Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis (she/her)
Senior Minister for Public Theology and Transformation
The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, Ph.D. uses her gifts as author, activist, preacher, public theologian toward creating an antiracist, just, fully welcoming society in which everyone has enough. After graduating with an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1992, Jacqui fell in love with urban ministry, leading two churches in Trenton, New Jersey. Fascinated with how faith heals the soul—so we can heal the world—she returned to graduate school, for a Ph.D. in Psychology and Religion from Drew University (2004). Jacqui came to study Middle Church, received a call, and joined the staff in January 2004. Middle is the church of her dreams and prayers, a multiethnic rainbow coalition of love, justice, and worship that rocks her soul.
Believing faith communities can lead the way to racial reconciliation, Dr. Lewis co-founded The Middle Project and The Revolutionary Love Conference with her spouse, The Rev. John Janka, which train leaders to create a more just society. Each year, Dr. Lewis curates a national justice conference—Revolutionary Love—which features speakers from many disciplines who are working to create a world based on a public ethic of love. America Ferrera, Ani Di Franco, Tituss Burgess, Van Jones, Valarie Kaur, William J. Barber II, Melissa Harris-Perry, Wajahat Ali, Linda Sarsour, Sharon Brous, Brian McLaren, angel Kyodo Williams and Ruby Sales are some of the speakers who have graced the Revolutionary Love stage. In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, “Revolutionary Love Online—Toward a More Perfect Union” drew 650 attendees April 24-26, 2020. Because of their capacity to build curricular materials and networks, over 7,000 people have attended trainings offered by Dr. Lewis and Middle Church in 2020.
In her activism, preaching, speaking, writing, and teaching, Dr. Lewis advocates for racial equality, gun control, economic justice, equal rights for all sexual orientations/genders and marriage equality. Because of her dynamic leadership, Middle Church was featured in a national broadcast on CBS. A Bold New Love: Christmas Eve with Middle Collegiate Church aired on December 24, 2018 to more than 1,000,000 viewers. Dr. Lewis has been on the The Today Show, All In with Chris Hayes, AM Joy, The Melissa Harris Perry Show, NY1, ABC, NBC, PBS, CBS and WPIX, where she recently covered the Brooklyn memorial for George Floyd. Dr. Lewis has been interviewed on Through Her Eyes at Yahoo News, 30 Good Minutes, Grit TV, the New York Daily News, Here and Now with Sandra Bookman, and appeared on the History Channel H2 series, The Bible Rules.
Dr. Lewis created two national television programs: Just Faith, an on-demand television program on MSNBC.com, and Chapter and Verse at PBS. Lewis and Middle Church have been frequently featured in Now This news; her most recent post has received 222,000 views at their Instagram page. Dr. Lewis’ has been interviewed on the radio at Sirius (John Fugelsang and Mark Thompson), The Brian Lehrer Show and The Takeaway. The Associated Press covered the work of Middle Church and Dr. Lewis after the 2020 presidential election; over 13.3 million people read the story.
Dr. Lewis’ work has also been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, the front page of The New York Times website, New York Times Video, The New York Post, CNN i-report, Essence, Ebony.com, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, The Associated Press, The San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. News, The Public’s Radio, The Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Yakima Herald.
In 2016, Dr. Lewis completed the six-city Together Tour with best-selling author Glennon Doyle, Seane Corn, Valarie Kaur, Jennifer Randolph, and special guest Alicia Keys. She has blogged for The Huffington Post, GLAAD, Patheos, and Believe Out Loud. Her books include The Power of Stories; Ten Essential Strategies (with John Janka); Becoming Like Creoles (with Curtiss de Young, et al), and the children’s book, You Are So Wonderful! Harmony/Penguin Random House will publish her book, The Fiercest Love: How to find it in yourself, grow it in your posse, and build it in the world in September 2021.
In 2005, she married her best friend, John Janka, a United Methodist minister and consultant to congregations. Together, they have a son, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby. With the staff of Middle Church, they produce an annual conference to train leaders how to grow multiracial communities of faith that disrupt racism.
Jacqui is a womanist whose preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and activism are aimed at racial equality, gun control, economic justice, and equal rights for all sexual orientations and genders. Jacqui has preached at the Festival of Homiletics, Wild Goose, The Children’s Defense Fund’s Haley Farm, and was a featured speaker on the Together national tour with best-selling author, Glennon Doyle.
Jacqui is sometimes in the media, doing public theology. She created two national shows: PBS Chapter and Verse and MSNBC’s Just Faith, special on faith and justice, interviewing faith leaders including Linda Sarsour, Valarie Kaur, Brian McLaren, Otis Moss III, Ruby Sales, Traci Blackmon, and Sister Simone Campbell for WNET. She created MSNBC.com’s Just Faith, in which she presented unorthodox conversations about culture and current events through the lens of progressive faith and spirituality. Other media — The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Ebony, Essence, CBS, CNN, NBC, ABC, and MSNBC have featured Jacqui and Middle Church. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Jacqui is the first African American and first woman to serve as a senior minister in the Collegiate Church, which was founded in New York City in 1628 and is the oldest continuous Protestant Church in North America.
Jacqui’s books include Ten Essential Strategies for Becoming a Multiracial Congregation, The Power of Stories, a Guide for Leaders in Multi-racial, Multi-cultural Congregations, the children’s book, You Are So Wonderful! a rhyming celebration of diversity, and a contributing chapter to Becoming Like Creoles: Living and Leading at the Intersections of Injustice, Culture and Religion. Her newest book Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World will is available wherever books are sold.
Do you yearn to not just belong, but be celebrated for exactly who you are? Do you want a community of folks committed to radical love and justice? Wherever you live, you can call Middle Church home.
This movement needs you! We need your time and talent, but we also need your resources. Make a contribution today and help us be midwives to love and justice.
December 5, 2020
A six-alarm fire spread from the building next door and destroyed our beautiful sanctuary. And yet, no fire can stop revolutionary love! Learn how we’re rising from the ashes and what you can do to help.
Find Your People!
Middle hosts small groups for everything from beginning ukulele lessons, Queer Black Men in the Middle or our Voting Reform team. And all of them have options to gather virtually! Join the groups that best fit your passion and the love you want to offer the world.
How do you change the world? First, you change yourself. Part of how we fulfill our commitment to God’s gospel of liberation is by training leaders with the skills you’ll need to bring freedom wherever you go. Thousands have participated in our digital courses. Will join them?
What We Believe
Middle is on a mission to reclaim and reframe Christianity—to realign our faith with Jesus’ teaching and take it back from the folks who have stolen it. We do this work joyfully, fueled by the Spirit, and strengthened by the community we create with one another.
Celebrate LOVE with Us!
Middle’s worship is a joyful, diverse celebration that gives a taste of what heaven feels like—an experience to soothe your soul and fill you with God’s liberatory fire! Every week is different, but what remains constant is how we tell the story of love through transformative art.
Faith comes alive when our love radiates outwards. At Middle, we’re committed to building an intersectional movement that both addresses the particular needs of different communities and unites us in common solidarity. This is God’s work, and we hope you’ll join us in it.