Lauren Zinn is an Interfaith educator, minister, and consultant. Through her custom-designed youth and adult programs, she guides all people in growing spiritually – with, through, or past – religion. She also designs and officiates interfaith ceremonies for special occasions. Her background in business training bolsters her consulting to interfaith and faith-based organizations. She is currently focused on mentoring rookie religious school teachers and functionaries of any tradition in moving from a Sunday School to a Spiritual School experience with their students through her Ten Principles of Responsible Religion. Lauren earned a Ph.D. in Educational Planning, a Masters in Philosophy, and a Certificate in Gaming-Simulation from The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), studied at The Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (Montclair State University, NJ) and is a seminary-ordained Interfaith Minister (All Faiths Seminary, NYC). She is uniquely positioned to shift the paradigm underlying religious education to a spiritual one benefitting all humanity. She is available to speak on her work including her forthcoming book, Responsible Religion: From Sunday School to Spiritual School.
Michael Zimmerman is the founder and director of The Clergy Letter Project, an international organization of more than 15,500 religious leaders and scientists created to demonstrate that religion and science need not be in conflict. Through The Clergy Letter Project, Zimmerman created Evolution Weekend and has nurtured its expansion around the world. Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for congregations around the globe to elevate the level of discourse about the compatibility of religion and science, thousands of congregations in 20 countries have participated.
Dr. Zimmerman, a biologist, is vice president for Academic Affairs / provost at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is the author of Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense: Approaching Environmental Literacy, published in 1995 by Johns Hopkins University Press. Additionally, he has published scores of scientific papers and hundreds of opinion pieces and book reviews in the popular press. He currently writes for The Huffington Post.
Malcolm Clemens Young is the rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Los Altos (in California’s Silicon Valley) and a founder of Ventana School. He is the author of The Spiritual Journal of Henry David Thoreau (2009) and The Invisible Hand in the Wilderness: Economics, Ecology and God (2014). He did his undergraduate work at U.C. Berkeley and has a doctoral degree in theology from Harvard University.
Ow Yeong Wai Kit holds a master's degree (with distinction) in the Department of English Language and Literature at University College London (UCL). Born in Singapore, he graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) with a BA (first-class honours), majoring in English Literature and minoring in Philosophy. He has been president of the NUS Buddhist Society (2010-2011) and vice-president of the campus interfaith group NUS Interfaith (2009-2012). His research interests include modern religious literature, contemporary British and Irish poetry, as well as topics in the philosophy of religion. He is a recipient of the Singapore Ministry of Education Teaching Scholarship and teaches English and Literature at Bukit Batok Secondary School there.
Margaret Wolff is an author, freelance writer, and retreat leader whose work navigates the intersections of spiritual, personal, professional, and societal transformation in women’s lives. Her writing and training use creativity and dialog as vehicles to explore this great adventure and provide the deepened self awareness and skills that bring concrete benefits for the individual, her family, her organization and community, and the world at large. Margaret’s expertise includes interfaith and intergenerational collaboration, change management, values clarification, and peace and reconciliation issues. Retreat topics include: “Conversations That Matter: Dialogue As Transformation & Saving Grace,” “Spirit at Work: Making Your Work & Life Be About What You Value Most,” “Women As Leaders,” “Listening to Your Inner Voice,” and “Learning to Tend & Befriend the Chaos in Our Lives.” Her writing clients run the gamut from blogs, interviews, articles, and stories for Beliefnet, Feminist.com, and Yoga International to, collateral materials, website content, project proposals, and development for the corporate and non-profit sector. She has degrees in Art Therapy, Psychosynthesis, and Leadership and Human Behavior. Contact Margaret at www.InSweetCompany.com or 760-310-3069.
George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus at Ball State University where he served as director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies from 2002 to 2006, and Coordinator of Outreach Programs from 2006 to 2014. He is a certified mediator and was trained to conduct interfaith dialogue at All-Faiths Seminary International in New York City where he was ordained an interfaith minister. In 1991, he was awarded an open fellowship from the Eli Lilly Endowment which made possible his first trip to India where he became interested in the nonviolent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.
Wolfe received his doctorate in higher education administration from Indiana University. As an educator, he frequently lectures both within and outside the United States on topics related to nonviolence, peace education, academic freedom, and the role of the arts in social activism. He has been a featured speaker in the Hall of Philosophy at Chautauqua Institution and has served as a panelist at the annual International Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, Colorado. He has also served on the advisory council of the Toda Institute for Peace, Policy and Global Research, and served as a visiting scholar at Limburg Catholic University in Hasselt, Belgium. In the spring of 2007, he presented peace education workshops in the island nation of Saint Lucia by invitation of the Ministry of Education.
Dr. Wolfe is also a classical saxophonist who held the rank of Professor of Music Performance at Ball State University. He has appeared as a soloist with such ensembles as the Royal Band of the Belgian Air Force, Chautauqua Motet Choir, the U.S. Navy Band Brass Quintet, the Indianapolis Children’s Choir and the Saskatoon Symphony. He has also given recitals and master classes throughout the United States, as well as at major conservatories and universities in Europe, Central America, and the Far East.
Hailey Woldt is passionate about helping to improve the world by supporting visionary individuals including entrepreneurs, artists, diplomats, and anyone with a good idea and a good heart. She has a masters degree in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge and a bachelors in international affairs from Georgetown University, and has had a varied career including researching with the Brookings Institution, investing with the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, backpacking in New Zealand, and is currently supporting visionary startups by working with MassChallenge UK.
Diane Winston is Religion Dispatches director. She holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, and has worked as a reporter for several of the nation’s leading newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, Dallas Times Herald and The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army (1999) and co-editor of Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Urban Commercial Culture (2002).
JW Windland is a comparative mythologist and founder of the Encounter World Religions Centre, an internationally recognized educational organization designated as a “Gift Of Service To The World” by the Parliament of World Religions. Encounter promotes religious literacy and celebrates religious diversity. It blends academic and experiential learning, focusing on four aspects of religion: people, places, practices, and philosophy. JW has more than forty years experience in the study, teaching, and first-hand encounter of world religions. In addition to an academic background in religious studies, JW has long-term friendships with practitioners, joins in their rituals and introduces thousands of people to the distilled wisdom of diverse communities in the North American mosaic. JW lectures internationally to universities, religious groups, and service and professional organizations.
Birgitta Winberg was born in 1953, in Stockholm, Sweden and brought up in a working class environment, with no academic tradition. Raised in a suburb of Stockholm, she experienced the calling to the priesthood quite early, at the time of my confirmation, when she was 15 years old. Winberg studied theology at the University of Uppsala and earned a Bachelor of Divinity in 1984. She was ordained a priest in the Stockholm diocese, Church of Sweden in 1985. She felt that her calling was to work with people who were not traditional church people, so she worked her first five years in a multicultural suburb with many problems. After that Winberg was asked by the bishop who ordained her, Professor Krister Stendahl of Harvard University, to become a chaplain at a Stockholm prison. “You are the right person for that,” he said. And he was right. She worked as a prison chaplain for 22 years.
During this time Winberg was involved in international prison chaplaincy work through the International Prison Chaplains Association. She represented Europe for ten years and was the president of the organization for five years. During this time she worked with representatives of different churches and religions, chaired side-events at UN conferences, visited prisons and prison chaplaincy teams all over the world to encourage and equip prison chaplains to work with human rights for inmates. After arranging a world-conference in Stockholm 2010, she was asked by Bishop Eva Brunne in Stockholm to work with interreligious dialogue at the diocese. Since 2010 she's worked at the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue in Stockholm, for the Church of Sweden, and the diocese of Stockholm.
Winberg is single, as so many Swedes are, living in the inner city of Stockholm with her dog Mary.
Caroljean Willie is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a Master’s Degree in Reading and a Ph.D. in Multicultural Education. She has extensive experience working cross-culturally throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America as a teacher, teacher-trainer, cultural diversity consultant, and retreat director. She is the author of Praying All Ways: A Multiple Intelligences Approach to Prayer (2007) as well as numerous articles in professional journals. She is a frequent speaker at regional and national conferences and has also given presentations in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. She currently resides in the greater New York area where she serves as the NGO representative at the United Nations for the Sisters of Charity Federation and also works with microfinancing projects in Africa.
Monica Willard helped organize the first United Religions Initiative gathering in New York in 1997 and signed the URI Charter in June 2000 at the United Nations garden. She has been at the UN since 1991, representing The Ribbon International and Pathways to Peace before representing URI, starting in 2002. Ms. Willard chaired the annual UN Department of Public Information NGO Conference in 1996. Since 2005, she has worked with member states and UN system agencies to promote interfaith dialogue and cooperation for peace. As URI’s NGO representative to the United Nation, her portfolio includes the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 and the Tripartite Forum, a partnership with member states, UN system agencies, and religious non-government organizations (NGOs) to promote interfaith cooperation for peace. “Representing the URI at the UN affords me the wonderful opportunity to share the work of the URI with member states,” she says.
Janessa Gans Wilder is a former CIA officer turned peacebuilder, social entrepreneur, and nonprofit executive. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Euphrates Institute, an organization that builds peace and understanding about critical Middle East issues. She founded Euphrates after five years at the CIA focused on the Middle East, including serving 21 months in Iraq from 2003-2005. Janessa is a frequent speaker in interfaith, community, government, international, and educational settings. She has written dozens of articles and been interviewed by major news outlets, including CBS, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Democracy Now, and many more.
For over a decade, Janessa has provided the vision and leadership to grow Euphrates Institute into a global network of peacebuilders and changemakers, now comprising 22 Chapters worldwide. She created and leads transformative Travel Study programs to Israel, Palestinian Territories, and Jordan, focused on listening to the ‘Other’. She conceived of the Visionary of the Year program to honor, support, and increase the visibility of groundbreaking changemakers. In the fall of 2015, she organized a coast to coast speaking tour for the year’s visionary, which included speaking at the United Nations on the International Day of Peace, an NPR interview, and a speech to officers of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Previously, Janessa taught political science at her undergraduate alma mater, Principia College, and was a consultant to the State Department. She has a Master’s degree in International Policy Studies from Stanford University and a bachelor’s in International Relations from Principia College.
When not traveling to the Middle East, she enjoys spending time in nature with her family.
“I’ve experienced the impact of healing the divide between Middle East and West through the power of personal relationships. I’m so grateful to be part of a community that understands how timely, imperative, and, indeed–possible, is change in our relations with the Middle East. And that the best way to accomplish this is to begin with ourselves and our perceptions.”
Justin Wilbur is a senior facilitator, project manager, and trainer at Youth LEAD, a leadership program based out of Sharon, Massachusetts that actively puts “youth in the driver’s seat" by putting them in charge of facilitation and management. Through his four years of work with Youth LEAD (formerly Interfaith Action), he has facilitated heated discussions, engaged in community building work, and planned the annual Teenage Interfaith Diversity Conference.
Jim Wiggins, Ph.D., joined Syracuse University’s Department of Religion after completing his graduate work in 1963. He served on virtually all departmental committees, including director of graduate studies in religion (1975-80), and was elected by his colleagues as chair of the Department for five four-year terms (1980-2000). His academic field is Western religion and culture, with interests in the history of Christianity and Christian thought, religious/cultural diversity, death and dying, interpretive theory, mysticism, and narrative and religion. His book Religion as Story appeared in 1975; he is co-author of Foundations of Christianity (1972), Christianity: A Cultural Approach (1987), and In Praise of Religious Diversity (1996). From 1983 until 1992 he served as executive director of the American Academy of Religion. From 2002 until 2010 he was executive director of InterFaith Works of Central New York, a multi-purpose agency with a staff of two dozen. Jim is a trustee of North American Interfaith Network.
Betsy Wiggins is a practicing speech-language pathologist living in Syracuse, New York. She is co-founder of Women Transcending Boundaries (WTB), a women’s interfaith organization formed immediately after September 11, 2001. WTB developed the model for “Acts of Kindness Weekend,” a community-wide weekend of volunteerism during the weekend of 9/11 not only in Syracuse, NY, and also in Detroit and other sites. Prior to her marriage to Jim Wiggins, she was a professional meeting manager for the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as for the Carter Center of Emory University in Atlanta.
Sandy Westin became regional coordinator of United Religions Initiative in North America after leading the planning and producing of URI-NA’s second regional summit in 2008, an event which brought URI North America new growth and vitality. For a quarter century Sandy has been a ‘make it happen’ person on effective communications, nonprofit administration, and event management. Along the way she picked up skills in data management, data management, focused nonfiction writing, and administrative systems, all of which she uses in her nonprofit work and consulting. In managing a national conference on eco-spirituality at the University of Colorado in 1995, she managed an event with 50 speakers, 70 volunteers, and 500 attendees. Recently she has been studying storytelling as another way to support community and collaboration. She is also active in building collaborative support for the “11 Days of Global Unity” global celebrations scheduled for September 2011.
Reverend Terry Weller was ordained in 1998 and holds standing from the interfaith New Seminary in New York and the Christian ABBA Ministries of Canada, with special interests in liturgy and spiritual counseling. For seven years he worked for the Toronto Star and has edited various newsletters. He is the publisher and editor of Interfaith Unity News. This nine-year-old electronic monthly carries listings, links, book reviews and articles about upcoming interfaith activities across Canada and, for major events, the world. He is a founding member of the Newmarket & Area Interfaith Council, sits on the Toronto Area Interfaith Council, and is active in the North American Interfaith Network and United Religions Initiative. He is also actively engaged as a teacher, spiritual director, and certified addictions counselor. Terry is The Interfaith Observer’s assistant editor.
Megan Weiss majored in theology and mathematics and minored in psychology at College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University. She is passionate about cultivating religious pluralism, positive interfaith relationships, and individual religious commitment. She completed an honors thesis titled Interfaith Youth Core: Theology and Religious Commitment in one of America’s Most Prominent Youth Interfaith Organizations, which explores the role of religious identity and commitment in the Interfaith Youth Core, how their method effects religious commitment and identity, and what implications these have for interfaith work.
While in college Megan worked as both a liturgical minister for St. Benedict’s Campus Ministry and a student leader for the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning and was also a leader for her campus’ Better Together campaign. In the summers of 2014-2016 she was a counselor for Youth in Theology and Ministry, a two week Catholic camp for high school students held at St. John’s which fosters Christian discipleship and vocational discernment through the integration of theology, service, and prayer. She was a member of a Christian/Muslim dialogue group in St. Cloud, Minnesota, that meets to discuss matters of faith and plan Christian/Muslim panels for the community in an effort to address hostility being expressed toward the Somali Muslim population there.
Megan is currently pursuing a Master’s in Religion, Society, and Social Change at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California and TIO's intern.
Matthew Weiner is an associate dean of religious life at Princeton University. He served as program director for the Interfaith Center of New York, where he developed a methodology for engaging religiously diverse communities through civil society, working with over 500 grass roots religious leaders and the New York State Court System, the New York Public Library, Catholic Charities, the New York Board of Rabbis, and the United Nations. He earned a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and an M.A. from New York University. He writes about public religion, interfaith and civil society, and engaged Buddhism.