THE FUTURE OF THE INTERFAITH MOVEMENT (Relating to the Parliament of the World’s Religions)

[editor’s note: this is an older letter by Rev. Leland Steward from Nov., 2015. Sorry, I was not able to update the site for a while]

Relating to the Parliament of the World’s Religions

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come.  The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.  The time to build is upon us.”  –Nelson Mandela, quoted in Science and Spirituality, page 169

Many people who are interested in the Parliament and its development went to Salt Lake City in mid-October to take part in the sixth Parliament of the World’s Religions.  It was a five-day event, and it brought together about eight thousand people for what some said was “a heavenly experience”. The event was educational, inspirational, and action-oriented.

There was a plenary session almost every day, and there were a huge number of workshops throughout the five days.  It was held at the Salt Palace, a large building in downtown Salt Lake City which required a great deal of walking in order to take in the different workshops and plenary sessions.  The Sikhs offered a free lunch each day, which drew large numbers of people who found their food most tasty.

One of the major focal points of this Parliament was the sessions focusing on women and women’s issues.  Some of these were on the day before the Parliament opened, but there were also sessions on opening day and beyond.  Indigenous issues were also a major element.  Likewise there was a plenary on war, violence, and hate speech.

Outside of the Salt Palace was a tepee, which became a focus for Native American activity and prayers.  There were numerous Native American leaders at the Parliament, and various workshops and plenary sessions also included them.

One workshop especially appealed to me, and that was Matthew Fox’s Cosmic Mass.  Not only is the Cosmic Mass interfaith in its inclusiveness, but it involved active participation on the part of those who attended.  There was an overflow crowd for this workshop and an enthusiastic response from those who were present.  Although the Cosmic Mass was highly technological in its presentation, it also has a direct application to the worship experience on an ongoing basis.  We could learn a great deal that could be utilized in our Sunday morning gatherings.

The Parliament had an outstanding plenary on the final day, which included reflections on what had taken place plus projections into the future.  The most major new development that was announced at that time was that future Parliaments will occur every two years.  This step indicates how the interfaith movement has expanded in the last few years and the energy which propels it forward.  It will be interesting to see how this step works out and what kind of participation it will generate.

Spirit is One; paths are many!!!



It is beauty that often makes women proud; it is virtue that makes  them most admired …

             William Shakespeare, Science and Spirituality, page 196


Today I wish to speak of a subject that is increasingly obvious to everyone, yet almost nobody seems willing to speak about it, especially from an ethical perspective.  At least half of females, starting in middle school and extending to at least middle age, are now baring their breasts, and also in other ways advertising themselves as sex objects.  I am sure that boys and men are in many cases as guilty as girls and women, because they encourage them to go in this direction and, in any case, they do not point out the risks of this behavior.

Sexuality is an important part of marriage, and it certainly is part of life in general, but for it to be displayed in the flagrant manner that is now rampant is a disgrace to the dignity  of womanhood.  The general standard, which this behavior indicates, is that it is quite alright for young people and adults to go to bed with each other without any commitment to marriage or the responsibilities it entails.  This is wrong, and the consequences of making this choice can be devastating.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.  A young woman I know well was going with a boy friend for a few years, and the relationship tapered off recently.  When their going together ended, the young woman shortly found another boy friend, and within a month they went to bed with each other, and despite their attempt to use contraceptives a baby was conceived. Little if any time had been spent trying to find out if they were suited to be married or to take care of a child.  This can leave a lifetime of embarrassment for the child and for the potential parents.  It may end up with a one parent family.

Relationships take time to form, and there are many aspects of those relationships.  The sexual part of getting to know each other needs to be gradual, as the couple gets to know the character and compatibility of the other.  To make a public display of the sexual part of a relationship is make light of the moral and spiritual aspects of a potential marriage.

It is time to speak out in favor of cultivating the whole person, in which sexuality is a part but not the principal manifestation.  Our organization used to have a group whose focus was “Spirituality, love, sexuality”.  If we start by cultivating the moral and spiritual dimensions of a relationship, then developing a genuine love between the partners, and finally engaging in an honorable and meaningful sexuality, then we can have reason to expect that the relationship will last and be a happy marriage.  Let’s get the order of these aspects of a relationship straight, and then there will be more integrity and more joy as couples learn to live together.

In the Spirit of Unity-and-Diversity!!!