Our Authors

Assistant Professor of Church and Society Samuel Cruz, a 1987 graduate of the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, N.Y., received the M.A., Magna Cum Laude, from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, N.J., in 1994 and the M.Phil from Drew University, Madison, N.J. in 1999. He completed his Ph.D. at Drew University in 2002.

Dr. Cruz comes to Union from Rutgers, the State University, New Brunswick, N.J., where he has been a lecturer in the Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies Department since 2003 and an instructor at the Center for Children and Families since 2004.

Dr. Cruz’s publications include a book, Masked Africanisms: Puerto Rican Pentecostalism (Kendall Hunt Publishing, 2005) as well as a number of book chapters and journal articles on Latina/o and global Pentecostalism and on the sociology of religion– two principal areas of his research and teaching.

Over the last decade he has been conducting ethnographic research on urban and Caribbean Latina/o religion, focusing predominantly on Pentecostalism and African based Caribbean/Latina religions and comparative analyses of Latina/o religion and Euro-American religious traditions. His work on Latina/o Pentecostalism has helped bring to the forefront the roles that Latina/o Pentecostal congregations and organizations have had in the development of leadership within Latina/o communities throughout U.S. urban centers. The role that Latina Pentecostal congregations have had in the facilitation and adaptation for Latino/a immigrant communities in the U.S. and in the fostering, maintenance and protection of culture is another dimension of his work. His research also focuses on the intersection of religion and social processes especially the potentiality for liberation among racially, culturally and sexually oppressed groups. Currently Dr. Cruz’ research has focused on Latin@ churches and the inclusion of the LGBTQIQ community. The study of race, racism and ethnicity in the Caribbean and Latin America has been a major focus of his scholarship. He has lectured throughout Central America and the Caribbean. As a member of the Immigration Task Force of the ELCA and a community leader within the New Sanctuary Movement, Dr. Cruz has been actively organizing communities around issues of immigrant rights throughout NYC. Dr. Cruz was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He has also served as pastor in several churches in the Metro-NY area.


Crystal Hall is a PhD candidate in New Testament at Union Theological Seminary, and a graduate of the Master of Divinity (’12) program at Union.  Her academic interests include research on the Pauline corpus and apocalyptic literature; poverty and wealth within the context of the Roman Empire and today; liberationist and postcolonial hermeneutics; and bringing biblical interpretation into conversation with contemporary social theory.  Committed to building bridges among the academy, the church and poor people’s movements, Crystal works with the Poverty Initiative. At the Poverty Initiative she is the coordinator of the Homeless Union History Project of the Poverty Scholars Program, and works with grassroots organizations across the country to educate as they organize.  Crystal is a candidate for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), and is actively exploring intersections among the academy, ministry and anti-poverty organizing in building the movement to end poverty.


Brigette C. Kamsler is the Archivist for the Missionary Research Library Archives and the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives project, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. She has a BA in History from Millersville University and a MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh where she specialized in Archives, Preservation and Records Management. Prior to her work at Columbia, she was the Archivist and Research Center Coordinator at the Historical Society of Frederick County, Maryland. Please check out the full Burke Archives Blog here:https://blogs.cul.columbia.edu/burkearchives/.


Paul F. Knitter, who joined the Union faculty in January 2007, is a leading theologian of religious pluralism. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (1966) and a doctorate from the University of Marburg, Germany (1972). Knitter’s journey into interfaith dialogue began in 1964 when he was a seminarian in Rome and experienced the Second Vatican Council firsthand, at a time when the Roman Catholic Church declared its new attitude towards other religions.

Dr. Knitter is Professor Emeritus of Theology at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio, where he taught for 28 years before coming to Union. He serves on the Board of the International, Interreligious Peace Council, formed after the 1993 World Parliament of Religions to promote interreligious peace-making projects.

Most of Dr. Knitter’s research and publications have dealt with religious pluralism and interreligious dialogue. Since his ground-breaking 1985 book, No Other Name?, he has been exploring how the religious communities of the world can cooperate in promoting human and ecological well-being. This is the topic of One Earth Many Religions: Multifaith Dialogue and Global Responsibility (1995) and Jesus and the Other Names: Christian Mission and Global Responsibility (1996), and his critical survey of Christian approaches to other religions: Introducing Theologies of Religions (Orbis Books, 2002). In 2005, Knitter edited a multifaith exploration titled The Myth of Religious Superiority (Orbis Books). His latest publication is Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian: A Personal Journey of Passing Over and Passing Back (Oneworld Publications, 2009).


Nathaniel Mahlberg, 3rd Year MDiv, is an ordination candidate with the United Church of Christ. He has long been involved in peace and economic justice organizing, but has also been spotted at times prowling through Burke Library’s Special Collections.


Amy Meverden is a Ph.D student in biblical studies at Union Theological Seminary. Her term began in fall 2009, where she focused initially on Old Testament studies. Amy now studies with two New Testament scholars, Brigitte Kahl and Aliou Niang, who have worked extensively with the Old and New Testaments, to focus on intertextuality. She is also studying the book of Galatians through a lens of critical re-imagination.

More broadly, Amy is interested in biblical theology and the practical application of biblical studies to faith communities. Her work can be described as interdisciplinary, combining biblical studies with critical, feminist, and postcolonial theories. She hopes that her work will have the arms and legs to compel individuals, communities, and faith traditions to call out injustice and embrace life, faith, and love.


Derrick McQueen is a founding blogger for Union in Dialogue.  A fourth year Ph. D. Student of Homiletics and New Testament, he is committed to the voice of Queer/Same Gender Loving being a part of the universal conversations of politics, theology, religion, society and ethics.  It is not that the voice has to come from any Queer or Same Gender Loving perspective, but rather Queer/Same Gender Loving persons speaking from their own personal point of view makes the conversation itself queer thus loosening the parameters by which conversations can be engaged.  Hear Now In The Body once again points to how Union Theological Seminary is at the forefront of not just highlighting voices of diversity, not normalizing diversity but of celebrating diversity and all it has to offer.


Kristen Leigh Southworth is an indie-folk singer, songwriter, poet, visual artist, and humanities scholar currently pursuing her M.Div. at Union Theological Seminary with a concentration in Theology and the Arts.  She writes and presents on topics such as music, theopoetics, early Christian history, the labyrinth, contemplative prayer, ecumenical theology, ecotheology, and the subject of evil.  Kristen received her B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2004, and spent the following six years performing music around the country, meanwhile recording and producing three albums and working in graphic design. Kristen’s more recent projects have included starting an ecumenical progressive Christian bookstore in Greensboro, NC, creating a contemplative arts studio, overseeing a collaborative mural project, and painting a labyrinth on the roof of the seminary.  She is currently working on composing a folk opera.  Visit Kristen’s website at www.breathofstatues.com


Aaron Stauffer is a second year MDiv student in at Union focusing on Ethics.  Passionate about developing communities, and building power in civic society, Aaron worked as an IAF organizer through the Young Adult Volunteer of the PC(USA) program in 2010-2011, is currently doing his Field Education with the Poverty Initiative at Union and works for an interfaith non-profit in New York City, while remaining active with the Student Christian Movement NYC.  He finds himself continually drawn to local, organized responses to deep economic, political disenfranchisement and oppression.  He blogs regularly at aaronkstauffer.tumblr.com


Jennifer Wilder is a third year Master of Divinity Candidate at Union Theological Seminary. She is pursuing ordination with the United Church of Christ, and her interests, studies, and work focus on the role of communities of faith in social movements. Jennifer works with the Poverty Scholar Coordinating Committee with the Poverty Initiative, which develops leaders for the movement to end poverty, led by the poor. Jennifer is also a Community Minister at Judson Memorial Church—UCC. Jennifer has worked as a chaplain at the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn and at the La Hermosa Christian Church in East Harlem. Before coming to Union Theological Seminary, Jennifer lived and worked in the Christian Base Communities of El Salvador, helping with processes of theological and political education. She is originally from Fletcher, North Carolina and earned her B.S. in Psychology at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.


Atticus Zavaletta holds a Master’s degree in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University and is a Master of Divinity student at Union. His interests include trans/queer visibility and the discovery of the operation of grace as an onto-phenomenological interruption in the world. Atticus is a member in discernment in the United Church of Christ.


Christopher Fici is a first MA student specializing in Ecumenical and Interfaith Studies at Union Theological Seminary.  He spent five-and-a-years in monastic and ministerial training in the Gaudiya Vaisnava, or bhakti-yoga spiritual tradition of the Hindu/Vedic culture of India, before retiring from his monastic career to come to Union.

He is a member of The Bhakti Center community, a Vedic cultural center in the East Village of Manhattan, where as a member of the monastic community over the last three years he helped to facilitate vegetarian cooking courses and philosophical discourses on the Bhagavad-Gita at New York University and Columbia University. He now currently assists with communications work and other community activities at The Bhakti Center.

Chris is a budding writer, and his written meditations on the active spiritual life can be found on the Huffington Post, Beliefnet, Elephant Journal, and Good Business International. Chris has an avid interest in the intersection between sustainability and spirituality, having spent time as organic farming intern at the Small Farm Training Center in West Virginia, and he aspires to be part of communities creating alternative cultural examples of how we as humanity can and should interact with our planet in concert with our inherent divinity.