Participant Bios

Richard Baker2

Reverend Dr. Richard L. Baker, Jr. is pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio, the first church organized in that city. A native of New Jersey, he earned his BA from the College of William and Mary in Virginia and his PhD in philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin.

After teaching for 15 years as Professor of philosophy at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, he served as Theologian-in-Residence at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis before taking his current position. He and his wife, Karen, share six adult children and step-children. Throughout the pandemic, his chief consolation has been teaching a class called “Bucket-List Books.”

Adelle Banks2

Ms. Adelle M. Banks serves as projects editor and national reporter at Religion News Service. An award-winning reporter, writer, researcher, copy editor, photographer, videographer, proof-reader, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

She has particular expertise in researching and writing about religious organizations and charities, the faith of African-Americans, music and the arts, church-state separation and partnerships between government and religious groups.

Peter Cajka2

Dr. Peter Cajka is an Assistant Teaching Professor at Notre Dame’s Department of American Studies where he also serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies. He joined Notre Dame in 2017 as a Postdoctoral Associate with the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism and still engages with the center as a faculty affiliate. He has been teaching in the Department of American Studies since 2019. His research explores the roles of religion and ideas in modern American culture. Dr. Cajka earned a PhD in modern American history from Boston College in 2017. His book, Follow Your Conscience: The Catholic Church and the Spirit of the Sixties explores how American Catholics invoked conscience rights against Church authorities and in disputes with the modern state. It shows that a profound attention to individual conscience is at the center of the modern American Catholic imagination. He has published scholarly articles in The Journal of Church and State, US Catholic Historian, American Catholic Studies, and Ohio History. At Notre Dame, Cajka teaches classes on The Sixties, the Vietnam War, the Culture Wars, Intellectual History, and the Civil Rights Movement. His words have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the National Catholic Reporter.

Cooperman Alan

Mr. Alan Cooperman is director of religion research at Pew Research Center. He is an expert on religion’s role in U.S. politics and has reported on religion in Russia, the Middle East and Europe. He plays a central role in planning the project’s research agenda and writing its reports. Before joining Pew Research Center, he was a national reporter and editor at The Washington Post, a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and US News & World Report. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1982 and started in journalism at the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.

Cooperman has authored several research reports and was the primary editor of Global Christianity and Global Restrictions on Religion. He has appeared on numerous media outlets, including NPR, the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the NewsHour, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

Matthew Cressler2

Dr. Matthew Cressler is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Affiliate Faculty in African American Studies at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. His teaching and research areas include African American religions, Black Nationalism, Catholic studies,religion in America, and theory in the study of religion, with a special interest in the intersection of religion, race, and nationalism.

While specializing in Black Catholic history, he has also taught on US Catholics, conversion, riots and rebellions, and Islam. In 2017, he published the book Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migration. He has been a regular contributor to the Religion in American History blog as well as Slate. He recently co-reported on integration and segregation in American religion with Ms. Adelle M. Banks, courtesy of a media partnership between Sacred Writes and Religion News Service.

Kelsey Dallas2

Ms. Kelsey Dallas is a national religion reporter at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City and serves as associate editor of Deseret News National. She covers the intersection of religion, and politics, and the US Supreme Court. 

Kelsey is part of Religion News Association's membership and conference planning committees. She holds a master's degree in religion from Yale Divinity School. She addresses national events including elections, terrorist attacks, or sports championships through the lens of faith.

Abla Hasan2

Dr. Abla Hasan is an Associate Professor of Practice of Arabic Language & Culture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She earned her PhD in Philosophy of Language from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2013 and her MA in Philosophy as a Fulbright grantee from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2009. Dr. Hasan obtained her BA in Philosophy from Damascus University/Syria in 2000, followed by a Diploma of High Studies from Damascus University in 2001. A native speaker of Arabic, Dr. Abla teaches Arabic language and culture at UNL and she is the program's coordinator. Her teaching and research focus on Qur'anic Studies, Qur’anic Hermeneutics, Islamic feminism, and Arabic studies. She has published with Brill and in Analize, Ar-Raniry, JIL, Disputatio, Al-Manarah, E-logos and other peer-reviewed international journals. She is the author of the Decoding the Egalitarianism of the Qur'an: Retrieving Lost Voices on Gender) as well as the recently published On Pain and Suffering: A Qur’anic Perspective. 

Anita Houck2

Dr. Anita Houck is Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Indiana), where she holds the Joyce McMahon Hank Aquinas Chair in Catholic Theology. She received her EdM from Harvard Graduate School of Education and MA and PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School and has served on the Board of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality and as Vice President of the College Theology Society, from which she received the Monika Hellwig Award for Teaching Excellence in 2017.

Her articles and talks cover a range of topics, especially religion and humor, vocation, single life, and pedagogy; and she is co-editor, with Mary Doak, of Translating Religion (Orbis, 2013).

Alexander Hsu 2

Dr. Alexander Hsu serves as Adjunct Assistant Teaching Professor for the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion and the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies. He is also the Ansari Institute’s academic advisor and program manager. His research focuses on early Buddhist scriptures in medieval China and employs perspectives from manuscript studies, genre theory, and cultural history in order to examine how the use of texts reflects transformations in religious reading practices.

Hsu's current book project examines why and how medieval Chinese Buddhists used anthologies to “economize” their gigantic scriptural canon.

Russell Johnson 2

Dr. Russell P. Johnson is a faculty member at the University of Chicago Divinity School where he studies and teaches religious ethics and the philosophy of communication. His research focuses on disagreement, antagonism, and how groups imagine and treat their enemies. His work draws from rhetorical theory, Christian theology, peace and conflict studies, and dialogical philosophy to explore how the "good guys versus bad guys" mindset distorts people's perceptions of themselves and their opponents. His teaching includes courses on nonviolent direct action, argumentation and epistemology, and religion and film, and he is also a columnist for Sightings.

Alan Levinovitz2

Dr. Alan Levinovitz is an Associate Professor of Religion at James Madison University. He received his BA in philosophy and religion from Stanford University, and his PhD in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago. Dr. Levinovitz focuses primarily on the relationship between religion, literature, and science, with particular attention to classical Chinese thought, comparative ethics and the intersection of religion and literature. His most recent book, Natural: How Faith in Nature's Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science, examines the meaning of "natural" and argues that modern Western culture has divinized nature. He is currently working on another book project, The Gentleman and the Jester, which develops a binary typology of ethical education. In addition, he writes journalism that explores the relationship between religion, philosophy, science and medicine. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Vox, Slate, Wired, Aeon, The LA Review of Books, The Believer, The Millions, and other outlets.

Mahan Mirza 2

Dr. Mahan Mirza is Teaching Professor of Islam & Science in the Keough School of Global Affairs and Executive Director of the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion at the University of Notre Dame. An Islamic studies scholar and expert on religious literacy, Dr. Mirza previously served as lead faculty in a project to advance scientific and theological literacy in madrasa discourses in Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Dean of Faculty at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, America’s first accredited Muslim liberal arts college. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Texas Austin, MA from Hartford Seminary in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, and PhD in Religious Studies from Yale University. He has taught a range of courses in Arabic-Islamic studies, western religions, and history of science, along with foundational subjects in the liberal arts including logic, rhetoric, ethics, and politics. His doctoral research was on the intellectual world of al-Biruni, an 11th-century scientist from Central Asia. Dr. Mirza has edited two special issues of The Muslim World and served as assistant editor of the Princeton Encyclopaedia of Islamic Political Thought.

Michael Nabors

Reverend Dr. Michael C. R. Nabors is senior pastor of the historic Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Illinois, where he has continued to lead the church in its role as a trumpeter for Christ and as a social justice advocate in Evanston and Metro Chicago. Recently, Second Baptist Church has become a leading faith center in America in facilitating Race Talk Solidarity Circles in local communities. Dr. Nabors teaches Homiletics and Qualitative Research and Theological Writing at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. He served as Director of the Master of Divinity and Student Life Programs at Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit where he was professor of Homiletics and African American Religious History. He has taught at Ashland Theological Seminary, Calvin Theological Seminary, and Marygrove College. Dr. Nabors earned an undergraduate degree in English and Creative Writing at Western Michigan University, a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from the United Theological Seminary. He has been both a Samuel DeWitt Proctor and Benjamin E. Mays Fellow. He was also a Fellow in the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence- Lily Endowment Program as well as a Fellow in the Pastor-Theologian Lilly Endowment Program. He has received over 100 community, church and ministry awards for leadership and service in New Jersey, Michigan and Illinois. Before leaving Princeton, New Jersey, the Mayor and City Council commemorated his leadership by naming October 12th, “Dr. Michael Nabors Day.”

Chrissy Stroop

Dr. Chrissy Stroop is a columnist for openDemocracy and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches. Her work has also appeared in Dame Magazine, Foreign Policy, Playboy, Political Research Associates, and other outlets, including peer-reviewed academic journals. Holding a PhD in modern Russian history from Stanford University, Stroop has taught at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow, Russia, and at the University of South Florida in Tampa. She is a Senior Research Associate with the University of Innsbruck’s Postsecular Conflicts project. A prominent ex-evangelical writer, speaker, and advocate, she is co-editor, together with Lauren O'Neal, of a collection of personal essays by former conservative Christians called Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church.


Rev. Tiauna Boyd Webb is the Director of Missions and Programs at Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) in Evanston, Illinois. The organization helps to nurture, sustain, and mobilize the African American faith community in collaboration with civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders to address critical needs of human and social justice within local, national, and global communities.

In her role with the  SDPC, she seeks to strengthen the individual and collective capacity of thought leaders and activists in the church, academy, and community through education, advocacy, and activism for human rights and social justice. Rev. Webb holds a Masters in International Development from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Divinity from the Chicago Theological Seminary.


Dr. Olivia Wilkinson is the Director of Research for the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI), an international collaboration on evidence for faith actors’ roles in the humanitarian and development sectors. She directs JLI’s research work, collaborating with partners from UN agencies and governments, such as UNICEF and UNHCR, to faith-based organizations and NGOs, including Islamic Relief and World Vision, and in collaboration with universities such as the University of Leeds and University College London. 

Dr. Wilkinson is a sociologist, working at the intersection of sociology of religion and humanitarian/development studies. She published her book, Secular and Religious Dynamics in Humanitarian Response with Routledge in early 2020, which unpacks how secularity is one of many privileges and biases in the humanitarian system that makes aid irrelevant and inappropriate. She co-edited a new volume also with Routledge called International Development and Local Faith Actors: Ideological and Cultural Encounters, which was recently released. 

She has a PhD and master’s degree in humanitarian action from Trinity College Dublin and Université Catholique de Louvain respectively. Her PhD research focused on the response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and she has since conducted collaborative research work around the world, most recently on local faith actors in South Sudan. Her undergraduate degree in Theology and Religious Studies is from the University of Cambridge.