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Women Lead at Faith in Public Life

Defiant women change history. From the women putting their bodies on the line during the Suffragist movement to the Women’s Marches today, we’ve proven that our voices shake the world. And when women lead companies, governments and nonprofits, we all benefit. But according to a recent 2019 study of 329 organizations employing 13 million people, only one in five senior leaders is a woman, and just one in 25 is a woman of color.

Here at Faith in Public Life, we are not only working to change the world, but also investing in women leaders within our walls. Our leadership team is comprised of five women: our CEO, chief operating officer and three vice presidents. Hailing from a variety of backgrounds and generations, they are leading the charge in the movement to put justice, human dignity and equality at the heart of this nation’s public policies.

Our Leadership Team

  • Rev. Jennifer Butler

    Rev. Jennifer Butler is the founding Chief Executive Officer of Faith in Public Life and the former chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships under the Obama administration. Before founding FPL Jennifer spent ten years working in the field of international human rights representing the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the United Nations. She is also an ordained minister. Out of that experience she wrote Born Again: The Christian Right Globalized.

Without the faith community, the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t have become a reality. We mobilized in six states to ensure the bill was passed and that the wedge issues of reproductive rights and abortion were not used to tank the legislation.

– Rev. Jennifer Butler

Jennifer said, “Faith in Public Life was created in 2005 because prominent faith leaders looked around them and said, ‘Our faith is not being represented in the public square — we are not getting our moral voice out there.’” She explained that scripture has so much to say about the issues at the time that they were concerned with: affordable health care, the environment, torture and war. But these issues weren’t being debated on the national scene. “Instead they were discussed from the Christian Right voice that was saying so much about things that the Bible says so little about or nothing at all and they were using these issues to divide our community,” Jennifer said. “So they came together from diverse faith traditions and agreed that they would put their moral values front and center in the national debate. I am so proud of the coalition of faith leaders that are game changers on the moral issues our nation faces.”

  • Michelle Nealy

    A proven writer, videographer and communications strategist, Michelle Nealy serves as Vice President of Communications and Digital Strategy at Faith in Public Life. Formerly a senior communications associate for the NAACP, Michelle has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of freedom, justice and equality in the areas of voting rights, health, criminal justice reform, and education in underserved communities throughout the United States.

What fuels my faith is family. I grew up in the Church. Faith is really an inextricable part of my existence.

– Michelle Nealy

When Michelle first moved to Washington, D.C., she went to on the National Mall to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, which would ignite her fire for protest.

“Injustice is something that has always grabbed me. As a communication professional and a journalist in Chicago I had to tell the story of policies that impact regular people and the masses. What does Eric Gardner’s choking mean for the masses? Sandra Bland was taken into custody alive and didn’t leave, what does that mean for people who look like me and the masses? When I combine those altogether, they light the fire of advocacy within me and I now realize that all injustices work together.”

  • Änna Ibrahim

    Änna is a relationship builder. As the Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff at Faith in Public Life, she balances complex and competing priorities in order to create an organizational environment where everyone thrives. In previous roles Änna developed new programs for non-profit organizations, including Bread for the City, a direct service organization that provides comprehensive services to D.C.’s most vulnerable residents.

Faith, for me, is fertile ground to find points of cohesion amongst different perspectives.

– Änna Ibrahim

Änna’s approach to work and faith was shaped by her childhood. “I grew up in a very vibrant Muslim-Arab community, but I wasn’t a Muslim. I also wasn’t a Lutheran, like my mother’s large extended family. My parents never decided what they were raising us as.” This lovingly complicated multi-faith environment taught Änna the value of discomfort. “Being uncomfortable also means you’re more willing to go into spaces that weren’t built for you.” 

In her role, Änna uses her comfort being uncomfortable to bring out diverse perspectives and broader learnings among FPL staff and stakeholders, fostering a culture committed to equity, candor, and grace.

  • Sara Benitez

    Sara Benitez is the Vice President of Organizing and Campaigns where she works to empower clergy and lay leaders of all faith traditions to lead in their communities and promote their values. She is frequently humbled by the many faith leaders who selflessly serve and mobilize their communities for social justice. ​

Most recently, Sara served as the Director of Environment Programs at Hispanic Access Foundation, where she had the privilege of working with Latino faith leaders, youth, and families to advocate for public lands and water conservation. Sara cut her teeth in advocacy as a Research Analyst at the National Council of La Raza, where she made the case for policy changes that could increase opportunities for Latino families. Growing up in Idaho and Colorado, Sara was inspired by the the example of local leaders, including her parents, grandmother, and clergy, who dedicated themselves to community service and advocating for the Latino advocacy. She received a thorough education in advocacy and service at Wellesley College and deepened her understanding of the Latina/o diaspora at the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Master’s in Latin American Studies. 

  • Adrianne Davis Johnson

    Adrianne Davis Johnson serves as the Vice President of Development at Faith in Public Life. She builds and manages relationships with funders and provides strategic fundraising support to senior staff to realize FPL’s fundraising goals. Prior to joining the team at FPL, she worked with the Center for Popular Democracy providing fundraising support to base-building organizations across the country.

I think our ability to continue to show up even when we are faced with fatigue is challenging, but also defiant.

Adrianne Davis Johnson

Adrianne is a mother of two and her strength comes from wanting to build a better world for her children and their generation. It’s from this experience as a mother, that she practices showing up for herself, her family, and other women of faith every day. 

​“I benefit from white privilege daily. It’s hard to reconcile with internally because you automatically think about how to fight against institutionalized racism, but there is so much more work that can be done from within your life,” Adrianne explained. “We say in our work, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable which means challenging myself and other white people to ask ourselves, ‘What am I doing to dismantle systemic racism right now?'”

“We’ve been able to build a broad coalition of dedicated faith leaders who fight for social justice.”

Rev. Jennifer Butler
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