Keynote Speakers

W. Tali Hairston, MAGL, is Senior Advisor for Community Engagement at the Seattle Presbytery. He is father to four wonderful children, Isaiah, Kennadi, Lynia, and Jordan. He and his wife Crystal enjoy doing ministry together, going to plays and musicals, and being foodies. Along with an amazing community of friends, these are the true gifts of his life that encourage and strengthen him.

Born and raised in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle, Tali loves his community. Tali grew up doing ministry with at-risk youth and young adults in Seattle, and is a graduate of the University of Washington and Fuller Seminary. He is on schedule to complete his PhD in Educational Leadership by June 2019. As a noted speaker, writer, consultant, researcher, and educator he is passionate about the work of organizational diversity, reconciliation studies, global urban community development, and equity and diversity in higher education, marketplace, and the church.

For 17 years Tali was the founding director of the John M. Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development at Seattle Pacific University. He was responsible for leading the educational advancement in reconciliation and community development emphasizing research and development of reconciliation, equity, and diversity. The center also provided service-learning and experiential education opportunities in justice, poverty, ethnicity, and cultural literacy for undergraduate students.

Called to engage the work of reconciliation and community development, the work has taken Tali all over the world, working with ministries and leaders from Cambodia to South Africa. Formed by these global experiences and inspired by his own family history as one of the largest enslaved families in American history, Tali is known for his gift to encourage and equip youth and young adults of all backgrounds to pursue God’s call and purpose to be and become.

Jennifer Harvey, Ph.D., is a writer, speaker, and professor of religion and ethics at Drake University. Her work focuses primarily on racial justice and white anti-racism. Dr. Harvey’s most recent books include Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in Racially Unjust America (Abingdon Press) and Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation (Wm. B. Eerdmans). Dr. Harvey has also contributed to the New York Times and Huffington Post and is a widely sought after public speaker and workshop facilitator. She is also an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches (USA).


Mary Ellen Azada, an ordained PC(USA) pastor for twenty-plus years, is currently serving as the Executive Director of Fuller Careers and Personal Development. She has responded to God’s call in a variety of forms — from mission pastor, church planter, executive director, and cofounder of a nonprofit organization, as well as working as a school counselor. She has an MEduc in Counseling and MDiv with an emphasis in spirituality, and is currently pursuing her DMin at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Kelle Brown is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and recently accepted the call as Lead Pastor of Plymouth Church United Church of Christ in downtown Seattle, Washington. Originally from Columbus, Georgia, she is a graduate of Spelman College, received her Master of Divinity from Seattle University Seattle School of Theology School of Theology and Ministry. She recently completed her Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Kelle works tirelessly on dismantling racism, sexism, classism and other forms of oppression, and feels called to movements of justice, equity, change and transformation. As a minister, she preaches, teaches and leads from the perspective of liberation, and believes in the power of the Beloved Community. Through the chalice of story, Kelle hopes to reach believers and skeptics alike, and she has a particular place in her heart for those who no longer imagine the church is a place of safety or solace.

One of her major concerns is enlarging the voice of those most disenfranchised and marginalized, and is proud to have been chosen as a faith leader to participate in Seattle University’s new Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs, which is engaged with thoughtful action for those experiencing homelessness. With courage, she invites the courageous to be co-conspirators in God’s kindom.

She sings, writes, and enjoys family time with her grandmother, Dorothy, and her daughter, Indigo, a student at the University of Washington. Her life is inspired by the words of Howard Thurman, who said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Eliana Maxim is a teaching elder (Minister of Word and Sacrament) in the Seattle Presbytery who has served as the presbytery’s associate executive for the past 8 years.

Eliana was born in Barranquilla, Colombia and immigrated to the U.S. as a young child with her parents. She attended Loyola Marymount University where she earned an undergraduate degree in communication arts and soon went to work as a news producer at CNN. She remained in that field for 12 years until she and her family moved to Seattle.

It was then that Eliana finally paid attention the long ignored call on her heart and began pursuing what that might mean by serving on staff at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church as director of children and family ministries from 1996-2010. During that time, she began course work at Union Seminary in Richmond, VA and then transferred to Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry where she completed a Masters in Divinity. Eliana was ordained as a minister of word and sacrament in 2011.

Although she grew up Roman Catholic, Eliana has found her home in the PCUSA and served the church in a variety of ways including the 220th General Assembly’s Committee on the Belhar Confession, the 221nd General Assembly’s Committee on the Presbyterian Mission Agency Review, the Committee on the Office of General Assembly, and more recently the 222nd General Assembly’s Way Forward Commission.

Eliana is a faculty member of the Transitional Ministry Workshop at Menucha, Oregon and vice-moderator of the National Hispanic/Latino Caucus of the PCUSA. She also serves as a member of the Interfaith Leadership Council of the Washington State Faith Action Network.

Eliana and her husband, Alex, have two adult daughters Sacha and Gabi, both Seattle residents, plus a spoiled rescue Boxer dog named Lola.