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Kelly Figueroa-Ray

PhD 2018


  • University of Virginia: Ph.D. Candidate (ABD), Department of Religious Studies in the Scripture, Interpretation and Practice Program, 2016 (expected)
  • Wesley Theological Seminary: M.Div., 2004, Magna Cum Laude
  • University of California, Berkeley: B.A., International & Area Studies, 1999


"One Bread, One Body," Beloved Community in Multicultural Contexts: The Lived Theology of Pastor Miguel Balderas This project is a hermeneutical ethnography focused on the lived theology of Pastor Miguel Balderas, a Latino Elder in the United Methodist Church, whose congregation is in the process of becoming multicultural. The study demonstrates that through particular hermeneutical acts, Pastor Miguel is endeavoring to rewrite cultural habits using scripture, through a process of “entextualizating Beloved Community.”Unlike other forms of multiracial organization, the process of extextualizing Beloved Community develops multicultural habits and potentialities that are not governed by modes of assimilation. Instead this process has as its purpose the unification of a diverse set of people around a single faith in Jesus Christ, where the richness of such diversity is engaged relationally through intimate cultural exchange found in shared meals, team leadership, and a collaborative approach to ministry.

Research Interests

·      Hermeneutical Ethnography

·      Contemporary Scripture-Reading Practices

·      Scriptural Hermeneutics

·      Multiculturalism

·      Critical Race Theory

·      Christian Theology and Scripture

·      Postliberal theology

·      Pragmatics

·      Semiotics

·      Rabbinics

·      Lived Theology

·      Abrahamic Religions

·      Inter-faith dialogue

·      Scriptural Reasoning

·      Social Movements and Activism

·      United Methodism and the Protestant church in the U.S.



  • Religion, Race and Relationship in Film, taught by Professor Valerie Cooper, Spring 2013.
  • Introduction to Christian Traditions, taught by Professor Valerie Cooper, Fall 2012
  • Afro-Creole Religious in the Americas, taught by Professor Jalane Schmidt, Spring 2012
  • Introduction to Western Religions, taught by Professor Heather Warren, Fall 2011


Current Professional Positions

·     Communications and Operations Director, The Project on Lived Theology

Academic Publications and Presentations

  • “Learning How to Read: How Rabbinics Aids in the Study of Contemporary Christian Scripture-Reading Practices” part of a 2015 book proposal: Religious Studies and Rabbinics being considered by Routledge.
  • “‘Lady, Give Me A Drink’: Reading Scripture, Shaping Community Development” published in Mobilizing for the Common Good: The Lived Theology of John M. Perkins, University Press of Mississippi, September 2013. Co-Editors: Peter Slade, Peter Heltzel and Charles Marsh.
  •  “‘One Bread, One Body’: Singing Reconciliation into Reality.” Ways of Knowing: Graduate Conference on Religion, Harvard Divinity School. October 22-24, 2015.
  • “Have the Theological Wells Run Dry? Religion and Progressive Politics” Flash Seminar Presentation at University of Virginia, April 5, 2013.
  • “Twisted Scriptural Tokens: The Bible According to Jerry Falwell” presented on March 3, 2012 at Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR) conference in Atlanta, GA.
  • “Beyond Anarchy: Implicit Patterns and Interdisciplinary Methodology” presented at 10th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities—June 2012, Montreal, Canada.
  • The Civil Rights Movement as Theological Drama Digital Archive ( presentation at the Virginia Festival of the Book — March 2012, Charlottesville, VA.
  • “Scriptural Pragmatics in Lived Theology: African American Hermeneutics as a Case Study for Community-Situated Post-Liberal Theology” presented at the Virginia Graduate Colloquium on Theology, Ethics & Culture: "Confessional Commitments in Pluralistic Publics" – April 16, 2011, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.
  • “Subverting the Status Quo Through Celebration: The Feast of the Fatted Calf in Luke 15” presented on February 12, 2011 at the South-Central Conference on Christianity and Literature in New Orleans, Louisiana.



Spanish (excellent, written and spoken)

French (reading proficiency)


Hebrew (reading proficiency)

Koine Greek (reading proficiency)

Professional Membership or Affiliations

American Academy of Religion