Project Staff

We’re a team of congregational researchers, sociologists of religion, and collaborative project leaders at an Institute with over 40 years of experience conducting research designed to help congregations flourish by providing data to support informed decision making. Our project staff, based out of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford International University, work in tandem with a diverse group of scholars of religion who serve as advisors and consultants, leading organizations engaged in similar research, and a wide range of denominational research offices nationally. As a strategic and collaborative venture, we are committed to understanding how congregations have creatively responded to and navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how these changes may impact the religious landscape of the U.S. for years to come.

Dr. Scott Thumma

Scott Thumma serves as the Principal Investigator of this project. He is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Hartford International University and the Director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. He is the co-chair of the Faith Communities Today project and on the steering committee of the US Religious Census, as well as research advisor for several other projects and organizations. Throughout his 30-year career he has participated in many congregational study projects and national religion research efforts. He has written widely on the subject of megachurches, gay religious life, congregational dynamics, and nondenominational churches and has published three books [Gay Religion, Beyond Megachurch Myths, and The Other Eighty Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Disciples], many research reports, and managed over a half-dozen websites.

Dr. Allison Norton

Allison Norton serves as Co-Investigator. Norton is a Faculty Associate in Migration Studies and Congregational Life at Hartford International University and Project Director of the Pastoral Innovation Network of New England (PINNE). Norton specializes in African Pentecostalism and the dynamics of migrant congregations in the United States. Her work with PINNE and teaching at Hartford International University gives her a first-hand glimpse into how clergy across denominations have responded to the pandemic and the changing nature of congregational life.

Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown serves as Project Director. She manages the daily activities of the grant and research team, and coordinates the communication and evaluation of the overall project. Brown also currently serves as the Executive Director of Faith Communities Today and has extensive experience working with congregations and faith communities in an interfaith context. Over the past several decades, she has managed logistics, budgets and communications on behalf of a wide range of organizations and initiatives across the nonprofit sector, including the Center for Congregations, the Congregational Resource Guide (CRG), National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders, Economic Challenges Facing Indiana Pastors, Fair Labor Association, Vermont Ethics Network, and VNAs of Vermont.

Dr. Andrew Gardner

Dr. Andrew Gardner is a Visiting Faculty Associate in American Religious History and Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. With a PhD in History from Florida State University and with experience using Graphic Information Systems (GIS), he brings another disciplinary perspective to the project. He has published academic articles in CrossCurrents, The American Baptist Quarterly, Baptist History & Heritage, and Implicit Religion as well as numerous public-facing articles with Baptist News Global. He is the author of Reimagining Zion: A History of the Alliance of Baptists. He is the author of Reimagining Zion: A History of the Alliance of Baptists (2015), and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Alliance of Baptists and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Dr. Patricia Tevington

Dr. Patricia Tevington is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and previously worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Montclair State University’s Institute for Research on Youth Thriving and Evaluation. She has experience researching religious socialization, social class inequality, and family formation among young adults. Dr. Tevington works on data collection, training, and analysis on the regional ethnographic component of this project, as well as the design and analysis of the panel component of churches, including member surveys, key informant surveys, and focused thematic surveys.

Hannah Evans

Hannah Evans is a Doctoral Research Fellow at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. She serves as the quantitative data analyst on panel data for this project, and ongoing analyses of Faith Communities Today surveys. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in sociology from Baylor University, and her dissertation explores the role of race in religious secularization among American young adults. She also studies racism and antiracism within organizations, particularly congregations and universities.

Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons serves as a writer and social media consultant to the project. Tracy is the Executive Director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University and writes for the Religion News Service, as well as The Spokesman-Review.

Regional Advisors

One major component of this project is a strategically targeted exploration of qualitative changes happening within congregations in eight select areas of the country. These cities represent both higher COVID incident regions and lower infection areas, are regionally diverse, and include both urban metro areas and smaller cities. The research directors of these regional sites include: 

Dr. Penny Edgell — Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Penny Edgell (Ph.D. University of Chicago 1995) is a cultural sociologist who studies contemporary American religion and non-religion. At the University of Minnesota she has led research projects on religion, non-religion, and symbolic boundaries, and on how people use religious, spiritual and non-religious repertoires to make sense of contemporary social controversies. Her research has appeared in Congregations in Conflict (1999, Cambridge University Press), Religion and Family in a Changing Society (2005, Princeton University Press) and Religion is Raced (NYU Press 2020), and in journals including the American Sociological Review, Annual Review of Sociology, Religion and American Culture, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Social Problems, Social Forces, and Sociology of Religion. Current projects include studies on non-religion and well-being and public religious repertoires.

Dr. Arthur E Farnsley II — Indianapolis, IN

Dr. Art Farnsley is research director of the Religion and Urban Culture 2.0 project at IUPUI and a data evangelist for www.thearda.com. His books include Sacred Circles, Public Squares, The Bible in American Life, and Flea Market Jesus. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, the Christian Century, and in newspapers across the country. Art is also a 30 time knife and tomahawk throwing champion of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association.

Dr. Todd W. Ferguson — Waco, TX

Todd W. Ferguson is a sociologist at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX. His research focuses on congregations and their clergy. He earned his Ph.D. from Baylor University and a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School. Before becoming a sociologist, he was a pastor in a Baptist church in Houston, TX.

Dr. Richard Flory — Long Beach, CA

Richard Flory (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is senior director of research and evaluation at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture. He is a sociologist whose research focuses on religious and cultural change, religion and urban life, and the religious and spiritual lives of youth and young adults. He has published several books, including most recently, Religion in Los Angeles: Religious Activism, Innovation, and Diversity in the Global City (Routledge, 2021) and Back Pocket God: Religion and Spirituality in the Lives of Emerging Adults (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Rev. Dr. Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi — Denver, CO

Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi is Term Assistant Professor of Leadership and Formation and Director of the Office of Professional Formation at Iliff School of Theology. Lizardy-Hajbi is an interdisciplinary scholar who teaches in the fields of leadership theory and praxis, congregational and community formation and change, practical theology, and applied research methods. She is the author of the report “American Congregations 2015 Engaging Young Adults” outlining the state of young adult presence and ministry in U.S. congregational life based on the results of the Faith Communities Today (FACT) Survey and was also the first co-chair of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership, the multi-faith association of researchers responsible for the FACT National Survey of Congregations. As a scholar-practitioner, Lizardy-Hajbi is a member of the Religious Research Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Academy of Religious Leadership, and the Association of Theological Field Educators. In addition, as an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Christ, Dr. Lizardy-Hajbi’s ministry has included experience in Christian education and faith formation, multicultural student affairs in higher education, chaplaincy, and denominational leadership. She received her Ph.D. and B.A. from the University of Colorado and M.Div. from Iliff School of Theology.

Dr. Brandon Vaidyanathan — Washington, DC

Dr. Brandon Vaidyanathan is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at The Catholic University of America. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. His research on the cultural dimensions of religious, commercial, medical, and scientific institutions has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals. He is author of Mercenaries and Missionaries: Capitalism and Catholicism in the Global South (Cornell University Press, 2019) and co-author of Secularity and Science: What Scientists Around the World Think About Religion (Oxford University Press, 2019). His ongoing work examines aesthetics and well-being among scientists and mental health issues in religious communities.

Dr. Ryon J. Cobb – Atlanta, GA

Bio coming soon.

Advisory Council

Our project is guided by the expertise of an Advisory Council comprised of 16 scholars and religious practitioners who have agreed to assist with the design of our approach, refinement of our research methodology, and articulation of the larger vision for the scope and focus of the project. They also serve as a source of accountability, encouragement, interpretation of findings, and assessment of research implications.

Dr. Nancy T. Ammerman

Nancy Ammerman is Professor Emerita of Sociology of Religion at Boston University. She served there in the School of Theology and the Sociology Department. She has been a student of American congregational life for four decades and is the author of Congregation and Community, along with Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and their Partners. She also manages the website www.StudyingCongregations.org. Her book Studying Lived Religion: Contexts and Practices will be released by NYU Press in the fall of 2021.

Dr. Reginald Blount

Dr. Reggie Blount serves on the faculty of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary as Associate Professor of Formation, Leadership and Culture teaching in the areas of Christian Education, Youth and Young Adult Ministry and Congregational Leadership. He further serves the seminary as Co-Executive Director of the Children Defense Fund Garrett-Evanston Freedom School Program, Program Director of the Garrett-Evangelical Young Adult Initiative funded by Lilly Endowment, and Advisor for the Doctor of Ministry in Strategic Leadership in Black Congregations. He also serves as Senior Pastor of Arnett Chapel A.M.E. Church in Chicago, IL and provides leadership to the Fourth District A.M.E. Church Thriving in Ministry Initiative funded by Lilly Endowment.

Dr. Carolyn Chen

Dr. Carolyn Chen is a sociologist of religion. She is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at University of California, Berkeley. Her research examines the connections between work and religion, and race, ethnicity, religion and immigration among Asian Americans. She has studied Protestant and Buddhist immigrant congregations. Dr. Chen is the author of Getting Saved in America: Taiwanese Immigration and Religious Experience (Princeton 2008) and co-editor of Sustaining Faith Traditions: Religion, Race and Ethnicity among the Asian American and Latino Second Generation (NYU 2012). Her forthcoming book with Princeton University Press, Work Code Pray: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley, examines how work is replacing the functions of religion among professionals in the new economy.

Dr. Korie Little Edwards

Dr. Korie Little Edwards is Associate Professor of Sociology at The Ohio State University. She is a leading scholar of race and religion in the United States and Past President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, an international, interdisciplinary association (www.sssrweb.org). She has written several books and articleson multiracial religious organizations.These include The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches (author, Oxford University Press); Against All Odds: The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations (co-author, New York University Press). Dr. Little Edwards’ current scholarship focuses on matters related to race and religious leadership. She has a forthcoming book called Smart Suits, Tattered Boots: Black Ministers Mobilizing the Black Church in the Twenty-First Century which draws upon black religious leaders’ engagement in the 2012 election to understand their engagement in civic and political activity. Little Edwards is also principal investigator of a national study of multiracial church pastors called The Religious Leadership and Diversity Project. The RLDP is the most in-depth, comprehensive project ever conducted on leaders of multiracial congregations. A special journal issue featuring research from this project was published in 2020. She and her team continue to develop articles and books out of this study.

Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Fichter

Besides serving as pastor of Saint Elizabeth Roman Catholic Parish (an 11,000-member congregation) in Wyckoff, New Jersey, Father Stephen works as a research associate for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. He is co-author of Same Call, Different Men (Liturgical Press, 2012) and Catholic Bishops in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2019), and author of Shepherding in Greener Pastures (Lexington Books, 2015). He studied in Europe for 12 years where he obtained graduate degrees in philosophy and theology, and learned Spanish and Italian. He obtained his MSW at Fordham University and his PhD at Rutgers University. He is also writer and executive producer of the movie VITA.

Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin

Robert M. Franklin, PhD is President-Emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, having served from 2007 to 2012. Robert is currently a Senior Advisor to the President of Emory University and is the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at Emory. Previously, he was the director of the interfaith religion department at Chautauqua Institution (2013-2017) and a visiting scholar at Stanford University (2013). He is also a presidential fellow for the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership at Morehouse College.  

He is the author of four books, including his recently released, Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, Imagination (2020).  He has provided commentaries for National Public Radio’s, “All Things Considered,” and televised commentary for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting. Educated at Morehouse College (BA), Harvard Divinity School (M.Div.) and the University of Chicago Divinity School (PhD). Robert is the recipient of honorary degrees from Bethune-Cookman University, Ursinus College, Bates College, Hampden-Sydney, Centre College, University of New England, and Swarthmore College.  

Franklin is a member of several organizations including PathNorth (Washington, DC), Public Broadcasting of Atlanta, a past board member of “Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action” (New York), and currently serves on the board of the Princeton Theological Seminary. He is married to Dr. Cheryl Goffney Franklin., a gynecologist at Morehouse Healthcare. They have three children.

Rev. Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley

David Emmanuel Goatley is Associate Dean for Vocational Formation and Christian Witness, Director of the Office of Black Church Studies, and Research Professor of Christian Theology at Duke Divinity School. Having served as an urban missionary, denominational leader, congregational pastor, theological educator, and global missions executive, he has also held leadership roles with the NAACP, Baptist World Alliance, and World Council of Churches. The editor of Black Religion and Black Theology: Collected Essays of J. Deotis Roberts, Goatley is also author of Were You There: Godforsakeness in Slave Religion and A Divine Assignment: The Missiology of Wendell Clay Somerville. His current research projects include strategies of leadership, flourishing in ministry, and arcs of ministry from the Black Church for the whole church.

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson

Wes Granberg-Michaelson is a global ecumenical leader. He served for 17 years as General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America. Wes was instrumental in founding Christian Churches Together. He is the author of ten books, including How Change Comes to Your Church (2020) and Future Faith: Ten Challenges Reshaping Christianity in the 21st Century (2018). His most recent book is Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage. Wes serves as Chair of the Board for Sojourners. He is a speaker and consultant with congregations and organizations. Wes loves fly-fishing and lives with his wife Kaarin in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Dr. Gerardo Martí

Dr. Gerardo Martí is Professor of Sociology at Davidson College. He is also President-Elect of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, and his book, The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2014), co-written with Gladys Ganiel, received the 2015 Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Currently, Dr. Martí’s research is funded generously through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative and focused on churches actively confronting racial injustice. His most recent book is American Blindspot: Race, Class, Religion, and the Trump Presidency (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2020).

Rev. Dr. Gordon Mikoski

Gordon Mikoski, associate professor of Christian education, earned his MDiv and MA degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his PhD from Emory University. His research and teaching interests focus on Christian education, the sacraments, the doctrine of the Trinity, and practical theology. He has written and edited several books, including: Integrating Work in Theological Education, co-edited with Kathleen Cahalan and Ed Foley (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2017); Opening the Field of Practical Theology, co-edited with Kathleen Cahalan (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); Straining at the Oars: Case Studies in Pastoral Leadership, with H. Dana Fearon III (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013); With Piety and Learning: The History of Practical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-2012, with Richard R. Osmer (Münster, Germany: Lit Verlag, 2011); and Baptism and Christian Identity: Teaching in the Triune Name (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009). He serves as the editor for Theology Today and as the director of the PhD program at the Seminary. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he served a church in the Detroit area for eight years before returning to academia.

Dr. Carmen Nanko-Fernández

Dr. Carmen Nanko-Fernández is Professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry and the director of the Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. A [email protected]́ theologian, her publications include Theologizing en Espanglish (Orbis, 2010) and numerous book chapters, journal articles, and digital media on [email protected]́ theologies, ministry, sport and theology. In 2018, Nanko-Fernández created and is an author with Theology en la Plaza (National Catholic Reporter) a monthly column featuring public theology done latinamente. She is currently completing ¡El Santo! Baseball and the Canonization of Roberto Clemente (Mercer University Press). Carmen is the creator and, with Miguel Díaz and Gary Riebe-Estrella, co-editor of the new multi-volume series Disruptive Cartographers: Doing Theology Latinamente (Orbis). A past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS), she received their Virgilio Elizondo Award in 2012 for “distinguished achievement in theology”. Her scholarship and work in theological education, in ministry, in professional associations, and on editorial boards reflects an ongoing commitment to agency, access, and justice particularly for communities too often underrepresented, marginalized and/or minoritized in academia, the Catholic church, and in publication/media.

Dr. David L. Odom

David L. Odom joined Duke Divinity School in August 2007 to launch Leadership Education at Duke Divinity and now oversees all of its programs and publications, including Faith & Leadership. Previously, Odom was the founder and president of the Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, NC. Odom is a Baptist pastor and is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He is a graduate of Furman University, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Dr. Daniel Ramírez

Daniel Ramírez (Ph.D., Duke University; B.A., Yale College) is Associate Professor of American Religions at Claremont Graduate University, and has taught previously at the University of Michigan and Arizona State University. He is author of over 20 publications, including Migrating Faith: Pentecostalism in the United States and Mexico in the Twentieth Century (University of North Carolina, October 2015). His latest publication, a chapter entitled, “De Santuarios a Plazas Públicas: Pentecostales Latinos en la Vida Pública Norteamericana,” in Religiones y espacios publicos en América Latina (Latin American Social Science Council, 2021), offers an overview of the still ambivalent political and social commitments of U.S. Latino Pentecostals. Ramírez’s current monograph project, “Pentecostalisms of Oaxacalifornia,” continues Migrating Faith’s analysis of subaltern Pentecostal history and culture through the more contemporary time period of labor migration from southern Mexico and through the added prism of indigenous experience, identity and musical culture. Dr. Ramírez is a member of several academic associations, including the Network of Religion Researchers of Mexico, the Commission for the Study of the History of the Church in Latin America. He previously served as co-chair of the History of Christianity Unit of the American Academy of Religion and as History Interest Group Leader of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. He currently serves as the president of the American Society for Church History and on the Steering Committee of the Hispanic Theological Initiative. In 2011, Dr. Ramírez was invited to observe the opening round of the Sixth Phase of the International Roman Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue in Rome.

Dr. Erica Ramirez

Erica Ramirez is a sociologist of religion, a third generation Pentecostal, and a fourth generation Texan from San Antonio. She specializes in the study of American Pentecostalism and questions about the construction of religious authority therein. She is currently working on her first book, in which she argues the historical Pentecostal altar was constructed as an axis mundi during times of revival. This time-space continues to make sacred inversions of the social order possible. She has written articles about charismatic authority for The Washington Post, Marginalia, and Religion News Service. She serves as Director of Applied Research at Auburn Seminary and lives in New Orleans with her partner Chris, their three children, and two dogs, Big Beauty and Koyomi.

Rev. Dr. Tim Shapiro

Tim Shapiro is the president of the Center for Congregations in Indiana. Before serving the Center he served as pastor in two congregations; one in Indiana and the other in Ohio. He is the author of two books about congregational life: How Your Congregation Learns and Divergent Church. The Center offers Indiana congregations grants, education and consultations. The Center is funded by Lilly Endowment and is a supporting organization of Christian Theological Seminary and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.