Arelis Benítez is a Ph.D. candidate in Religion, Psychology, and Culture at Vanderbilt University, where she is a fellow in the Program in Theology and Practice, and specializes in Latino/a Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies. She earned an MA from Loma Linda University School of Religion and is a clinically trained healthcare chaplain.
Benítez is a queer Latina Adventist theologian whose research centers on the concept of duality as conceived in Mesoamerican thought. Through this lens, she proposes alternative philosophies that redefine approaches to social, psychological, and spiritual-religious transformation in pastoral theology. As a pastoral theologian, she anchors her methodological approaches in the works of Gloria Anzaldúa towards the inclusion of Latine communities and development of Latine pastoral care responses. Grounded in her own identities and autohistoria-teoría, her dissertation explores parallels of suffering and healing in sexual identity (re)construction and migration narratives within the Latinx LGBTQ+ community.
A first-generation daughter of Mexican migrant parents, Benítez is well acquainted with survival narratives, loss, and marginalization and turns to theological studies for pastoral care responses to human suffering. Clinically trained as a healthcare chaplain, she integrates over a decade of experiences in pastoral ministry with vocational commitments to social justice that extend beyond the academy and into the public and private spheres. A
Currently, Arelis serves as a field educator at Vanderbilt Divinity School, consultant to Daring Compassion Movement Chaplaincy project with Faith Matters Network, and as a member of the CPE Professional Advisory Group at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.