Vance Blackfox, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, serves the churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as the Director of Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations. An alumnus of Texas Lutheran University (TLU) and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), Vance has previously served the ELCA in multiple capacities, from being elected and serving as National President of the Lutheran Youth Organization during his TLU days to later working as a diversity and cultural education professional for the Women of the ELCA, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, California Lutheran University, ELCA Youth Gathering, and LSTC’s Youth in Mission. In addition to serving numerous ELCA and ecumenical teams and committees throughout the years, he is at present the Indigenous Theologian and Coordinating Team Member for the ELCA’s Theological Round Table, as well as creator and producer of the Vine Deloria Jr. Theological Symposium, hosted at LSTC. Vance is also the founder and director of Other+Wise (www.otherwise.red), a multi-site cultural education and cultural immersion program for youth and student groups from across the country, and also previously served as the Director of Communications at the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, as the Director of Communications for Native Americans in Philanthropy, and has held executive director positions at the Haskell Foundation, which supports Haskell Indian Nations University, and the Oaks Indian Mission. Vance teaches about many things Indigenous as founder and primary of Blackfox Institute (www.blackfoxinstitute.com), he has served as the Guest Curator of the Indian Museum at the University of Texas at San Antonio Institute of Texan Cultures, and presently serves as the Indigenous Theologian for the Faith-Based Initiative for the City of San Antonio, where he currently resides.
E.N. West, affectionately known as “E”, proudly hails from the DC metropolitan area, by way of Alexandria, Virginia. They graduated from William & Mary with dual degrees in American Studies and Government. In addition to working as a Faith Land Organizer with The Church Council of Greater Seattle, E is the Co-Executive Director of Surge Reproductive Justice, a QTBIPOC centered community-directed policy organization based in South Seattle. E deeply believes “we are uninhibited when we know our power” and is committed to co-creating a world where everyone intimately knows how powerful they are and directs that power toward collective liberation.
Joey Lopez (he/him) is a Southern transplant to the Seattle area. Joey has a passion and purpose for building collective power and channeling that power towards collective liberation. Joey believes that alone we are incredibly powerful people, and when we organize that power, our wildest dreams become reality. Joey lives into his purpose as a facilitator, trainer, and community organizer at The Church Council of Greater Seattle. As a trainer, facilitator, and organizer, Joey strives to embody the values he has learned throughout his life and the intersections of his experiences. Joey’s upbringing in a rural southern community, constantly hearing “sit down and stay awhile,” nurtured his value of deep, authentic relationships. His kinship with LGBTQ elders reminds him of the importance of persistence and bringing others along the journey toward liberation. And, the generations of resilience modeled by his Puerto Rican ancestors inspire him to sustain the work in new ways. In his moments of play and rest, you can find Joey spending time in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle with his partner, Dustin, and dog, Baldwin, reading queer fiction and/or science-fiction, and spending quality time with family and friends.
Returning to the Pacific Northwest by way of San Diego, Meli is excited to be part of the Faith Land Team at the Church Council. Meli brings 8 years of experience in advocacy, policy & electoral work, and grassroots organizing at the intersections of racial equity, disability advocacy, and land justice. The alchemy of people turning their individual passions and love for their community into radical change gives Meli life! When not spending pandemic days at home with their partner, two children, cats, puppy, and plantitas, Meli can be found recharging in the woods or the hardware store. They aspire to train their puppy Dulce to hunt for mushrooms.
David delights in listening to the aspirations of leaders and helping them unlock hidden resources by facilitating meaningful engagement. This leads to resilient, supportive, joyful, and agile workplace cultures that allow organizations to have greater momentum and impact towards their mission. His work as a consultant, facilitator, and leadership coach is informed by the philosophy and practice of Liberating Structures and Applied Improvisation, both of which amplify our ability to connect and build trust. David is asking himself and those he works with within these times, “WHO do we need to BE and BECOME in order to face the complex challenges of our time and for all people to have well-being?” He worked in the non-profit sector for 15 years and continues to serve nonprofits, government, businesses, and faith communities. His clients include United Way of King County, PeaceHealth, Skagit Valley College Foundation, Non-GMO Project, Snohomish DV Services, Bastyr University, NW Synod ELCA, Catholic Community Services, Roche, and the US Dept of Agriculture. David lives in Bellingham, Washington, and often visits Holden in imaginal prayer. He is grateful for all these inside jokes and deep conversations with his daughter who is a lover of learning at CU Boulder.
Jennifer DeLeon is director for Racial Justice for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She began that position in April 2021. Before that, she served as director for justice for Women of the ELCA from 2018 to 2021, where she designed, developed, evaluated, and implemented justice-related resources and learning opportunities. She also managed and grew a network of individuals interested in learning more about human trafficking, domestic violence, immigration, and racial justice. Prior to serving with WELCA, she was the director of government relations and advocacy for Lutheran Social Services in Chicago. DeLeon has more than 20 years of community organizing experience with several organizations in Chicago. As an employee and volunteer, she has dealt with various social issues, including hunger, immigration, housing, child welfare, and health care. Her passion lies in finding faith-based solutions to systemic injustices. For more than 10 years, DeLeon has served as a consultant with faith-based and denominational organizations on justice-related leadership issues. These include multicultural competency, advocacy, and theological reflection on how faith, justice, and culture intersect. A member of Trinidad Lutheran Church, Chicago, DeLeon has a master’s degree in theology from the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago. She has a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University, where her concentration was nonprofit management. Fluent in English and Spanish, with some Portuguese, DeLeon is president of the ELCA’s Latino Ministries Association.