INSTITUTE FOR PASTORAL & CONGREGATIONAL THRIVING

Welcome to Thriving

Who We Are

thriving team
Leah Payne

Leah Payne, PhD

Leah Payne (PhD, Vanderbilt University) is assistant professor of theological studies at George Fox University and Portland Seminary. She is also a senior fellow at the Louisville Institute and a faculty fellow in the George Fox University Honors Program.

Her first book, Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism: Making a Female Ministry in the Early Twentieth Century (Palgrave, 2015) won the 2016 Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies Book Award. Her second book explores the development of political theology in American Charismatic Christianity. In 2015, she and three other colleagues received a Lilly Endowment, Inc. High School Youth Theology Initiative grant to co-found Theologia: The George Fox University Summer Theology Institute, which began in 2017.

In 2017, she and four additional colleagues received a $1 million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment to create an Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary, which began in 2018. She currently serves the Foursquare Church as a commissioner on the Foursquare Education Commission. Her work analyzing religion and popular culture has appeared in The Washington Post and Christianity Today.

Erica Ramirez

Gaby Viesca, MA

Viesca was born and raised in Mexico and has been living in Portland for the last five years. She holds a master's degree in Biblical studies (Regent University) and a bachelor's degree in international business (Universidad de las Americas). She currently serves as the director of strategic planning and outreach at Portland Seminary and is one of the campus pastors at George Fox University.

Viesca has worked in full-time pastoral ministry in Israel, Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. She has served in a variety of roles, including preaching and teaching, helping the church cast and implement its vision, and mobilizing the congregation to fully participate in the life and mission of the church. 

Viesca's academic network include the American Academy of Religion (AAR), where she chairs the Evangelical Studies Unit; La Red de Investigadores del Fenómeno Religioso en México (RIFREM), and the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR).

Outside the work setting, Viesca enjoys traveling the world, exploring the outdoors, dancing to every and any tune, and talking to strangers who quickly become friends.

Trisha Welstad

Trisha Welstad, MDiv

Trisha Welstad (MDiv, Azusa Pacific University) is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in Los Angeles and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth, leadership development, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart.

Trisha is a grant principal for The Institute for Pastoral & Congregational Thriving with Portland Seminary and also serves as the director. In addition, she and her colleagues received a grant to begin Theologia: George Fox Summer Youth Theology Institute for high school students. Both Thriving and Theologia are supported through the generosity of the Lilly Foundation and encourage the vitality of the church through providing established and potential leaders with forums for theological depth, exploration and holistic care.

Trisha loves living in, serving in, and enjoying the outdoors of the Northwest with her husband Troy and their two children.