Leadership team

The Rev. Lesley Jones

Lesley Jones 100
The Rev. Lesley E. Jones is the founder and senior pastor of Truth & Destiny Fellowship United Church of Christ in Cincinnati, OH. Born in New Bern, NC , to teenage parents, she spent her early years being raised by grandparents who taught her early about “unconditional love” and “uncompromising faith.” She is a 1990 graduate of Miami University (OH) with a B.S. in Social Science Education. She also holds certificates in ministry, pastoral counseling and organizational leadership. Among many other leadership roles, she has served as the executive director for both the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission and Equality Cincinnati. Pastor Jones has ministerial standing both in The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries and the United Church of Christ. Lesley’s pronouns are “she, her, hers.”

The Rev. Mak Kneebone

AnnMarie Kneebone 100px
The Rev. Mak Kneebone is the pastor at Plymouth United Church in Spring, TX. Mak is passionate about creating wholeness in our broken world by following the path of Jesus as Christ. This includes working on peacemaking, crafting inclusive and nonviolent liturgies, having conversations about privilege and the intersections of oppression, as well as having the honor of providing pastoral care and leading worship. Mak is the Coalition’s president. Mak’s pronouns are “he, him, his.”

The Rev. Phil Porter

Phil Porter
Phil Porter retired from his long-time position as the Minister of Art and Communication at First Congregational Church of Berkeley in 2019. He has been involved in the Coalition for over 30 years, including 6 years as Moderator of the Coalition Council (at a time when he still had quite a bit of hair.) He has served in a variety of national committees including two of the UCC restructuring task forces and the search committee that recommended Rev. Geoffrey Black for General Minister and President. He is also the co‐founder of InterPlay, a global social movement dedicated to ease, connection, human sustainability and play. Phil is the Coalition’s treasurer. Phil’s pronouns are “he, him, his.”

The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer

Mike Schuenemeyer
The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer is minister for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns and executive for health and wholeness advocacy in the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries. His leadership helped secure passage of General Synod resolutions supporting marriage equality and international human rights for LGBT people. Mike was executive producer for the film, “Call Me Malcolm,” and serves as executive director for UCAN Inc., the UCC HIV and AIDS Network. He serves ex officio on the Coalition’s Leadership Team. Mike’s pronouns of choice are “he, him, his.”

The Rev. Kevin Tindell

Kevin Tindell
The Rev. Kevin E. Tindell is an ordained minister in the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. He currently serves the Executive Minister of Special Projects of God Can Ministries UCC in Chicago. Kevin counsels and coaches many who struggle with their identity, especially with regard to their spirituality and sexuality. He has served on the UCC’s Chicago Metropolitan Association Council and Congregational Life Committee. He and his husband, William, are the proud parents of three sons: Carter, Christian and Camran. Kevin is the Coalition’s vice president. Kevin’s pronouns are “he, him, his.”

The Rev. John Gage

(image coming soon) Rev. John is a native of Austin, Texas. He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Yale University and an M.Div. from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and was ordained into the ministry of word and sacrament in the United Church of Christ in 2000–the first openly queer candidate ordained in his local association. He then served at United Church on the Green in New Haven, CT (2000-2014) and United Christian Church of Austin (2014-2018) before accepting the call to be senior minister at The Congregational Church of Needham, Massachusetts, beginning in January 2019. John also holds ordained standing in The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, a broad national coalition of majority African-American, Pentecostal, LGBTQ-affirming ministries. He feels called to help local congregations pursue intersectional justice work across traditional boundaries, particularly around sexuality and gender and racial and ethnic identity. John shares a home with his partner, David, and their two large dogs, Kevin and Nikolai. John’s pronouns are “he, him, his.”

Dr. Greg Carey

(image coming soon) Greg Carey is Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary. His published books include Stories Jesus Told: How to Read a Parable; Using Our Outside Voice: Public Biblical Interpretation, and Sinners: Jesus and His Earliest Followers. He has appeared on the PBS, BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Channel. He is a graduate of Rhodes College (BA) and Vanderbilt University (MA, PhD). An active UCC layperson, Greg frequently provides education for congregations and other organizations as part of their ONA discernment process. Greg’s pronouns are “he, him, his.”

Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, M.A.L.

(image coming soon) Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera is a 30+ year veteran of the LGBTQ and Labor movements. Lisbeth has extensive experience organizing and training at the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity and culture specifically as they relate to communities of color. Lisbeth has crisscrossed the country training workers and community leaders in organizing, leadership development and community building strategies from a grassroots perspective. She has also done extensive work supporting LGBTQ leaders in America Latina. Lisbeth, is the former Director of Faith Outreach & Training at the Human Rights Campaign, where she worked with people of Faith across denominations to ensure we can be who we are, love who we love and practice our faith free of judgement. A biologist and sociologist by education with a solid Jesuit and SND formation, that makes her passions flare and her days move forward. Today, Lisbeth lives in Hyattsville, MD alongside her wife, Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz and their chosen family, both human and furry!! Lisbeth’s pronouns are “she, her, hers.”

The Rev. Derek Terry

(image coming soon) The Rev. Derek Terry was born, raised, and educated Louisville, Kentucky, but he currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio where he is the pastor at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, a thoroughly diverse multicultural and multigenerational congregation that is a shining example of how different populations can work and worship together. He holds bachelors and masters degrees in biochemistry/molecular biology as well as an M.Div. As a bi-vocational minister, Derek founded Yatuma Naturals, which specializes in natural skin and hair products, natural clothing, and peace beads. Yatuma is Swahili for sweet/gentle. He is a published author of two books and the Black & Queer Icons 2019 Wall Calendar featuring twelve famous Black Same Gender Loving Individuals in history. His third book, Race, Rage & Fear will be out soon. Derek Also hosts a weekly podcast, A Region in My Mind. Derek’s pronouns are “he, him, his.”

The Rev. Christina Fidanza

(image coming soon) The Rev. Christina M. Fidanza holds a B.A. in Biological Sciences granted by Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey (1996) and an M.Div. from Lancaster Theological Seminary (2015). Prior to Seminary she was employed as a Hazardous/Dangerous Goods Logistics Management Officer, Assistant Technical Editor, and ESL Support for XenoBiotic Laboratories, Inc. Christina currently serves as the Settled Pastor at Emmanuel United Church of Christ in Freysville, Pennsylvania. She is also active in the UCC’s Disability Ministries. Christina is a self-taught artist, usually working with mixed-media/found objects. She sees this kind of artwork, and the process that it entails, as a reflection of the intersections of our lives, revealing hidden beauty. Christina’s pronouns are “she, her, hers.”

The Rev. Aaron Lauer

(image coming soon) The Rev. Aaron Lauer is the Pastor for Emerging Generations at Coral Gables Congregational UCC in southern Florida. He has been part of the Next Generation Leadership Initiative, a program of the UCC Pension Boards. Aaron grew up in a small town in Nebraska. For his undergraduate degree, he attended Hastings College, a small liberal arts college in southern Nebraska. While there, he was introduced to progressive Christianity that had a deep concern for social justice and a liberating reading of the Bible. He earned a Masters in Religion and Theology degree at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in 2010. While there, he became more involved with the UCC, volunteering at Pilgrim Point summer camp and a local church Vacation Bible School. Following graduation, he served at First Congregational Church in Minneapolis before returning to school at UTS once more. Aaron graduated with his M.Div. in 2015. In 2019, Aaron joined with staff at Coral Gables to establish the congregation’s first Young Adult Service Community. Aaron’s pronouns are “he, him, his.”