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2014 Conference Presenters


Borg-MarcusDr. Marcus J. Borg is Canon Theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. Known in both academic and church circles as a biblical and Jesus scholar, he held the Hundere Chair of Religion and Culture in the Philosophy Department at Oregon State University until his retirement in 2007. He is a best-selling author of twenty books, including Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994), Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (2001), Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (2006), Putting Away Childish Things (2010), and Evolution of the Word (2012). Described by The New York Times as “a leading figure in his generation of Jesus scholars,” Borg has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and Dateline, PBS’s Newshour, ABC’s Evening News and Prime Time with Peter Jennings, NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and several National Geographic programs. A Fellow of the Jesus Seminar, he has been national chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature and co-chair of its International New Testament Program Committee, and is past president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.

Chase-RobertRev. Robert Chase is the Executive Director of Intersections International and works globally in the field of cross-cultural dialogue. Prior to Intersections, he served as Executive Director of the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc.-the UCC’s historic media justice agency-and Director of Communications for the UCC serving its over 1.2 million constituency. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Chase spent over a decade traveling across rural China, townships of South Africa, favelas in Brazil and the United States interfacing with diverse populations highlighted in his more than 100 documentaries. He has produced and directed such award-winning social justice documentaries as Troubled Waters; Strong Roots, Fragile Farms; LPFM: The People’s Voice; and Call Me Malcolm among others. A published author and playwright, he is also a nationally recognized speaker on topics of faith, cross-cultural dialogue and reconciliation, and has been featured on CNN, The New York Times, and Associated Press.

DeLaTorre-MiguelRev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre serves as a professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology. He focuses on ethics within contemporary U.S. thought, specifically how religion affects race, class, and gender oppression. He specializes in applying a social scientific approach to Latino/a religiosity within this country, Liberation theologies in the Caribbean and Latin America, and postmodern/postcolonial social theory. De La Torre came to the U.S. as a refugee from Cuba when he was six months old. He earned his M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and earned a Ph.D. from Temple University in social ethics. He has authored numerous books, including Reading the Bible from the Margins; Santería: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America; and Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins. He has served as a director to the Society of Christian Ethics and the American Academy of Religion. In 2011, he was elected Vice-President of the Society of Christian Ethics.

Janka-JohnRev. John Janka is a consultant to congregations and non-profits, and is an experienced trainer and coach with a focus on systems intervention, educational design, training models, staff supervision, coaching, and evaluation. He has trained, coached, and led teams in diverse settings and across racial/ethnic, generational, gender, and socio-economic lines. Janka’s experience includes strategic planning and visioning, managing change and resistance, dealing with difference, cultural diversity, human relations training, and conflict management. He is currently on the Doctor of Ministry faculty at Wesley Theological Seminary. Janka is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and the Director of Program for The Middle Project.

Kaur-ValerieValarie Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights advocate, and interfaith leader who centers her work around the power of storytelling. She is the founding director of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary, a non-profit initiative with 80,000 members that mobilizes people of faith for social change. She has led national campaigns responding to hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, and solitary confinement. She is a frequent political contributor on MSNBC, and her essays appear regularly on CNN, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post. Kaur earned degrees from Stanford University, Harvard Divinity School, and Yale Law School, where she founded the Yale Visual Law Project to train students in the art of storytelling for social change. The Center for American Progress lists Kaur among 13 national faith leaders to watch in 2013. A third-generation Sikh American, Kaur is from Clovis, California where her family settled as Punjabi farmers in 1913. She lives in Los Angeles with her filmmaking partner and husband Sharat Raju.

Lesser-ElizabethElizabeth Lesser is the co-founder of Omega Institute, the United States’ largest life-long learning center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality, creativity, and social change. She is the New York Times best-selling author of Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure. Her work at Omega has included leading the organization, developing its curricula, teaching, and spearheading Omega’s popular Women and Power conferences. In 2008, Lesser helped Oprah Winfrey produce a 10-week online seminar based on Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth. She has appeared on the Oprah television show and Oprah.com webcasts, and is an ongoing host on Winfrey’s Soul Series on Sirius/XM. A student of the Sufi master, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan since 1971, she has studied with spiritual teachers and religious scholars from other traditions, as well as psychological practitioners and healers. Lesser attended Barnard College and San Francisco State University. Previous to her work at Omega, she was a midwife and birth educator.

Lewis-JacquiRev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City and Executive Director of The Middle Project. Lewis earned her M.Div.at Princeton Theological Seminary and her Ph.D. in Psychology and Religion at Drew University. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Lewis is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and preacher on the topics of racial, economic, and gender/LGBTI justice. Lewis has been adjunct faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary, The Graduate Theological Union, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and Wesley Theological Seminary. She has been interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition, WABC, WNBC, CNN, GritTV, Ebony.com, and Essence magazine, and The New York Times online. Author of The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leaders in Multi-Racial and Multi-Cultural Congregations and a children’s book that celebrates diversity, You Are So Wonderful!, Lewis has published numerous articles and sermons, and blogs for The Huffington Post. She is married to her best friend, John Janka, with whom she works for racial reconciliation every day.

Manji-IrshadProf. Irshad Manji is founder of the award-winning Moral Courage Project. Based at New York University, this multi-media project teaches people to take thoughtful risks for life-changing rewards. Manji’s newest venture is Moral Courage TV, a YouTube channel that tells the stories of individuals around the world who are standing up when others want them to sit down. As a Muslim reformer, Manji puts moral courage into practice. Her latest book, Allah, Liberty & Love, is a how-to guide on reconciling faith and freedom on a planet raging with dogmas. Her previous book is the global bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. Manji spearheaded the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary, Faith Without Fear. Ultimately, Manji’s mission is help people grow into wholeness, especially those who are stifled by cultural, religious, or societal norms. She aligns with questioning individuals, giving them a platform to share their stories so that they can inspire others.

Mathews-MichaelRayReverend Michael-Ray Mathews is the director of clergy organizing for PICO National Network, a faith-based network of more than 1,200 congregations engaged in community organizing in more than 200 cities in the United States. He is the lead organizer of PICO’s Prophetic Voices Initiative, which is organizing a prophetic faith voice leading the struggle for racial and economic inclusion in the U.S. He joined the PICO senior leadership team in January 2008. An ordained American Baptist minister, he served churches throughout California, most recently as the senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church of San José from 2000-2008. A native of California, Mathews celebrates 26 years of pastoral ministry this year. Mathews is a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry degree at the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, California. His dissertation project is an introductory pastoral theology for pastors engaged in faith-based community organizing.

Twist-LynnLynne Twist is the founder of the Soul of Money Institute and author of the best-selling book, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life. Over the past 40 years, Twist has worked with more than 100,000 people in 50 countries in the arenas of fundraising with integrity, conscious philanthropy, strategic visioning and having a healthy relationship with money. Her clients include Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, the International Unity Church, Charles Schwab, United Way, The National Black Theater of Harlem, and Harvard University. A sought-after speaker, she has presented for the United Nations Beijing Women’s Conference, State of the World Forum, Synthesis Dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the Governor’s Conference on California Women, among others. A recognized global visionary, Twist has served as an advisor to the Desmond Tutu Foundation, and The Nobel Women’s Initiative. She is the recipient of numerous prestigious honors, including the “Woman of Distinction” award from the United Nations.

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