CJ was born and raised in southwestern Virginia, but moved to the SF Bay Area in 2007. They began attending Berkeley Buddhist Temple (BBT) in 2014, and became a member in 2015. Not long after becoming involved in the TechnoBuddha conference and BBT's community outreach committee, CJ felt a deep connection to the Jodo Shinshu teachings, and decided that they wanted to become a Jodo Shinshu minister. In 2016, they began their studies at the Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS) and Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, CA. CJ received Tokudo ordination in summer of 2019 and studied abroad for a year as an exchange student in Kyoto at Ryukoku University. During their time in Kyoto and Osaka, CJ made a number of close friends both from Japan and around the world. Upon returning to the US last summer, CJ finished their MA in Buddhist Studies along with a certificate in Buddhist Chaplaincy from IBS and GTU. The title of their thesis is: "Radical Acceptance as a Shin Buddhist Theology of Liberation for LGBTQ+ Peoples." CJ serves as minister's assistant at BBT and Tokudo minister at the Buddhist Temple of Marin. CJ will be starting the Pacific School of Religion's Doctorate of Ministry program this fall (2021), where they hope to build upon their thesis research in establishing practical Jodo Shinshu frameworks of spiritual care for LGBTQ+ folks that can be utilized by both leadership and laypersons in various sangha settings ranging from traditional temple structures, to smaller LGBTQ+ focused healing & support groups.
As part of their work in the temple, CJ has helped to organize annual Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial services for BBT (see below). You can also read more about CJ's research at the Institute of Buddhist Studies and their experience in finding Buddhism in an interview with IBS staff Gesshin Claire Greenwood here.
Service with Rev. CJ Dunford.