Have you heard about The Reformation Project’s rigorous leadership development program for LGBTQ Christians and allies? Our 2016 leadership cohort has officially begun! — By joining the cohort, our participants will:
- Spend three months studying the most important scholarly work and debates about the Bible and LGBT issues.
- Take the Bible training from our regional conference to the next level with coaching, practice, and intensive preparation.
- Enhance their effectiveness as a leader in their local community, and take new initiatives in organizing, networking, and training other Christians.
- Become friends with remarkable Christians who are passionate about changing the church, advancing LGBT inclusion, and showing God’s love to the world.
Our goal is to assemble a class of reformers that is representative of the body of Christ as a whole. That includes diversity in age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, geography, nationality, ability, and denomination. What is most important, however, is that participants have an authentic passion for Jesus and for the cause of LGBT inclusion, and that they present a clear vision for the changes that they hope to make.
Photo Description: Members of our 2013, 2015, and 2016 Cohorts at The Gay Christian Network's 2016 Conference
MEET OUR 2016 REFORMERS
Connie (CJ) Barker has been committed to lgbtqia rights ever since coming out at her junior high school in the early 1970s. Her commitment to Evangelical Christianity is somewhat newer, dating only to her conversion following college in Berkeley in the mid 1980s. Trying to put these two seemingly irreconcilable parts of her life together has always been a challenge- but never dull.
Along the way she's became a committed Environmental Health, Disability, Union and Queer activist- and passionately dedicated to Evangelical faith as the driving force behind that activism. She has long longed for the day when the Evangelical world would finally find it impossible *not* to recognize the Jesus in folks like her, and she's glad she's lived to see that begun. She loves the Blue Ocean faith community she's now part of, her spouse Jan, and the fact that she gets to learn and grow with this new TRP cohort!
Nancy Bartell is a gay Christian who recently graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) with a Master of Divinity, cum laude. She is the first openly gay student at TEDS, deciding to share her journey with classmates who are future Evangelical pastors in order to begin conversations about pastoral care of the LGBTQ+ community. Nancy has 15 years of youth ministry experience, as well as being the lay leader of adult education for 5 years at her previous church. Prior to beginning seminary, she had a 25+ year retail management career, specializing in small businesses.
Nancy’s areas of research have centered on race and the imago dei. She believes that her retailing career coupled with her research focus has equipped her well for pastoral care, as well as challenging fellow pastors regarding their treatment and approach to those considered “other”: The Church should be an inclusive haven for all who seek hope, peace, and community, manifesting Jesus to the world
Daniel comes to the Reformation Project in solidarity as a straight ally and friend. While born and raised in California, he went to school in Kentucky before settling down with his wife and daughter in Atlanta, Georgia. Daniel was formally trained in sociology and filmmaking, and has worked in the media industry as a producer and location scout with clients like Samsung and PGA. As a sociologist, his primary focus is on family research and human sexuality, which he continues to actively study. He is also an ordained minister in the state of Georgia, and has a deep passion for theology and the Christian scriptures.
Josh was born in Chicago but has lived in forty-eight states (or at least six, depending on who you ask). He’s now in Idaho, where he earned his degree in creative writing and sign language studies. Through his college years, Josh was a student leader in a non-affirming Pentecostal ministry, where he learned what it meant to follow after Jesus (and also how to flirt with women though that’s not particularly useful for him).
Josh believes that God has given him a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) which has led him to serve as a missionary both here in the US and in northern Asia, often leading or co-leading university students. (For the record, he only ever temporarily misplaced one, and it happened in Canada.) Despite no longer being able to work with the college ministry because of his sexual orientation, Josh still desires to see the group reach an affirming position, to create a space for LGBT students to come and know Christ.
Nancy Campbell was born and raised in central New Jersey, where she currently resides with her husband and two of her three children. She was greatly influenced by her church in her early teens; accepting Christ as her savior when she was 14 years old. It is when her hometown church took a stance against the LGBTQ community by leaving Presbytery USA and affiliating with ECO, a non-affirming Presbyterian
Denomination, that she became an advocate for the LGBTQ community. She saw first-hand how the views of her church were hurting her brothers and sisters in Christ. It is her belief that too many churches are failing to bring a message of acceptance and grace that Christ spoke of throughout the scriptures. Nancy’s past experiences include years of service as the founding director of a large Christian Day Care Center, helping people in crisis as a Stephen Minister, serving the homeless and addicted, and working as a Community Life Coordinator of a local church.
Lydia Catedral is a PhD student in the department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She studies the relationship between social interaction and language and her research focuses on the use of language in two very different groups: Evangelical churches and Uzbek communities living in the United States.
While Lydia came to know more about the experiences of LGBTQ Christians through her research, she is now interested in taking the next steps to see inclusion for LGBTQ Christians in the circles in which she is involved. Lydia herself is a member of a network of simple churches that focuses on building small missional communities.
Carl Coertzen was born and raised in South Africa where he studied Chemical Engineering and worked in the oil and gas industry before immigrating to Australia in 2008 with his family. Carl and his partner Martin lives in Brisbane and have together three beautiful children Emma, Carmen and Caleb. He currently works as a youth worker supporting disengaged and at risk young people and is in the process of qualifying as a marriage celebrant hoping to see marriage equality finally being a reality in Australia.
Carl has been on a journey of living authentically, embracing his sexuality and reconciling that with his faith hoping to make a difference in the GLBTIQ community with a particular heart and passion for young people.He grew up in a conservative Protestant church but has over the years transitioned through all the facets of Christian faith expression. He is a firm believer in organic faith community and is excited about people and relationships and meeting God in the midst of that. Carl is passionate to see people rise up in their own unique callings, living love and believing in reformation. Truly we are called for a time such as this.
Renair Amin Covington
Renair Amin Convington has turned her tribulations into avenues of encouragement, inspiration and change. After spending over seven years as a spoken word artist and creative consultant, Renair answered the call to ministry. Now, she uses her ministerial and life experiences, as well as her educational training in multiple coaching niches to empower others. A powerful lecturer and author, Renair has published four books. She is currently completing a Master of Arts in Religious Education from New York Theological Seminary.
Renair's personal scripture is Romans 8:18 understanding that present sufferings cannot compare to the greatness that is to come. Within that message, she lives her life knowing that the every trial that she has experienced is for the work that she is called to do in the universal church.
Renair believes that being a member of the 2016 Leadership Cohort will allow her to strengthen her voice in the conversation of LGBT inclusion as well as deepen her personal ministry as it relates to religious education in the LGBT community.
Anita Creekmore works as a hotel reservations and customer service representative in Wichita, Kansas. She is a graduate of Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada and has an Associate of Applied Science degree in accounting. She has had a relationship with Jesus since she was a child. She is the proud parent of three wonderful children. As an LGBTQ person and parent, she looks forward to gaining more partners, knowledge and skills in defending LGBTQ Christians and helping to facilitate their inclusion in the church.
Julie Dennis is a music educator and mother of two lively toddlers. Her time is currently devoted to caring for her young children as well as teaching children’s music for both Music Together® and the Presbyterian church she’s attended all her life. Prior to motherhood, she earned bachelors and masters degrees in music education and taught middle school general music in a diverse Chicago area school. Julie is passionate about education, the arts, Christ and His people.
She has discerned a call to serve as a heterosexual, cisgender ally and advocate working towards full inclusion for LGBT people in the Church. She hopes to educate and foster healthy dialogue about LGBT issues and the struggles people face related to reconciling sexuality, gender identity, and faith as well as encourage those in the midst of personal struggle.
Julie and her family live in the suburbs of Chicago.
Erin Green is a current Biblical and Theological studies major at Biola University. She is also the Executive Director of Biolans' Equal Ground, a Biblically affirming LGTBQ group of Biolan students, alumni, and allies. The group is not supported nor endorsed by Biola University, but nevertheless provides an affirming presence and hermeneutic for students wrestling with their faith, orientation, or identity. The group provides safety and community. Erin plans on attending Princeton or Columbia Seminary for a MDiv. Beyond that she would like to pursue a doctorate in Biblical anthropology; and be an awesome female Indiana Jones. Her ministry and call is in furthering Christ's ministry of LGTBQ inclusion and acceptance in the church and promoting healthy and loving dialogue within the Christian community as well as those outside of the church. She enjoys her dog, Brutus Maximus, hiking, playing guitar and piano.
Lauren is pursuing her M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Currently employed at a residential psychiatric rehabilitation center for children and adolescents, she hopes to continue serving troubled youth after graduating.
Lauren is part of the Crossings community in Knoxville, and she is inspired by her church’s goal of building “wells; not fences.” She hopes to one day work with LGBTQ+ youth and families who must navigate the coming-out experience within conservative religious communities. Lauren believes that building bridges between the LGBTQ+ community and the church is part of God’s plan to put the broken world back together again.
Lauren thanks her family for first introducing her to the love, justice, and hope found in Jesus. She enjoys drinking coffee, talking about nerdy things, hiking with her girlfriend and their puppy, and pretending to write the next great American novel.
Kim Haltiwanger is a pediatrician and a lifelong Christ-follower who moved from New York to Athens, Georgia in 2015 because of her husband’s work. She has taken this move as an opportunity to retire from practicing medicine and to turn her attention more fully to advocating for LGBT acceptance and inclusion in the church, a calling that she has sensed increasingly since her youngest son came out as gay in 2011. Through contacts she has made within the Gay Christian Network, she is one of several hundred Christian moms of gay kids who communicate via social media to encourage each other and support not only their children but many who do not have the support of their own families. Kim’s hope is that participation in the Reformation Project Leadership Cohort will prepare her to more effectively use her professional expertise and personal experience to become a resource for other parents, an encouragement to LGBT people of faith, and a voice for inclusion in the church.
Neil Hart was born in 1960 in Western Australia. He is married with 4 children and 11 grandchildren. He was ordained as a minister of the Lutheran Church of Australia in 1992. His ministry included church planting, parish pastor, state youth pastor, army and college chaplaincy.
In his youth and chaplaincy work Neil became aware of the prejudice faced by gay people in church communities and the harm that it causes. For the last few years he has sought to give voice to the needs of the LGBTIQ people in his church and through speaking, teaching and blogging has campaigned for change.
Neil now works in building maintenance and continues to be a passionate and outspoken advocate for gay people within his church. As a student of Luther, the spirit of “Reformation” resonates with Neil. He is excited to be a part of the new reformation that is helping the church to be a safe place of love, inclusion and acceptance for all people.
Lee Allen Howard
Lee Allen Howard recently moved from Pittsburgh to western New York, where he was ordained for ecumenical ministry. Son of an evangelical pastor, he became involved in Pentecostalism and the house church movement before coming out in 2005. He holds masters degrees in biblical studies and fiction writing, and works as a professional writer, editor, and publisher of both fiction and nonfiction. He is an avid reader.
Combining Christian mysticism and meditation with prophetic ministry, Lee seeks to grow the Kingdom by building bridges to LGBTQI individuals, biblical literalists, and the New Age community. His guiding call is Ephesians 1:6: “He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Lee is pleased to take part in The Reformation Project, where he looks forward to learning how to more effectively communicate Christ’s acceptance of all people. He hopes to be empowered for evangelism in his local LGBTQI community.
Tanyica Jenkins was born and raised in Somerset NJ and has lived in Newark, NJ for the past 4 years. She studied visual arts at Raritan Valley Community College and Business Administration at DeVry University. She worked for several years as a Secretary/Graphic Designer for the Outreach and Christian Education departments of Cathedral International Church. A non- denominational church in Perth Amboy, NJ.
Tanyica was very active in the youth ministry at Cathedral International when she was not on the clock. She volunteered often and even chaperoned on various road trips. Her love for poetry and music inspired her to start a christian rap group with her daughter, Aciya Jenkins, named S.O.S.(Songs of the Samaritans).
Today, Tanyica wants to impart hope in the lives of the hopeless through Jesus Christ and His love. Tanyica is honest with everyone about who she is and would stress the importance of not being ashamed of who God designed you to be. Stating that we are all beautifully and wonderfully made so, be beautiful and be wonderful.
Julian Lewis recently moved to Boone, NC in August 2015. He received his Bachelor’s in Music Education from Bethune Cookman University in May 2010 and is currently finishing his Master’s in Music Education at Austin Peay State University.
Julian was raised in the Presbyterian USA Church in Columbia, SC. After an internal struggle with his race, sexuality, and faith He became a baptized member of his previous church Forest Lake Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC at the age of 25 (He is currently 27). A classically trained pianist, Mr. Lewis believes the music is one of God’s greatest gifts and a true channel to communicating with God. Through The Reformation Project Leadership Cohort Julian hopes to gain the tools and knowledge to help anyone who struggles with their faith and identities within their respective faith communities.
Brian Losoya is an actor and writer living in New York City. A transplanted Texan, Brian is an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, where he attained degrees in Music and American Studies. He is an avid fan of popular culture, films and musical theatre in particular. Brian is excited to take part in this year's cohort and is looking forward to being a part of a team that will continue to bridge the gap between the Church and the LGBTQ community
Amanda Loucks was raised in a non-denominational, evangelical culture, in California. She attended Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, MO. In 2013, she received her bachelors in Youth and Family Ministry. In August 2014, Amanda was involved in a near fatal car accident where she broke her neck and received a traumatic brain injury, leaving her in the hospital and rehab for a year. Throughout recovery, Amanda became increasingly more passionate about developing resources and programs for LGBT youth and youth ministers.
It is her desire to see youth conferences developed that provide safe atmospheres for youth of all orientations, as well as a offering youth ministers a place to learn how to discuss and develop LGBT affirming youth groups.
Megan is a person who loves deep discussions, music & poetry, being outside, and learning just about anything from anyone. She grew up in the Catholic church and has been involved in many spiritual communities including InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Church of the Saviour DC, Servant Partners, and The Sanctuaries DC.
Megan currently lives in a group house in DC with her partner, Emily. She is excited learn more about the theological basis for full LGBTQ inclusion alongside other Jesus followers and to be a part of The Reformation Project’s work. She hopes to use what she learns to encourage and create more safe, open spaces for people who have been oppressed or silenced by Christians and the Church. She is also a passionate advocate for the abolishment of the commercial sexual exploitation of people (aka sex-trafficking & prostitution). Her daily goal is to strive to understand the intersectionality of oppressions and her role in her own and everyone’s walks towards freedom.
A.J. hails from Gladstone Oregon and he graduated from George Fox University in 2013 with a double major in Political Science and History. He was the first student at the university to publicly come out and he went on to start an underground club for LGBTQ students and their allies called Common Ground. A.J. continues to be involved in bringing justice to LGBTQ people at his alma mater and at Christian colleges around the country as the Executive Director of OneGeorgeFox and as a Board Member of Safety Net. He was raised in the Pentecostal tradition, but is now a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). A.J. is happiest when he is able to have some quality time with a friend over a cold beer or warm mug of coffee…or when watching an episode of Star Trek Voyager.
RV Mendoza is a front-end web developer and a songwriter living in the beautiful city of Detroit.
As a God-loving Filipino gay man, he commits to the intersectionality of the Reformation movement. He believes in a movement involving people whose liberations are bound together. This requires a celebration of people not despite of who they are but because of the way Truth courses through them.
When he’s not trying to elevate the conversation of LGBTQ+ inclusion, he’s probably writing catchy disco pop music or making hummus. Find him:
Alan Miles is an Ohio native now residing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He is in his second year at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, pursuing his Master’s of Divinity degree. He is currently working in ministries focused on LGBTQIA humans and youth. His passions for ministry include working toward full LGBTQIA inclusion in the church, preaching, and counseling. Outside of school and ministry, he loves fitness and nutrition and is recently married his longtime love Will. They plan to adopt in the coming year but in the meantime they have their dog-child, Harvey, a Harlequin Great Dane.
Roy Murphy III
Bio coming soon!
Hoi was born in Tay Ninh, Vietnam and moved to the US with his family when he was 2-years-old. Hoi grew up in Boston and graduated from Harvard University in 2010 with a bachelors degree in Economics. At Harvard, Hoi was involved with the Asian American Christian Fellowship, leading a small group during his junior year. Hoi is the youngest of ten children and an uncle of thirteen nieces and nephews. Hoi is currently based in Brooklyn, NY and is working to open a fast casual, Vietnamese restaurant in New York City, drawing inspiration from his family's food and history. He attended last year's Reformation Project Conference in Washington, D.C. and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Hoi currently attends Hillsong Church NYC.
My name is Darla O’Connor and I live in Baton Rouge, LA. I am 52 years old. There are two things I know for certain in this life. One, I was born a lesbian. Secondly, I have been a Christian for 38 years.
It took me 47 long years to become comfortable in my own skin, primarily due to Christians telling me I was an abomination and going to hell. Thankfully, as time passed, I began to understand, accept and acknowledge that I am worthy because God says I am worthy and I am loved because God says I am loved.
I graduated from Belhaven University in Jackson, MS with a BS is Psychology and a minor in Christian Education. I graduated from LSU with a MA in Criminology. Professionally, I am the Executive Director of a non-profit organization which operates a residential reentry program for offenders.
Joel Perkins currently works in residential real estate and resides in Atlanta, GA. Joel was born and raised in Chatham, Illinois and is a graduate of Murray State University in Western Kentucky. After college, he began his career with the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, working with C-Level executives interested in engaging with the Atlanta Business Community. After nearly 7 years with the chamber, he launched a thriving real estate business in early 2014. Currently, Joel works with Keller Williams Realty and was recently asked to serve as a member of his offices Agent Leadership Council (ALC). A member of Decatur City Church (a North Point Campus), he leads a team of Guest Services volunteers each week and has spent much of the past few years serving their international partners through the church’s missions group – Global X.
Neil Pratt is a critical care nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital who has lived in Boston for the past seven years. Originally from New Jersey, he moved up to Boston to get his Nursing degree from Northeastern University. While there, he became a leader in Cru's campus ministry group on Northeastern's campus. He is currently exploring a calling to ministry and planning on attending seminary next fall.
Between a passion for social justice growing up in an American Baptist Church and a deep desire to see the love of the Gospel message spread to all people, he feels called to be a bridge-builder between the lgbt community and Christian church. He hopes the church can come to follow Philip's example in Acts 8, who, when confronted with a queer person of color who had been turned away by the Jewish Temple, shared the Gospel and welcomed him without condemnation.
Rev. NaDine Rawls
Rev. NaDine Rawls is a native of Louisiana. Rev. Rawls begin ministry at Harvest MCC in Denton, Texas. In 1995, Rev. Rawls founded Unity Fellowship Church of North Texas later she moved to Washington, DC and served on staff at Inner Light Unity Fellowship Church. She later served as Assistant Pastor of Baltimore Unity Fellowship church and later Co-Pastor of North Capitol Unity Fellowship Church of Washington, DC.
For the past 25 years, Rev. Rawls has been a spiritual leader within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered community. God has allowed her to touch many lives and encourage individuals to follow the call God has placed on their lives and to live fully the person God created them to be. Her motto “One’s sexuality is not a prerequisite for the Love of Jesus.”
Rev. Rawls is married to Elder Barbara Rawls and currently reside in Lithia Springs, GA with their poodle, Precious. They are active members of First Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Atlanta, GA. Rev. Rawls has an MS degree in Criminal Justice. They look forward to continued service to members of the LGBTQI community as well as the larger community.
Mark Satta is a PhD Candidate and instructor in philosophy at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He also spends time doing improv comedy, volunteering with his local crisis center, playing racquetball, and generally being a book worm. He grew up in Webster, NY where his dad was the senior pastor at a nondenominational evangelical Bible church and Mark attended that church’s Christian school K-12. He received a BA in Psychology and Communication from Houghton College in 2009 and worked in college admissions before beginning graduate school.Reading the works of previous reformers was a source of great happiness and peace for Mark in his journey to come to believe that the church ought to fully accept and embrace those in the LGBTQ community. Mark is excited by the great changes that are happening in the church as the result of hearts being moved one at a time to affirm the LGBT community, but he also realizes there is much work still to be done. He is looking forward to becoming a better vessel for such change by participating in The Reformation Project and continuing to respectfully reach out to those in the church who are non-affirming.
Cindy Singer, a native of rural Upstate New York, currently lives with her husband Jeff and their dog and cat in rural Northeastern Pennsylvania. She has two grown children, one of which lives in Beijing China, the other in Hartwick, NY. Cindy has been a non-traditional student. She earned a BS degree in Psychology from Empire State College and has attended graduate training at Wright State University in Dayton, OH and St. Bernards Seminary in Rochester, NY. She is a Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for ACCES-VR in Elmira, NY, a position she has held for the last eight years. Cindy is a member of Community Mennonite Fellowhsip in Corning, NY. She looks forward to using her TRP training to coach churches through their conversations around equality and inclusion. She is also interested in organizing events for the inclusion community.
Cindy's life verses are John 15: 9-17. These verses inform her of the example set before us; how to be friends and live in love with one another.
Preston Sneed grew up mainly in the Southeast United States but also lived in Needham, Massachusetts and Olivos, Argentina during his teenage years. Preston received his Bachelor of Science degree in Financial Economics and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Carson-Newman University. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Baylor University. Preston began his career with AT&T in 2010 as a candidate in the Leadership Development Program, a 2.5-year rotational program meant to expose participants to many functional areas of AT&T. Preston currently serves as Senior-Project Technology Manager at AT&T where he works in the Strategic Program Office. After coming out in the summer of 2014, Preston has had a passion for providing resources to support others in reconciling their Christian faith with their sexuality. Preston resides in Atlanta, GA and enjoys traveling, playing tennis, and volunteering for various community service and church initiatives.
Laura Bethany Taylor
When people just “must” know how I identify myself, I hit them with the full thing: Progressive Christian Trans-Lesbian. I was born in California and raised in a conservative Christian military family. My move to Texas in 2000 was move number 21! I currently live on a boat in Lewisville, TX. I have a degree in communications and Christian ministry, which I started at Moody Bible Institute and finished at Dallas Baptist University. I’m currently working toward an MA in Counseling Psychology at Texas Woman’s University. I intensely enjoy writing and am in the final stages of publishing a book about my gender and spiritual journey.
After years of working for the church and various ministries, battling depression, anxiety and gender dysphoria, I came to an affirming position in 2014. It cost me my marriage and most of my support network, but I have never felt such spiritual peace and contentment.
Paula Unrau is a lifelong resident of Kentucky with her 3 children. Raised as a Lutheran, Paula attendeda local Baptist youth group with friends and first accepted Christ as her personal savior during a camp experience. Her 3 children were saved through the influences of youth pastors and Christian friends. At age 19, Paula’s oldest son announced that he was a gay Christian and thereafter was told he could no longer be a vocalist at the Baptist church they attended. Paula wanted to immediately launch a change in this area, but God knew such effort could not begin in anger. Six years later, God replaced that anger with a peaceful acceptance of the views of others and determination to learn about the struggles of the LGBTQ community and about biblical affirmation of this often-persecuted group. Paula seeks to love people to Jesus and to influence others to do the same while serving her local church.
Beth Watkins was born and raised in a small town in Southern Illinois. She recently graduated from Greenville College with degrees in International Studies, English, and Spanish. During college, she found a loving, supportive Christian community that helped her embrace her identity as a gay Christian woman. Beth hopes to take what she learns from the Reformation Project to help create spaces in her community in which other LGBT Christians can find the same love and acceptance that she found upon coming out. She is motivated by Jesus' message of divine love and reconciliation, which she hopes will someday be extended to all people.
Beth recently relocated to St. Louis, and currently works as a tutor at an after school center. She plans to eventually pursue a graduate degree, most likely in either Spanish or social work. Her goal is to work in diverse environments where she can learn from people whose worldviews and experiences are different from her own.
Alisa Winkie is a registered nurse who currently works in pediatric cardiology and heart transplant. She graduated from Southeastern University with a B.S. in Biology and a Master’s of Science in Nursing from the Medical College of Georgia. She grew up in the Assemblies of God denomination and has always participated in ministries such as missions, outreach, evangelism, worship, as well as children’s, youth, and young adult ministries. After coming out to family and friends as a lesbian in 2012, she has been working towards reconciling her faith and sexuality. Alisa joins the 2016 Cohort to become better equipped in advocating for full LGBT inclusion and acceptance within Evangelical, Charismatic, and Pentecostal communities. Although currently on hiatus, she has been attending Fuller Theological Seminary to pursue her Masters of Divinity. She attends Freedom In Christ Evangelical Church in San Francisco where she helps lead worship and the evangelism committee.
Leigha Carson Woody is a proud Episcopalian, Gryffindor, artist, teacher, and coach living in Northeast Arkansas. She teaches visual arts and coaches softball in the Missouri Bootheel. With an art degree in education accompanied by a psychology minor, Leigha desires to reach people, especially youth, through art and counsel, remembering 1 Corinthians 15:58. She is passionate about mentoring and providing a safe place for people of all life-experiences, especially those struggling with the acceptance of their own sexual orientation and/or fighting depression.More than just teaching, Leigha creates her own art to challenge others’ perceptions of the world, bringing to front otherwise ignored or tabooed societal views and expectations. She is currently undertaking two artistic endeavors: collaborating with a fellow artist for a gender studies exhibition and publishing a book of her compiled poems that journey through personal understanding of sexual orientation within faith boundaries to find acceptance.
Jessica Yamane identifies as a beloved child of God; she is also queer. Living authentically has caused ruptures in the social fabric of her life. She is still learning how to hold these wounds gently. She hopes this experience with the Reformation Project will help her to strategically reposition herself to confront the battles at home again with even more love, empathy, and perseverance. Jessica is a native of the San Gabriel Valley, the home of Din Tai Fung, 626 Market, and the several Asian American conservative churches that rallied against Prop 8. She also grew up in the shadow of the Santa Anita Racetrack, a site that served as an Assembly Center for Japanese Americans bereft of their homes, belongings, and identities under Executive Order 9066. Jessica believes that it is her history as a Chinese Japanese American cis-gendered woman that has led her to approach the world with a social justice lens. At her day job, Jessica works as a tenants right’s attorney in Los Angeles. Her zest for life is fueled by her partner, her family, and her faith village, the Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles.
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