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Local Groups which promote Interfaith Dialog

Groups, associations, seminaries...

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Local Interfaith Groups:

There are probably dozens if not hundreds of community interfaith groups in North America. However, they are difficult to locate and study  because they tend to be only known locally. Some do not have Web pages or advertise outside of their community. Some are:

bullet Ames Interfaith Council in Iowa, at: http://amesinterfaithcouncil.blogspot.com/ 
bullet Berkeley Area Interfaith Council
bullet Friends in Faith (Northern VA) email at: 74734.2556@compuserve.com
bullet Interfaith Center at the Presidio at: http://www.interfaith-presidio.org/
bullet Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington at: http://www.interfaith-metrodc.org/
bullet San Francisco Bay Area Interfaith Coalition
bullet San Francisco Interfaith Council
bullet World Interfaith Education Association
bullet Earth and Spirit Council (Portland OR)
bullet United Religions, organized by the Rt. Rev. William Swing, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of California
bullet Diversity Faire held in Orange County, CA
bullet Orange County Interfaith Coalition for Social Justice, in Orange County, CA
bullet Wolverhampton Inter-Faith Group (WIFG) in the UK at: http://www.wlv.ac.uk/chaplaincy/photoex/

The Earth & Spirit Council of Portland OR was created in 1991 as an inter-faith group of environmental and spiritual leaders who are dedicated to "reawakening human beings' spiritual connection to the Earth." 1 They sponsor an annual Multicultural Interfaith Earth Day Celebration in Portland OR. This is synchronized with Earth Day, a worldwide celebration held at the time of the Spring Equinox, typically APR-21. By 1999, the celebration has grown to include about 70 groups and individuals. Ananda Marga, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Eckankar, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Scientology Sikh, and Sufi traditions were represented. Their registration fee was two cans of food for the Oregon food bank. 2

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Associations, projects, faith groups, e-zine, etc:

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The Order of Universal Interfaith (OUnI) provides an

"... ecclesiastical home for interfaith and interspiritual men and women from all faith paths, cultures and ethnic groups.  All individuals who pledge to The Order receive canonical stature based on education and training.  The categories of service include ordained Interfaith (Interspiritual) Cleric and Minister, Celebrant, Aspirant, 'Wisdom Keeper' from other traditions, and Wayfayers (laity)."

"The clergy come from the world's interfaith, multifaith, and interspiritual seminaries. With demonstrated life practices some clergy come from single-path seminaries and programs which have been supplemented by other training and education.  All clergy are called to a path of service to all people in activities such as hospital, hospice, education, community and government service and administration."

15


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The Council of Interfaith Congregations of the United States (CIC-USA) is a:

democratic religious association of independently-organized interfaith, multifaith, and interspiritual congregations, communities, and seminaries throughout the United States. 16

They maintain a membership page listing interfaith-multifaith-interspiritual groups in the U.S. 17


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The World Council of Interfaith Congregations (WCIC): In 2009-SEP, the CIC-USA, the Open International Interfaith Ministries (OIIM) of Canada and the latter's seminary iNtuituve Times Institute joined in a cooperative effort to form this international body of interfaith congregations. 18


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The North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) is a non-profit network of more than 60
interfaith organizations and agencies in Canada, Mexico and the United States. These include local, national and international interfaith groups as well as the interfaith offices of various denominations. They hold annual "Connects" (conferences) and publish an online newspaper, the NAINews. 5

bullet The Encounter World Religions Centre is based in Guelph, ON Canada. 3 Their slogan is "celebrating diversity ~ affirming unity ~ pursuing peace." They are "dedicated to educating people about the world's great wisdom traditions through experiential learning." Since the group was founded in the late 1990s, 50,000 students and adults from the U.S. and Canada have taken part in the Centre's programs. An 2003-FEB article in the Toronto Star described an encounter by a group of students -- most from Christian universities in Canada, Nebraska and Iowa. They  experienced a Wiccan girl's coming of age ritual, a sweetgrass ceremony at a First Nations group, and services at Bah'ai, Buddhist (Pure Land and Zen), Charismatic Christian, Hare Krishna, Hindu, Islamic (Sunni, Shi'i, Sufi), Jewish (Reform, Conservative), Orthodox Catholic, Quaker, Roman Catholic, Sikh, Zoroastrian faith groups. They also heard a lecture by a Humanist, who challenged the students' belief in God, and from a Taoist. "Participants receive classes first, then visit the locations to speak with a practitioner to have a face to face experience and hear a first hand description of the tradition and the person’s own story. They...attend a service wherever possible." 5
 4
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EDUCATION as Transformation Project: Religious Pluralism, Spirituality, and Higher Education is a project of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life of Wellesley College, Wellesley MA. The project is starting a dialog about religious pluralism within institutes of higher education. 7 They have involved local groups at over 250 colleges and universities in this multi-year project. 8 They address such topics as:

  • The response of educational institutions to increasing in religious diversity on their campuses,
  • Spiritual content of university and college courses
  • Links between "student values, moral and ethical development, experiential education, health and wellness, and community service."
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Interfaith Seminaries:

Local interfaith dialog is often directly provided and/or organized by interfaith clergy. These are often graduates of interfaith seminaries - a new type of religious educational institution that have been founded since the early 1990s. They deliver a multi-faith theological education to students who come from a variety of faith traditions. Faculty are typically clergy from a number of religions and denominations. Their graduates are trained in conducting religious services, marriages and funerals, providing spiritual counseling, providing mediation services, and ministering to the interfaith needs of their community in a variety of ways: health care, counseling, education, etc. Some are:

 
bullet Interfaith Seminary of Santa Cruz (CA): "It is modeled on ancient schools of wisdom where in depth training and experience were imparted through personal association." It was founded by Rev. Aaron Zerah in 1995. Their motto is "Always in Addition...Never Instead of." The seminary "cherishes and includes all the world’s religions and spiritual traditions, as we say, 'from Aboriginal to Zorastrianism.' " 11

bullet Interfaith Theological Seminary (AZ): It provides "the contemplative atmosphere of the monastic setting in a modern, interfaith context...[The] Seminary is modeled on the classical ideal in which study of sacred texts and the transmission of spiritual practices are imparted through personal mentoring by those who have lived deeply the meditative life." They offer a two year program which includes the training and ordination of interfaith ministers in "an integrative program of academic study, contemplative practice, and community service." They recognize four ministries: spiritual caregiving, spiritual guidance and education, traditional hearing, and peace. 12

bullet Lighthaven Interfaith Seminary honors "the sacredness and uniqueness of each faith, and then creates ways by which the many paths can meet on common ground... [They] honor Interfaith as a means of uniting two or more spiritual paths in the context of a purposeful, sacred union....[They] honor Interfaith as a path that speaks to those who are searching for spiritual and religious alternatives." 13
bullet New Seminary: This institute was founded in 1981. Its graduates are ordained as Interfaith Ministers and Spiritual Counselors. 14

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Nancy Haught, "Earth works," The Oregonian, 1999-APR-21 describes the Earth and Spirit Council events at: http://www.oregonlive.com/outdoors/99/04/ou042101en.html
  2. "Earth & Spirit's" web page is at: http://www.earthandspirit.org/
  3. Encounter World Religions is at: http://www.worldreligions.ca/
  4. Leslie Scrivener, "Encountering other faiths: Christian college students from American Midwest come to Toronto to explore different religions," Toronto Star, 2003-FEB-15, Page K14.
  5. North American Interfaith Network at: http://www.nain.org/
  6. J.W. Windland,  Encounter World Religions Centre. E-mail.
  7. The term "pluralism" is ambiguous. Here is seems to be used to refer to religious diversity.
  8. The Education as Transformation Project: Religious Pluralism, Spirituality and Higher Education" is at:  http://www.wellesley.edu/RelLife/project/
  9. The American Indian Movement has a web site at: http://www.dickshovel.com/AIMIntro.html
  10. Accuracy in Media has a web site at: http://www.aim.org/
  11. Interfaith Seminary of Santa Cruz, CA at: http://prayer.got.net/prayinterfaith.html
  12. Interfaith Theological Seminary at: http://www.azstarnet.com/nonprofit/ifts/
  13. Lighthaven Interfaith Seminary at:  http://www.lighthaven.to/
  14. The New Seminary at: http://www.newseminary.org/
  15. The Order of Universal Interfaith at: http://www.ouni.org/
  16. Council of Interfaith Congregations of the United States at: http://www.ouni.org/cicus/
  17. Membership list of the CIC at: http://www.ouni.org/cicus/
  18. World Council of Interfaith Congregations at: http://www.ouni.org/cicus/

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Copyright © 1999 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-MAY-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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