This Teach-In Series equips folks with the tools to begin engaging the difficult work of uncovering systems of power, domination, and oppression at work within us all. In our three-part series, we address the ways in which systemic racism and white supremacy function, how to address internalized dominance and white fragility, and how to take action in our congregations and communities to decenter whiteness and integrate racial justice tactics in our ministries.
Series Trainer: Jessica Vazquez Torres (she/her/hers)
We are delighted to have Jessica Vazquez Torres as our series trainer throughout this conversation. Jessica is the National Program Coordinator for Crossroads Anti-Racism Organizing and Training.A native of Puerto Rico, Jessica identifies as a “1.5 generation Queer ESL Latina of Puerto Rican descent.” From 1999 until the Spring of 2006 Jessica worked in the Office of [Racial] Reconciliation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indianapolis, IN. From 2006 to 2008 she worked as National Religious Outreach Coordinator with Interfaith Worker Justice, and from 2008 to 2010 as Director of Master Level Recruitment and Admissions at McCormick Theological Seminary (both in Chicago, IL). Currently, Jessica is working on a Masters of Theological Studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. When not studying she works as a consultant and core/organizer trainer for Crossroads. Rev. Vazquez Torres holds a BA in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL and a Masters of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN.
Co-Trainer: Rev. Alex Patchin McNeill (he/him/his)
Alex has served as the Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians since 2013 and was the first openly transgender man ordained as a Minster of the Word and Sacrament in the PC (USA). During his tenure at More Light, he has equipped congregations to live into policy change for inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people and has successfully enacted policies for marriage equality in the Presbyterian Church, USA. Under his leadership, More Light now serves as a capacity-building organization, equipping congregations to work intersectionally on justice issues. As a trained professional coach through the International Coaching Federation, Alex brings a coaching approach to his work with church leaders and congregations seeking to follow God’s call to widen their welcome, increase church vitality, or develop and implement new programs. In addition, he coaches leaders taking a leap of faith to launch a new project, stepping into a leadership role, or discerning a new calling.
As an openly transgender man with a wealth of experience both professionally and personally, he is a sought-after trainer and facilitator of workshops on gender identity and sexual orientation. He has over a decade of experience training hundreds of community leaders, and has played key roles organizing faith communities for marriage equality in Maryland and legislation to promote LGBTQIA+ rights. Alex holds a Master’s of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.
Co-Trainer: Rev. Shanea D. Leonard (they/them)
Shanea, B.A., M.Div. is a pastor, teacher, consultant, community activist, and justice warrior. Shanea has been an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for over twelve years. A native of Philadelphia, they received their B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and M.Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. They have been serving communities and congregations in various capacities for over fifteen years. Pastor Leonard has done extensive work with urban areas to eradicate systemic oppression in the areas of race, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic despair. They have spent time doing international outreach in Africa, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, they are also the moderator of the Pastor’s Council for the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a global network of faith leaders & communities with an affirming theology. Shanea believes that God has given them a burden for people whom others have disregarded, oppressed, forgotten, or simply don’t even see.
A modern-day abolitionist, Shanea is the founder & former pastor of JUDAH Fellowship, Western Pennsylvania region’s only predominantly Black affirming faith community. Rev. Leonard is also the founder of the Pittsburgh Clergy Consortium, the city’s inter-faith cohort of faith leaders with an affirming theology towards advocacy for the LGBTQIA community. Shanea has served other organizations as: past board chair of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, member of the Pennsylvania State ACLU Board of Directors, and chair of Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto’s LGBTQIA Advisory Council, as well as other boards around Western PA. Pastor Leonard is an often-quoted media contributor and an active, outspoken faith voice for justice.
Shanea is also the founding director of Diversity Consulting, an organization that focuses on the education and coaching of individuals and groups around intersectional advocacy and issue- based leadership in the areas of faith, race, gender, and sexual orientation. They currently carry out their justice mandate as the National Associate for Gender & Racial Justice for the Presbyterian Church (USA). Rev. Leonard has received numerous awards including the recent 2018 Coro Pittsburgh Martin Luther King Jr, Leadership Award and the 2018 YWCA of Pittsburgh Racial Justice Leadership Award in the category of Faith. They reside in Louisville, Kentucky but travel extensively for the cause of liberation of marginalized people. They live their life by the mantra of Assata Shakur which sates, “…it is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win…we have nothing to lose but our chains!”
Co-Trainer: Rev. Dr. Derrick McQueen (he/him)
Rev. Dr. Derrick McQueen earned his Ph. D. in Homiletics and New Testament at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. He entered the Ph. D. program after completing his M. Div. with a focus on Theology and the Arts, also at Union. He earned his B.A. in Theatre Arts at Drew University in 1987. Derrick’s interests include: practical theology; integrating current academic theologies and Empire critical biblical studies into congregational and community life, classical dramatic structures and their influence on Christianity, early Christian community models of social justice and their modern applications on issues such as poverty, sexuality, race and gender. Within the Presbyterian denomination he worked on the successful campaign for LGBTQ inclusion in church life while serving on the boards of Presbyterian Welcome now Parity) and That All May Freely Serve and with More Light Presbyterians. He is the current chair of the board of the LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent. He has recently served as the Moderator of the Presbytery of New York City, as Chair of the General Cabinet and is now the Chair of the Commission On Ministry.
Rev. McQueen is the Associate Director for the Center on African American Research, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS) at Columbia University. Derrick has worked as a community activist, social worker and is currently an Arts and Culture Poverty Scholar with the Poverty Initiative/Kairos at Union.
A sought-after preacher he has delivered sermons in the pulpits of Harlem Churches of St. James Presbyterian Church, The Abyssinian Baptist Church, Rendall Memorial Presbyterian Church, among others. His homilies have been featured at “Morning Light”, the meditative service at The Riverside Church. He has also preached for the Metropolitan Association of United Church of Christ for their Martin Luther King Day commemoration, at the Briarcliff Congregational Church, Metro Baptist Church in NYC, the WeWo Service at Marble Collegiate Church, the Fourth Unitarian Universalist Society, as well as the historic Macedonia Baptist Church in Cape May, New Jersey. He continues to be welcomed by many denominations and congregations.
Derrick also tours a one-man show entitled, “Paul Robeson: Through His Words and Music” for the East Lynne Theater Company of Cape May. Written by the company’s Artistic Director, Gayle Stalhuth, he has performed the play at the New Jersey PAC as well as for benefit in Asheville, NC and places in between. Having performed the production for over ten years, it has truly settled in his spirit. And being a tenor, singing the songs of Paul Robeson has stretched his range.
Currently he serves on the boards of Auburn Theological Seminary as Vice Chair, and as Chair of the LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent in the village of Harlem in New York City. Derrick is a Pastoral Associate for Jan Hus Presbyterian Church’s “Esperanza”, a 1001 worshiping community of the Presbyterian Church USA. Rev. Derrick McQueen, Ph. D. is an ordained Teaching Elder in the PCUSA and has served as the temporary Pastor of Saint James Presbyterian Church USA in Harlem, New York since October 3, 2016.
All in all, Derrick is a man with many passions, joys, academic interests and a love of humankind.