.
Stephanie Louise Fisher (2010) is from Napier, New Zealand. She has never not lived by the sea — within spitting distance of a beach, at least — until she won a scholarship from Nottingham University and came to the UK to complete her PhD. Her cat, Delilah, came too, went back with her to New Zealand for a while, but they both returned to Nottingham for her final year. She studied music, psychology, education and other things at Massey University down under, then after a few years mainly working in theatres, she studied World Religions at Victoria University in Wellington, NZ. She swims every day, sometimes up to 5 km, and loves the mountains, the sun, the moon, starlit night skies, the bush, birds and horizons. Naturally, she prefers swimming in the sea; she has a passion for the sea.
Myriam Francois-Cerrah (2011) was born in London of French and Irish heritage. She completed her BA in Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University in 2003, after which she worked for a year for MEND, a Palestinian NGO in Jerusalem, where she received training in Active Non-violence and Conflict Resolution techniques. In August 2005, she travelled to Washington DC to pursue an MA in Arab Studies, specialising in Middle East politics, on a CCAS scholarship, at Georgetown University. There, she collaborated on the production of a documentary (Arabs and Terrorism, Bassam Haddad) and published current affairs articles. Former Assistant Editor at emel magazine, she continues to contribute to the magazine. In May 2010, Myriam co-organised and hosted the Rethinking Islamic Reform conference at Oxford University. As a researcher with the European Muslim Research Centre, Exeter University, she contributed a chapter on European Muslim identity to the 2010 report “Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK Case Studies”. She has been the media spokesperson for the Oxford University Islamic Society and the “Inspired by Muhammed” campaign aimed at fostering greater understanding of Islam. She is currently a Contributing Scholar to State of Formation, a forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders. Myriam regularly contributes to public debates on a variety of issues, including on BBC Newsnight, the BBC Big Questions, The Times, the Independent, BBC Radio, The London Paper, Index on Censorship, The Cherwell, The F-word and others. She gives talks within the Muslim community on a variety of topics, as well as to mainstream institutions such as the BBC, the Scottish Interfaith forum and universities on Muslim related issues. She also provides diversity training for public and corporate institutions (The MET, Clifford Chance LLP, BBC). Myriam is currently undertaking a DPhil at Oxford University, focusing on Islamic movements in Morocco. She speaks fluent French and proficient Arabic and has travelled extensively. Her first love is horses. She blogs at: http://myriamfrancoiscerrah.wordpress.com.
Randall Frederick is finishing his second Masters degree at Fuller Theological Seminary and considering doctoral work in Human Sexuality. Randall contributes to The Public Queue and The Hillhurst Review, oversees three websites, and is a frequent radio guest on religion and sexuality. He is currently a consultant with the Level Ground Film Festival and The Christian Closet.
Oliver Goodrich (2010) is currently pursuing an MEd in Religious Education at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. Prior to his study at Boston College, he worked for six years in higher education at Gordon College. His main research/professional interest is in the faith formation of college students. Though he has been doing ecumenical dialogue informally in Christian circles for years, he is brand new to the interreligious dialogue scene. He is excited to be a part of the State of Formation community and looks forward in particular to exploring the pedagogical implications of interreligious/ecumenical dialogue. Oliver graduated with a summa cum laude BM in voice performance from Gordon College in 2004, where he was honored as Collegian of the Year. After graduating he went on to serve as director of the Gordon College Choir and Symphonic Chorale. Oliver has also held numerous music ministry positions, including the post of organist at First Baptist Church in Danvers, Massachusetts and director of music at Boston’s historic Tremont Temple Baptist Church. Since joining the Greek Orthodox Church in 2005, he has developed an interest in Byzantine Chant and liturgical theology. You can follow him on Twitter @ogoodrich.
Hans Gustafson is the associate director of the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, an academic center at Saint John’s University (Collegeville, MN) and the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN), where he teaches courses on comparative theology, interreligious studies, and world religions in their theology departments. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Claremont Graduate University as well as master degrees in both philosophy and theology. He is from Minnesota and has lived in Boston, Alaska, and California. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons. You can follow him on Twitter @hansgustafson or visit his page on academia.edu to browse his scholarship.
According to family lore, the East Indian side of Saumya Arya Haas’s (2010) family has been involved with interfaith work since the 1600s and the West Indian side of her family has been doing social equity projects for at least four generations. Saumya does both, and has followed a non-traditional trajectory in her life and studies. She is a Manbo Asogwe (Priestess of Vodou) and hereditary Hindu Pujarin who has lived and been educated on three continents. She studied in the Western school system and with her parents, scholar-priests and mystics in the philosophically diverse traditions of the Indian sub-continent. Some of these traditions do not draw a firm a distinction between theist and non-theist approaches, and neither does she. Today Saumya is the Executive Director of Headwaters/Delta Interfaith. Although she lives on a horse-farm in Minnesota, she regularly flies down the Mississippi River to work on holistic and sustainable revitalization in New Orleans. In addition, she advises local, national and international interfaith and social equity organizations such as Hindu American Seva Charities and The New Orleans Healing Center. Saumya lectures about religion, and writes for The Huffington Post; in her spare time she is an ALB (undergraduate) candidate in Religious Studies at Harvard University, School of Extension Studies. She tweets and blogs about her work and life.
Daniel Hall (2012) is a staff member of the Soka Gakkai International-USA Buddhist Association where he directs awareness raising initiatives centered on the U.N. Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. In 2012, Mr. Hall received a Master of Public Diplomacy from the University of Southern California and has since conducted research in this area as an independent scholar. His research interests center on the role of transnational non-state actors in global affairs – particularly the role of religion and media networks in developing international human rights norms. In 2013, Palgrave Macmillan will publish his article titled Pope John Paul II, Radio Free Europe and Faith Diplomacyas part of a new volume on religion and public diplomacy.
Susan Harrison (2012) is a candidate at the Toronto School of Theology – Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto. In addition to her current research in Christian Peace Theology and the Theology of Religions she teaches, participates in, and organizes Interfaith dialogue events. She has an MDiv and a ThM in New Testament and has found leading Scriptural Reasoning groups a meaningful way of connecting with people, building community, and learning about how scripture shapes lives and gives meaning to people. She has served in different capacities as a pastor, chaplain and a cultural exchange program coordinator. Some of her writing includes “Interfaith Friendship as a Bridge to Peace” in Windows to World’s Religions (ed. Arvind Sharma) and articles for the Common Ground News; she is one of the editors and contributors to the book On Spirituality: Essays from the Third Shii Muslim Mennonite Christian Dialogue.
Bilal Hassam (2010) is a British Muslim involved in a plethora of community activism and engagement across the UK and Europe. He is currently in his final year of training to be a Doctor at the University of Nottingham; obtaining his first degree in BioMedical Sciences (he wrote his dissertation on Traditional Chinese Medicine.) In addition to his Medical degree he is concurrently in the second and final year of his Master’s of Arts in Inter-Religious Relations at De Montfort University, Leicester. Bilal spent a year as one of 30 worldwide Faiths Act Fellows for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Interfaith Youth Core (Chicago.) Working to mobilize faith communities across the UK/US and Canada, Bilal and his colleagues served as Inter-Religious Ambassadors for the UN Millennium Development Goals. As an Alum he continues to work with and represent both the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Interfaith Youth Core in various capacities. He is involved in various organisations and charities in the UK, serving as trustee for the Muslim Community Fund and also on the advisory panel for the Muslim Youth Helpline. Bilal has a breadth of experience with British Muslims, especially in the student world, previously serving on the National Executive Committee for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, as well as being on various other boards and committees. He is increasingly exploring work in Europe and has advised various European bodies including the Council of Europe. He was recently appointed as a Digital Advocate for Malaria No More UK, assisting the charity with their various campaigns, and has previously worked on social media and e-campaigns for both charities and businesses (most recently with Samsung.) Bilal has a keen interest in Faith and the Arts and helps manage and promote Muslims groups and artists across the world. He is currently working on an exciting project on promoting positive lyricism in popular music. You can catch Bilal on Facebook, Twitter and he also has some writing up www.MuslimsInEngland.com. He regularly advises and consults both governmental and non-governmental bodies and is contactable for speaking engagements or general enquiries via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joey Heath (2010) is a Master of Divinity student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. As part of his seminary education Joey also serves as a pastoral intern and youth pastor for the Silver Spring United Methodist Cooperative Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland. Joey is currently pursuing ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church and hopes to enter into local parish pastoral ministry. He is originally from southern Georgia (a small town outside of Savannah, Ga.) and holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Valdosta State University. He is strong believer in justice and equality for all people and in calling out and breaking down systems of oppression. In particular he is focused on the cause of lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, and queer people. The primary organization that he is involved with it the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), an organization dedicated to the inclusion of all people in the life and ministries of the United Methodist Church. Additionally Joey has been blessed with a number of formative life experiences including participating in the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride and traveling the world on a cruise ship working for Celebrity Cruises. These experiences have help to shape Joey’s view of the world by introducing him to many diverse people, cultures, and religions. Joey is very excited to contribute to State of Formation and hopes to challenge the others to work together and be change in the world.
Rachel Heath (2010) graduated from Lee University (’07) with degrees in English and Theology and minors in philosophy and psychology. She spent the next year teaching high elements activities at a sports camp for inner-city youth, backpacking around South America, working for a non-profit organization in South Africa, and making cappuccinos for the tourists of Destin, Florida. In 2008, Rachel left Florida to attend Yale Divinity School, where she will graduate in Spring 2011 with a Masters of Divinity degree. While at Yale, Rachel has been a community organizer for public housing residents in Hartford and an interfaith chaplain at a local hospital. She also currently serves as an intern for the Yale Chaplain’s Office, where she is involved in a number of activities that seek to nurture interfaith dialogue in the campus community and the city of New Haven. One of the most formative experiences for her as an intern has been working with an LGBTQIA group, which seeks to be a safe space where students can discuss intersections between their spirituality and sexual/gender identity. As a 25-year old Christian (newly confirmed in the Episcopal Church), her faith is founded on the idea that “all real life is meeting”, and she believes that her generation is uniquely poised to figure out how to creatively dialogue through our differences. In the future she plans to be pursue chaplaincy in its many forms. Follow her on Twitter: @lifeismeeting.
Matt Helms (2011) is currently working as a pastoral resident at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. He was a Religious Studies major at University of Wisconsin-Madison (’07), a graduate of McCormick Seminary (’10), and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) early in 2011. As he wrestles with what his career, church, denomination, and faith mean in a society that is simultaneously interested in spirituality but skeptical of religiosity, he is excited to write with a community that shares the tension of holding individual beliefs in a pluralistic setting. While his background/present was/is predominantly Presbyterian, his experiences with other faiths, denominations, and people who couldn’t care less about religion in general have been an important lens through which he understands his own faith. He brings a great deal of honesty to the conversation as well as a willingness to explore any perspective. Matt lives with his wife and rescue pit bull in Oak Park, writing asinine stories and cheering on his beloved Bears football team when he’s not at church. Unlike most people on this site, he’s never lived abroad or even outside the Midwest, so he brings nothing to the table there except for a love for Chicago and the Chicago-land area.
Robyn Henderson-Espinoza (2010) was born to a Mexican woman and an Anglo man in Northern Mexico, the Republic of Texas (San Antonio), and moved to Chicago, IL for graduate school, completing a master’s in theological ethics at Garrett-Evanglical Theological Seminary (on the campus of Northwestern University). Following graduate school, Robyn worked in domestic violence & sexual assault fields before joining the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. In 2009, Robyn began doctoral work at the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology to study Social Ethics and Latino/a Studies. Robyn hopes to teach at the University level and shape the discourse concerning Ethics and Latino/as through teaching, writing, and being involved in varying communities where Latin@s are present. Robyn is 34 years old and self-identifies as a Christian Agnostic and Queer Mestizo (of Mexican & Anglo heritage). She lives with her partner, Stephanie, who is a Clinical Research Coordinator for pediatric clinical trials at The Children’s Hospital, Aurora, CO. They enjoy the company of their two dogs, Lily and Cricket. Robyn begins research in the intersecting realities of discourse focusing particularly on the intersection of Ethics and Society, exemplified in the discipline of Social Ethics. Robyn seeks a critical and discursive reflection with particular attention to the ways in which queer, feminist, borderland, women of color critiques, and spatial theories, along with intersectional analysis, extends the discipline of Social Ethics. Robyn was nominated as a doctoral fellow for Princeton Theological Seminary’s Hispanic Theological Initiative and was also chosen to participate in the Human Rights Campaign Summer Institute for LGBTQIA students in Religious/Theological Studies, hosted at Vanderbilt Divinity School. In her spare time, Robyn works for the University of Denver’s Latino/a Center for Community Engagement & Scholarship (DULCCES). Robyn blogs at www.iRobyn.com, and her twitter feed can be found at @irobyn. To learn about Robyn’s academic work, please see www.iEspinoza.com.
Karen Hernandez is a Theologian with a focus in Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism. She writes, teaches and lectures on Islam, Christian-Muslim relations worldwide (past and present), Jesus in the Qur’an, Al Qaeda, Islamophobia, and theological responses to terrorism. She has a Master of Sacred Theology in Philosophy, Theology and Ethics with a focus in Religion and Conflict Transformation from Boston University School of Theology, ’11; a Master of Theological Research in Christian-Muslim Understanding from Andover Newton Theological School, ’07; and a BA in Peace and Justice Studies with a concentration in Islam from Wellesley College, ’05. Besides State of Formation, she has published with Feminism and Religion, the Women’s United Nations Report Network, OnIslam, The American Muslim, and The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Along with Palestine/Israel, Turkey, and Spain, Karen’s experiential/research work includes traveling to and living in India three times looking at Christian-Muslim-Hindu relations, as well as Muslim women’s lives in the slums of Mumbai. She also had the privilege to serve on three panels at the Council for the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne, Australia in 2009. From what Karen can tell, she is the only Theologian that is a woman, a Latina, and a Catholic/United Methodist, doing this type of work in the United States. In her spare time, Karen practices yoga, reads, loves the theatre, and runs with scissors whenever possible. She was the also Associate Director of Communications for State of Formation from 2011-2012. Karen currently lives in San Francisco where she is consulting with United Religions Initiative, is an Ambassador with the Council on the Parliament of the World Religions, and is working on several projects that will take her overseas in 2015.
Jason A. Hines (2012) was born in Philadelphia, PA. He was born into an Adventist Church and remains an Adventist to this day. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Connecticut in 2000 with a BA in political science. After receiving his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2003, Jason practiced commercial litigation in Philadelphia for five years and conducted seminars on religious liberty in his spare time. This gave him the opportunity to discuss issues of religious freedom with Adventists in churches all over the United States. In 2008, Jason decided to devote his career to work in religious freedom. To that end, he enrolled in the Seminary at Andrews University, where he is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Religion. He is also a PhD candidate in the Religion, Politics, and Society at the J.M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is planning to write about a theology of separation of church and state and its potential effect on democracy in the American political system for his dissertation. Right now he does more writing on the internet than anywhere else. In addition to State of Formation, Jason is the Associate Editor for ReligiousLiberty.TV an independent religious liberty website, he is a regular columnist for the Adventist blog Spectrum, and he regularly writes for his own blog HineSight. Jason is married to Lilly Archer and they live in Waco, TX.
Adam Hollowell received a Ph.D. in theological ethics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 2009, where his research focused on Christian political theology, philosophical perspectives on church and state, and theories of justified war. Through his current position at Duke University Chapel, he teaches undergraduate courses on religion, politics, and ethics in the department of religion and Sanford School of Public Policy.
Chris Hughes (2011) is currently a second year MDiv student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and works as a youth minister at a Baptist church. He holds the BA from the University of Kentucky (’09) in Political Science and History. He was honored as a Congregational Fellow from the Fund for Theological Education and as a CBF Leadership Scholar since beginning his theological education. He has contributed articles to the Associated Baptist Press and Ethics Daily on issues of the Christian witness in the political realm, and the full inclusion of all people into the life of the Baptist church. Chris was also published in a book of sermons entitled Waking to the Holy for his sermon, “Forgetting Egypt and Remembering Sabbath”. He is a member of the Academy of Preachers and Eco-Theo, a student group at WFUSD that discusses issues of sustainability and religion. His interests and sense of vocation derive from: the witness of the church in the public sphere, social justice work and advocacy, the art of preaching, sustainable practices, writing, and having good conversations with people. Chris will pursue ordination after graduation, while considering further studies before becoming a minister in a local church. He keeps a blog and tweets @chrishughes34.
Jem Jebbia currently serves as the Senior Assistant Director for the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service at Northeastern University. In her role at Northeastern, Jem directs the Global Citizenship Project, an initiative that combines experiential learning, dialogue, and applied academic research to explore global citizenship. She has completed two fellowships for the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and now serves as a member of the IFYC Alumni Speakers Bureau. Previously, Jem worked as the Spiritual Life Council convener at the University of Chicago, where she received her Master of Divinity degree. Jem is also an alumnus of the University of Southern California, where she studied religion, business administration, East Asian languages and cultures, and international relations.
Jessica Joslin (2011) is a doctoral student in the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education. Her research interests include the changing role of religion in higher education and gender dynamics on university campuses. She has a B.S. in Social Policy and History from Northwestern University and a Masters of Divinity from Harvard University. Jess is also in the ordination process in the United Church of Christ. Prior to coming to Michigan, Jess spent four years living and working in a freshman residence hall at Harvard College, and two years as the student minister at Pilgrim Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Southborough, MA. After graduation, Jess plans to pursue a career as a University Chaplain.
Hannah Kardon (2010) is a first year Master’s in Divinity student and Ministry Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, pursuing ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church. She spent the last two years working at the Interfaith Youth Core, where she wrote interfaith service curricula, trained young people, and coordinated interfaith social action programs. She has also worked in the fields of rape crisis and educational enrichment. She grew up in East Asia and the Central Illinois in a non-religious family, and recently married her college sweetheart, Matt. Hannah graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Economics and Religious Studies, and is interested in finding innovative church structures and social change ideas that can bring people into passionate relationship with Jesus while equipping them to live out His call in the world. You can find Hannah on Twitter @hannahkardon, where she always welcomes comments, arguments, and plain old hellos.
Valarie Kaur (2010) is a third-generation Sikh American who grew up in California’s Central Valley, on land her grandfather farmed when he first sailed by steamship to Pacific shores in 1913. She grew up with deep roots in America but also a strong connection to her ancestral home in India and her Sikh faith. Valarie’s childhood experiences with religious intolerance in her hometown led her to study religion and international relations at Stanford as an undergrad. She was a junior there when 9/11 happened — and decided to respond to the hate violence against her community by grabbing her camera and taking a roadtrip across the country, capturing stories that weren’t making the evening news. Five years later, her journey became the award-winning film Divided We Fall, which sent her on a whirlwind tour to 150 cities worldwide, delivering lectures and workshops on interfaith and interracial dialogue through storytelling. It’s been a humbling and breath-taking journey. In the mean time, she studied narrative ethics at Harvard Divinity School (2007) under Michael Jackson and Diana Eck, examining the problem of violence through the lens of ethics. Valarie went on to Yale Law School, in order to learn how to respond to post-9/11 violence on the streets and by the state through legal advocacy. She is now in her third year there, and she has been able to explore the law as a powerful tool – including working with a church to defend Latinos from racial profiling, traveling to Guantanamo to report on the military commissions, and working on civil rights issues in the Senate. She has come to believe that storytelling and advocacy together produce social change. She would like to continue to harness multiple tools – lawyering, filmmaking, interfaith dialogue, writing, and speaking – to respond to injustice. Valarie is excited to be connected to an extraordinary community of other young people doing the same. Here’s her blog: http://www.valariekaur.com/blog and film: http://www.dwf-film.com.
Guru Amrit Khalsa, an American Sikh, attended a Sikh boarding school in northern India between the ages of 11-14, and was there during the events of September 11 and a period of heightened military tension between India and Pakistan later that year. She is a native of the Washington D.C. area, and graduated from Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication in 2011 Summa Cum Laude. During her time at Ohio University, Guru founded Interfaith Impact, a student group devoted to pursuing interfaith dialogue and religious education projects. As part of a fellowship with the Interfaith Youth Core (2010-2011), Guru mobilized diverse faith communities on Ohio University’s campus in combating water pollution. She holds an MA from American University in International Affairs, with an academic concentration in South Asian studies. She recently completed a Boren Fellowship (Hindi language) in India, which combined Hindi language study with research on India’s climate change mitigation strategies and policies to reduce C02 emissions.
Jacob Kohlhaas (2011) a native of Algona, Iowa, received his BA with majors in Religion, Art and Communication Design from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, his MA with a major in Systematic Theology and a minor in History from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois, and is currently working towards a PhD in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jake spent a semester of undergrad in Morogoro, Tanzania studying Kiswahili and teaching an extracurricular art class at a secondary school. And has also taken travel courses on liberation theology in Honduras and Christian history in Turkey. Jake’s MA Thesis was a comparative study of the past forty years of official statements made by the ELCA and the Roman Catholic Church addressing the topic of Homosexuality. His research interests include Theological Anthropology (particularly regarding human sexuality), Ecumenism and Ecclesiology (particularly among Catholic, Eastern and mainline Protestant Churches), Natural Law (especially how it conceives of “the natural” in relation to ongoing scientific research), History of Christianity, and Theology of Creation and Wilderness Ethics (especially concerning humanity’s role in both protecting and shaping “the natural”). Jake is married with one daughter (and another due in February) and one Chihuahua. When not reading or studying for language exams, he spends most of his time pretending to be a handyman while renovating his family’s home.
Sai Kolluru (2011) is a senior at Case Western Reserve University majoring in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He co-founded an Hindu organization on campus that focuses on preserving and practicing Hindu, Sanatana Dharmic values and principles with a final goal of Seva, selfless service. On campus, Sai and his team of second-generation Hindu Americans lead regular meditation workshops, have their annual speaker on campus event which brings in experts on Ayurveda, Vedanta, Pantajali Yoga and other aspects of Vedic traditions. In addition, the Hindu organization has started the first-ever Guru Vandhana on campus which means “Reverence to Teacher” through which they honor a professor chosen by the students of the University as their Guru. At events such as these, faith-based student organizations and communities of all faiths and traditions are present. Furthermore, Sai and his Hindu organization visit Bhutanese Refugees in Cleveland every sunday and many celebrations for the Bhutanese community on campus from festivals to meditation and yoga sessions. During their weekly visits, Sai leads a team of interfaith students in projects focused on education, women empowerment, job employment, driving lessons, computer literacy, ESL classes and many others to help the Bhutanese Refugees assimilate towards the American society. Recognized by the Office of Inclusion and Diversity of Case Western Reserve University as well as the White House, the Bhutanese Refugees project has been taken up by many faith communities and student organizations across the country. During the spring break of 2010, Sai went on a 2,000 mile trip around the Midwest visiting 10 universities, several cities, and 5 states connecting local communities with Bhutanese refugees and providing tools to implement various Bhutanese settlement projects. Recently, Sai complete his internship at the White House and hopes to pursue a career in Law and Government in the near future. He also hopes to bring the voices of Hindu-Americans to a national and an international stage and represent the world’s largest ancient tradition through the eyes of Swami Vivekananda in the 21st century.
Nate Kratzer (2010) is currently the Outreach and Congregations Fellow at Jubilee USA Network, a non-profit dedicated to international debt relief and a Biblical vision of economic life. He is a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, a volunteer organization emphasizing simplicity, justice, and community. Volunteers live together to help form community and practice living simply while working for established non-profits. Nate graduated from Centre College in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Religion and Philosophy and a minor in Spanish. His primary academic interest is Latin American Theology and he has traveled to Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.
Rebecca Levi (2011) is an M.A student in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, focusing on ethical issues of gender, sexuality, and ecology in Judaism. Her thesis examines uses of empirical evidence in the Conservative movement’s 2006 decision allowing for the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and cantors. She loves Rabbinic argumentation, is cautiously attracted to process theology, has a love-hate relationship with Kant, is allergic to essentialisms, and despises the “appeal to nature” fallacy with a burning passion. Rebecca is a progressive Jew from an eclectic religious background. Her mother is a secular Protestant; her father was a Jew who dabbled in East Asian and Native American spirituality. Growing up, she observed her family’s Christianities and Judaisms in both liberal and traditionalist manifestations, spent her teens as an intermittently practicing neo-pagan, and through a combination of intellectual frustration and a deep cultural pull stepped carefully back into Judaism in her late teens and twenties. She has been gleefully problematizing her tradition ever since, and is working towards her Bat Mitzvah this spring.
Victoria Larson (2012) is studying for her Master of Divinity degree at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Prior to entering seminary, Victoria graduated magna cum laude from Washington College in Chestertown, MD with a double-major in Drama and Humanities. She spent three years alternately working as an actress and travelling in Europe, working on organic farms through a program called World-Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming. Though she enjoyed the diverse experiences she garnered, like jousting at a Renaissance Faire in Pennsylvania or learning to make goat cheese in France, Victoria found herself drawn to answer a persistent call to theological study. She finds that those seemingly haphazard life experiences continually inform her theological formation; she has started a community garden at her seminary, and remains interested in the intersection between ecology and religion. She is also currently investigating whether improvisational theater could be an effective vehicle for starting conversations about ethics. Victoria is a candidate for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Her vocational musings, sermons, and the occasional harassed anecdote about her dog Barnaby can be read at lutheranmoxie.wordpress.com.
Rhee-Soo Lee (2012) is currently a Master of Divinity candidate at Harvard Divinity School. She discovered interfaith by chance during her sophomore year at Wesleyan University, and has been actively involved in interfaith activism and dialogue ever since. She majored in government and religion at Wesleyan, and wrote her senior thesis about French representations of religion in Algeria and Morocco. After graduating in 2011, she did a year-long fellowship with the Episcopal Service Corps in Boston and worked at a nonprofit in Dorchester doing community organizing and youth leadership development. At HDS, Rhee-Soo is interested in exploring issues surrounding religion and education. In her free time, she likes to read, watch Netflix, and go biking around Boston. is currently a Master of Divinity candidate at Harvard Divinity School. She discovered interfaith by chance during her sophomore year at Wesleyan University, and has been actively involved in interfaith activism and dialogue ever since. She majored in government and religion at Wesleyan, and wrote her senior thesis about French representations of religion in Algeria and Morocco. After graduating in 2011, she did a year-long fellowship with the Episcopal Service Corps in Boston and worked at a nonprofit in Dorchester doing community organizing and youth leadership development. At HDS, Rhee-Soo is interested in exploring issues surrounding religion and education. In her free time, she likes to read, watch Netflix, and go biking around Boston.
Bridget Liddell (2012) is a self-educated independent earth spiritualist engaged in a nonhierarchical, nature-based practice and philosophy. While an undergraduate student at DePaul University, in Chicago, she interned in University Ministry as a Student Interfaith Scholar for two years – the first safe space where she could speak openly about her non-normative beliefs and experiences. This community inspired her to pursue formal spiritual leadership in her faith area (as formal as earthy people get), which is grounded in self-education and direct experience. After graduating over a year ago, she departed conventional life and became a nomad, traveling solo in America and southern Asia (primarily India) up until August 2012. The point being to completely step back from leadership at that level, to take the space to articulate spiritual and intellectual ideas, to directly engage Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus in a self-designed interfaith immersion, and to develop personal strength through facing the adversity that comes with the task of long-term solo (especially solo female) travel. But the drive towards communal empowerment could not be denied, and she took an opportunity to apply her theories and experiences – collaborating with a local teacher on critical gender/sexuality awareness workshops for young Indian college students, to provide a safe, informed space where young people could engage highly charged social ideas which impact their daily lives. Now, back in the States, she is writing about her travel experiences and the corresponding social concepts, reconnecting to the seasonal rhythm, and exploring the potential integration of her academic and ministerial interests.
Dina Malki (2014) is the Dallas Islam Examiner where she writes about Islam in Dallas. She has been published in several other publications as well. She has been an active participant in interfaith relations for many years. She is a public speaker about Islam. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.
Ben Maton (2010) is a husband of one, father of three, and a PhD candidate in “Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice” at the University of Virginia. Before coming to UVA, for 6 years he pastored two small Lutheran congregations (Missouri Synod) in New England. Prior to and in preparation for that ministry, he earned a BA in history from Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska and the MDiv and STM degrees from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He is currently interested in the scriptural reading practices of different communities of Christians and how these practices give rise to distinct homiletical performances of those scriptures. His study of scripture as that which is for proclamation continues to be enriched by his appreciation of the deeply performative nature of rabbinic/midrashic study of Torah. While at UVA he has been involved in the practice of “Scriptural Reasoning” with faculty and student members of the three Abrahamic traditions. While only God knows what his life after UVA will look like, his hope is to teach Christian scriptural interpretation (and perhaps homiletics), while staying actively involved in nurturing inter-Abrahamic friendships through non-reductive dialogue and study.
Ariel Evan Mayse (2014) is a doctoral candidate in Jewish Studies at Harvard University, where he is working with Arthur Green and Bernard Septimus. He has been a student of Jewish mysticism for many years, and he teaches Hasidic thought and theology in Jerusalem, where he lives with his wife and son. Ariel’s forthcoming dissertation entitled “Beyond the Letters: The Question of Language in the Teachings of R. Dov Baer of Mezritch” explores the philosophy of language of one of the most important early Hasidic leaders. He is a co-editor of the recent two-volume collection Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings From Around the Maggid’s Table (Jewish Lights, 2013) and editor of the forthcoming From the Depth of the Well: An Anthology of Jewish Mysticism (Paulist Press).
Kelly West Figueroa-Ray is a United Methodist and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Scripture, Interpretation and Practice program in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. Her focus is the relationship between scripture and theology as it is lived out in contemporary communities with a particular interest in multicultural Christian ministries. Kelly earned her B.A. at the University of California at Berkeley in development studies and completed her M.Div. at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. magna cum laude. Her essay “‘Lady, Give Me A Drink’: Reading Scripture, Shaping Community Development” is part of the book Mobilizing for the Common Good: The Lived Theology of John Perkins by University Press of Mississippi, 2013. You can follow her on Twitter @siemprechipil and read her professional portfolio at http://www.kellyfigueroaray.com/.
Mark McCormack (2012) is a graduate from the Vanderbilt University Divinity School and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Vanderbilt’s Community Research & Action program. His research focuses primarily on the psychological study of interfaith relations, though he has also studied extensively and written on such topics as faith–based community development, congregational studies, religion & politics, and the history and sociology of religion in America. As a community psychologist, Mark hopes to engage in research and community action that not only broadens current understandings of interfaith work but also provides practical insights for community members and organizations actively engaged in this work and seeking to improve interfaith relations. His academic work has appeared in the Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, the Journal of Religion & Society, and The Community Psychologist, and he has presented at numerous regional, national, and international academic conferences. Mark lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three boys. A life–long member of the United Methodist Church, he is currently pursuing ordination as a Deacon within the UMC and hopes to explore and expand the denomination’s involvement in interfaith programs and initiatives. He has been involved in various interfaith programs and events within the Nashville community and across the U.S. and hopes, among other things, to contribute insights from these experiences to the ongoing dialogue at State of Formation.
Joseph McLendon is a professor, Quaker, husband, and friend. He is a professor of Social Sciences and Humanities at a state community college and a private, Christian liberal-arts college in Portland, OR. His research foci include: Anglo-American Progression; Socio-Cultural Perspectives on Interfaith Movements; Cultural Criticism and Relativism; Ethical Considerations of Pluralist Societies; the Acquisition of Cultural Capital; ‘Religion’ — Broad and Narrow Definitions; and Atheist/Irreligious Perspectives in Interfaith Dialogue. He is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Great Britain), and is an active voice in inter/national Friends’ organizations. Outside academia, he is an avid runner, cyclist, and guitarist. He lives with his spouse, Heather, and their mini-schnauzer/yorkie mix, Tatum.
Ela Merom (2011) received rabbinic ordination and a Master degree from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a B.A. in religious thought from the Hebrew University. In addition, long periods of travel in India and meditation retreats with Buddhist masters have deeply fed her spiritual path. For as long as she remembers she has been interested in exploring ways of knowing existence more intimately and lovingly, and cultivating a penetrating direct experience of the world. Ela is Jewish religiously and culturally, but a student of all religions in their essence as they represent languages for seeking the divine; in their richness they manifest the holiness through the creativity of the human spirit. All this she prays is for one end and one end only: to open her heart more and more to hold beauty and brokenness in herself and the world with growing tenderness, compassion, and love. Torah study, mindfulness, movement, drumming and music are her primary tools in this endeavor of reaching the heart of herself and others through prayer, justice and reconciliation work, spiritual direction, and encounters with sacred text. Ela lives and works in Tel Aviv and is mother to precious Shahar and Adi Lia.
Jaime Myers (2013) is pursuing an M.A. with a concentration in Inter-religious Dialogue at Union Theological Seminary. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fordham University in 2005 with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in Religious Studies. Jaime’s academic interests include comparative religion, in particular looking at Dharmic religions v.s Judeo-Christian faiths,mysticism, and the role that doubt and skepticism play in different religious traditions. Jaime is deeply committed to interfaith work, and is currently the Director of Programming at Faith House Manhattan, a non-profit that focuses on experiential religious education. She is also the author of the blog “This Too is God”, which chronicles her experiences practicing different religious faiths. Jaime is culturally Jewish, but religiously unaffiliated. She recently married her husband, Kevin, a Catholic, in an eclectic inter-faith ceremony in upstate New York; they now live in Fort Lee, NJ.
Timothy Miner (2011) is an ordained minister and cum laude graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. candidate at New York Theological Seminary. He is a co-founder of the Order of Universal Interfaith (OUnI) which is a new ecclesiastic body with members around the world that seeks to serve people of all faiths through professional ministry and chaplaincy. He holds chaplain credentials for the United States government, local police and hospice organizations. He serves as founding executive director for the Council of Interfaith Communities of the United States (CIC-USA). He is also co-founder of the World Interfaith Harmony Week Breakfast program which was the first official activity sanctioned by the United Nation’s program. He blogs on “inclusive theology, spirituality and consciousness.”
James Nagle (2013) is a high school theology teacher and retreat director in the Pacific ‘unchurched’ Northwest. His research and work focus on formation and religious education with youth and young adults. He earned an M.A. from Andover Newton Theological School and conducted post-grad studies at the BTI and Portland State University. Currently, he is a M.Div candidate at Marylhurst University.
Jonathan Oskins (2011) is a Graduate student currently pursuing an M.A. in Interreligious Studies in the first incoming class at Claremont Lincoln University, the world’s first interreligious theological graduate university, in its member school, Claremont School of Theology. He is the Communications Intern for the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), a non-profit association of Interfaith organizations and agencies in Canada, Mexico & the U.S. He has been a Board Member of the Academy of Judaic, Islamic and Christian Studies since 2008, along with fellow Board members, including Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Dr. George Grose, Dr. Reinhard Krauss, and Dr. S. Scott Bartchy. He received his BA in Study of Religion from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), completing his Senior Thesis/Honors Research for Departmental Honors supervised by the then Director of the Center for the Study of Religion, Dr. S. Scott Bartchy. He was an editor of Epoché, the UCLA Undergraduate Journal for the Study of Religion in 2010, and President of the “Bolle Study of Religion Student Organization at UCLA” his senior year. He was also the recipient of a City of Los Angeles Certificate of Appreciation for participation in and planning of Big Sunday: Mayor’s Citywide Day of Service. He attended the Los Angeles Pre-World Parliament of the World’s Religions Event in Santa Monica, California in 2009, and was the student representative for Los Angeles Valley College to the Valley Interfaith Council event to celebrate and honor those who promote “Harmony in Diversity” in 2006.
Joshua Oxley (2010) is a 2nd-year Master of Divinity student at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School. He serves as the Humanist Advisor for the University of Chicago, under the auspices of the Spiritual Life Office, serving the secular community on campus. As a Secular Humanist and Atheist, Joshua is working to both foster a sense of positive secular community, as well as encouraging secular individuals to engage in interfaith efforts. He is also interested in improving the public image of Atheists and other freethinkers within the United States, while also challenging the political power that some larger religious organizations have publicly wielded. Joshua is convinced that there is a strong, unique and ethical basis to a secular identity, and wants to help others also become comfortable in their identification as secular. Joshua is a member of the American Humanist Association, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and the Foundation Beyond Belief. He serves as the Graduate Advisor to the Secular Student Alliance chapter at the University of Chicago. His website is sleepinginsundays.com.
Lee Paczulla (2010) didn’t grow up going to church, but she did grow up in another kind of religious heartland: the commercial capital of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, home to one of the biggest malls in America. After earning her undergraduate degree in psychology and women’s studies at Swarthmore College, Lee moved to Washington, DC where she spent five years working with the DC Primary Care Association, a community-based health action organization – and she also started going to church. Lee is pursuing ordination as a Unitarian Universalist minister, within a tradition that has deep roots in Christianity, but which has evolved over its 300-year history in this country into a pluralistic tradition that makes space for science, reason, and humanism while embracing the variety of personal religious histories its congregants carry when they walk through our doors. Lee is currently interning with Social Action Ministries, a program of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance which seeks to involve diverse communities of faith and spiritual practice in statewide efforts to end homelessness. Lee has a particular interest in the ways that today’s “spiritual but not religious” young adults understand their spirituality, and her vocational goals include building transformative, healthy spaces for multiracial and multicultural community, and engaging people to work across religious boundaries for broad-based social change. Lee attends Harvard Divinity School and tweets @leepaczulla.
Trey Palmisano (2011) holds a B.S. in English with a concentration in Writing from Towson University and an M.A. in Theology with a concentration in Systematic Theology from the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, MD. He is a 2012 Dean’s Award recipient for Outstanding Achievement in Theological Studies. His M.A. thesis work defended a methodological approach in the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with particular attention to the concepts of peace and violence. He is a member of the International Dietrich Bonhoeffer Society, Society of Biblical Literature, and Evangelical Theological Society. A writer by trade, his work has appeared in such diverse publications as the Anglican Theological Review, Sojourners, The Baltimore Sun, and he served for a period of time as a faith columnist for the Baltimore Examiner. His past experience as an educator includes Carver Center for the Arts & Technology, a secondary education magnet school in Towson, MD, where he taught poetics and world literature, and Towson University, where he worked as an adjunct professor of English. He has worked as a curriculum developer creating original lessons and testing material to major educational publishers. He currently works as a process and procedures analyst for a major defense contractor in the Baltimore-Washington area. He was a 2012 participant in the State of Formation National Seminar on Narrative & Interreligious Cooperation.
Tasi Perkins (2011) is a Ph.D. candidate in Theological and Religious Studies at Georgetown University and an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. His research interest is narrative paradigms of nonviolence in the liturgies, texts, and rituals of Islam and Christianity. Tasi earned a Bachelor of Science in Biometry and Statistics at Cornell University and a Master of Divinity from Duke University, and recently finished a year of graduate coursework at Boston University. He has promoted peacebuilding through ministerial involvement in hospitals, prisons, and social services, as a Chaplain Candidate in the U.S. Navy, and as the pastor of three congregations in Virginia. Tasi’s wife, Kristen, is a doctoral student in neuroscience through Brown University.
Craig Phillips manages peacebuilding and conflict resolution programs in the Middle East and North Africa at Partners for Democratic Change. A graduate of Hartford Seminary, with a degree in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Craig aims to bring the role of religion and religious actors into his international programming work. He has worked with numerous faith based organizations with a focus in communications, social media, training, and fundraising. Craig currently is based in the Washington DC metro area.
Santa Poudel (2013) graduate from Texas A&M University, USA, and moved to India to get new insights on spirituality. During undergraduate studies, he was introduced to a new philosophy, a new spiritual vision known as the Tartamya vision. It unraveled him to the breathtaking similarities between the Eastern (Vedic Religions) and the Abrahamic religions of the West. After graduating in 2011, he went to India and attended the Ashrama (spiritual center) to learn the essence of faiths and spirituality. As he studied this philosophy, he became more convinced than ever that religious harmony and the making of safer world for the coming generation is possible through the illumination of this new vision that accepts most of the tenets of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism among other world’s major religions.
Tiffany Puett (2011) is a PhD candidate in the Laurier-Waterloo Joint PhD Program in Religious Diversity in North America. She’s currently working on her dissertation, entitled “The Political Discourse of Religious Pluralism: World Religions Textbooks, Liberalism, and Civic Identities.” More broadly, she’s interested in exploring the ongoing construction of ‘religion’ in a liberal democratic society and the politics embedded in these processes. She’s especially interested in the intersections of religion with education, citizenship, and religious freedom. She approaches the study of religion from a relational perspective, with an eye for hybridity, encounter, nuance, and ambivalence. She aims to contribute to public conversations about religion that emphasize nuance and complexity while remaining accessible and transparent. Prior to her doctoral studies, she directed educational programs at the Temple of Understanding, a historic interfaith organization in New York, and taught in the Religious Studies Department at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. She holds an MTS in Ethics from Boston University School of Theology and a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two children. Follow her on Twitter: @tiffanypuett.
Enver Rahmanov (2012) was born in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan and studied in Kiev, Ukraine before moving to the United States to work at the United Nations in New York. Currently, he is a student in Interreligious Studies at the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, California) and the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. Enver is also a Graduate Research Assistant at the Mangalam Research Center for the Buddhist Languages, where his focus is on reception of Buddhism by the West. Working for the UN and volunteering with several faith-based organizations, including on a Navajo land in Arizona and Bodh Gaya, India, Enver has come to realize that the wisdom of peace, compassion and right actions is truly universal and has no borders but only different languages and interpretations. He is inspired by the Dalai Lama’s ethics beyond religion and “education of the heart,” a call to bring the indispensability of inner values of love, compassion, justice, and forgiveness into education. Enver promotes interfaith dialogue by building personal heart to heart connections across religious borders and through his facilitation of Beyond Words: An Interfaith Ritual for Peace. Enver enjoys meditation, yoga, dance, bicycling, hiking and travel.
Michael Ramberg will graduate from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College this June(!). Much to his surprise, as the son of intermarried (but mainly secular) parents active in the Civil Rights movement, Michael found in the rabbinate his own way to carry on his parents’ important legacy. For him the most compelling venue in which to pursue this work of repairing the world is through interfaith coalitions, not only because Jews need partners in order to bring about real changes, but also because interfaith relationships are so nourishing for him. Michael’s focus is standing up for the rights of immigrants, which he does primarily as a volunteer with the New Sanctuary Movement and his synagogue, Mishkan Shalom, in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to his rabbinic role as community organizer and activist, Michael relishes his responsibilities working with people to sanctify life transitions. In his Jewish practice Michael is invigorated both by reconstructing the Jewish tradition to fit the evolving needs of people today and by immersing himself in prayer and the study of sacred texts. Michael’s partner just completed her PhD in Education and they have committed to equally sharing the care of their one-and-a-half year old daughter. Michael sometimes thinks that the profound love his daughter has inspired in him gives him at least a glimmer of understanding of the love the divine has for humanity.
Hussein Rashid is an academic and activist. He received his PhD from Harvard University, and his broad research project involves the representation and self-representation of Muslims in America. He has published on Islamicate musics in America, and has delivered talks on the Muslim-American blogistan and Muslims in graphic novels. He has taught at Hofstra University, Fordham University, Harvard University, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Virginia Theological Seminary. He works in New York’s interfaith communities, teaching at Quest: A Center for Spiritual Inquiry. He has appeared on CNN, NPR, Fox News, CBS Evening News, and Russia Today. He is an Associate Editor at Religion Dispatches, and blogs at islamicate. You can find out more about him at www.husseinrashid.com
Josh Ratner (2011) is a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Josh is originally from San Diego, California, and spent time working as an attorney for five years prior to commencing rabbinical school. Josh presently lives in Fairfield, CT, with his wife (Elena) and three children (Dimitri, Elijah, and Gabriella). Josh intends to work in the field of interfaith progressive advocacy upon completing his studies. Please feel free to contact Josh at jdratner613[at]gmail.com.
Michaela Romano-Meade (2015) is a Master of Divinity candidate at Andover Newton Theological School, and she is pursuing ordained ministry with the Unitarian Universalist Association. Michaela is a proud member of the Sanctuary Boston where she serves on both the steering and worship teams. Prior to attending seminary Michaela received a BFA in Musical Theater from Emerson College, spent three years working in the San Francisco SPCA Veterinary Hospital, and served as a health education Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa. Michaela is passionate about singing, building beloved community, worship and prayer, fresh picked raspberries, animal rights, and Harry Potter.
Yaira Robinson (2011) is the Associate Director of the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy and its environmental program, Texas Interfaith Power & Light. She holds a Master’s in Theological Studies from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and has studied religiously based environmental and food justice with GreenFaith, Creation Justice Ministries, Hazon, and the Siach network. Right now, she is a student in the ALEPH rabbinic ordination program. Yaira has earned several DeRose-Hinkhouse awards from the Religion Communicators Council for materials she’s written for the Interfaith Center. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, and worked some in the textbook publishing industry and some as a stay-at-home-mom before serving two Unitarian Universalist churches as Director of Religious Education from 2004-2009. Granddaughter to a Christian minister and daughter to Sufi teachers, Yaira is joyfully Jewish. Her two boys are now taller than she is(!), but still add laughter to her life. In her “spare” time, she likes to make art.
Arielle Rosenberg (2011) is a second year rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Boston, MA. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Arielle spent the last decade working as an organizer with migrant and indigenous communities in Honduras, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Most recently, Arielle helped found and organize with the Worker Defense Committee, a committee of migrant workers and community allies that worked to fight wage theft and other workers’ rights abuses, in Seattle, Washington. In Boston, Arielle facilitates an interfaith group on prison justice and, as an intern with the Jewish Farm School, built a curriculum on Food Justice issues. Arielle is passionate about the nexus of migration, prisons, and workers rights. She derives inspiration from a chevre of people, including Emma Goldman, Martin Buber, Edurado Galeano, the Pelican Bay prison hunger strikers, and Grace Paley, among many, many others. She is grateful to have the chance to drink deep at the well of Jewish text tradition, inviting voices from generations past to speak sweetly and urgently; to be part of the mending of rent strands of learning and legacy.
Jared Hillary Ruark (2011) is a first-year Master of Divinity candidate at Vanderbilt University. In the spring of 2011, he earned his A.B. from Kenyon College where he was awarded Highest Honors in Religious Studies and completed a second major in Economics. His undergraduate thesis explored the relationship between the theological liberalism of thinkers like H. Richard Niebuhr and the social activism of mainline Protestant ministers. Jared’s current academic interests include historical Jesus studies, mysticism, 20th century theology, and the Protestant left. He is also interested in the relationship between religious ideology and economic sensibilities, as well as American political economy. In the future, Jared hopes to be ordained in The United Church of Christ. He is interested in a number of vocations, including congregational ministry, non-profit work in the realm of economic development, inter-faith dialogue, and further academic study.
Mark Rupp (2013) will graduate in May 2015 with an MDiv from the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. He previously received a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a concentration in Ministry from Bluffton University. His current main research interests include sexuality and gender studies (especially focusing on the social construction of masculinity) as well as both queer and non-violent theology. He currently works in Columbus, OH for a community development organization as the director of its community kitchen ministry, where interactions with diverse groups of people continue to stretch and challenge his assumptions about the world. He also serves as the Pastor of Christian Formation at Columbus Mennonite Church.
Amjad Saleem (2012) is a political analyst on South Asian issues with expertise in Humanitarian and Development Issues, Peacebuilding and Interfaith Dialogue. He has been working as a freelance consultant for the last 7 years splitting his time between the UK and Sri Lanka. His clients have included International Alert, Search for Common Ground, KAICIID, the Commonwealth Foundation,Islamic Development Bank, The Cordoba Foundation among others. He was Country Director for British NGO, Muslim Aid in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from 2005 – 2009. He also currently serves as a thematic advisor for the UN initiated process, the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS). He is an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Program, the flagship professional exchange program run by the US State Department. He is a Hive GLP Fellow and a fellow of PS21 Global. He is a regular contributor to online journals and websites. He has an M.Eng from Imperial College, an MBA from U21 Global Singapore and is currently pursuing a PhD from Exeter University on ‘Muslim Identity in Post Conflict Sri Lanka.’
Ikhlas Saleem (2011) is a Master of Theological Studies student at Harvard Divinity School concentrating in women, gender sexuality and religion, specializing in Islamic Studies and holds a BA from Wellesley College in Religious Studies. She is currently working as a Graduate Research Assistant with Hauwa Ibrahim, a Visiting Scholar and Researcher in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard. Ikhlas is most interested in the intersections of women, culture and development and the role of religion and policy in determining the lives of women. Ikhlas enjoys traveling to warm climates, long dinners with friends and riding her bike through Cambridge and Boston.
C. Nikole Saulsberry (2010) graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 where she received a B.S. in Communications and Rhetorical Studies with minors in Religion and Strategic Management. As an undergraduate student, Nikole served as a Peer Minister for the Protestant Campus Ministry for 7 semesters, led pluralist initiatives as an inaugural member of the Interfaith Youth Core’s (IFYC) Fellows Alliance in 2007-2008, and participated in Hendricks Chapel’s final installment of their Three Faiths: On Humanity Study Travel Experience in Jerusalem in March 2009. After graduation Nikole worked was the Christian Coordinator for the Chautauqua Institution’s Abrahamic Program for Young Adults during their 2009 season. In October of the same year, Nikole began a 10 month commitment to national service by joining AmeriCorps National Community Civilian Corps as a member in the Pacific Region. In February 2010, Nikole became a panelist for the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue’s InterView series started coaching 2010-2011 class of IFYC Fellows in October 2011. Currently she is serving another AmeriCorps term with New Sector Alliance, Inc. as a Resident in Social Enterprise where she serves as the Communications Specialist for the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Nikole is particularly interested in fostering religious pluralism through simultaneous efforts of common action, policy engagement, liberation theology and hermeneutics of social justice.
Hilary J. Scarsella (2012) lives as a member of the Prairie Wolf Collective in northern Indiana with several dear friends and her partner Sam. Currently Associate for Transformative Peacemaking with Mennonite Church USA, she also works for Institute of Mennonite Studies and recently completed a Master of Divinity degree from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in theology, ethics, and peacemaking. Prior to her time in seminary she earned a degree from Indiana University in religious studies and philosophy, and she is currently looking toward beginning a PhD. Hilary’s deepest passion is for interrupting and healing systems of violence and oppression wherever they are found, be it in war zones, religious communities, private homes or public streets. She has been an active volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Teams for the last 5 years, periodically traveling to northern Iraq to support locals working for peace. In the U.S. Hilary’s work has centered on undoing racism, undoing patriarchy, walking with women striving to heal from the trauma of sexual violence and helping religious communities learn to be safe spaces for survivors. Hilary believes that prayer, worship and peacemaking are inseparable, and when done well they are indistinguishable. Her master’s thesis Sexual Abuse and the Lord’s Supper: A Ritual of Harm or Healing highlights her lasting interest in looking at ways to shape worship so that worshiping communities are inwardly formed to resist violence and become agents of peace, justice, and reconciliation.
Ben Schewel (2011) is a Bahá’í and a doctoral student in philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, in Belgium. He received his BA and MA from the University of Virginia in philosophical theology. He was the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship and Belgian American Education Foundation grant for the ’10-’11 year. Ben specializes in the field of process philosophy, broadly considered, as he includes alongside the likes of Alfred North Whitehead certain Neoplatonists, idealists, dialecticians, pragmatists, phenomenologists, and hermeneuticists within this category. Ben is working on developing Whitehead’s philosophy of history according to insights gleaned from the above-mentioned figures, in an attempt to reconstruct science and religion as harmonious forces contributing to civilization’s advance. Ben is very active within the Bahá’í community’s projects of social and economic development (http://www.ruhi.org), the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program in particular. He embraces the Bahá’í community’s approach to capacity building, combining spiritual reflection, scientific knowledge, community action, and systematic learning towards the empowerment of individuals and communities. He hopes that people everywhere will get involved.
Daniel A. Rodriguez Schlorff (2013) works as a hospice chaplain for a hospice in Connecticut and currently pursues the Doctor of Ministry and Certificate of Sexuality and Religion from Pacific School of Religion. He completed his prior coursework at Hartford Seminary, Meadville Lombard Theological School, and Olivet Nazarene University. Schlorff taught world religions at Carthage College and developed the LGBT Studies program for the University of Wisconsin—Parkside. He is in care with the United Church of Christ and is a brother of the Order of St. Luke.
Lauren Seganos (2014) is a first year MDiv student at Andover Newton Theological School, outside of Boston. She is a licensed minister in the Church of the Brethren, a small Protestant denomination that emphasizes community, peace, and service. She graduated magna cum laude from Juniata College in central Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Religious Studies. From 2011-2013 she served in AmeriCorps at her alma mater as the first Interfaith Service Coordinator, designing and organizing an interfaith engagement and service initiative for college students as part of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Lauren enjoys reading, singing harmony to old hymns, drinking coffee, and learning yoga.
Terry Shoemaker (2013) is a doctoral student at Arizona State University pursuing a PhD in Religious Studies with a concentration in Religion in America. He is interested in the functions of religious communities, the empowerment engendered through religious practice, interfaith movements, and American evangelicalism and fundamentalism. He is the author several journal articles including “God, Guts & Glory” in theInterdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, “Revisiting Sacred Metaphors,” in the Journal of Religion & Society, and “The Mason Jar Mentality” in the Journal of Inter-Religious Studies. He has conducted research with Harvard’s Pluralism Project and currently serves as a Research Assistant at ASU’s Center for the Study of Religion & Conflict where he investigates the relationship between religion and global citizenship. Terry completed his MA in Religious Studies at Western Kentucky University focusing on the embedded nationalistic cultivations of American evangelical megachurches.
Syd Shook (2012) attends Fuller Theological Seminary where she is earning a Masters in Theology. She became interested in indigenous cultures and human rights issues during her time studying linguistics (B.A.) at The University of Oklahoma. In 2007 she was awarded a fellowship from Yale to study Nahuatl in the Balsas River Valley of Guerrero. While in Mexico, her love of indigenous art, literature and culture grew as well as her desire to work with underserviced populations. Syd is passionate about tangible Christian spirituality and loves working with others to create and enact that passion. In 2008 she and her husband, poet David Shook, partnered with Community of Faith and Amahoro Africa founders Claude and Kelley Nikondeha to form a non-profit (FBO) now called Communities of Hope. They worked with local leadership to mobilize leaders from the Batwa community of Burundi to create a successful community-based development partnership that utilized a combination of land loans, micro-finance and appropriate technology. Syd worked with Communities of Hope in similar capacities in Latin America and in Haiti. The organization continues to align itself with the dreams of those in underserved communities and offers them long-term, sustainable development options and support coupled with friendship. Syd attends Hollywood Adventist Church where she also serves as an Elder. In 2011 she participated in a fourteen-week, seven-discussion Standing Together group dialogue with her fellow church members and members of the Islamic Center of Southern California. She co-founded and co-edits The Hillhurst Review, an online platform for book reviews, interviews, opinion and creative pieces relevant to faith and spirituality. Syd teaches ESL part-time in Koreatown and writes poetry in her spare time. She lives with her husband, David, and Chihuaha, Okie Doke, in Los Angeles.
Casey Thornburgh Sigmon (2011) is a first year Ph.D. student in Homiletics and Liturgics, and is a fellow in the Program in Theology and Practice at Vanderbilt University. She graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary (MDiv ’10) where she met and married her husband Phillip Sigmon, a chaplain for Caris Hospice in Tennessee. Casey is a native of Kansas where she studied Film and worked as an on-air disc jockey at the University of Kansas (BA ’06). Out of the intersection of theology and popular culture, her passion for a particular field of study emerged: lifting up the connections between the “sacred” and “secular” ritual worlds of art, music, and theology. Casey is a proud ecumenical mutt. She was raised and baptized Roman Catholic, born-again in Young Life, served as college intern in multiple nondenominational church plants, went to a Presbyterian seminary, and is now an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Casey lives in Nashville with her husband, two cats, and twenty-some-odd Disciples of Christ students in the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt.
Becky Silverstein (2011) is a third year rabbinical student at Hebrew College, a transdenominational rabbinical school in Newton, MA. Becky holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science from Smith College, where she graduated in 2004. During her undergraduate career, she learned that the definition of engineering was “the application of math and science for the betterment of humanity.” She applies her love for text study, theology, and religious community towards the betterment of humanity by being a role model, educator, and organizer. As an out, genderqueer rabbinical student, Becky is developing a religious community and personal theology that allows people to bring their full selves to their work and worship. During the 2010-2011 academic year, as a fellow at the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education, Becky co-founded “Queer Interfaith Community (QIC),” a community of queer-identified seminary students who met bimonthly to discuss and reflect on the role of their queer identity in their religious lives. The ultimate goal of QIC is to support queer seminarians and their allies in finding their voices in faith communities through interfaith programming and communal conversation. You can find Becky’s writing, as well as the reflections of other queer seminarians, on queerinterfaithcommunity.org. Becky is an avid Mets fan and loves New England in the fall. Becky is spending the year studying in Jerusalem, Israel.
Simran Jeet Singh is the Senior Religion Fellow for the Sikh Coalition and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. Simran speaks and writes on a wide range of issues relating to religion and culture. He contributes regularly to a number of media outlets, such as The New York Times, TIME.com, The Washington Post, and Newsweek’s The Daily Beast. He has also appeared on various television and radio programs, including BBC, NPR, CBS, and PBS. and in 2014 Simran delivered a keynote address at The White House. His expertise ranges from the formations of religious communities in early modern South Asia to xenophobia and hate violence in modern America. His dissertation research focuses specifically on the founder of the Sikh tradition – Guru Nanak– and the earliest available manuscript accounts of his life. He has served as a Teaching Assistant for courses on Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism at Columbia University, and in 2013 Simran received the prestigious Columbia University Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching. Simran earned graduate degrees from Harvard University (2008) and Columbia University (2009), and has his undergraduate degree from Trinity University (2006). He currently serves as a Truman National Security Fellow and the Scott and Rachel F. McDermott Fellow for the American Institute of Indian Studies. Simran lives with his wife Gunisha Kaur in Manhattan, New York, where he enjoys reading, running marathons, and spending time with family and friends.
Sara Williams Staley (2010) is a student at Yale Divinity School, where she is working toward a Master of Religious Studies with a concentration in ethics. Her research interest lies broadly in the role of faith communities in religiously charged conflicts, which has led her to Colombia, Northern Ireland, Germany and Poland. More particularly Sara is interested in the conversation between American evangelical and postliberal theologies as it relates to the construction of an evangelical ethic for interreligious engagement. In addition to her studies, Sara works as the Development Coordinator for The Veritas Forum, a nonprofit that creates university forums to explore life’s hardest questions and their relation to the person and story of Jesus Christ. She has previously worked with International Justice Mission as an Aftercare Fellow in their Uganda Field Office, creating new programmatic and funding partnerships to benefit victims of illegal property seizure. Sara has also worked in fundraising development at The Carter Center, the nonprofit founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and as a social worker with low-income families in Chicago. She earned a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia, a B.A. from Moody Bible Institute and recently completed three semesters of coursework at the Boston University School of Theology. Sara identifies as a progressive evangelical and hopes that her somewhat tortuous journey to this point will enable her to be an effective prophetic voice and agent of reconciliation in the evangelical community.
G. Ali Swaby (2010) is currently completing his master’s degree at Hartford Seminary in Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations before an anticipated entry into the seminary’s international PhD program in the fall of 2011. He is preparing a master’s thesis that will focus on eschatology and its implications on ethics and theodicy (divine justice). He recently completed a year-long clinical internship with Cultural Wellness, Marriage & Family Therapy, LLC (CWMFT) where he focused on pastoral counseling and family therapy. The internship eventually overlapped into Cultural Wellness’ policy formation & advocacy and interfaith outreach concentrations, as he worked with the organization’s partners to develop strategies related to advocacy for Muslim children and families and the state of New York Foster Care system’s continued non-compliance with the Adoption and Safe Family Act of 1997. G. Ali’s academic interests include modern and medieval philosophy (“Arabic Philosophy”), theology (Kalaam and Liberation), as well as their empirical mediation and particularizing through ethics. He holds that if theology is the human endeavor to etch the divine into word constructions through the use of reason and logic, then theology operates at a tension between human understanding and the divine. Ethics must be applied to polish and make the tension pliant enough for human experience, as well as render it recognizable for contemporary consumption. His blog will explore these ethical implications at these various crossroads in which he is situated and continues to walk the earth. G. Ali is married with children and currently resides in the New York City area. You can email G. Ali at garswa[at]gmail.com, visit his website at http://www.garswa.com and follow him on Twitter: @garswa.
Allana Taylor (2010) is a recently graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in Anthropology and Religious Studies. She is currently pursuing an M.A., and planning to pursue a Ph.D., in Islamic Studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her academic interests are primarily focused on the interactions between Islamic Law, government and culture in both Western and Muslim-majority countries. As an undergraduate she was a fellow with the Xenia Institute, a community dialogue and social action organization, and interned for the Middle Prairie Institute for Religion and Public Life. As the current communications intern for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, she works to support PeaceNext (the official social networking site of CPWR) and further the Council’s engagement with the greater public through social media. She is an atheist who values the role of religion in the human experience and is committed to being part of the religious conversation.
Bhikshuni Lozang Trinlae, B.Sc., Ed.M., (भिक्षुणी लोजाङ् त्रिन्ले) (2011) is presently a doctoral student in practical theology at Claremont School of Theology at Claremont Lincoln University, where she is conducting research in formal vajrayana Buddhist meditation practice. She was ordained a novice Buddhist nun in Mysore in 1991; took full-ordination Bhikshuni precepts in 1998 in Bodhgaya, India; and is also a priest in the Buddhist vajrayana tradition (Drukpa Kagyu and Gelug lineages primarily). A summa-cum-laude graduate in physics, she earned her master’s degree in education from Harvard University, where she also studied Tibetan language in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. She taught science and English in India and in Tibet while undertaking contemplative training in vajrayana Buddhism. After teaching Buddhism in Taiwan in the mid-1990’s, she founded Mahaprajapati Hermitage in Sagarmartha Mt. Everest National Park in Nepal, where she completed ten years of cloistered, intensive, vajrayana retreat, including two great approaching retreats (शतलक्ष मन्त्र इष्टदेव पुरश्चरण/བསྙེན་ཆེན།). Bhikshuni Lozang is also a trained chaplain and certified instructor in relationship education. More details of her present research, and hermitage, including her texts and photo album, can be found here and here.
Brandon Turner is a PhD Candidate at The Catholic University of America working towards completing his dissertation. He is doing qualitative research on the way “being religious” is defined and expressed among 18-39 year old American Muslims and has been comparing this data with sociological theories on religiosity and Islamic concepts such as taqwa, iman, islam, and ihsan. He currently resides in Apex, North Carolina, and is always looking for ways to participate in and/or lead inter-religious activities, particularity between Muslims and Christians. He can be reached at @turnerbrandon anytime.
The Reverend Chris Turner (2013) was ordained as an interfaith minister in 2013. Chris’ assignment of ministry is under the Center of Spiritual Light in Bronx, NY, where he works closely as a Global Elder to co-create programs focused on coaching and consulting using spiritual practices to enrich the soul of work. Chris is pursuing a PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Sydney, examining the history, current state and future potential of interfaith ministry in an Australian context. Chris holds an MA in Sustainable Business and Communities from Goddard College in Vermont and a BA in Environmental Studies and Economics from SUNY College at Purchase in New York. Chris is a Founding Member of the Association of Interfaith Ministers in Australia and New Zealand, an organization created for the purpose of creating the structures and recognition to allow interfaith ministers to legally and openly serve in their respective societies.
Andrew Twiton (2012) is the intern pastor at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer in Minneapolis and a Master of Divinity student at Luther Seminary. He currently lives in St. Paul, MN with his spouse, Kristin. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Gustavus Adolphus College focusing on American Pragmatism and theories of social change. While at Gustavus, he participated in the Interfaith Dialogue Working Group for the college’s most recent strategic planning process. After college, Andy spent two years in the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC), first, in Berkeley, CA as a recovery counselor at a drug treatment group home for teenagers, and, second, in Minneapolis working for Lutheran World Relief in their public policy and advocacy department. It was during LVC that Andy began discerning a call to ministry and started the candidacy process for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In 2010, he was named a Volunteers Exploring Vocation Fellow by the Fund for Theological Education and began his seminary education at Luther. Andy is eager and excited to take part in the growing movement of inter-religious dialogue. You can connect with him on twitter @atwiton or through email atwiton001[at]luthersem[dot]edu.
Joseph Wiinikka-Lydon (2013) is a doctoral student at Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion in the Ethics and Society course of study. He is also a member of Emory’s Religion, Conflict and Peace-building Initiative. His interests include religion, conflict and peace; comparative religious ethics; modern Christian thought; the effect of social change on moral development; and the intersection of sociology and religious ethics. Most recently, he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities to study classical Buddhist texts and prepare courses on comparative ethics. You can find more information on his work at http://emory.academia.edu/JoeWiinikkaLydon.
Josh Weisman (2014) is studying to become a rabbi at Hebrew College. Josh has been bringing people together for community building and social change for over 14 years. As a Congregation Based Community Organizer in San Francisco, he helped congregations put their religious values into action by joining together to campaign for policies that addressed pressing community problems. Last year he was the Organizer for Philadelphia Emerging Religious Leaders, a new interfaith organization of leaders in formation. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Macalester College where he produced ethnographies on communities in Guatemala and Minnesota. Josh practices Jewish mindfulness meditation, and traditional ecstatic prayer. He actively explores the intersection between spiritual practice and social justice. Josh lives with his wife, Pella Schafer Weisman, a Marriage & Family Therapist, in Boston.
Funlayo E. Wood (2011) is a doctoral student in African Studies and Religion at Harvard University where she is a Junior Fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions. A native New Yorker, Funlayo holds degrees from the City University of New York Degree for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies and the City College of New York where she was a graduate fellow at the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies. An initiated priestess of Obatala and Iyanifa in the Ifá-Òrìsà spiritual tradition, Funlayo seeks to substantively contribute her voice as a scholar-practitioner of African Indigenous Religion(s). Her research, which centers on theology, philosophy and phenomenology of the Ifá-Òrìsà tradition, has afforded her the opportunity travel extensively (a passion of hers) and to study with many gifted priests and scholars in the US, Africa and the Caribbean. Complementing her academic study, Funlayo is in spiritual training and receives consistent guidance from her master teacher, Chief Babalawo Oluwole Ifakunle Adetutu Alagbede of the Ile Omo Ope Shrine in Harlem. Funlayo’s greatest joy comes from connecting with others and sharing her infectious energy. To this end, she serves on the boards of the Orisa Community Development Corporation and Creating a Culture of Peace, non-profit organizations dedicated to community building. She is also is involved in many other joyful activities, including hosting guided meditation groups, motivational speaking and blogging at her website Ase Ire. Contact Funlayo at Funlayo@AseIre.com.
Michael Casey W. Woolf (2013) is a progressive candidate for ordination in the American Baptist Churches USA, a third-year Master of Divinity student and Ministry Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, and a passionate voice for both LGBT-inclusion within American Baptist congregations as well as faith-based community organizing. Born and raised in Alabama, Michael graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2011 with a degree in Religious Studies. After graduation, Michael plans to serve in local congregations, where he views his role as that of story-teller, helping people connect narratives from the Gospels with the needs, desires, and yearnings of everyday life. At Harvard Divinity School Michael serves as the Editor-in-chief of Cult/ure: The Graduate Journal of Harvard Divinity School, the Director of Harvard Divinity’s Baptist Community, and the Coordinator of Academics for HDS’ Student Association – Life Together. In his second year, Michael founded the Interfaith Caucus for Worker Justice (ICWJ), a group that brings together Harvard Divinity students from many (and no) religious traditions to organize for worker justice. ICWJ emerged from his previous experience as a seminarian organizer for the Massachusetts Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, where he planned and executed a program that connected workers with Boston-area faith communities and helped them plan a labor-themed service. Follow Michael on twitter, or visit his website.
Pamela Ayo Yetunde is a pastoral counselor in private practice and a Doctor of Theology in Pastoral Counseling student. She began her training at Zen Hospice Project, followed by a CPE residency at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, and a pastoral counseling residency at Care and Counseling Center of Georgia. Pamela has studied pastoral care at Sati Center for Buddhist Studies and Columbia Theological Seminary. She earned a M.A. in Culture and Spirituality at Holy Names University.
Christina Yost (2011) is a first year M.Div. student at Methodist Theological School in Ohio with a concentration in Interreligious Contexts. She entered seminary straight from undergrad, where she completed a B.A. in Pre-Theology and Psychology at Ohio Wesleyan University with departmental honors in Religion. She engaged in her first interfaith experience by attending the IFYC’s 2009 conference and was hooked ever since. Following that experience, she co-lead a team of OWU students to Chicago, IL to explore the interreligious relations and dialogue in the city, with a particular focus on Christian and Muslim dialogue. These early encounters, fueled by her own passion for understanding, led her to be engaged in other budding interfaith activities on OWU’s campus and in her own interests and studies. Some of her other recent interests include, but are certainly not limited to, the journey and struggles of ordained women and the nature of community and relationships within and beyond the church. In her spare time, Christian enjoys reading and photography. Currently, she works part-time as a student associate pastor. Christina aspires to be ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church, where she is currently a certified candidate in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference.