Mitchell Atencio is a writer and photographer originally from Atlanta, based in Washington, D.C. As a journalist, Mitchell empowers communities and individuals, serving as a witness to truth and contemplation. He is a photographer who develops his own film and a graphic designer. 

Mitchell is (mostly) discalced out of religious commitment and spends his free time consuming coffee and theological texts. 

Posts By This Author

Grace Semler Baldridge Is Bringing Queer Stories to Christian Music

by Mitchell Atencio 02-22-2021

Semler's EP, Preacher's Kid (unholy demos), topped iTunes Christian charts after its release in February. Photo by Molly Adams, courtesy of Semler.

The contemporary Christian music industry has been adamantly opposed to affirming LGBTQ+ people. But Semler's EP Preacher's dares to include songs about queer sexuality, lesbian weddings, and Christian faith.

Supreme Court Rules Pastor Must Be Allowed In Execution Chamber

by Mitchell Atencio 02-12-2021

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“The law guarantees Smith the right to practice his faith free from unnecessary interference, including at the moment the State puts him to death,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan.

Court Rules Alabama Must Allow Pastor in Execution Chamber

by Mitchell Atencio 02-11-2021

On Wednesday night, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s decision and ruled that the state of Alabama must allow Willie B. Smith III’s pastor to be in the execution chamber during Smith’s execution.

He Wants His Pastor With Him At His Execution. Alabama Won't Allow It

by Mitchell Atencio 02-05-2021

Willie B. Smith III.

On Feb. 11, the state of Alabama intends to execute Willie B. Smith III without his pastor by his side — which Smith alleges is a violation of his religious freedom.

‘Safely Open the Doors of Our Sanctuary Churches,’ Members of Congress Urge Biden

by Mitchell Atencio 01-26-2021

A banner welcoming immigrants and refugees on the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 22, 2019.  Cari Rubin Photography / Shutterstock.com

Members of Congress, led by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), wrote President Joe Biden a letter asking him to ensure those taking sanctuary in houses of worship would be protected from deportation. They also asked the Biden-Harris administration to lift the deportation orders against all people living in sanctuary.

‘My Whole Soul Is in This': Biden's Religion-Infused Inauguration

by Mitchell Atencio 01-20-2021

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

“Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was ‘a multitude defined by the common objects of their love,’” Biden said. “What are the common objects we, as Americans, love, that define us as Americans? I think we know: opportunity, security, liberty, respect, honor, and, yes, the truth.”

How Religiously Diverse Is Biden's Cabinet?

by Mitchell Atencio 01-19-2021

Some of the leaders Joe Biden has selected for his incoming Cabinet. Upper row, left to right: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Janet Yellen, Isabel Guzman, Pete Buttigieg, Lloyd Austin. Lower row, left to right: Xavier Becerra, Marcia Fudge, Neera Tanden, Deb Haaland, and Michael Regan. Photos via Wikimedia Commons and courtesy images. Graphic by Jayne Marie Smith / Sojourners.

President-elect Joe Biden has promised to have the “most diverse Cabinet” in U.S. history, but is the Cabinet religiously diverse? The answer, experts explain, must go beyond tracking the identities of various appointees; a diverse administration must have the power to impact policy for the communities they represent.

To Process Attacks, Some Legislators Turned to Religious Language

by Mitchell Atencio 01-08-2021

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester addresses constituents following the attack on the U.S. Capitol in a video statement. Image via Facebook screengrab.

On Wednesday, symbols of Christian nationalism were on full display among many of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol. However, both before and after Wednesday's attacks, some legislators invoked the language of faith in a different way: to reject President Donald Trump's repeated attempts to to discredit the election and the insurrection it sparked.

What the Media Always Gets Wrong About Hispanic Faith Voters

by Mitchell Atencio 12-16-2020

A girl and her father on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock.com

As the sun sets on each Election Day, people turn to exit polls to understand what happened and why.  After the 2020 presidential election, exit polls suggested that outgoing President Donald Trump performed better among Hispanic/Latinx voters, earning reactions from pundits and former presidents alike. Some have suggested this is due to splits among Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic Protestants, but polls alone may not tell the full story.

Kim Jackson: The Black Lesbian Pastor Headed to Georgia’s State Senate

by Mitchell Atencio 12-08-2020

Georgia state Sen.-elect Kim Jackson. Photo courtesy Kim Jackson.

In November, Rev. Kim Jackson, an Episcopal priest, won a seat representing Georgia’s District 41 in the state Senate. Her election is celebrated as the first out LGBTQ person elected to Georgia’s state Senate — one of several that caught national attention for LGBTQ inclusion in politics. None of this, Jackson said, would have been possible without role models who taught her what she could become.

What Warnock's Critics Get Wrong About the Black Baptist Tradition

by Mitchell Atencio 11-24-2020

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an event in Atlanta on November 3, 2020. Jessica McGowan/Pool via REUTERS

Rev. Dr. Willie Jennings, professor of systematic theology and Africana studies at Yale Divinity School and author of After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging, said that the critiques against U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock are an attempt to “take from Black religious figures” what is granted “to white religious figures.”

How Joe Biden Won a Diverse Group of Faith Voters

by Mitchell Atencio 11-10-2020

Joe Biden at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisc., on September 3, 2020. Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Before winning the election, Biden touted endorsements from more than 1,600 faith leaders, the largest number for a Democratic candidate in modern history. The noteable outreach could be attributed partially to President Donald Trump’s relationship with religious conservatives. The increasing visibility of religious leaders in progressive politics also provided an opportunity. However, when looking for a catalyst to the campaign’s faith outreach, experts in faith and politics point to Joe Biden himself.

Joe Biden Wins Election, Set to Become Second Catholic U.S. President

by Mitchell Atencio 11-07-2020

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden smiles as he takes off his mask to speak about the voting results of the 2020 presidential election on November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“I’m a practicing Catholic. I believe faith is a gift. And the first obligation we all have is, ‘Love your God,’ the second one is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” Biden said. The president-elect’s religion and theology had been a central part of his pitch to “restore the soul of America,” which has been reflected in his schedule, policy, and statements from the campaign trail.

Hundreds of Faith Leaders Call for All Votes to Be Counted

by Mitchell Atencio 11-03-2020

Voters wait in a long line to cast their ballots at Church of the Servant in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on November 3, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Nick Oxford

Hundreds of faith leaders and organizations have released statements in the last week demanding that every vote be counted and expressing their peaceful commitment to the democratic process.

The People Ensuring Your Ballot Is Counted

by Mitchell Atencio 11-03-2020

Election worker processes mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day in Houston. Nov. 2, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, mail-in voting has increased drastically in the 2020 election. Of the almost 100 million votes cast before Election Day, nearly 64 million of those were mail-in ballots. Though states have different rules and methods for mail-in ballots, voters across the country encountered a new question this election: “How do I know my vote was counted?”

More Than 800 Faith Leaders Are Ready to De-Escalate Election Tension

by Mitchell Atencio 11-02-2020

Demonstrators at an interfaith rally in Philadelphia in August 2017. Photo: Michael Candelori / Shutterstock.com

According to a recent survey, nearly 70 percent of people in the U.S. are worried voters will be harassed or intimidated on Election Day; the same survey found that more than three-quarters of Americans worry there will not be a peaceful transition of power after the election. But community leaders and clergy are determined to avoid a violent outcome.

These Congregations Are on a Creative Quest for 100 Percent Voter Turnout

by Mitchell Atencio 10-27-2020
And they made a lot of phone calls.

Images: Shutterstock / Design: Candace Sanders

Faith communities across the U.S. are looking to help further democracy by ensuring that 100 percent of the eligible voters in their congregations turn out for the 2020 election. 

Can All Churches Survive in this Pandemic?

by Mitchell Atencio 04-30-2020

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The threat to churches across the country, especially churches in low-income areas, caused Justin Giboney, President of the AND Campaign, to start the Churches Helping Churches Challenge. The goal: raise $500,000 in the month of April from financially secure churches, and distribute one-time grants to small churches with financial hardship.

The U.S. Prison System Poses a Public Health Threat

by Mitchell Atencio 04-02-2020

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of Rikers Island, where multiple cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, in Queens, New York City, March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

While many adjust to a new normal of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, others are sounding the alarm, warning of the vulnerability of those in America’s prisons and jails.

“If I’m not speaking for the least and the last — and a large group of those are incarcerated people — then who will speak for them?” Rev. Dr. Kelle Brown of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Seattle, told Sojourners. “My solidarity most certainly must be attached to those who are most vulnerable.”