Some major transitions are happening at the Religious Institute in the coming weeks.
The board of directors has decided to relocate the Religious Institute’s base of operations from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Washington, D.C. to better serve its mission of advocating for sexual, gender, and reproductive justice in faith communities and society. By October 1, the Religious Institute will have its new physical location in Washington.
Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey, President and CEO of the Religious Institute, has accepted a position as senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Marie to fulfill a life-long goal of leading a church community. Her last day at the Religious Institute will be August 31.
This leadership transition provides an opportunity for the board of directors to re-imagine and re-vision the work of Religious Institute and the role we need to play in the movement for sexual, gender, and reproductive justice.
Carol McDonald, long-time justice advocate, movement leader, and former Religious Institute board chair, will serve as Interim President of the Religious Institute. In stepping into this role, Carol said, “Moral clarity and spiritual leadership are needed now more than ever. I am thrilled to serve as Interim President and CEO during this critical time My tenure will focus on driving a new strategic visioning process and positioning the Religious Institute as a movement leader in the struggle for our collective liberation.”
Staff members Drew Konow, Kentina Washington-Leapheart, and Lewis Whitaker resigned from the Religious Institute on August 15.
Drew Konow began working at the Religious Institute almost five years ago in the role of Scholar in Residence. In that position, he helped research and edit A Time to Embrace and lead the Religious Institute’s efforts mobilizing people of faith around the freedom to marry. In 2016, he was promoted to Director of Communications and LGBTQ Programs where he has led numerous national advocacy campaigns for LGBTQ liberation, strengthened our external partnerships, refined our communications strategy, and spoken across the country. In 2017, he supervised a redesign of the Religious Institute’s website and logo, implementing a cross-platform rebranding. Just recently, he helped co-chair the Equality Act Faith Coalition, which activated thousands of people of faith in support of the Equality Act.
Rev. Kentina Washington-Leapheart served as Director of Programs for Reproductive Justice and Sexuality Education for three years. In that position, she led the organization to adopt a reproductive justice framework, strengthening relationships with Black-led RJ organizations, cultivating new partnerships, and leading the effort to add a paid family leave policy to the Religious Institute’s Employee Handbook. Rev. Washington-Leapheart has preached, spoken, and led workshops across the country on topics including Black maternal mortality, religious exemptions, sexual ethics, and pastoral care for reproductive decision-making. In her work with seminaries, Rev. Washington-Leapheart spearheaded the creation of a monthly newsletter on religion, sexuality, and theological education and curated interviews with scholars of religion and sexuality, featuring primarily Black, queer, people of faith. Under Rev. Washington-Leapheart’s leadership, the Religious Institute saw growth in online course enrollment, webinar offerings, and opportunities to share the organization’s work in a multitude of diverse settings.
Lewis Whitaker served as the Religious Institute’s part-time Office Manager for two and a half years. In that position, he coordinated the organization’s move to Bridgeport in spring of 2017 and facilitated Board of Directors meetings in 2017 and 2018. He also worked with the president to update the organization’s Employee Handbook and other internal documents. Additionally, he managed the organization’s internal systems and day-to-day operations, assisting with a range of projects including development and fundraising, online courses, publication sales, data management, outbound correspondence, and other clerical duties.
The Religious Institute board extends its deep gratitude and appreciation to these talented staff for their work and commitment to the organization and to social justice. Please join us in thanking them for their service and wishing them the best as they move forward.
We will have an exciting announcement soon about additions to our staff and board. Please stay tuned! As these changes take place, the Religious Institute is, as always, focused on our vision of a world where bodies and souls are free from oppression. Please continue to work and pray with us.