Religious Institute Staff

The staff of the Religious Institute are experts at reaching out to faith communities, creating congregational resources, leading trainings, organizing actions, and conducting research. We possess an understanding of theology, denominational bodies, and the diversity of American religious expression needed to create campaigns relevant to religious communities. In addition, we bring knowledge of the most pressing sexual, gender, and reproductive justice concerns in the public arena, approaching these concerns from the lens of faith-rooted, intersectional justice.

Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey

Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey is the President and CEO of the Religious Institute. She holds a Master’s in Divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As president of the Religious Institute, Marie is able to put her love of Jesus to work alongside her passion for justice. She is a skilled communicator and relationship-builder, and delights in collaborating across faith traditions, justice movements, and all kinds of difference.

Marie came to the Religious Institute in 2011 and she served as Scholar in Residence, Director of Education and Training, and Deputy Director before becoming president in May of 2016.

Marie has a chapter on “Sexual Justice in an Age of Trump” in the 2017 book Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump and is the lead author of the Religious Institute publication Making the Invisible Visible: Bisexuality in Faith Communities. Marie speaks, teaches, and preaches regularly on faith and sexuality. She is a pastor with Metropolitan Community Churches and serves as volunteer assisting clergy at MCC Hartford, CT.

Marie holds a Master’s degree in French literature and taught French and Spanish in public secondary schools for the first twenty years of her career.

Drew Konow

Drew-Headshot-300x300Drew Konow is the Director of Communications and LGBTQ Programs at the Religious Institute. A scholar of American histories of religion, activism, and sexuality, he is a 2014 graduate of Yale Divinity School’s Master of Arts in Religion program.

While at Yale, he served in leadership positions on Yale University’s student senate and on Yale Divinity’s student journal, Roman Catholic Fellowship, and Latino/Latina Association. He has delivered several academic papers on religious history and has received numerous fellowships and awards for his research and activism.

He served as the Religious Institute’s Scholar in Residence from October 2014-June 2016. Drew has helped organize Religious Institute colloquia, directed national campaigns for LGBTQ justice, managed our digital presence, provided research for publications, and written and edited external communications.

He has previously worked as a community organizer, a volunteer coordinator for a summer arts festival, an AmeriCorps member, and a student minister for social justice. Drew also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Foreign Languages and Literatures from Southern Methodist University.

Kentina Washington-Leapheart

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Kentina Washington-Leapheart is the Director of Programs for Reproductive Justice and Sexuality Education at the Religious Institute. In this role, she combines her love for justice and education with her experience in pastoral care and chaplaincy. Her passion is helping communities of faith be thoughtful, courageous, and responsible in the care of their minds, bodies, and spirits. She brings to the Religious Institute experience in the areas of LGBTQ advocacy, reproductive justice, and sexual health.

A self-identified womanist queer laborer for the Jesus Project, Kentina earned her Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2013. While at Garrett, Kentina was a Leadership Scholar and received awards for preaching and for her work advocating for the advancement of women in ministry. A former co-chair of the Garrett Black Seminarians organization, Kentina was recently recognized by the Center for the Church and the Black Experience as one of Garrett’s 45 Outstanding Alums.

A “second career” minister who followed the call to seminary after seven years working in the financial services field, Kentina has previously worked as a chaplain in hospital, hospice, and long-term care facilities. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio).

Lewis Whitaker

Image uploaded from iOS (4)Lew Whitaker works part-time as the Religious Institute’s Office Manager. In this role, he organizes daily operations and coordinates systems, most of them behind the scenes. He is often the first contact when calling or emailing the Religious Institute, and when you respond with your generous donations for our work, Lew mails your thank you letter!

Lew holds an MA in English Literature from Georgia State University in Atlanta, and is (eternally) working on a PhD in late-Victorian poetry. His research explores the intersection of religion, spirituality and aesthetics at the British fin de siècle. He has presented papers at conferences and colloquia across the United States and in the UK, and presently teaches English in Connecticut after several years teaching in Atlanta and Jersey City.

Lew’s further interests include Eastern Orthodox spirituality, as well as an increased attention to bisexual erasure. He is particularly sensitive to the needs of young adults and helping them navigate sexual and faith identities. Lew lives in New York and at the Metropolitan Opera House.