Our Mission and Vision

Our Mission

We, the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance, are members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), called to join in God’s work of transforming the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) into a just and inclusive church that welcomes persons of all gender expressions and sexual identities into the full life and leadership of the church.

We invite you to work with us as we set a place at the table for ALL in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)!

The 2014-2017 Strategic Vision of the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance

Supporting the mission of Alliance Q and responding to the call of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to become a people of grace and welcome to all, the Alliance commits itself to:

  • increasing the number of Open & Affirming Ministries, creating communities of grace and welcome, including congregations, regions, higher education institutions, seminaries, ministry partners, and general units;
  • educating and supporting the Open & Affirming Ministries with resources to expand their pastoral care of LGBT persons with renewed commitment to bisexual and transgender persons;
  • empowering the Open & Affirming Ministries and the members of the Alliance to respond to justice issues such as marriage equality, employment non-discrimination, and opposing bullying;
  • and, to enable this plan, expanding the resources of the Alliance by increasing individual membership, contributions, and volunteer involvement.

Robin Knauerhase

Robin Knauerhase, Council Moderator

Robin Knauerhase whimsically describes herself as an “iconoclastic punny geek Christian, aspiring polymath, and incurable horophile.” She is “out” as a woman of transgender experience and is the first transgender Moderator of the Council. Her passion for queer-Christian equality stems in part from being rejected by her home church when she transitioned, and in part from the literalist interpretations of scripture she “soaked up” from her extended family. Beyond continuing the great work the Alliance already does, Robin hopes we can help educate the denomination about queer issues (it’s easy to hate someone if you don’t understand them), and to increase our involvement in intersectional justice work with other minority and/or marginalized communities.

Professionally, Robin is a research scientist with Intel; among her interests have been supercomputing, cloud computing, and Internet underpinnings. She holds 44 patents and has published in numerous academic workshops and conferences. Her volunteer activities at work largely revolve around queer-community activism; she is a VP of Intel’s employee resource group for LGBT employees and allies, and she’s a member of the “Out and Ally Leadership Council”, a group of senior employees who advise the company on matters of queer diversity.

Outside of work, Robin is a member of the First Christian Church of Portland, and of course the AllianceQ Council. She has previously served on the boards of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, the Living Room (a drop-in center for queer youth in Metro Portland), and the Friends of the Multnomah County Library. Recreationally, her hobbies include science fiction, data privacy, global travel, clever puns, and spicy foods. Robin lives in downtown Portland with her adorable cat Libby.

nicki arnold-swindle

nicki arnold-swindle, Council Member

nicki arnold-swindle (she/her) is a chaplain candidate and the only female and only open-and-affirming member of the Chaplain Corps in the Alabama Army National Guard, the Community Family Life Minister at First Christian Church in Anniston—which she led to become open-and-affirming in October 2017, and has been a member of the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance since shortly after becoming a Disciple in 2016, participating as part of the Pastoral Care and Education Team.

nicki became a Disciple because being Open & Affirming in her ministry was very important to her, and she felt drawn to become a part of “the movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” She sees sin as brokenness in relationship up, out, or in and feels that sin has been perpetrated by dominant groups in Christianity against marginalized groups throughout history and that there is a lot of reconciliation, reparation, and healing that needs to be done.

She is currently working on finishing her Certificate in Sexuality and Religion from the Pacific School of Religion and is studying how dominant Christian beliefs about sin (hamartiology) harm LGBTQ+ people and communities. nicki is a 2018 MTS graduate and 2019 MDiv graduate (pending conferral) of PSR. She has bachelors degrees in political science and social work from Jacksonville State University in Alabama.

nicki was a candidate for state representative in Alabama in 2018 and has advocated for social justice in her home state since 1997 because she truly believes that none of us are free until all of us are. nicki and her spouse, Jeff, have six children, with half of their family identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Sergio Centeno

Sergio Centeno, Council Member

Sergio completed his Master of Divinity at McCormick Theological Seminary in 2014. He graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, majoring in Humanities and Fine Arts. Sergio is a fine artist, freelance art director, a pastor, a worship curator, faith educator, and a community organizer. He worked for the World Council of Churches as the 50th Anniversary Creative Director as well as several worldwide advertising agencies as a Senior Art Director and Senior Designer. He currently works in a detention facility for unaccompanied children and he is a planter for Table of Grace a new LatinX Congregation in the City of Chicago.

Tyler Heston

Rev. Tyler Heston, Council Member

Tyler Heston serves as the Minster of Youth in Country Club Christian Church in Kansas City, MO. Tyler grew up in Memphis, TN, but moved to Kansas City by way of Fort Worth, TX. Tyler received a degree in Religion in Society from the University of Memphis and became a Certified Nonprofit Professional as recognized by the Nonprofit Leadership Association before completing a Master of Divinity at Brite Divinity School. Tyler also served at University Christian Church in Fort Worth while completing graduate school.

Aside from church and school, he enjoys a variety of things—from Beyoncé to the X-Files to traveling to eating sushi with friends.

Tyler’s interest in serving on the Alliance Council comes from his history with the Disciples of Christ. In 2014, Tyler found a church home at Kingsway Christian Church in Germantown, TN, after coming to terms with his sexuality, leaving the church he grew up in and seeking a congregation with whom he could worship openly. Kingsway, and the Disciples of Christ as a denomination, immediately felt like home. Walking others through the process of welcoming LGBTQ folk into their communities of faith is a passion for Tyler and he looks forward to using his gifts and his experience within the work of the council.

Eric Satchwill

Eric Satchwill, Council Member

My queerness and my Christianity are both huge aspects of my identity and greatly impact my politics and experiences. I’m currently working with my minister, Danah Cox, to develop and run Brush with the Spirit, a creativity-based faith community here in Calgary. I believe that serving on this council will be a great opportunity for me to get to know the broader Disciples community, and I feel that my perspective as a queer Canadian and as someone who is on the autism spectrum means I have a lot to offer in return.

Rev. Bob Shaw

Rev. Robert J. Shaw, Council Member

Rev. Robert J. Shaw is a retired minister with dual standing in the Indiana Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ. He is currently active in “DisciplesNet Church” a new on line church of the Christian Church in Indiana, serves the Indiana Region as regional elder, and is a member of the church board in his own local congregation, Southport CC in Indianapolis. He and his wife, Susan are active with the Congo Partnership Task Force for the Indiana Region’s partnership with the Mbandaka District of the Disciples of Christ of Congo.

His M.Div. degree is from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis (1973) and has done doctoral work at both Christian Theological Seminary and Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. He has served as president of the Alumni Board of Christian Theological Seminary and served three years on the board of trustees.

The last twenty years of his career in ministry has been as an interim minister, serving 19 congregations since 1990. He has been married to Susan McNeely since 1969. They have one daughter, Kristen McNeely-Shaw, who lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area with her husband and two year-old daughter Ada, Bob and Susan’s only grandchild.

He has been an advocate for inclusiveness issues in the church for more than 40 years, served as pastor of one ONA congregation in the UCC, and been a vocal supporter of O&A issues in his current congregation. He has served in volunteer capacity for many years with the Damien Center in Indianapolis, a service organization working with HIV/Aids patients in areas of prevention, case management, housing and job placement, food pantry, etc. He has been Santa at their client Christmas party for the last five years. He also served as a volunteer for Indiana Youth Group (serving LGBT+ teenagers in Indianapolis area) for four years.

Melissa Guthrie Loy

Rev. Melissa Guthrie Loy, Executive Director and Minister

Melissa is an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with a passion for ecumenism. She is the Founding Director of the nonprofit Salvage Garden: dedicated to reclaiming the value of all individuals, facilitating conversations with faith communities and partner organizations about inclusion; providing creative, context-specific tools to meet the needs of individuals who have been othered. She’s the creator of “The Banquet: A Sensory Worship Experience” which emphasizes all are welcome at God’s banquet table. “The Banquet” has received national recognition.

Setting a place at the table for all has always been a part of Melissa’s call. Perhaps because she was asked to leave a leadership position in a church when she came out as gay. Perhaps because she and her son were unwelcome in a different church because of his disabilities. Perhaps because she understands God as an embodied God whose image is in every body. She’s intentional about affirming every single body: queer bodies, disabled bodies, every body.

Melissa is trained in Faith-Based Nonprofit Management by Wake Forest University School of Business and School of Divinity. Prior to this she received her Master of Divinity in 2011 at Wake. She is originally from Iowa. In Iowa, she studied Communications and Religion at Wartburg College and received Youth and Family Ministry Certification from Wartburg Seminary. Melissa has lived in North Carolina since 2003 when she joined Teach for America, teaching high school English in rural NC.

She’s been a guest lecturer for the Institute on Theology and Disability and an adjunct professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. When not serving in one of her professional roles, she is telling her wife how to drive or worrying about her teenagers (the oldest is driving on her own), or the family pets are driving everyone crazy. Melissa can be found singing and dancing with her toddler or savoring a slice of cheesecake from a bakery that’s too near her home. Melissa and her wife Leah live in Greensboro, NC, with their three kids and small zoo. Melissa enjoys cycling, being outdoors, reading poetry and pretending to be a poet. She has been published in Christian Century and Narrative Lectionary commentaries.

Mark Johnston

Rev. Mark Johnston, Ph.D., Open & Affirming Ministries Trainer

Mark Johnston first encountered the Disciples of Christ when he enrolled at Texas Christian University. He has been an ordained Disciples minister since 1992, earned his Ph.D. in Pastoral Psychology from Boston University in 1993, and became a licensed psychologist in Massachusetts in 2002. He worked as a therapist with LGBT clients and their families for over 25 years before accepting the call as Executive Director of the Open & Affirming Ministry program in July of 2013. In 2019 he stepped down from the Executive Director role and is currently serving the Alliance as Open & Affirming Trainer. Mark lives in San Francisco with his husband Shannon Halkyard. He is an avid sailor, cyclist, and scuba diver, and wannabe linguist.