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School of Theology and Ministry

Puget Sound Interfaith Network for Public Theology

These religious leaders and community partners explore themes around capacity-building for more effective faith-based social action and contribute to the development of the Center’s continuing education initiatives.

Network members meet periodically at Seattle University and are in dialogue with Center scholars about their ongoing research projects on homelessness and the affordable housing crisis through videoconference sessions and via Canvas, the university’s learning management system.

Hamdi Abdulle

Hamdi Abdulle is the Executive Director of Somali Youth and Family Club of SeaTac, Skyway, and south Seattle, Washington. Born and raised in Galkacyo, in the semi desert savanna regions of Somalia, Hamdi now works closely with East African communities in King County.

Hamdi has implemented such innovative projects as the Shah-Shah early learning program for mothers and children and the highly successful Community Café model as a platform for parent engagement in the refugee community. A tireless advocate for social justice and equity, she calls for inclusive economic development and safe affordable housing for vulnerable refugee families, and fights to end homelessness and the dis-proportionality in our county and state child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Hamdi serves on the Executive Committee of the Race to the Top project, is a member of All Home Coordinating Board, and is a happily married mother of five.

Wael Bahaa-El-Din

Dr. Wael Bahaa-El-Din currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS). A computer scientist by training, Dr. Bahaa-El-Din worked for several years in academia before moving to the software/hardware industry. He worked for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) for several years and then Microsoft for 15 years, and has worked on the design, architecture, and performance analysis of operating systems, database systems, networking, server applications, client applications, compilers, tools, and hardware. He is considered one of the top software industry experts in software performance, reliability, scalability and quality. In 2010, Dr. Bahaa-El-Din retired from Microsoft as a Corporate Vice President and a Microsoft Fellow for 10 years.

During 2010-2011, Dr. Bahaa-El-Din was instrumental in building the new MAPS community center in Redmond. MAPS is now the largest community center in the Northwest of the U.S.  Between 2011 and 2014, he was President of MAPS’ Interfaith and Outreach Committee (IOC), which is responsible for relations between MAPS and the Interfaith community at large.  

Kelle Brown

The Rev. Kelle J. Brown is a native of Columbus, Georgia. She received her Master of Divinity from Seattle University. She is currently the Lead Pastor of Plymouth Church United Church of Christ. Kelle is also a gifted writer, spiritual life coach and consultant who teaches and facilitates conversations concerning race and oppression, and LGBT alliance. She is completing her dissertation on Solidarity as Discipleship, an invitation to journey with those experiencing homelessness in transformed ways, through San Francisco Theological Seminary. Kelle uses singing, storytelling and art as tools of ministry, and published a children’s book Sun & Moon, which is dedicated to her daughter Indigo, the joy of her life. Kelle invites those she meets to follow the advice of Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Marilyn Cornwell

The Rev. Dr. Marilyn Cornwell has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. She served for many years as a university faculty member doing cancer research before becoming an Episcopal priest. After beginning theological studies at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, she completed her M.Div. at the Episcopal Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. Having served on the clergy staff of several Episcopal churches in the Seattle area, she is currently Rector of the Church of the Ascension, Seattle. As Rector, she is convener of the Tent City 5 Ecumenical Support group in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, and chairs the Tent City 5 Community Advisory Committee. She served four years on the Board of Directors of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, and now serves on the Board of Directors of Earth Ministry. She is also a member of the Society of Ordained Scientists.

Taijo Imanaka

After undertaking both scholastic education and monastic ascetic training, Rev. Taijo Imanaka was ordained in 1994 in the Shingon sect of Japanese Vajrayana Buddhism, on Koyasan. Koyasan is one of the most ancient Buddhist mountains in Japan. The community celebrated the 1200-year anniversary of its founding in 2015. Descending from the monastic mountain, Rev. Imanaka served at several temples in Nara and Osaka.

In 2006, he was assigned as Head Priest of Seattle Koyasan Buddhist Temple, located near Seattle’s International District. Since then he has focused on how to localize Buddhism and connect synergistically with Christian churches and Buddhist temples originating from other countries.

Rich Lang

Rev. Rich Lang is currently the District Superintendent of the Seattle/King County United Methodist Church. He has been a pastor for 28 years serving congregations in LaConner, Bay View, Spokane, Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood and at Seattle’s University Temple.

He writes a column for Real Change called Faith, Politics and Culture, and his ministry has been highlighted in the books Natural Saints and Fixing America. He has received the Gertrude Apel Pioneering Spirit Award from the Church Council of Greater Seattle, Taking the Bull by the Horns from Sustainable Ballard, and the Rauschenbusch Center’s Spirit and Justice award. He has been arrested for homeless advocacy, and was intentionally pepper sprayed by Seattle police during the Occupy marches.

He is married to Cathy for 33 years, and has two adult sons who carry on the family values of solidarity with the poor, with unions, and with all who work for peace with justice.

Jeff Lilley

Jeff Lilley is the president of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and leads the Mission with a bold vision for Seattle and King County.   The Union Gospel Mission has a budget of approximately $25 million a year and focuses on the five key areas of Hunger, Homelessness, Poverty, Addiction, and Youth-at-risk.  Last year, it served over one-million meals and provided homeless people with over 175,000 nights of safe shelter.  The Mission currently runs programs, shelters, and facilities in over 50 sites throughout King County, including work in the King County jail and the Kent Regional Justice Center.

Previously, Jeff was the executive director of one of the largest youth camps and conference centers in the U.S.  He is a graduate of Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon and serves on several boards, including the Alliance for Pioneer Square.  He is married and has five adult children.  Jeff and his wife currently live in West Seattle where they enjoy kayaking, gardening, and exploring the Pacific Northwest.

Aaron Meyer

Rabbi Aaron Meyer is the Associate Rabbi at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, a large progressive synagogue with campuses in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington. A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Aaron holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from The Ohio State University and an M.A. and Rabbinic Ordination from the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion. He believes that prayer and religious rituals offer people of faith the ongoing opportunity to reconnect with their highest values, imbuing focus and strength for the work of creating a just society, and is excited to participate in the Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs’ Puget Sound Interfaith Network for Public Theology. Aaron lives in Bellevue with his wife, Rabbi Emily Meyer, and daughter Evelyn.

Michael Ramos

Michael Ramos serves as the Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, connecting congregations toward God’s shalom in King and South Snohomish Counties.  He has worked on ecumenical community building for two decades and enjoys connecting spirituality with social justice. At the Church Council, confronting homelessness, immigration accompaniment and reform and building a living wage future have been central commitments with faith communities throughout the region.

He was the Director of Latino Ministries for the Catholic Diocese in Oakland in the mid-1990s before moving back to Seattle with his wife, Donna, and their two (now-grown) daughters.  He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Seattle University.  After growing up and going to college in New York City, Michael came to the Pacific Northwest over thirty years ago.

Rizwan Rizwi

Rizwan is the Executive Director of Muslim Housing Services (MHS) and President & CEO of SAR Wealth Management.

Rizwan was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne, England and graduated from Newcastle University with a Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in Business Management and later a Master’s degree in Business Administration. He is a member of the Association of MBA’s (AMBA) UK, is Securities Licensed, and a Fiduciary for the clients that he advises in several countries.

Rizwan has extensive experience in the Investment industry and spent a number of years managing an Equity Portfolio at SMITH BARNEY Citigroup. Since 2012, in addition to running SAR Wealth Management he has been the Executive Director of Muslim Housing Services (MHS). MHS is a culturally competent homeless prevention charity based in Seattle, WA. In 2016, MHS helped house over a 1,200 people – mainly homeless refugees and immigrants – across King County.

David Rodes

David Rodes is the Lead Pastor at the Puyallup Church of the Nazarene (known as PNC).  He has pastored this congregation for almost 17 years, serving in the Puyallup, WA community.  As an advocate of unity among the churches, he is actively involved in leadership of The John 17 Fellowship of Pastors and Christian Leaders.  He has a strong interest in 'glocal' mission (local and global) which has resulted in engagement in the Faith & Family Homelessness Project at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry as well as partnerships in Malawi, Africa with both the government, village communities and churches.  (The dairy project, clean water wells and orphan care through Child Develop Centers.) 

David and his wife, Lynette, enjoy their four children and their families.

Michael Yoder

Michael Yoder joined the Associated Ministries team as Executive Director in August 2015, bringing more than 30 years of experience as a nonprofit leader with a career that has been marked by innovation and communications excellence.

Mike shared: “I’m energized by the vital role that Associated Ministries has always played in catalyzing faith-based efforts to positively impact social needs in our community. I believe a new movement of interfaith service and cooperation is being birthed here in Pierce County, and AM and its partners can be the catalysts of that movement.”

As part of his three decades of work with international religious and humanitarian organizations, Mike has traveled to 30 countries and is a dedicated observer of news and trends affecting nonprofits and social justice issues. He earned a degree in Communications from California State University and lives in Puyallup with his wife, Debbie; his son and daughter are away from home as university students.

Ruth Zlotnick

Rabbi Ruth A. Zlotnick has been described by her community as a teacher of Torah and of Jewish values, and is beloved for her gifts of knowledge, leadership and counsel, inspirational worship services, and creative programming.

Rabbi Zlotnick previously served as Rabbi at Temple Beth Or in the Township of Washington, New Jersey, and as Associate Rabbi and Director of Lifelong Learning at New York's Central Synagogue. She also worked as Associate Director of Programs at Synagogue 2000, a national project aimed at revitalizing synagogues from all streams of American Judaism. She taught in the New York area, at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), and Fairfield University. She currently sits on the Board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Advisory Board for the Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs at Seattle University.

Rabbi Zlotnick is a graduate of HUC-JIR, where she was ordained in 2001. She earned a Master of Hebrew Letters from HUC-JIR; she also holds a Master's in the Philosophy of Religion from Yale University and a Bachelor's degree in religious studies from Wesleyan University.