The Ignite Institute's Change Happens Now Podcast — Navigating Christian Ethics in a Complex World with Professor Lisa Asedillo and Dr. Traci West

Details for PSR’s Unafraid Symposium: An Annual Celebration of Academic Excellence

The Unafraid Symposium, held on April 3rd, 2024, will be our third annual gathering to celebrate academic excellence at PSR. This year’s theme is Creating a World Where All Can Thrive: Deconstructing, Healing, Rebuilding, Imagining.

The presented work, which you can read more about below, will reflect our mission to build collective knowledge and create a world where all can thrive. It will demonstrate how emerging theologies and spiritual practice can inform and transform our communal life and provide insight into applying these ideas within and beyond spiritual communities, emphasizing innovation, resilience, and inclusivity.

Watch the full video of the event below and scroll down to learn more about the projects and people who were featured in the symposium!


What Does It Take?: Confronting Barriers to the Practice of Radical Inclusiveness in Traditional Black Churches 

In the classic 1969 soul/pop record, “What Does It Take,” the song’s narrator wondered what would prove persuasive in winning the affections of the one he loved. In developing the strategies to facilitate the full embracing of Black LGBTQIA+ people by the traditional Black church, I ask what would persuade the church leaders that becoming and leading their church to become radically include is 1) acting in the church’s own vested self-interest, 2) in keeping with Black church tradition, and 3) being faithful to missio Dei by showing hospitality to those counted among “the least” (Matt.20: 40-45). The shift from traditional church practices to radical inclusivity is not a small one. Institutions and those that lead them are resistant to change for a variety of reasons. Change can be frightening as it always involves loss. I identify and find ways of helping stakeholders to manage loss. 

Presenter: B. Dundee Holt (he, him), DMin student. Dundee is a same gender loving Black Baptist preacher with southern roots, living in Harlem, USA. He has served in urban ministry in Baltimore, Hartford and NYC and campus ministry for the Claremont Colleges and UNC-Chapel Hill. Professionally, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, in textbook publishing, engineering education and the entertainment industry. He earned the BA in English from Pomona College and the Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. His DMin project is aimed at building the mutual embracings of Black LGBTQIA+ people and traditional Black churches.


Investigating the Circular Lack of Accountability in Corporate America 

In “Investigating the Circular Lack of Accountability in Corporate America,” Dr. Kriegel offers a compelling examination of the systemic evasion of accountability that characterizes the corporate landscape of the United States. This exploration is vividly illustrated through the satirical lens of “The New Yorker” cartoons, which serve as a critical narrative tool reflecting the very cycle of blame and responsibility avoidance prevalent within corporate culture.  

The core of the paper lies in ‘Deconstructing,’ as it dissects the complex cycle of blame within corporate America. Here, employees shift blame upwards to corporate leaders, who then justify their actions by citing the pressures from shareholders. Interestingly, these shareholders frequently represent the general public, which includes the employees, thereby completing a circular pattern of deflected responsibility. This loop illustrates a systemic issue where accountability is consistently redirected, ensuring that no single party holds the blame. 

Kriegel further enriches this deconstruction with her analysis and critique, leveraging her extensive experience as a corporate culture consultant. The narrative not only highlights the absurdity of this blame game but also challenges the readership to confront their complicity in this systemic failure. 

By elucidating this cycle of blame—from employees to leaders, to investors, and back to the public—the paper not only deconstructs the existing accountability vacuum but also imagines a corporate America where this cycle is broken. Kriegel advocates for a reimagined corporate landscape rooted in ethical responsibility and collective action, pointing towards a future where systemic change is possible through individual and collective agency. 

Presenter: Jessica Kriegel (she, her), MDiv student. Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture at Culture Partners 

Recommended Resources


Information Pollution in the Digital Age   

We live in critical times. The prevalence of digital media in our lives results in the rapid spread of both good and bad information. While this environment fosters the dissemination and exchange of knowledge, it also increases the risks of fake news and information pollution. Fake news is often used for political, social, and fraudulent purposes and can have widespread negative effects on individuals and society. The research our panel engaged in aims to show how easily fake news has become prevalent in contemporary society, how information becomes contaminated, resulting in the rise of rightwing Christian or other religious nationalisms, which are the opposite of a pluralistic and thriving democracy. In an election year in the United States, given the particularly polarized context in which we live, religion, pseudo-science, skepticism of experts, magical thinking, religious and political fundamentalism, racism, xenophobia, and Christian nationalism all function together to create conditions for information pollution, thus eroding democracy. In our presentation, we will discuss the importance of developing information literacy skills to aid in identifying disinformation that we often consume passively. This includes demonstrating how critical thinking and other skills can deconstruct and debunk fake news and increase information literacy in the general public, resulting in the healing and rebuilding of democratic institutions.   

Presentation Team:   

Holly Merz (she, her), MDiv student. Holly is slowly but surely moving towards the completion of her MDiv degree at PSR. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her husband of five years and three cute dogs. In addition to school, Holly works full time at Casey Family Programs, which is a national foundation focused on improving the child welfare system.  

Sanghyeon Jin (he, his), MDiv student. Sanghyeon is in his last term off la M.DIV degree. He lives in San Jose with his spouse. Serving in Calvary UMC as a youth director.  

Beth Pfeiffer (she, her), MDiv student. Beth is in her last term of a MDIV degree. She lives in Oregon with her spouse and two daughters, two cats, and two chickens. Beth is volunteering at Central Presbyterian Church.  

Becks Salentes  (she, he, they), MDiv student. Becks is in his third year in the Master of Divinity program. He Lives in Manteca, CA (East of Central Valley and South of Sacramento) and has been married for 20 years to a beautiful, loving, supportive spouse. He has been a co-parent for eight nephews and nieces and has been a full-time caregiver to his 84-year-old mother since 2015.   

Kenneth Watson (he, him), MDiv student. Kenneth is in his last semester of the MDIV degree program. He is the father of one daughter and grandfather of two. He loves God, his family, land his community. He is the Assistant Pastor at Jones  Memorial United Methodist Church. 

Recommended Resources 



From Tensions to Transformation: Embracing the Complexity of My Intersecting Identities as Taiwanese, Christian, and Urban Indigenous 

In ‘From Tensions to Transformation,’ Qaisul Takihunang offers a visionary perspective on ethical leadership and the potential for societal change, deeply rooted in the intersections of his Taiwanese, Christian, and urban indigenous identities. Through an insightful interpretation of Isaiah 11:1-10, alongside Teresa Delgado’s ‘in-between’ spaces theory, this report illuminates the transformative capacity of liminal spaces as venues for deep understanding, reconciliation, and collective growth. It emphasizes the critical importance of diverse narratives and experiences in enriching our ethical frameworks and collective identity, advocating for a democratic approach that champions empathy, inclusivity, and diversity. Takihunang’s narrative underscores the necessity of embracing the complexities inherent in our identities, proposing a leadership model that is both inclusive and diverse, underpinned by a steadfast commitment to justice and equity. This work aspires to a future where leadership breaks free from conventional confines, guiding us toward a more inclusive, understanding, and democratic society where all can thrive. Through this exploration, Takihunang reflects on the personal resonance of his multifaceted identity and sets forth a compelling blueprint for societal transformation. This transformation nurtures the flourishing of every individual and community. 

Presenter: Qaisul Takihunang (he, his, him), MDiv student. As an international student from Taiwan’s indigenous communities, Qaisul is deeply interested and committed to progressive theological issues concerning diversity and inclusion. 


Where is the Care? 

Course: Preaching Within Suffering Worlds 

Topic: Practicum Sermon on Where is the Care? 

Task: Utilize theological paradigms to shape the sermon’s message, form, and content to address need and/or offer care. 

Presenter: Rev. Sundria Sam (she, her), DMin student. Sundria believes that the most important thing about her is that she is a child of God. She is the mother of two (Donte’ & Sheria), has six grandloves, and is engaged to Rev. Richard Wright, Ph.D. Her recent education/spiritual pursuits include; John Muir Concord CPE Resident Spiritual Care Chaplain Fall 2024-2025, PSR DMin Student January 2024, PSR MDiv/MAST Graduate May 2023, Ordained July 2023, Licensed November 2020, Called March 2016. Member of Shiloh Baptist Church of Hayward, CA. Connect with her at 


Thriving as an embodiment practice for humanizing 

My sermon, Imagining Ourselves New and Thriving, was the fifth in sequence in a series of Spring semester sermons coordinated by Rev. Ann on the topic of imagination and thriving—All are in relation to PSR’s mission statement, which includes ‘creating a world where all can thrive.’ In complementary relationship to the order of service, in response to Cole Arthur Riley’s writing ‘For the Journey Back to Yourself,’ she notes that “we are shape-shifters,” my sermon discusses choices for movement, self-awareness, and how interdependence can be embodied by weaving four elements. (1) Re-imagining and modeling community response to music, (2) reflection on all our relations through verses of Tao Te Ching, (3) deconstruction of dehumanization based on our subconscious, (4) testing and modeling the Emotional Freedom Technique. I hope to contribute to a pluralistic view of spirituality and expand our options to embody compassion and self-awareness to bridge polarizing worldviews. 

Presenter: Manuel (Manny)Falcon Padua (he, his) is a 4th semester MDiv student in the Chaplaincy track who is passionate about sustainability, and as a Community Life Assistant in PSR, his contributions include the Isamaeli Mata’afa Peace Community Garden and the Online Cafe. In synthesizing his experiences as an immigrant and a veteran, he centers indigenous ethics, collective economy, design thinking, mental health, and the arts as integral threads to wholeness interwoven into the fabric of our psyche and spirituality 



A Campus Ministry that has become the Student Housing Insecurity Initiative 

In 2019, Colorado State University students needing housing in Fort Collins, Colorado, became a crisis. 

Students without housing hide in plain sight; they sleep on friends’ couches at night, sleep or live in cars, spend nights in the library and the recreation center, the use on-campus showers and changing rooms. The ones that find a rental property often do so with more roommates than property owners know are occupying the space. The Lutheran Campus Ministry wanted to address the issue but needed to know the number of students in the crisis at CSU. The government’s yearly homeless survey did not count college students; the university did not count the housing insecure, and factual data on the local level did not exist. They would have to gauge numbers based on those requesting help.  

In trying to obtain the best way to help the students in need, the Campus Ministry pastor asked, “How do you solve homelessness?” and answered, “You get them a home.”  And that is what the Lutheran Campus Ministry started doing and continues to do. They contacted property managers, property owners, the city, and the county programs set up to help the homeless and found a realty division of the university. In a building slated for removal in 2026, the real estate group had apartments they would reduce the rent on if the ministry could fill them. This would begin with the Student Housing Security Initiative, a Ministry that, in 2024, has twenty students in affordable apartments. 

Presenter: D. Lopez (they, them), DMin student. I am Donna L Lopez, but I go by “D.” I live in Firestone, Colorado, with my wife of 25 years, Tina, and our one-year-old mini Aussie shepherd Dashie. Colorado. I am an alum of Colorado State University with a master’s in public policy and administration, and I started working with college students who were experiencing housing issues. I am finishing some theology classwork before starting work on the DMin in Fall 24. I currently work with Fort Collins Lutheran Campus Ministry’s Student Housing Insecurity Initiative as the Coordinator. This work is my passion; it has become the ministry I will carry forward into the Doctor of Ministry program. I believe that by providing affordable housing to college students, they can earn the degree to end the generational poverty their families know and build generational wealth instead through education. I know this because years ago, this was me, a first-generation college student from East Los Angeles now living in Colorado, an only child of a single-parent mom who worked two and three jobs. My grandparents, who never graduated high school, stepped up and ensured I survived. Today, when I sat across the dinner table from our students, I remembered a young me.  

Recommended Resources 


Mysticism as a pathway to healing LGBTQIA+ Trauma and creating a foundation for ethics 

A significant portion of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Queer Intersex Asexual (LGBTQIA+) people have experienced moral injury or trauma simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The long-term impacts of stigmatization and socially acceptable abuse are evident in the high rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) developed by community members.   

While there is a myriad of modalities for healing PTSD, one that stands out is meditation, also known as contemplation or mindfulness. These are ancient practices that are present in multiple religions. In Christianity, it is known as a practice of mystics who use contemplation and meditation to experience Christ.   Mystical practices have been known to change the perception of reality. This new vision can serve as a foundation for building an ethical framework which seeks justice and mercy universality. 

Presenter Amy LeiLani Tobey, MBA (she, her), MDiv student. Amy is interested in the intersections of Queer Theology, Practical Theology, and Mental Health. She lives in Portland, OR, with her partner, and her two cats. 




Queer Conscience, Queer Regeneration 

Drawing on Queer theorists such as Audre Lorde and Gloria Anzaldua, as well as the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg, I wish to investigate the process of identity formation and the role that conscience, or the faculty of moral discernment, plays in that process. I will argue that conscience is constitutive of identity, such that not only the moral decisions we make, but the criteria whereby we make decisions, fundamentally shape who we are, and that liberatory queerness entails an increasingly fine-tuned conscience turned back on itself, extricating from itself the distorting influences of racism, sexism, homophobia, speciesism, and other forms of oppression. This process occurs simultaneously in two worlds: (1) the private, inner world, connected with spirit, and (2) the public, communal world connected with body; these worlds correspond, and true liberation occurs when this process proceeds equally in both worlds. Lorde and Anzaldua demonstrate how this process can be achieved on the individual level through self-definition, careful naming, and introspective spiritual practice; and on the communal level through reading, writing, and speaking in community. I will connect this with Swedenborg’s teaching of spiritual regeneration, reading it through a queer lens. 

Presenter: Michael Goos (they, them), MDiv student. Michael is a 2nd year PSR student and ordination candidate with the Swedenborgian Church of North America. 


Re-Imagining Empowerment  

Regenerative leadership promotes the idea that humans can mimic nature, using nature’s ability to evolve and design for itself, and then build what it needs while removing what it does not. Leaders must define and employ regenerative practices as an approach for systemic and human healing, resilience, and empowerment. The following will describe and identify the practices and real-world applications that operationalize the model of regenerative leadership and create a framework to inspire regenerative leaders to action. 

Presenter Matthew White, (he/him), DMin student. Matthew is an advocate, author, and facilitator dedicated to teaching self-liberation and leading with kindness. For over a decade, he has trained, organized, facilitated, and coached unions, change organizations, and individuals to bring equity and transformation to their spaces. He uniquely understands the art of empathy as a leadership tool, and demonstrates compassion in the creation of inclusive policies, as he has within the Poor People’s Campaign, the Q Christian Federation, CA Partnership to End Domestic Violence, and other circles. Consistent with these values, Matthew is the author of “The Owl Who Didn’t Who,” a children’s book focusing on the power of understanding our “why” and illustrating his lessons learned from community organizing. Matthew is an Education Coordinator for AFSCME, focusing on creating pathways for education, equity, and engagement for union members across the United States. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Public Administration and minored in music at the University of La Verne, attended the Savannah College of Art and Design for his Masters in Arts Administration, and is now pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry from the Pacific School of Religion.  

Matthew sings with the Chorale Bel Canto in Whittier, CA, and is a competitive bodybuilder. He and his husband live in Southern California.   


A Visionary Ubuntu Pedagogy: Developing Equitable and Equal Access to Learning 

Ubuntu, a social and spiritual philosophy framing the essence of community from southern Africa roots has been rising in global recognition through prominent interpreters such as Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. The classic historical and philosophical Western emphasis on individualism is regarded by many as one-sided and vulnerable to social ills due to its underdeveloped commitment to a more explicit communal understanding of a healthy society in such a way as to marginalize segments of society. Ubuntu challenges such individualistic mindsets by promoting a collective well-being. My project will engage Ubuntu principles in a Western context toward applications supporting DEI structures for young adults and in a larger social conversation about a healthy society. 

Presenter: Chynaah Maryoung-Cooke (she/they), DMin student. Chynaah is a licensed minister and chaplain with TFAM & Healing Heart Ministries. Chynaah earned her MDiv at Lancaster Theological Seminary and is completing her DMin work at Pacific School of Religion, 2024. Chynaah has dedicated her life to marginalized groups, promoting healthy self-esteem and unity within local and global communities. Chynaah has implemented her program for BIPOC persons, “Ubuntu African Storytelling & Healing Drums” with the Reclaiming Our Time series for the YWCA Lancaster and is a Racial Trainer with the Racial Equity Institute. 

Connect with Chynaah

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