Opportunities & Resources
Spiritual Brothers Join Mysticism with Activism
A Way to God – Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey (2016) by Matthew Fox
Even though he passed away in 1968 at the young age of 53, the pioneering ideas that Trappist monk and social justice activist Thomas Merton shared throughout his lifetime are still very much alive. So much so that Pope Francis recently declared him one of four exemplary Americans who provide wisdom for us today —along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, and Dorothy Day.
Pope Francis is not alone in his deep regard for the contributions Merton made to the history of spirituality. In A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, bestselling author and theologian Matthew Fox celebrates Merton’s work and explains how thirteenth century mystic Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced both Merton and Creation Spirituality, which Fox has long espoused and written about.
“I would maintain that much of Merton’s spiritual journey parallels the articulation of the Creation Spirituality tradition and its Four Paths, which have proven foundational in my own journey,” writes Fox. “While Merton, as in the citation that opens this book, talks about 'the way to God,' I am happy to talk about his and my journey via Creation Spirituality as being a way to God.”
A Way to God is personal and intellectual, semi-biographical and autobiographical. It creates a methodology for understanding the vast and deep contributions that Merton made to the history of spirituality by demonstrating Merton’s teachings by way of the Cosmic Christ, the divine feminine, eco-justice, and other themes common in Merton’s, Eckhart’s, and Fox’s theologies.
Matthew Fox is the author of more than 30 books including Meister Eckhart, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, Christian Mystics, and most recently A Way to God. A preeminent scholar and popularizer of Western mysticism, he became an Episcopal priest after being expelled from the Dominican Order by Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.
A Treasure Trove Of Interfaith/Interreligious Information
Harvard’s Pluralism Project Launches Website Redesign
Earlier this year the Pluralism Project launched a new website to coincide with the Project’s 25th anniversary. It is a beautiful site, full of compelling visuals and a treasure chest for any one interested in interfaith.The new pluralism.org features
- dozens of essays about the history and development of 17 traditions in the U.S.;
- more than 40 maps showcasing religious diversity and interfaith initiatives;
- over 35 promising practice profiles of city-based interfaith engagement;
- a repository of over 30,000 news pieces from domestic and international sources; and
- information about dilemma-based case studies for classroom and community use.
The redesign of the award-winning pluralism.org website was made possible by a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
Revisioning the Role of Women in Islam
Women in the Qur’an – An Emancipatory Reading
Today, the issue of Muslim women is held hostage between two perceptions: a conservative Islamic approach and a liberal Western approach. At the heart of this debate Muslim women are seeking to reclaim their right to speak in order to re-appropriate their own destinies, calling for the equality and liberation that is at the heart of the Qur'an.
However, with few female commentators on the meaning of the Qur'an and an overreliance on the readings of the Qur'an compiled centuries ago this message is often lost. In this book Asma Lamrabet demands a rereading of the Qur'an by women that focuses on its spiritual and humanistic messages in order to alter the lived reality on the ground.
By acknowledging the oppression of women, to different degrees, in social systems organized in the name of religion and also rejecting a perspective that seeks to promote Western values as the only means of liberating them, the author is able to define a new way. One in which their refusal to remain silent is an act of devotion and their demand for reform will lead to liberation.
Interfaith Leaders Call for a “Politics of the Golden Rule”
Values Voter Reflection Guide Takes on U.S. Presidential Elections
As presidential candidates ramp up outreach to religious voters in battleground states, prominent faith leaders are equipping their congregations with a non-partisan voter reflection guide. More than 250 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders support the guide, released today by Faith in Public Life.
“Elections should be about more than partisan divisions, the latest poll numbers, Super PACs and billionaire donors,” reads the document, entitled Faith, Values and the 2016 Election: Toward a Politics of the Golden Rule. “Politics as usual is insufficient for the urgent task of addressing the defining moral issues of our time.”
The guide highlights the need to address growing economic inequality, climate change, a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, gun violence and confronting terrorism “without abandoning our values” as believers.
Prominent leaders who endorse the guide include Rev. Jim Wallis, President & CEO of Sojourners; Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches; Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism; Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Richard Cizik, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; Salam Al-Marayati, President, Muslim Public Affairs Council; the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California; and Rev. Sally Bingham, President and Founder, Interfaith Power & Light.
The guide calls for public policies that support a “pro-family economy,” which include living wages for workers and paid parental leave. It underscores the diverse religious support for comprehensive immigration reform, challenges candidates to address gun violence, and asks voters to reflect on how mass incarceration disproportionately impacts African Americans. Climate change is “a threat to Creation and our children’s future,” the guide reads, noting that over 18,000 faith communities are working with Interfaith Power & Light to green their facilities, teach and preach about global warming, and mobilize for policy change.
“Values voters will be critical to winning the presidency, and the narrow agenda of the religious right does not speak for most people of faith,” said Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life, and chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships. “Clergy are mobilizing because we’re on the front lines fighting for struggling families, immigrants and those on the margins.”
The full guide can be found here. For more information, contact Michelle Nealy, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-735-7123202-735-7123, or John Gehring, email@example.com, 410-302-3792410-302-3792
Critical Resource for Faith and Interfaith Climate Activists
How the World's Religions are Responding to Climate Change
People of faith and practice represent a critical constituency in the struggle to address the global challenge of a world getting hotter every year. But the very nature of religious community means that the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, and a fragmented response to climate change is inadequate.
How the World’s Religions are Responding to Climate Change (2014) goes a long way to mitigating our ignorance. Subtitled “Social Scientific Investigations,” its 17 chapters were edited by three academics, Robin Globus Veldman (teaching religion at the University of Florida), Andrew Szasz (teaching environmental studies at the University of California-Santa Cruz), and Randolph Haluza-DeLay (teaching sociology at King’s University College in Alberta, Canada).
Routledge, the publisher, explains why it has published this text:
A growing chorus of voices has suggested that the world’s religions may become critical actors as the climate crisis unfolds, particularly in light of international paralysis on the issue. In recent years, many faiths have begun to address climate change and its consequences for human societies, especially the world’s poor. This is the first volume to use social science to examine how religions are helping to address one of the most significant and far-reaching challenges of our time.
While there is a growing literature in theology and ethics about climate change and religion, little research has been previously published about the ways in which religious institutions, groups and individuals are responding to the problem of climate change. Seventeen research-driven chapters are written by sociologists, anthropologists, geographers and other social scientists. This book explores what effects religions are having, what barriers they are running into or creating, and what this means for the global struggle to address climate change.
Convincing Congress to ratify the agreements made last December in Paris will be preoccupying activists across the globe – which is all to the good. An educated activism cannot help but empower the effort, and hats off to Routledge for this resource.
Talking With Interfaith, Interspiritual Pioneers
New Podcast Features Contemporary Spirituality Conversations
Along with Dennis Raimondi, TIO contributor Philip Goldberg co-hosts Spirit Matters, a new series of conversations about contemporary spirituality. The interviews feature a fascinating lineup of guests with the likes of Ellen Grace O’Brian, Marianne Williamson, Mirabai Starr, Charles Tart, and Rami Shapiro.
Their website notes that “The spiritual landscape has never been more diverse, more eclectic, more individualized or more internally focused. Spirit matters, and in our open-source world, matters of the spirit are complex and endlessly fascinating. The Spirit Matters podcast aims to help listeners make sense of it all.”
A Foundational Document for the Interfaith Movement
Unpacking Nostra Aetate 50 Years Later
Nostra Aetate’s fiftieth birthday was noted in last month’s TIO, and included the full text of the historic document. When it was first published, it heralded a new day in interfaith relations, starting with the historically troubled Christian-Jewish relations.
Scarboro Missions has published a stand-alone magazine to add to its library of interfaith resources, with ten articles that drill down deep into this foundational document regarding how religious traditions treat each other. As usual, these resources are free. You can get yours here.
For Newcomers to Interfaith Worship
"Guidelines for Designing a Multifaith Prayer Service Available"
Open-ended guidelines in this resource cover the creation of ‘multifaith worship’ from soup to nuts. It is like a list of must-handle items if you want your event to promote respect, inspire those who gather, and not get blind-sided by something you forgot to do. Yet “Guidelines” is much more than a recipe, more like a curriculum that prepares you to meet the challenge of bringing together strangers with different backgrounds to share a spiritual experience. It is perfect workshop material for congregational leaders. Indeed, above and beyond its practical wisdom, reading the Guidelines is a quick way to get a sense of what interreligious community is all about and what it seeks to achieve.
Download it here.
RfP-El Hibri World Interfaith Harmony Offering Available Online
“Ten Things You Must Know…” Video Series Unpacks Interfaith Culture
“Warm greetings from Religions for Peace-USA! Just a brief update on the RfP USA World Interfaith Harmony Week project. A short (1:47min) composite trailer of the “10 Things You Must Know About…” series, featuring shots of the 11 presenters and brief talking clips is available here.
“Alternatively, you can go here to see any of the 11 presenters who made five to ten minute contributions. They include Paul Chaffee, Dalia Mogahed, Eric Ward, Shamil Idriss, Sam Muyskens, William F. Vendley, Katherine Marshall, Robert P. Jones, Susan Katz Miller, Najeeba Syeed Miller,and Susan Hayward. Their bios are here.”
Empowering Young Adult Leaders
New Resource for Interfaith Youth Groups from Scarboro
As usual, the interfaith folks at Scarboro Missions are going the second mile, in this case promoting youth and young adult interfaith activity. They’ve posted a recently revised compilation of interfaith youth groups in the Great Toronto area designed to facilitate and empower communication among local interfaith initiatives. But it is so much more than that. As they explain: “The youth interfaith movement is a growing international phenomenon. For this reason, we havealso included in this directory, educational and curriculum resources from around the world as well as an international listing of interfaithyouth groups.”
So wherever in the world you are doing interfaith youth work, this free resource is for you! You’ll find it here.
A Pivot Point for All Religions
Do-It-Yourself “Golden Rule Workshop” Now Available
It its continuing mission to promote the Golden Rule globally, Scarboro Missions is making freely available a do-it-yourself curriculum and workshop. In launching the project, Paul McKenna, director of interfaith at Scarboro, wrote:
Growing numbers of educators are discovering that religious and ethical education can no longer be conducted from the perspective of only one religion or culture. Indeed, religious educators of the future will call upon the wisdom and teachings of numerous religious and humanist traditions.
In this do-it-yourself workshop and group discussion experience, participants are invited to reflect from the perspective of a universal moral principle – the Golden Rule – in its many and various expressions across the world's religions.
The workshop has been tested in a number of environments and consistently generated great enthusiasm, reflection, and discussion. Any group or individual who decides to sponsor it, can expect rich and varied responses. Please consider forwarding this announcement and link through your network or posting it on your website or on social media. To view or download this workshop free of charge, click here:
And more good news from Scarboro: their world-famous Golden Rule poster is now available in Hebrew. Approximately 18 different language versions of the poster, ‘approximately’ because Scarboro can’t keep track of those who, on their own, translate the poster into their own languages. Hats off, Scarboro!
Indispensable Resource for Interfaith Dialogue
Downloadable Interfaith Dialogue Curricula and Resources Catalogued Here
Thanksgiving Service last year at Scarboro MissionsScarboro Missions, the go-to internet portal for the Golden Rule, has added a collection of all things having to do with interfaith dialogue. Click here to find dozens of curricula, do-it-yourself workshops, basic principles and best practices, toolkits, games, Powerpoint presentations, and articles, all linked to their source webpages and most free to download.
A broad range of constituencies will find these resources useful, including schools, youth groups, universities, community groups, and grassroots interfaith organizations. They touch a broad range of issues including education, social justice, ecology,peace-building, conflict-resolution, spirituality, diversity, and global consciousness.
How Does Your Neighborhood Respond to Disasters?
New Disaster Preparedness Resources Available
The Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California has published two resources for dealing with religious communities under disaster conditions. The Religious Literacy Primer for Crises, Disasters and Public Health Emergencies, and Working with U.S. Faith Communities During Crises, Disasters and Public Health Emergencies: A Field Guide for Engagement, Partnerships and Religious Competency. Both offer useful information about religious communities, and would be helpful even outside disasters.
Auburn Seminary Surveys Interfaith Resources for Prospective Seminarians
Auburn Seminary in New York City has promoted multireligious education in seminaries for the past ten years. Now they have posted eight resources on a website page titled “Multifaith Education in Seminaries.” The resources are designed for seminary administrators and faculty and will serve them well. But for anyone interested in traditional seminary training with an emphasis on interfaith studies, these documents are a goldmine. They include …
- ATS Accreditation Standard (text of the new standard released in 2012 by the Association of Theological Schools)
- Teaching and Pedagogy (nine tactics for teaching in the classroom and the field from faculty experienced in multifaith education)
- Top 20 Seminaries for Multifaith Education (this list emerged from Auburn’s 2009 study of 150 seminaries in “Beyond World Religions: the State of Multifaith Education in American Theological Schools”)
- Multifaith Education Programs and Conferences (a list of known multifaith education programs and conferences for seminary students and faculty)
- Studies and Evaluations (links to program evaluations and studies on the practice of multifaith education in seminaries)
- Popular Press (links to articles that feature the role of multifaith education in theological education)
- Recommended Resources (recommended educational resources for seminary faculty engaging in multifaith education in the classroom and the field)
For prospective seminarians, the ‘top 20’ interfaith-friendly seminaries might be the most important of these resources. For teachers of interfaith, the nine examples (Teaching and Pedagogy) of how to teach interfaith is a fascinating example of the scope and imagination of interfaith studies being developed in academia.
Rapping for Goodness Sake
Dru Takes on Bullying with the Golden Rule
Scarboro Missions’ interfaith ministry keeps creating wonderful new resources for promoting and teaching the Golden Rule. A treasure trove of 13 videos, for instance, gives teachers and parents excellent starting points for discussing how we treat others.
Getting the most attention now is the Golden Rule Rap performed by leading Canadian rap artist Dru. He challenges young people to “follow the Golden Rule and you’ll be cool.” Producer of the video, Tina Petrova, reports the “Mental Health Services in one of the Arctic territories reached out to us, sharing that teen suicides were high due to bullying, and that the rap may be a great mental health tool to use at school dances. Now other young groups are telling us the same!”
Click on the video and listen! And share!
Free Downloadable Peacemaking Curriculum
For One Great Peace – an Interfaith Curriculum for Abrahamic Peacemaking
This excellent resource enables participants to acquire basic skills in interfaith dialogue and to build bridges across religious and cultural differences. The 74-page curriculum is published by the Abrahamic Faiths Peace Initiative (California, USA) and authored by learned practitioners of three religious traditions. Three of the sessions focus on peacemaking in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Also included are guidelines for interfaith leaders, reflective exercises, background information sources, suggestions for further readings and excellent tips for practising interfaith hospitality. The curriculum is also an important resource for those who are not members of the Abrahamic faiths. This document is also available as a Kindle e-book (96 cents).
To view or download free of charge, click here.
What Has Interfaith Engagement Meant to You?
Vanderbilt Surveying North American Grassroots Interfaith Activists
Kirkland Hall at Vanderbilt University – Photo: WikipediaIf you participate in an interfaith group in North America, your input is sought in a survey. A study group at Vanderbilt University is researching grassroots interfaith organizations and would love to have your input. (There are plans to expand the study in its next phase to go beyond North America.)
Mark McCormick, a Ph.D. candidate who helped inspire the project, writes, “This research project started as the seed of an idea back in 2010, during the protests against the new Islamic Center in our own backyard in Murfreesboro, TN. Several of us at Vanderbilt have over time become personally involved in the interfaith efforts that have cropped up in MiddleTennessee in response to this controversy, and it struck us that this would also be a very important (and understudied, empirically) topic for research.”
Five interfaith groups in the south have been the subject of case studies, and to this will be added what the research team finds out from this survey. TIO will report on the results next year.
Click here to go to the survey. Vanderbilt scholars thank you!
Interreligious Ecology Resource
Multifaith Green Rule Poster & Study Guide Now Available
Greening Sacred Spaces is a Canadian interfaith organization that supports houses of worship of various religions in efforts to “green” their buildings. Their Green Rule Poster features sacred texts from 14 religious traditions – they are presented against the visual backdrop of “the tree of life.”
This poster is complemented by a useful 20-page study guide. The guide is an imaginative, practical tool to teach youth and adult members of your faith community and school system about the sacredness of creation in your own faith tradition while reflecting on the ecological texts of other religions.
You can order your poster here.
Free to Download
On Common Ground: World Religions in America
From Diana Eck, founder of the Pluralism Project:
Greetings from the Pluralism Project! I am delighted to share with you the launch of an online and updated version of On Common Ground: World Religions in America. You can view the press release on our website.
For fifteen years, the CD-ROM version of On Common Ground(Columbia University Press) has been a go-to resource on religious diversity in America for teachers, professors, students, clergy, community leaders, and media professionals. Over the years, many of you have expressed your hope for an online version of this wonderful resource. We’ve echoed your excitement and are pleased that this new version of On Common Groundis now online and available free of charge.
In the new online version, the time-tested educational structure of the On Common Ground CD-ROM is replicated and enhanced. We have:
- added new sections on Humanism and Unitarian Universalism to America’s Many Religions and developed new content on the experiences of Muslims and Sikhs post-9/11;
- expanded America’s Changing Religious Landscape by including interactive maps of religious diversity in select cities across the U.S. which incorporate both census data and information from the Pluralism Project Directory of Religious Centers (a database that now includes well over 10,000 entries);
- explored new versions of old challenges by integrating new materials and weblinks intoEncountering Religious Diversity, further building on a rich cache of historical examples, documents, news stories, and videos that highlight the many ways in which Americans experience our new multireligious reality.
The Pluralism Project is grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. which was a major funder of the original On Common Ground CD-ROM as well as the new version On Common Ground Online. This project would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and dedication of generations of Pluralism Project affiliates, researchers, staff, students, and the communities we both study and seek to serve. Thank you.
We look forward to hearing your responses to OCG!
With all best wishes,
Progressive Theologian Reaches Out to New Pope
Letters to Pope Francis by Matthew Fox
Pope Francis, with a warm heart and iconoclastic attitudes, has caught the attention of the world. Each day new stories emerge, and everyone (talking) seems to approve. A biography is out, along with plenty of pundit opinions.
Now comes a set of heartfelt letters to Fr. Fox’s “brother in Christ about the great challenges facing the church today, drawing from the deep spiritual and theological sources that have been suppressed since Vatican.” The book urges Francis “to restore the sense of the faithful and reshape a church with justice and compassion.”
Matthew Fox has long been persona non grata at the Vatican. Could that change? This book makes you think it could. It is available at Amazon.
New Curricula for Jewish-Christian Congregations
Walking God's Paths: Christians and Jews in Candid Conversation
This new set of videotapes and a study guide allow participants to experience each tradition’s understanding of how it walks God’s path and how the two faith communities can relate to one another in positive ways.
Written by Philip Cunningham, John Michalczyt, and Gibert Rosenthal. Produced by the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College on behalf and with the oversight of the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it is now made available online through special arrangement with the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations. See here for details.
History of the Golden Rule Free to Download
Excerpted from Ethics and the Golden Rule by Harry Gensler S.J.
This history chronicles the history of the Golden Rule from ancient to modern times. Essentially, the paper charts the ethical history of humanity through the lens of the Golden Rule. This chronology is an ideal teaching tool with the capacity to reach a multitude of diverse audiences. It also has interfaith content.
Download your free copy here.
Fifty Years of Interfaith Activism
Download Braybrooke’s Personal Account of the Interfaith Movement
Marcus, in the middle of a peace march in India.Widening Vision: the World Congress of Faiths and the Growing Interfaith Movementby Marcus Braybrooke is now available for downloading. Marcus, a TIO Correspondent, is known as the historian of the interfaith movement. In this new book, he is as much a participant as an observer. He joined the World Congress of Faiths in 1964 and serves as its president today.
From this vantage point, he has been engaged for nearly 50 years in the burgeoning interfaith movement. In Widening Vision he shares his first-hand account of working with the Temple of Understanding, Religions for Peace, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the North American Interfaith Network, and United Religions Initiative. The book concludes with his vision of a peaceful interfaith future.
Widening Vision is available as an e-book from Kindle at Amazon.
Multifaith Golden Rule Movie Now Available Free Online
Animating the Golden Rule
Toronto’s Scarboro Missions movie, Animating the Golden Rule, is now available free of charge on the Internet. The DVD features students in three Toronto high schools embodying golden rule values by way of skits, artwork, interviews, music, dance & rap. The film eloquently demonstrates how character education can be engendered in young people using play, creativity and the arts. This movie is very useful for teachers and youth leaders because of its themes of youth, global citizenship, multiculturalism, ethics, diversity and the arts.
To view the film, in four sections, click here.