Faith Transitions at National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is pleased to announce the dynamic team of people who will lead the Faith Work at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for the coming months.  Javen Swanson will serve as the Interim Faith Work Director and Barbara Satin will be promoted to Assistant Faith Work Director. The changes are in response to the October 1st departure of Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel after eight years of important work as the founding Director of the Faith Work Program.  

To support this transition period, the Haas, Jr. Fund has provided The Task Force with a generous grant from its Flexible Leadership Awards program. As a result of this strategic support, Viveka Chen and Steve Lew have been engaged to serve as Listening Process and Search Consultants. Their work will provide an opportunity for the Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources constituents and other faith leaders to reflect on the status and needs of the Welcoming movement into the future.

During Rev. Voelkel’s time as program director, the pro-LGBT religious landscape has exponentially grown and changed — with many exciting successes in developing the depth and breadth of the pro-LGBT religious movement. Work in Muslim communities has greatly expanded, work in Latin@ communities has deepened, and campaigns on the state and local level have successfully partnered with religious communities to change laws and expand legal protection to LGBT people.  The number of welcoming congregations has grown from 1300 to over 5500. And, perhaps most importantly, the frame has shifted toward one in which religious traditions are seen and felt as places of justice, welcome and inclusion rather than as inherently anti-LGBT.

Executive Director, Rea Carey notes this is an important moment, “How do we continue to build upon this important work in order to adapt to the next chapter of Faith Work at the Task Force?  Where ought the Task Force and the pro-LGBT Faith Movement focus in this movement moment?” These are the questions this dynamic team of leaders will be addressing.

Over the next five months, the current faith work will continue under the capable leadership of Javen Swanson and Barbara Satin along with David Lohman, IWR and Faith Work Coordinator, and Kathleen Campisano, Faith Organizing Manager. Concurrent to that ongoing work, Viveka Chen and Steve Lew will reach out to faith leaders across the movement for both collective and individual listening sessions.

Deputy Executive Director, Rev. Darlene Nipper said, “The Task Force is privileged and honored to work with such committed, wise and powerful leaders in our movement.  I am grateful to have this transition period held in their capable hands.”  

Javen Swanson comes to the Task Force from OutFront Minnesota, where he served as Associate Director of Organizing for Faith. He has extensive experience working within multifaith settings.  His focus has been both to support change within religious communities and to help religious communities support campaigns for LGBT justice, including the Minnesotans United for All Families campaign which helped defeat a proposed marriage amendment in 2012 and went on to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Minnesota in 2013. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, Javen is a candidate for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Javen lives with his husband Oby and their two cats in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Barbara Satin is a transgender activist whose work has focused on issues of aging and faith within gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. Active on a number of LGBT boards, she is also a founder of GLBT Generations, educating people about the needs of LGBT people as they grow old. She was awarded the Allen Morrow Award by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2008 for her aging advocacy. In 2007, Barbara served as Interim Program Director for the Institute of Welcoming Resources and then stayed on as IWR & Faith Work Associate. Nationally, Barbara has served on the Executive Council of the United Church of Christ, the first transgender woman to have a national leadership role in that denomination; was also an adviser to the national Civil Marriage Collaborative and is a member of the Transgender Aging Advocacy Initiative Advisory Council. Barbara has been involved in developing and marketing a 46 unit affordable rental project focused on affordable and secure housing for LGBT seniors; the project opened in September 2013.

Viveka Chen is a CompassPoint Affiliate Consultant and an organizational development consultant, certified coach, facilitator and leadership trainer with a commitment to cultural competency and a strength-based approach. For twenty years she has worked with social change movements, organizations and leaders committed to social justice. Since 2001 Viveka has provided succession planning and executive transition services to over 35 nonprofits ranging from networks and alliances, larger intermediaries, policy organizations, direct service providers and community development corporations to smaller organizations with lean and often very informal structures. She has also personally trained and advised over 200 executive leaders across the country in succession planning and how to build the strength and talent of board, staff and volunteers through their transition.

Prior to consulting, Viveka was Executive Director of the East Bay Conversion & Reinvestment Commission and Associate Director of Urban Habitat. Viveka is also a Buddhist teacher who is appreciated for the calm, steady, and compassionate presence she brings to her work with clients. Since 2000 she has been board chair of the San Francisco Buddhist Center of the Triratna Order and since 2010 on the Steering Group of the Order’s 40 member International Council. Viveka has consulted to boards and leaders of several Buddhist organizations across a range of traditions. She was on the planning and facilitation team for the first cross-tradition Gen X Buddhist Teachers Gathering in the West attended by 60 teachers in 2013. 

Steve Lew is a Senior Project Director for CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and works with organizations in strategy, fundraising and board development as a consultant and trainer. As a Certified Professional Coach, Steve works with nonprofit leaders to enrich their approaches to leading and managing organizations and to create alignment with their personal values and goals. He brings 15 years of training and consulting experience to each of his projects, along with a decade of hands on experience in managing nonprofits.

Steve was CompassPoint Development Director and senior manager for several years, and previously has served as executive director and development director in HIV and cultural arts nonprofits in San Francisco. As the Executive Director of a HIV service organization he led the growth of their direct services and advocacy work from a volunteer operation to an annual budget of 1.8 million, with an annual donor and major gifts program rooted in the San Francisco Asian & Pacific Islander community. Steve’s life experiences as a person living with HIV, a fifth generation Chinese American, a gay man and social justice activist have also shaped his leadership work, and his work as a leadership coach.  This background informs his continued growth and learning about leadership development for progressive social change, personal, community and societal transformation.