Martin J. Smith is a veteran journalist and magazine editor has won more than fifty newspaper and magazine writing awards. He is best known, however for his crime novels, which have been nominated for three of the publishing industry’s most prestigious honors, including the Edgar Award, the Anthony Award, and the Barry Award.
Bishop William Swing is the president and founder of the United Religions Initiative. He had the original vision of URI in 1993 in response to an invitation from the United Nations, which asked him to host an interfaith service honoring the 50th anniversary of the signing of the U.N. Charter. Bishop Swing served as the Episcopal Bishop of California from 1980 until his retirement in 2006. In that capacity, he was a national and international leader in response to the AIDS crisis, co-founded Episcopal Community Services to address San Francisco’s homeless problem, and co-founded Community Bank of the Bay to support local businesses and the economy.
Swing is the author and co-author of several books, including The Coming United Religions (1998), Building Wisdom’s House (1997), and the recipient of many honorary doctoral degrees, including Jesuit-sponsored University of San Francisco. In 2008 Swing had the honor of having the Bishop Swing Community House, a permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless adults in San Francisco’s downtown South of Market (SoMa) district, dedicated to him.
Megan Sweas is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. She writes about social and economic justice issues and world religions, and is author of Putting Education to Work: How Cristo Rey High Schools are Transforming Urban Education (2015). She previously was an editor at U.S. Catholic magazine. Sweas was an Annenberg Fellow at the University of Southern California, where she earned a master’s degree in Specialized Journalism. She graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Rev. Dr. Heng Sure, a native of Toledo, Ohio, was ordained a bhikshu in the Mahayana tradition of Chinese Buddhism in 1976. For the next 33 months, in silence, he pursued a 600-mile pilgrimage dedicated to world peace, with a full ‘bow’ or prostration, after every third step. Rev. Heng Sure is the pastor of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery (which his fluent Mandarin Chinese makes possible), president of the Board of Trustees of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, and on the core faculty of the Institute for World Religions. As a long-time interfaith advocate, Bhikshu Heng Sure has been a long-time trustee for of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio and United Religions Initiative and a frequent presenter at Parliament of the World’s Religions gatherings.
Mike Stygal is a modern Pagan whose beliefs and practices might best be described as using shamanic techniques to explore a relationship with the spirits of the English landscape. He is currently president of the Pagan Federation in England and Wales, and has been actively involved in interfaith dialogue, both in England and around the world for many years. By profession, he is a teacher with experience of teaching theatre, English as an additional language, religious education, and working with students with emotional and social challenges. Mike is currently a Pagan Federation representative to the Religious Education Council of England and Wales. He lives in London, England, is married to his wonderful Christian wife, and has two adult children and far too many rescue cats.
Rev. Deborah Streeter is director of Upwellings: A Ministry of Environmental Stewardship, which works with people from faith communities, environmental activist groups and science/education organizations on California’s central coast on education, action, and worship around ocean and coastal issues. A member of the Christian Church of Pacific Grove, she co-founded their Blue Theology program, providing learning/serving retreats on ocean stewardship and spirituality. She writes a weekly “Blue Theology Tide-ings” blog.
An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ for more than 30 years, she has served as a local church pastor, campus minister, hospital chaplain, and denominational officer and editor. She has taught at Pacific School of Religion and in Santa Clara University’s Environmental Studies program.
Deborah served for nine years as a member and chair of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. She has been a docent at Point Lobos State Reserve and a guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for more than 15 years and leads tours specifically designed for faith communities. In 2008 she directed the Living Ocean Initiative with support from the Monterey Bay Sanctuary and Aquarium, bringing together 150 faith leaders from diverse traditions to learn about faith and ocean conservation issues. She edited Dancing on the Brink of the World: Selected Poems of Point Lobos in 2003. She lives with her family in Big Sur.
Yehuda Stolov is the executive director of the Interfaith Encounter Association. IEA is an organization working for sustainable, peaceful inter-communal coexistence through the use of an interactive interfaith encounter approach. The goal is to foster respectful and friendly relations between people and communities in Israel and the Middle East.
Dr. Stolov is a member of many international interreligious organizations, including the Steering Committee for the United Nations Decade of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and the Trialogue of Cultures of the Herbert Quant Foundation. He is active in many interfaith activities in Israel and the recipient of the Immortal Chaplains Foundation 2006 Prize for Humanity. Dr. Stolov has lectured at many international conferences and written publications on religion, peace, and interfaith. He has a B.S. , a M.Sc. in Physics, and a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Allison Stokes is founding director of the Women’s Interfaith Institute, with affiliates in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts (since 1992) and the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York (since 2002). Currently a member of the Ambassadors Advisory Council for the Council for the Parliament of World Religions, she first attended the Parliament in 1999 in Cape Town. At the Parliament in Melbourne in 2009, she gave a slide lecture about her research on the little known story of women speakers at the 1893 Parliament in Chicago. She is Historian of the New England Women’s Ministers Association.
Stokes was a speaker for the New York Council for the Humanities (NYCH) on the topic “Learning about Islam and Reaching across Faith Divides: Americans Respond to 9/11.” She has served as scholar facilitator for the “Muslim Journeys” reading and discussion program offered by the NYCH and by the National Endowment for the Humanities/American Library Association.
Stokes earned her Ph.D. in American Studies and M.Div. degrees at Yale, and Th.M. degree at Harvard. She has served as a college/university chaplain at Wesleyan, Vassar, Yale, Ithaca College, and most recently at the University of Rochester, where she was director of the Interfaith Chapel. For several years she was Director of the M.K. Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester. She is author and co-author of various articles and books, including Ministry After Freud (1985), Defecting in Place—Women Taking Responsibility for Their Own Spiritual Lives (1995), and Shalom, Salaam, Peace (2006).
Chris Stedman is the author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious (Beacon Press, November 2012). He is the Assistant Humanist Chaplain and the Values in Action Coordinator for the Humanist Community at Harvard (where he was previously the inaugural Interfaith and Community Service Fellow). He is also the Emeritus Managing Director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and founder of the first blog dedicated to exploring atheist-interfaith engagement, NonProphet Status.
Chris received an MA in Religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, for which he was awarded the Billings Prize for Most Outstanding Scholastic Achievement. A graduate of Augsburg College with a summa cum laude B.A. in Religion, Chris writes for Huffington Post Gay Voices, Huffington Post Religion, The Washington Post On Faith, Religion Dispatches, Relevant, and more. Previously a Content Developer and Adjunct Trainer for Interfaith Youth Core, Chris is an atheist working to foster positive and productive dialogue and collaborative action between faith communities and the nonreligious. He speaks on this topic across the United States and around the world.
Chris served on the initial Leadership Team of the Common Ground Campaign, a coalition of young people who stood up in response to the wave of anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence in the U.S. surrounding the Park51 controversy, and continues to advise it in its current form, Groundswell. He also sits on the Board of Directors of the interfaith global development organization World Faith and is an advisor to the Foundation Beyond Belief’s “Challenge the Gap” charitable initiative. In 2011, Religion Dispatches listed Chris at #5 in a list of the Top 10 Peacemakers in the Science-Religion wars and the University of Oregon Alliance of Happy Atheists recognized his work with their first annual Happy Heathen! Award. Portland, Oregon’s GLBT newspaper Just Out called his work “brilliant” and labeled him an “emerging... vibrant and youthful queer voice for the secular humanist movement.”
Aaron Stauffer most recently was the Executive Director and then Special Advisor of Religions for Peace USA, where he helped launch a national anti-Islamophobia program based in the southeast, along with organizing national senior religious leaders on issues of common concern such as mass incarceration, immigration and climate change. Before starting a doctoral program at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, Aaron was an organizer with the Industrial Areas Foundation in San Antonio, Tx. His work lies at the intersection of the academy, the Christian church, and community organizing and his dissertation is focused on the political role of sacred value in broad based community organizing. Drawing from a tradition of radical democracy, constructive feminist and anti-racist critiques of liberal political theory, and the rising field of “lived religion,” Aaron’s dissertation argues for the value of religious language in the practice of community organizing. Aaron is active in his denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and has been active participant in international ecumenical and interfaith organizations, such as the World Council of Reformed Churches and the World Council of Churches. Currently, Aaron lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee with his partner, Lauren.
Karimah Stauch holds a MA degree in Economics as well as receiving a MA degree in Islamic Studies at the University of Bonn, Germany. She currently works for the ICT Department of German Agro Action (a development NGO) in Bonn. At United Religions Initiative she has been the Europe Regional Coordinator since 2003 and is a member of URI’s European Executive Committee (EEC). She also holds the following positions: president of the German Muslim League in Bonn; delegate at the Central Council of Muslims in Germany; member of the Council of the Sufi-order “Tariqah As-Safinah”; member of the advisory board of Baraza e.V.; member of the advisory board and adviser for Islamic questions for the ESWTR Deutschland. Her passion is for Abrahamic dialogue and, in a larger circle, with all members of the human family.
Mirabai Starr is a Jewish Sufi who loves Christ and cultivates a Buddhist mediation practice and a lifelong devotion to a Hindu guru.
She writes fiction, creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. Mirabai teaches Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos and teaches and speaks widely on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialog. A certified bereavement counselor, Mirabai helps mourners harness the transformational power of loss. She has received critical acclaim for her revolutionary new translations of Dark Night of the Soul (2003) by sixteenth century Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, and The Interior Castle (2007) and The Book of My Life (2008), by St. Teresa of Avila. She is the editor and writer of the 6-volume Sounds True series, “Devotions, Prayers & Living Wisdom,” and contributing author to Living Fully, Dying Well: Reflecting on Death to Find Your Life’s Meaning (2009). Her poetry collection, Mother of God Similar to Fire (2016), is a collaboration with iconographer, William Hart McNichols. Mirabai’s book, GOD OF LOVE: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (2012), positions her at the vanguard of the emerging “interspiritual movement.”
ALisa Starkweather is the founder of the expanding grassroots global initiative, the Red Tent Temple Movement, one of the ways that she believes we can build a woman-honoring culture together. With three decades of women’s visionary work, ALisa is also the founder of a women’s mystery school in New England, Priestess Path Apprenticeship, as well as her world work, retreats and programs on Women in Power, Initiating Ourselves to the Predator Within, Daughters of the Earth Gatherings, and the Women’s Belly and Womb Conferences.
ALisa is the co-producer of Dr Isadora Leidenfrost’s documentary film, Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent (2012) and a contributing author in various anthologies including Where Grace Meets Power: Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership (2011), and Stepping Into Ourselves – An Anthology of Writings on Priestesses (2014). A certified facilitator since 1995 of Shadow Work and student of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, ALisa’s transformational work involves symbolism, archetypes, dreams, ceremonies, and community building as active skills in healing the wounds of humanity. In Jaipur, India, in 2008 ALisa co-presented “Women’s Visionary Leadership” at the summit, Making Way for the Feminine for the Benefit of the World Community held by the Global Peace Initiative of Women. You can find more information at her website, including her free audio download, “Permission to be Powerful.”
Photograph courtesy of Marsia Shuron Harris.
Joshua Stanton is founding co-editor of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, co-director of Religious Freedom USA, and a rabbinical student. A Religious Leadership Fellow at the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, he edits its newsletter. His numerous awards include the Bridge-Builders Leadership Award from the Interfaith Youth Core. Josh is a regular blogger for Rabbis for Human Rights and has had articles and interviews published and broadcast in nine languages. This include pieces for the Washington Post’s On Faith, Patheos, Sojourners, German National Radio, Swedish National Radio, the Pakistan Christian Post, Gulf Times, and the Daily News Egypt. A sought-after speaker, Josh delivered a keynote address at the 2010 Eighth Annual Doha Conference, sponsored by the Foreign Ministry of Qatar and Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue. He is a trustee at World Faith and at Education as Transformation, and on the Editorial Advisory Board of CrossCurrents Magazine.
Mrs. Helen Spector joined the Board of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) in 1990 to help plan the 1993 Parliament Centenary Celebration. She has been active with the organization ever since, a leading ‘behind the scenes person’ making the Parliament’s huge global gatherings succeed. She served as co-chair for the site-selection task forces for the 2004, 2009 and 2014 Parliament events. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and continues as a trustee of the Council. As a professional facilitator and organizational development consultant, Mrs. Spector uses her skills to further the values and goals of CPWR, and she enjoys a reputation in religious circles as a transformational change agent specializing in denominational and judicatorial bodies from different traditions.
Roy Speckhardt has served as executive director of the American Humanist Association since 2005. He is a frequent media commentator, having appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, and NPR, among others. He also writes a regular column for The Huffington Post and Patheos, and has given speeches at colleges, conferences, and local humanist groups across the country.
Speckhardt also serves on the boards of The Institute for Humanist Studies, the United Coalition of Reason, The Humanist Institute, and the Secular Coalition for America Education Fund. He served as deputy director of The Interfaith Alliance from 1995 to 2001.
Speckhardt holds an M.B.A. from George Mason University and B.A. in sociology from Mary Washington College. He currently lives in Washington.
Timothy K. Snyder is a doctoral student at the School of Theology. As both a theologian and a scholar of contemporary American religion, his research explores how theology shapes everyday life and how everyday life shapes theology.
A graduate of Texas Lutheran University and Luther Seminary, he was a 2013 Coolidge Fellow at Union Theological Seminary and is currently a Doctoral Fellow in the Louisville Institute’s Vocation of the Theological Educator program.
An advocate for public scholarship, his writing has appeared in Religion Dispatches, Religion News Service, and the Washington Post.
He teaches theology and spirituality at Wartburg Theological Seminary (adjunct) and serves as Director of Education at Faith Lutheran Church, Cambridge.
Bowie Snodgrass is executive director of Faith House Manhattan, an inter-religious community which encourages people to “experience your neighbor’s faith, deepen your own.” She is co-founder of Transmission, an emerging house church, and was a member of the Task Group that produced a new liturgy for same-gender blessings for the Episcopal Church. She was Web Content Editor of EpiscopalChurch.org from 2004-2007 and before that worked in the Episcopal Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. She majored in Religious Studies at Vassar College, received her M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and has been published in Discovering the Spirit in the City (Continuum, 2010), The Huffington Post, The Anglican Theological Review and Episcopal Life Online. She is a member of the Congregation of Saint Savior at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and lives in Harlem with her husband, George Mathew, and son, Jacob.
Canon Dr. Andrew Smith is the Director of Interfaith Relations for the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham a post he has held since 2011. He has over 25 years’ experience of interfaith engagement and in 2000 pioneered a model of work with Christian and Muslim teenagers. In 2009 he founded The Feast, a youth project working with young people of different faiths which works in three areas of England and has inspired work in Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt, USA and Switzerland. He is chair of the Advisory Forum for KAICIID and a member of the Church of England ‘Presence and Engagement’ task group supporting Anglican churches in multi-faith parishes. He is a regular speaker and writer on inter-faith issues, his most recent publication being ‘Vibrant Christianity in Multi-faith Britain’ published by BRF in 2018. He is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham Edward Cadbury Centre and in 2018 was awarded the Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Interfaith Cooperation by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Calvin Skaggs, founder and president of Lumiere Productions, has produced or directed over 30 dramas and documentaries for television and theatrical exhibition. His first theatrical feature, On Valentine’s Day, was the official American entry in the Venice Film Festival; his hip-hop drama Fly By Night won the Sundance Filmmakers’ Trophy in 1993. He has executive produced two major documentary series for PBS—With God On Our Side and Local News—and produced numerous films for Discovery, PBS, HBO and Channel 4 UK. Before founding Lumiere, Skaggs earned a Ph.D. from Duke University, and served as Professor of English and Cinema at Drew University.