Imam Daaiyee Abdullah
Imam Daayiee Abdullah is founder and executive director of MECCA Institute, a scholar in Shari’ah Sciences, and the first openly gay Imam in America. Abdullah converted to Islam while a student in China, and then deepened his study of the faith in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. He leads the Light of Reform mosque in Washington, D.C.
Bishop Allyson Abrams
Originally from Birmingham, AL, Bishop Abrams made Detroit, MI, her home. Bishop Abrams holds degrees in mechanical engineering, divinity, and ministry. In Detroit, she raised her three college-aged children and served as an elected official on the Oak Park School Board, seminary adjunct professor, vice president of a local NAACP, Detroit Public Schools police chaplain, hospice chaplain, and numerous other clergy community capacities. She became the youngest female called to pastor a historic Black Baptist Church in Detroit where she served for over 5 years as Senior Pastor, was consecrated bishop in April 2012, and served as presiding bishop of Pneuma Christian Fellowship.
After much discrimination, hatred, and heterosexual bullying in Detroit, Bishop Abrams relocated to the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia metro area, and founded Empowerment Liberation Cathedral in May 2014.
As an advocate for equality for all and a champion for Christians living in authenticity, I believe the #AJustFaith movement is necessary today. I believe it is necessary for the world to gain a true understanding of scripture and thus facilitate healing to those who have been negatively impacted by the error taught in so many churches and religions today. This movement will save lives and encourage authenticity in every way.”
Rev. DeWayne L. Davis
Rev. Davis previously served as domestic policy analyst in the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations where he represented the Episcopal Church’s domestic social policies before the U.S. Congress and the Executive Office of the President.
Rev. Davis’s career as a Congressional aide and government affairs representative preceded his studies for professional ministry. He holds a B.A. in Economics and Philosophy from Howard University and an M.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland at College Park. Rev. Davis received his Master of Divinity degree with honors from the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He has more recently been appointed to serve on the Advisory Committee of the Kaleo Center at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and on the Board of Directors of Clare Housing.
“#AJustFaith means that I get to join my voice to the powerful and prophetic witness of a new generation of black clergy, theologians, and activists who are committed to building the beloved community by challenging the domination system and re-centering in church and state the needs, concerns, and interests of the most vulnerable among us.”
Twiggy Pucci Garçon
After moving to New York from Virginia, Twiggy worked in recruitment, community health, program development, and community organizing at FACES NY, Inc. Now a Senior Program Officer at the True Colors Fund, he works nationally to end LGBTQ youth homelessness in America. Twiggy has also worked as a model, runway trainer, and special events planner and coordinator, and been a part of the House and Ballroom Community for over 10 years. Twiggy has walked in several fashion shows, including Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, and was a featured subject in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ and HBO’s documentary feature film, The OUT List. He is the co-writer of a Sundance-selected and Teddy award-winning documentary feature film, Kiki, which paints an intimate portrait of the ins and outs of NYCs kiki ballroom scene.
Rev. Cedric Harmon
Rev. Harmon works directly with Black religious leaders and other people of faith to engage diverse topics at the intersection of religion, faith and human sexuality. An ordained pastor affiliated with the National Baptist and Missionary Baptist Churches, Cedric provides trainings, workshops, coaching, and presentations—always creating a safe space to connect the concerns of LGBT families with Black churches’ historic commitment to liberation, freedom, and justice. He served as religious organizer for Americans United for Separation of Church and State for 13 years, training clergy from around the country to provide legislative testimony about issues of religion and government.
#AJustFaith is an unending endeavor to express the love of God (The Divine) for all of creation and God’s (The Divine’s) intention for full-thriving, growth, expansion, and wholeness. It affirms the reality of a faith that is not consumed by institutionalism, patriarchy, misogyny, hetero-normativity, empire, domination, or exclusionary practices. A Just Faith calls us to re-member, re-consider, re-think, and re-imagine. It is a declaration that our spiritual center and syncretized expressions of it are at core about grace, love, justice, and mercy. It is our knowing in our souls the inter-dependence and inter-connectedness of our living is most fully understood by our welcome and celebration of diversity found throughout all of creation. We who promote this notion in the media, via social media, in writing, speaking, preaching, teaching, advocating, protesting and the power presence are vessels for the Spirit’s work in and through us for the blessing of our world.”
Rev. Lorilyn (Candy) Holmes
Rev. Holmes lifts up a liberation theology enriched by her Baptist, Pentecostal, and Interfaith roots and her social justice vision, and has leadership roles in The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, National Black Justice Coalition, Many Voices, and other ecumenical and social advocacy projects. As a spiritual activist, Rev. Holmes understands that sharing our voices and stories of faith is essential to changing minds and transforming hearts. She has participated in local and national marriage equality, diversity, and LGBTQ justice initiatives including the passage of marriage equality legislation in Maryland, and witnessed the signing of the Presidential Memorandum extending benefits to same-gender partners of Federal employees.
#AJustFaith boldly proclaims that God’s love includes everyone, and inspires me to be the change I want to see.”
Carol has managed seven diverse working groups across the United States as a consultant in the faith work of the National LGBTQ Task Force. Carol has presented on the topic of healing spiritual trauma in the LGBTQ community at Creating Change, the Task Force’s annual conference. In addition to managing the soft launch of the #AJustFaith campaign, Carol is also a PhD candidate in American Studies. Her dissertation is a study of LGBTQ faith-based activism between 1968 and 1999.
Driven by black LGBTQ people of faith and moral courage, #AJustFaith represents a radical re-imagining of the intersection of race, religion and sexuality. #AJustFaith is a clarion call to all who have been wounded by hurtful theologies: all are welcome in the beloved community when we embrace the wonder of our diverse and dynamic gifts!”
Naomi Christine Leapheart
Naomi Christine Leapheart, a daughter of Detroit, is a minister, educator, organizer, and organizational consultant. She is currently a Brown, Rooks, and Evans Scholar at Lancaster Theological Seminary, and is the suburban community organizer for POWER, a multi-faith, multi-racial network of congregations working to shift power, change public policy, and do justice for the most vulnerable in Metro Philadelphia. POWER is a member of the PICO National Network.
As an anti-racism trainer for the Lancaster YWCA, Naomi delights in facilitating difficult and transformative conversations about systemic power, race, and theology. She is a trainer for the Healing Communities program, locally administered by the Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization. In this capacity, she engages congregations in the work of restoration, healing, and support for members who have been impacted by crime and incarceration. Naomi is the creator of “In Chains We Trust,” an interdisciplinary learning series on faith, race, and mass incarceration. She is also an organizer with Black Lives Matter 717 and a board member of Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness, a grassroots ecumenical network of churches and institutions that promotes biblical values of justice, care of creation, and peaceful solutions to conflict.
Before joining POWER, Naomi served as Co-Pastor and Minister of Music at the Wisdom’s Table at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ. She is proudly affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a multi-denominational group of predominantly-Black Christian leaders and laity invested in a theology of radical inclusivity. Her work is included in the volume, “From Generation to Generation: A Commemorative Collection of African American Millennial Sermons from the Festival of Preachers 2010-2015,” a rare and unique compilation of what the nation’s most promising young African-American ministers are thinking and proclaiming about the Christian faith (Chalice Press, 2015).
#AJustFaith is a revolutionary declaration that faith without justice is blasphemy. We are Black LGBTQ people of multiple traditions and spiritualities who believe that our faith becomes just as we rigorously engage in theology, sacred text interpretations, liturgical practices, spiritual disciplines, and faith-informed politics that illuminate the liberating good news for all of God’s creations – all living creatures, all peoples, and planet Earth. We draw strength and wisdom from the witness of everyday Black, Brown, and Indigenous people; we organize girded by the rageful struggle of our Black, Brown, and Indigenous ancestors.”
Bishop Donagrant Le’Prist McCluney
Bishop McCluney served the Presbytery of the Christian Fellowship Church of God for sixteen years until consecrated to Holy Episcopacy in October 2001.
He attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and has earned graduate degrees homiletics and worship, and elementary education from the Charles Harrison Mason Theological Seminary and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. He is presently a PhD student in the Leadership Studies Program at NC A&T.
I believe #AJustFaith is a prophetic scaffold for the bridge of healing between Black faith and Colored Queerdom. Our context seems to support the timely emergence of a healing agent within Black communities for internalized and social homophobia, which seem more concentrated among people of color because of American religious perversions of colored spirituality. A Just Faith is a manifestation of Spirit collectively entrusted to people who are genuinely committed to keeping unity in the bond of peace. For me, A Just Faith heals my religious wounds as I continually learn ways to challenge religious oppression in all of its misrepresentations of our common Christ.”
Dr. Keisha E. McKenzie
Dr. McKenzie was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination and credits the church for her drive to serve, respect for human rights, and love for the vision and courage of the biblical prophets. Originally from London, Keisha studied English, law, and political science at a denominational university in Jamaica, and completed graduate degrees in technical communication and rhetoric in West Texas.
Today, Keisha works with faith-based and social good organizations around the United States on engagement through communication, fundraising and stewardship, and board-level strategy. She also coordinates communications for a Unity church in Maryland and is a board/advisory member of denominational and para-denominational social good organizations including Intersections International, parent organization of Believe Out Loud.
I believe people and communities of faith can be partners in the common good—ambassadors of a just world. And I want to work with theists and humanists and people of all faiths and none who are committed to do good on matters that impact us all. The Christian scriptures include the teaching that all humans were made “of one blood”: we’re related. And it will take all of us to build a world that we can all call home.”
Rodney McKenzie, Jr.
Rodney McKenzie, Jr., Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action, is an out person of faith, community organizer and a reverend. Over the last thirteen years, he’s worked for organizations fighting for grassroots political power in marginalized communities. From being a Field Organizer at the Task Force in 2002 to most recently being the Spiritual Director and Co-Creator of Expansion Church, his work focuses on the intersection of community organizing and radical spirituality in the public square.
Rodney is a Master of Divinity candidate at Union Theological Seminary. By putting James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Essex Hemphill, and the Apostle Paul in conversation, he’s constructing a liberation theology that challenges how theology and LGBTQI politics approaches the intersection of race, class, and sexuality.
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Rodney currently resides in New York City, New York.
Bishop Tonyia Rawls
Bishop Rawls is the Founder and Executive Director of The Freedom Center for Social Justice (FCSJ). Founded in 2009, FCSJ works intersectionally through programs that support the trans community, people of color, people of low wealth, youth and sexual minorities. She is also co-founder of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice and the National Trans Religious Cohort, which trains and supports trans and gender-variant seminary and religious studies students.
Bishop Rawls is the architect of the FCSJ Do No Harm Campaign, which provides safe space for faith leaders to discuss challenging justice issues like marriage, equal protection for LGBTQ citizens and other current issues impacting communities of faith. In 2000, Bishop Rawls founded Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte and in April 2008, was consecrated as one of the first women bishops in the Los Angeles-based Unity Fellowship Church Movement’s history. In 2014, she founded Sacred Souls Community Church, a diverse congregation of progressive Christians in Charlotte. They are finalizing steps for affiliation with the United Church of Christ.
Bishop Rawls is a graduate of Duke University and has done post-graduate work at Episcopal Divinity School in Boston, MA.
Candace is a Brooklyn native, a sister, a teacher, and a shea butter enthusiast who weaves her passions of teaching, ministry, and community organizing for the ultimate aim of building more loving and sustainable spaces. Candace’s work has appeared at the Black women’s blogging collective, For Harriet. She served as the Youth Program Coordinator at Parity, where she facilitated classes and programming using faithful language to explore sex and sexuality.
A Just Faith is one that must be challenged in order to be made whole. As the saying goes in my household, everything in the Bible ain’t ethical. Some of what we inherit is just as messy as we are. How do we discern the healing principles from the ones that are harmful? I believe that common texts, like the Bible, are best read in community and alongside one’s own experience. In this way, we find meaning we might never have stumbled upon before. For me, that is what makes that text holy. A Just Faith requires that we ask questions of our holy texts, our traditions, our institutions, ourselves, and others. We must do so in a way that is loving and kind, and never for self-satisfaction. What ought we do together? How ought we live? A Just Faith must answer those questions.”
P. Melissa Thomas
Melissa graduated from Ashford University with an MA in Organizational Management and an MBA, and has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade.
#AJustFaith means that I can now do this life-changing and earth-shaking work for a Just World with some of the most powerful organizers and religious and non-religious leaders in the world. Together we will create a movement that will change the world and make it better for our children and our children’s grandchildren.”
Verdell A. Wright
Verdell specializes in evangelical culture, black theology, and how race, gender, and sexuality impact the practice of faith.
“#AJustFaith is one that acknowledges, celebrates, and cherishes the many ways that the divine is expressed through humanity, and wrestles to see salvation for all.”