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Archive for the ‘Joshua Stanton’ tag

Lian Gogali Wins Coexist Prize

Lian Gogali, from Indonesia, is the first recipient of the Coexist Prize.  She was honored for her outstanding and courageous work establishing Institute Mosintuwu educating Muslim and Christian women and children in post-conflict Poso. The runners up were Mustafa Ali, the Secretary General of the African Council of Religious Leaders and Dishani Jayweera the founder of the Centre for Peace Building and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The ceremony took place at the Skirball Auditorium at New York University on the evening of March 20th in the presence of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Rabbi David Saperstein, Bishop Mark Hanson and other distinguished Religious leaders, academics and diplomats. Also receiving Highly Commended awards were Joshua Stanton founder of the Journal of Inter-Religious dialogue, Oliver McTernan from Forward Thinking in London and William Ury of the Abraham Path Initiative.

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CPWR Fellow Joshua Stanton Is Top Nominee for Coexist Prize

“One of the most dynamic new leaders in the interfaith field,” Joshua Stanton, CPWR’s Religious Leadership Fellow, has been nominated for the 2012 Coexist Prize, a prestigious award given by the Coexist Foundation.  The foundation cited Stanton’s groundbreaking work in harnessing new media for interreligious dialogue, specifically highlighting State of Formation.



Blogging for a Multi-Faith World

Josh Stanton, a Founding Editor-in-Chief at the Journal for Inter-Religious Dialogue, guides the discussion on what bloggers write about and how they can engage their audience. DIscover what Khuram Aman, Rev. Verity Jones, Joseph Ward, and Simran Jeet Singh all have to say about their experiences in the blogging world. This panel is part of the recent 2012 Odyssey Networks Town Hall Meeting, “Faith on the Front Line”.

Hindu Community Makes Its White House Debut

by Joshua Stanton
from Huffington Post

Hinduism is hardly new to the United States. Swami Vivekenanda is thought to have first introduced it when he visited as part of the World’s Parliament of Religions at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He received a standing ovation from the 7,000 people in audience, whom he declared his “Sisters and Brothers of America.”

In spite of Vivekenanda’s reception, subsequent series of lectures, and ultimately the establishment of the Vedantic Society of New York, with satellites in Boston and San Francisco, Hinduism remained a tiny presence in the United States for decades. It was but a demographic trickle. Only after 1965, with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which eased immigration from India and the rest of Asia to the United States, did the population of Hindus begin to grow. They now comprise a reputed .4 percent of the U.S. Population or, depending on whose arithmetic, 1.2 million people.

And what a population it is! According to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, nearly half of Hindus living in the United States in 2009 had a post-graduate degree, by far the highest percentage of any community and five times the national average. As a population, they appear to be socially mobile and rising quickly within American society.

Hindu communal organizations similarly appear to be burgeoning; there may be as many as 1,600 Hindu Temples and centers across the country. And now the Hindu community is developing a national infrastructure.

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Celebrating Female Clergy

By Joshua M. Z. Stanton
Founding co-Editor for the Journal of Inter-religious Dialogue and Co-Founder of State of Formation

A college chaplain once candidly described the process for him, as a Protestant, as one of simultaneous celebration and mourning when he recognized that Protestantism was no longer a universal norm on American university campuses. He celebrated the presence of Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, and humanist chaplains working together so effectively – but also lamented the loss of singularity that he experienced, now as but one of many chaplains.

Something similar may be said of the way a portion of male religious leaders have experienced the rise of female clergy in a number of religious traditions and denominations. From reverends to rabbis, Buddhist nuns, and the growing push for female imams in America, China, and Europe, women are emerging as transformational religious leaders. Most male clergy that I have been in touch with have been welcoming of their female colleagues. Yet a sense of loss often lingers below the surface for them.

At Hebrew Union College in New York, where I am studying to become a rabbi, a majority of my classmates are women. Yet unlike some more seasoned male clergy, who experienced the transition to mixed-gender clergy firsthand, I do not to feel a sense of loss at all. In fact, I do not know how I could effectively lead in a mixed-gender congregation (or non-profit, chaplaincy position, or anything else) without them.

My appreciation of female classmates goes beyond a belief in gender equality: they have helped increase my awareness of gender as it relates to Torah, prayer, and Jewish law. They have forced me to recognize inequalities I would otherwise have overlooked and even take time to study the gender-based assumptions within our sacred texts. In short, I would be ill-equipped to teach, live, and enliven Judaism – especially for the fifty percent of Jews who are not male – if I did not have female classmates, and such talented ones at that. I would leave rabbinical school ill-prepared to grapple alongside congregants and colleagues about the principles of our tradition and how we can apply them to lives more egalitarian than our ancestors could have imagined.

Sadly, while I and other male seminarians graduate more equipped to lead because of learning alongside female classmates, many of our female classmates will face unfair disadvantages once they are ordained and enter the workplace. To cite but one troubling statistic from my own religious community, a 2009 study by Forward concluded that female Jewish professionals earned just 61 percent of what their male counterparts did. This statistic is not only symptomatic of the challenges female pioneers in the rabbinate and Jewish professional world faced; it also suggests that the Jewish community – like so many others – has yet to fully adapt to the presence of female clergy and lay leaders.

I would venture to suggest that much of this relates to the endurance of gendered archetypes for clergy. When people think of a rabbi, for example, they think of a man with a beard who talks and carries himself in a certain way. Our communities do not yet instill within us equal reverence for a woman who leader, even if she is every bit the leader that her male counterparts are. They do not “seem” familiar, familial, a continuation of our chain of patriarchs. As such, female clergy often find themselves second-guessed and overlooked for promotions and job opportunities.

It is time for male seminarians and clergy to repay their female classmates for all they continue to teach us and celebrate their coequal presence within our communities. By consciously modeling respect for female colleagues, our congregations and communities are likely to follow suit. This may be as simple as publicly recognizing their insights in communal decision-making processes or as challenging as recognizing and admitting when we ourselves are acting due to unfair, gender-based assumptions.

Even as some male clergy may privately mourn the loss of an exclusive “old boys” club, none should do so without publicly acknowledging the talent and leadership of our female colleagues and rejoicing in the God-given capacity that our communities have for social change. The clergy will never be the same in any tradition now that women serve as clergy in many. Nor would we want it to be. Their presence is one to celebrate.

Interfaith organizations may likewise play a crucial role in supporting female clergy and setting new norms for gender equality. Auburn Theological Seminary, an institution affiliated with the Presbyterian Church but dedicated to interfaith work – and where my team with the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue calls home – is a prominent example of an interfaith organization that spends significant resources cultivating female religious leaders. For nearly a decade and a half, its Women’s Multifaith Programs have brought together panel discussions and art exhibitions, performances, and lectures to discuss the contributions of female religious leaders from across traditions. Its Women’s Preaching Academy has likewise focused on reinforcing leadership skills in female clergy and providing peer support for them as they set out on their careers.

Based on Auburn’s example, it would seem that programmatic support for female clergy may be an ideal way to foster inter-religious collaboration. While our religious traditions vary widely, hopes and challenges that female religious leaders experience are in many ways parallel. That shared experience may provide a crucial point of common ground from which to convene inter-religious gatherings of female clergy – and foster collaboration that extends well beyond the bounds of gender alone. In fact, such programs may also ensure that the ongoing rise of female clergy is paralleled by their ongoing rise to places of leadership within inter-religious projects and organizations, as well.

Putting Islam on the Stand is Wrong and Misguided

From State of Formation

Socially and professionally, American Jews have often felt that they were being ‘put on the stand’ for their beliefs. Sometimes their beliefs even seemed to be on trial nationally – notably during the Red Scares leading up to and during the Cold War, when a disproportionate number of Jews were blacklisted.

But seldom has our religion actually been put on the stand. No organ of the federal government has, to my knowledge, held hearings to investigate American Jewry for disloyalty or radicalization. We may have feared such public humiliation – but it has not yet materialized.

By contrast, an effort is currently underway to single out American Muslims. Representative Peter King (R-NY), Chair of the Homeland Security Committee of the House of Representatives, has declared his intention to hold a public hearing in Congress on the “radicalization” of Muslim Americans.

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Jews and the Need For God: Modern Lessons from Moses Maimonides

From State of Formation

Judaism is an action-oriented religion. We have, according to the Talmud, 613 Commandments — not just a top-10 list. In rabbinic courts, your actions can be praised or punished. Faith is a means to achieve just ends, prayer as a way of connecting to the Source of Creation so that we can better play our part in its ongoing unfolding.

But what if you can achieve those same just, creative, Jewish ends without faith as a means or a motivation? Do you need God if you observe the 613 Commandments (or reinterpret and reapply them as so many modern Jews do)? Do you need God if you consider prayer an act of introspection — one that changes the way you understand your actions, much as your believing counterparts do? Do you need God if you love the Torah as a national treasure of the Jewish people — but one written and conceived of by our ancestors rather than the Divine?

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Cyber Dialogue: The Future of Interreligious Engagement

From Huffington Post

By Joshua M. Z. Stanton

If only our congregations were a thousandth as large as Lady Gaga’s fanpage on Facebook. That would mean that over 13,000 people would be members, with numbers skyrocketing by the day.

Many have suggested that the appeal of pop culture on Facebook (and Twitter and MySpace) is symptomatic of moral decline and perhaps even the end of religion — with the assumption, of course, that the two go together. But that fear has existed for generations, with every breakthrough in communication. Radio, records, and television were all thought to lead to the end of faith at one point or another. But there is no end to religion in sight. The idea that social media could somehow snuff it out after it survived centuries of technological advancement is unfounded. Religion is dynamic and has long been able to adapt to social change.

In fact, social networking sites may be of tremendous help to religious communities. They bring together people with strong religious convictions more than ever before. Just have a look at the “Jesus Daily” fanpage on Facebook, which has almost 3,000,000 members, or the fanpage for “Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him),” which has nearly 130,000. Imagine a religious congregation with 130,000 or even 3,000,000 members! The hundreds of thousands of people gathering on these fanpages are looking for religious inspiration, companionship, and community, and apparently they find it to one degree or another online.

Religion is in fact one of the most powerful forces in the age of social media. It is a core part of the landscape, with Facebook fanpages and Twitter profiles creating what some might consider to be virtual churches, synagogues, and mosques within the broader online panorama.

A number of websites are responding to the large and growing presence of religion in social media. Just take for example Patheos, which fills a gap in multi-perspective coverage of religious issues; the Washington Post, which has added the On Faith blog to its repertoire; the Huffington Post, which has similarly added the HuffPost Religion section to engage with challenging and timely topics; and the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, which recently launched the State of Formation project with the Parliament of the World’s Religions to engage seminary, divinity and graduate student leaders in online discourse on identity and current events. If anything, the challenge is not one of insufficient demand for religious content — the supposed indication of moral decline — but the presence of too few websites to fill it online.

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