Emeritus Scholars

For over five years now, 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, while in formation, contributed regularly to SoF, but have now moved out into the world, and would like to assume a different role in the 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. If you are a Contributing Scholar who is transitioning out of graduate school, seminary, or a current job, and would like to become an Emeritus Scholar, please contact Benjamin Barer (ben@irdialogue.org).


Elise Alexander 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.

DeShannonDeShannon Barnes-Bowens 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.

-1Rebecca 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.


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.


Phillipe CopelandPhillipe 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.


devanBenjamin 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 bdevan@post.harvard.edu.


deweeseAnna 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).


EdineNicole 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.


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.



hans photoHans 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.


hernandezKaren 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.


hollowellAdam 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.



Jem JebbaJem 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.


Amrit KhalsaGuru 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.


Ariel Evan Mayse 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).


201406 KWFR headshot color WEB READYKelly 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/.


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.


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.


6a00d8341cd67353ef0134880137fb970c-piHussein 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


Mark Rupp 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.

AmjadSaleemAmjad Saleem 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.’

-1Lauren Seganos 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 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.


BioPicture_SimranSimran 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.


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.

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