Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions
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About Us

Board of Trustees Emeriti

Our continuing gratitude to those who have served on the Board of Trustees in the past:

Dr. Akbar Ahmed

Dr. Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University. He is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, and has advised Prince Charles and met with President George W. Bush on Islam. His numerous books, films and documentaries have won prestigious awards and his books have been translated into several languages including Chinese and Indonesian. 


Ms. Mazher Ahmed

Ms. Mazher Ahmed was born in Hyderabad, raised and educated in Bombay, India and now lives in the United States. An architect by trade, she has helped design a mosque, a church and a Buddhist temple. Ms. Ahmed is currently vice president of the Batavia Islamic Center, Director of Global Peace Works and founder of Interfaith Prayer for Peace, a group for people of all faiths to gather and pray from their own tradition for world peace.

Mrs. Joyce Allen

Mrs. Joyce Allen had her first contact with CPWR in 1992 when she was asked by her Protestant Christian denomination, the United Church of Christ, to help promote the 1993 Parliament in Chicago. She was elected a Trustee of CPWR at the Cape Town Parliament in 1999 and served many years as Secretary. She has served as Corporate Member and Member of the Board of Directors of the United Church of Christ Board for World Ministries, President of the Rural India Health Project, Trustee of Interfaith Refuge and Immigration Ministries, and member of the Visiting Committee of Chicago Theological Seminary.


Reverend Dr. Thomas A. Baima

Reverend Dr. Thomas A. Baima is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and provost of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, where he also teaches ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and theology of religions. He co-authored the introduction to the Declaration Toward a Global Ethic. He served CPWR as a member of the Board of Trustees, Acting Vice Chair of Planning, Treasurer, and was one of the vice presidents of the 1993 Parliament. Before assuming his present position he served as President of the Illinois Conference of Churches; President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago; and Director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Ms. Omie Baldwin

Ms. Omie Baldwin is a member of the Dine' Nation (also known as Navajos). She has been the organizer for the participation of the Americas Indigenous peoples in Parliament events since 1993. A clinical social worker at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University Health Services, Ms. Baldwin is active with the American Indian students on campus. She also continues to be active in her Dine' Nation home community on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. 

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati is a spiritual teacher, author, artist, and humanitarian and founder of Kali Natha Yoga. She has been honored with numerous awards for her compassionate work with the dying. Ma Jaya is the founder of Kashi Foundation, an interfaith organization based upon a commitment to humanity through service, spirituality and education. She supports townships in South Africa and orphan centers in Uganda and India.

Rabbi Herbert Bronstein

Rabbi Herbert Bronstein is a lecturer and writer in the field of comparative religion. He is a member of the religion faculty of Lake Forest College and senior scholar of North Shore Congregation Israel. Currently, Rabbi Bronstein teaches a course on Religious Perspectives on the Environment. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College. 

Rev. Angie Buchanan

Rev. Angie Buchanan is a Family Tradition Pagan. She is a founder and director of Gaia’s Womb, an interfaith spirituality group for women, and Earth Traditions, a Pagan Church that also offers a Training Program for Pagan Ministry.  Angie has a background in law enforcement and politics. She consults with multiple religious and interreligious groups, encouraging dialogue and understanding. She is a former instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary, having taught Introduction to Interfaith there for four years.  Angie travels, speaking to groups at churches and schools about Paganism, religious freedom, the Global Ethic, the separation of church and state, and the First Amendment. She has been a presenter at a number of interfaith events, including the 2004 Parliament and the Buddhist Council of the Midwest Women’s Conference. She has worked with CPWR as a Board Member since 2002.

Dr. Jeffrey Carlson

Dr. Jeffrey Carlson is Dean of Rosary College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Theology at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. He serves on the executive board of The Society for Buddhist-Christian studies and is author of numerous articles on theology, religious pluralism, interreligious dialogue, and theory and practice in teaching and learning. He recently published Jesus and Faith: A Conversation on the Work of John Dominic Crossan. 

Mr. M. Blouke Carus

Mr. M. Blouke Carus is Chairman of Carus Corporation, Chairman of Carus Publishing Company, and Trustee of Hegeler Institute. Carus obtained a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Caltech and studied two years in Europe. He has been actively involved in textbook publishing for over 30 years, he was instrumental in establishing the International Baccalaureate North America (IBNA) and he received awards from Vanguard, Illinois Wesleyan University, Caltech, Association of Educational Publishers, and SRA McGraw-Hill. He is also actively involved in educational reform and music (cello and chamber music), and his outside interests are reading, foreign language (German plus a little French and Spanish), and travel. Carus is married to Marianne Carus, Editor-in-Chief of the Cricket Magazine Group; they have three children and four grandchildren. He resides in Peru, Illinois.

Sister Margaret Diener, O.P.

Dominican Sister of San Rafael, CA, has worked with the Council as a board member since the 1999 Parliament in South Africa. As a member of a Roman Catholic religious community, she dedicates her time to social and economic justice and works as an organizational development consultant. In late 2009, she will assume her new post as director of Santa Sabina Center, a retreat and conference center based in northern California devoted to contemplative ways of being.

Rev. Nicole Diroff

Nicole Diroff is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and serves as the Associate Executive Director at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia. She is the lead staff person for the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia and its Zones of Peace grassroots initiative. She coordinates the Center’s expanding Interfaith Encounters Alternative Break program for college students, Walking the Walk alumni leadership initiative, and Know Thy Neighbor, Know Thy Self religious identity project. Nicole also oversees the Center’s adult learning and leadership programs, is involved in building new community partnerships, supervising interns and responds to requests for new initiatives. Rev. Diroff has expertise in youth development, mentoring, and ecumenical and interfaith relations. She serves on the United Church of Christ Council on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and represents her denomination on the National Council of Churches Interfaith Relations Commission. She has presented and/or led workshops at the Interfaith Youth Core Conference, the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference (UCC) Clergy Convocation, the National Council of Churches / National Council of Synagogues Consultation on Pastoral Issues, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Mr. Doug George-Kanentiio

Akwesasne Mohawk, is an editor, columnist and author. He has attended the last two Parliament events where he spoke on aboriginal issues of North America. He is a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian and the husband of the singer Joanne Shenandoah. Kanentiio is the author of three books including Iroquois on Fire recently published by the University of Nebraska.

Mr. William Gifford

Mr. William Gifford has been a Board member and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions since 2000. He is a tax director with Smart in Chicago. Additionally, Mr. Gifford is a CPA and past president of the Illinois CPA Society and a member of the Northwestern University Chapel Congregation.

Reverend Canon Dr. Gwynne Guibord

Reverend Canon Dr. Gwynne Guibord serves as the Officer of Ecumenical and Interreligious Concerns for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles as well as the Consultant for Interfaith Relations for the Episcopal Church USA. She also is the President of The Interreligious Council of Southern California, and has served as President of the following boards: California Council of Churches; The Interfaith Alliance National Board; and Progressive Christians Uniting. 

Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra

Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra was born and raised in the northern Indian state of Punjab. In 1959 he moved to the United States to continue his education. A teacher of chemistry and physical sciences, Dr. Hansra retired from Daley College of the City Colleges of Chicago in 2000. Dr. Hansra is a member and past president of the Sikh Religious Society of Chicago. He is married and the father of three adult children. 

Ms. Asayo Horibe

Ms. Asayo Horibe is the president of the Buddhist Council of the Midwest, an organization for all Buddhist groups in Chicago and the Midwest region. She is a long time member of the Heartland Sangha in Chicago.

Mr. Naresh Jain

Mr. Naresh Jain represents the Jain community at the national and international levels. He actively works with the religious and spiritual communities in New York and New Jersey to organize interreligious programs. He served as an advisor to the 2004 Barcelona Parliament Program Task Force, 2006 Montreal Global Congress of World's Religions, and 2009 New Delhi Global Congress of World's Religions, and as a member of the 2009 Parliament Site Selection Task Force.

Ginny K. Jolly

Ms. Ginny K. Jolly

Ginny K. Jolly is on the board of FATEH (Fellowship for Activists To Embrace Humanity) a nonprofit organization involved in service projects for the community. She has been instrumental in aligning with other organizations like Habitat for Humanity, March of Dimes, and Make a Wish Foundation to arrange many service projects in the Chicago community. To give something back to the community, which she strongly promotes, she has adopted a special needs child from Vietnam. She is using her Masters of Nutrition education in effectively managing two GNC stores and helping clients in their health needs. An aspiring Sikh, and proud mother of three, Jolly was on the PTO for Willow Creek School for four years in charge of the school’s cultural programs.

Dr. Solomon H. Katz

Solomon H. Katz is director of the Krogman Center for Childhood Growth and Development at the University of Pennsylvania. His work in the field of science and religion spans over 30 years with leadership in the Institute for Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS), as associate editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science; and as a participant in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue Between Science and Religion.

Dr. Irfan Khan

Dr. Irfan Khan is the founder and president of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations. An Islamic scholar and author, he is the former Professor of Philosophy at Aligarh Muslim University, India, and editor of The Journal of Islamic Thought.

Ms. Audrey Kitagawa

Ms. Audrey Kitagawa heads the Light of Awareness International Spiritual Family, a nondenominational, ecumenical, spiritual community. She is the former Advisor to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict at the United Nations. She is currently a Special Advisor to the World Federation of United Nations Associations, the Chairperson of the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns, and a member of many other international organizations. 

Rabbi Peter Knobel

Rabbi Peter Knobel is the Rabbi at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Illinois where he has served since 1980, following eleven years at Temple Emanu-El in Waterford, Connecticut. He was ordained at HUC Cincinnati in 1969, and received his MAHL from Hebrew Union College and his Masters and Ph.D. from Yale University. He is currently President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. 

Dr. Leo D. Lefebure

Leo D. Lefebure is the Matteo Ricci, S.J., Professor of Theology at Georgetown University and a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. He is the author of four books, including Revelation, the Religions, and Violence and The Buddha and the Christ. His next book will be Following the Path of Wisdom: a Christian Commentary on the Dhammapada, which is co-authored with Peter Feldmeier. He is an honorary research fellow of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Rev. Dr. William E. Lesher

Chair Emeritus

Rev. Dr. Lesher has been active in the Parliament since its centennial gathering in Chicago in 1993, serving as an Ambassador for the Council in preparation for the 1999 Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa and as the convener of the 2004 Parliament in Barcelona, Spain. Dr. Lesher has worked with communities and institutions across the globe in various responsibilities for church bodies. He currently serves as a Trustee of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia and as a member of the Board for the Global Ethics and Religion Forum.

Fr. Andrew E. Luczak

Fr. Andrew E. Luczak is the pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Niles, Illinois. He works with the Archdiocesan Office for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Affairs in Buddhist-Catholic dialogue. He also serves as an advisor to the Achdiocesan Ethnic Ministry Office. Fr. Luczak collaborated with the American Jewish Committee to plan a Jewish-Christian Clergy Retreat and traveled to Israel with Project Interchange in 1999.

Rev. Dr. Richard Luecke

Rev. Dr. Richard Luecke has been a pastor in Chicago, IL and Princeton, NJ. He also has taught philosophy at Valparaiso University. Dr. Luecke has served in leadership roles in Protestants for the Common Good and the American Issues Forum. 

Most Rev. Timothy Lyne

Most Rev. Timothy Lyne was the Vicar for Senior Priests in Chicago. Ordained in 1943, he served at two parishes before working at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago from 1966 until 1990. Bishop Lyne was appointed Episcopal Vicar for Vicariate II in 1983 and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1995. Bishop Lyne was been a member of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago from 1988 to his passing in 2013.

Mr. Rajinder Singh Mago

Mr. Rajinder Singh Mago is a member and Community Outreach Coordinator of the Sikh Religious Society in Palatine Illinois. He also is a co-founder and serves on the Board of Governors for the Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago; is an active member and past co-chair of the Asian American Coalition of Chicago; and serves on the Community Advisory Council for Chicago Public Radio. Mr. Singh Mago is a mechanical engineer working in engine exhaust emissions control.

Sr. Joan McGuire, O.P., S.T.D.

Sr. Joan McGuire is a Dominican Sister, St. Catharine of Siena Congregation, Kentucky. Sister McGuire serves as the Director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Additionally, she is a member of the Ecumenical Millennium Committee, the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, the Illinois Conference of Churches, the Jewish-Catholic Scholars Dialogue, and the Mid-West Regional Muslim-Catholic Dialogue.

Dr. Mary Nelson

Mary Nelson has spent the last 40 years working in faith-based community development on the west side of Chicago, seeking to carry out the asset based community development principles in concrete ways through her leadership of Bethel New Life, Inc. She is on the national Boards of Sojourners (currently Chair) and Christian Community Development Association. She is also currently the coordinator of the Loyola University (Chicago) Institute of Pastoral Studies Masters in Social Justice and Community Development. Dr. Nelson is also the author of Empowerment. Currently, she is the Executive Director of CPWR.

Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian

Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian is the Founding Minister and Spiritual Director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment (CSE) in San Jose, California, a ministry in the tradition of Kriya Yoga in its 27th year of service. The author of several books, she is a frequent guest speaker on the importance of ethical and spiritual awakening to contribute to world peace.

Imam A. Rashied Omar

Imam A. Rashied Omar is Coordinator of the Kroc Institute’s Program in Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding (PRCP), University of Notre Dame. He is an Imam from South Africa and author of Tolerance, Civil Society and Renaissance: A South African Muslim Perspective. He earned his Ph.D in religious studies from the University of Cape Town in 2005. 


Dr. Stephen Perkins

Dr. Stephen Perkins is senior vice president of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago-based organization that promotes sustainable urban communities. He has organized multiple urban revitalization projects in Chicago and led the effort to make the 2009 Parliament carbon neutral. 

Dr. Hema Pokharna

Dr. Hema Pokharna is a researcher at the University of Chicago and the Director of Journeys of Life which promotes Health, Wholeness and Disease Prevention. Born and raised in India, she received religious instruction from Jain monks and nuns who emphasized inner peace and self discipline. She has received extensive training in nonviolence, is a member of the Interfaith committee of JAINA, and serves as vice chair on the board of Play for Peace.

Dr. Joseph Prabhu

Dr. Joseph Prabhu is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at California State University, Los Angeles and a Martin Marty Senior Fellow at the University of Chicago. He is the co-editor of The Interfaith Challenge of Raimon Panikkar, and Indian Ethics, and the author of the forthcoming Liberating Gandhi. He is the current President of the Society of Asian and Comparative Philosophy and the Program Chair of the Melbourne Parliament. A native of India, he has long been active in interfaith and peace work. 

Mr. Rohinton M. Rivetna

Mr. Rohinton M. Rivetna is the founding trustee and past VP of the Council, was founding president of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America (FEZANA) and spearheaded the founding of the Zoroastrian Association of Chicago. He also helped establish the World Zarathushti Chamber of Commerce. Professionally, Mr. Rivetna retired in 1997 as Director of Environmental Engineering at American National Can Corp, where he established a successful environmental engineering department.

Rabbi Herman Schaalman

Rabbi Herman Schaalman, a refugee from Germany, has long been a leader in civic and interfaith affairs. He served on the Board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, as the past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, as a member of the Education Committee of the National Holocaust Council, and as a member of the Human Relations Commission of Chicago. He is Rabbi Emeritus at Emanuel Congregation of Chicago. 

Ms. Smita N. Shah

Ms. Smita N. Shah serves as Chair to the Delhi Committee to the Chicago Sister Cities International Program, which promotes social and cultural exchanges between the cities. Ms. Shah is President of SPAAN Tech, Inc, an engineering firm in Chicago and she is also recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. 

Mrs. Helen Spector

Mrs. Helen Spector joined the Board of CPWR in 1990 to help plan the 1993 Parliament Centenary Celebration. As a professional facilitator and organization planning consultant, Mrs. Spector has used her skills to further the values and goals of CPWR. She served as co—chair for the Site Selection task forces for the 2004 and 2009 Parliament events. She now lives in Portland, Oregon and continues as a Trustee of the Board.

Dr. Howard A. Sulkin

Chair Emeritus

Dr. Howard A. Sulkin is the President of Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. He is the former Board Chair of CPWR, was on the initial planning committee that planned the 1993 Parliament, and has traveled throughout the world on behalf of the work of the Parliament. He is a specialist in organization theory and adult education, and received his doctorate at The University of Chicago. 

Rev. Robert V. Thompson

Chair Emeritus

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Bob Thompson graduated from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (Graduate Theological Union) and was ordained an American Baptist minister in 1973. He served American Baptist Churches in Kansas, Ohio, and for 30 years, as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, Illinois. He retired in November of 2010. During the 1980's Thompson became an activist pastor focusing on issues such as homelessness, racial reconciliation and advocacy for LGBT rights. He is recognized as Minister Emeritus of the Lake Street Church and Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Over the years he has contributed articles to periodicals including The Christian Century, The Chicago Tribune (op-ed), Sound Vision (a Muslim outlet), and others. He is the author of A Voluptuous God: A Christian Heretic Speaks (CopperHouse, 2007) and a contributor to the book for preachers, Feasting On the Word, Westminster John Knox Press. Upon retirement he moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he is actively engaged in the Atlanta interfaith community.

Dr. Devendra Trivedi

Dr. Devendra Trivedi received his medical degree at Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, India. He served in the public health department in Gujarat, India for 3 years. His residency in anatomic and clinical pathology was at Atlantic City Medical Center in New Jersey. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria and Laboratory Director of the Methodist Medical Center Clinical Laboratory.

Dr. Donald E. Wagner

Dr. Donald E. Wagner is Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago. He is the author of four books and has written widely on the influence of the Christian right on U.S. Middle East policy, Christian Zionism, Christianity in the Middle East, human rights in Israel and the Israeli occupied territories, and Christian-Muslim relations. He also is co-chair of an Evangelical Christian-Muslim theological dialogue project.

Dr. James L. Waits

Dr. James L. Waits has served as a pastor, university administrator, executive of the principal association for theological education in North America, and president of the Fund for Theological Education, a national scholarship program assisting candidates for the Christian ministry and racial and ethnic minority doctoral students in theology. He is retired and lives in Atlanta.

Ms. Yael Wurmfeld

Ms. Yael Wurmfeld served as Director of the international office (Office of Pioneering) of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'is of the U.S. for over 20 years, offering her the opportunity to travel extensively. For 20 years she served on CPWR's Board of Trustees, many times in leadership positions. She was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Council for Higher Education and the North Shore Choral Society. Through her singing, Ms. Wurmfeld performed in Austria and Hungary.