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Arizona State Honors Credit MLK Jr. Holiday to Parliament Trustee

Dr. Paul Eppinger, Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and Trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions speaks at an Arizona State University breakfast where he is honored for his work establishing the MLK Jr. State holiday in Arizona.

Dr. Paul Eppinger, was honored by Arizona State University on January 23, 2014 for his work to establish the Martin Luther King Holiday for the state of Arizona.  In 1992, Dr. Eppinger was the Executive Director of “Victory Together” which won for Arizona that holiday.

In his comments, Eppinger lifted up the concept that the great challenge facing the world today is Interfaith Relationships, quoting Dr. King’s dream for world peace, and that world peace can only come from Interfaith understanding and respect.

Arizona State delegation awards Dr. Paul Eppinger on MLK Jr. Day 2014.

The response by the audience of hundreds of people was a standing ovation as they were challenged by the place of Interfaith Relations for the building of world peace.

The Parliament congratulates Dr. Eppinger on these honors.

January 30th, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Parliament Board Elects 10 New Trustees for 2014

The Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is announcing the election of all ten new trustees. Ushering a new era for the Parliament, this year’s board comprises 19 denominations of 11 global religious, faith, and spiritual traditions, constituting a more robust 27-member body.

News is spreading about the elections of returning trustee emeriti, including Dr. Kusumita Pederson who is currently co-chair of the Interfaith Center of New York, Andras Corban Arthen, founding and spiritual director of the EarthSpirit community, and Swami Varadananda of the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, who was among the three incorporating trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

The seven new faces on the Board are teeming with expertise, a group comprised of both elders of and dynamic up-and-comers in the Interfaith movement. These trustees are experienced leaders of religion, business, and scholarship. Get to know:

  • Grandson of Mohandas Gandhi: International Peace Activist and Author Arun Gandhi. , who founded the MK Gandhi Center for Non-Violence and publishes gripping books.
  • One of the first trustees to identify explicitly as a pluralist: author Tom Lemberg, a Boston-based attorney.
  • Executive Director of Arizona Interfaith Movement who created the”Golden Rule” license plate Dr. Paul Eppinger.
  • Veteran Leader in the World Sikh and Interfaith Community, Scientist: Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal
  • Journalist, preservationist, published author, and playwright, Dr. Gianfranco Grande who serves as a Senior Vice President of Partners for Sacred Places.
  • Executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, a regional judicatory of the American Baptist Churches U.S.A, and the theologian-in-residence for the Community Renewal Society, a progressive, faith-based organization in Chicago that works to eliminate race and class barriers and advocates for social and economic justice, Dr. Larry Greenfield
  • The Deputy Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, past Parliament of the World’s Religions panelist Rev. Nicole Diroff.

As the Parliament continues to profile the newest trustees, they are taking places on newly formed standing committees for the year 2014 and busy in their personal endeavors. Just this week Arun Gandhi delivered a keynote speech on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Georgia, while Dr. Paul Eppinger was being honored by Arizona State University for his successful campaign to see Arizona declare MLK Jr. Day a state holiday in 1992.

Keep your eyes on this Class of 2016, and look for deep-reaching features with each of them in the months ahead.

The Parliament traces back its origins to the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. It was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

Dr. Paul Eppinger pays tribute to Mandela with Arizona Interfaith Movement

“On December 5, 2013, the world lost one of its greatest statesmen, Mr. Nelson Mandela. Exactly fourteen years earlier, on December 5, 1999, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, honored Mr. Mandela for his great work for peace and justice in the world. In his response, Mr. Mandela said, “No government or social agency can on its own meet the enormous challenges of development of our age. Partnerships are required across the broad range of society. In drawing upon its spiritual and communal resources, religion can be a powerful partner in such causes as meeting the challenges of poverty, alienation, the abuse of women and children, and the destructive disregard for our natural environment… We commend the Parliament of the World’s Religions for its immense role in making different communities see that the common ground is greater and more enduring than the differences that divide.”
As a member of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the ARIZONA INTERFAITH MOVEMENT honors the life of the recipient of one of the Parliament’s highest awards, Mr. Nelson Mandela. “
— With a passion for UNITY, Dr. Paul Eppinger, Executive Director, Arizona Interfaith Movement (

December 10th, 2013 at 11:03 am

Welcoming Executive Director of Arizona Interfaith to Parliament Board

The Arizona Interfaith Movement championed official state Golden Rule license plates. The project helps continue to fund the ongoing work of the organization.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the election of a new trustee. Dr. Paul Eppinger brings a wealth of experience promoting interfaith dialogue by new and exciting means to the Parliament Board as the current Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and until recently, serving as a member of the Parliament’s Ambassador Advisory Council.

Eppinger is “a very smart businessman in the work of Interfaith, exactly the kind of idea person who will help guide the Parliament forward as we encounter new opportunities and challenges,” says Executive Director of the Parliament, Dr. Mary Nelson.

His passion for cultivating shared humanity, and creative business approach has helped market interfaith understanding to an entire state.  “Arizona Interfaith is very uniquely organized under Paul’s leadership. Where else are people buying license plates promoting the Golden Rule, while the promotion of the Golden Rule goes back to support the organization itself! This is a model to be followed by other cities,” says Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Paul Eppinger was elected to the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees in September, 2013.

Dr. Paul Eppinger is a graduate of William Jewell College, Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree, and San Francisco Theological Seminary where he received a Doctor of Ministry degree. He has served as a missionary, a pastor, and a professor.  He has served on numerous boards and committees for his denomination and in the communities in which he pastored.

From 1993 to 2002, he served as the Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council.  He then became the Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement in 2002. The Arizona Interfaith Movement is composed of 24 different major religious groups and seeks to bring understanding of each other to all the major religions of the state.

October 30th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

NAIN Celebrates 25 Years at Toronto Connect

On the 25th anniversary of the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), more than 150 friends came together in Toronto over August 11 through 14 to convene the annual Connect conference. Leaders of religious, faith, and spiritual communities from across the continent gathered for workshops, plenaries and inspirational tours of sacred sites to learn and celebrate interfaith relationships some regarded “like family.”

The 25-year-old network currently led by Rob Hankinson of Edmonton, CA, energized participants across programs themed “In Diversity Is Our Strength.” The message was enhanced with a plenary on best practices gleaned from Canada’s legal history of human rights, a gripping panel delving into the importance of understanding diverse traditions within the indigenous communities, and the overarching agenda of most workshops focusing on cross-community development for all participating interfaith institutions. Youth engagement commanded a broad interest over the days of reflecting on what new talents come into the movement with several next generation of interfaith leaders in attendance.

Reconnecting to some of the first and brightest leaders on the North American Interfaith scene, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions attendees Chair Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid, Senior Ambassador for Sacred Spaces Suzanne Morgan, and CPWR Staff Molly Horan were greeted by this spirit of partnership and collaboration. The Parliament was also represented by some of NAIN’s longest advocates including CPWR Board Chair Emeritus Bob Thompson, Ambassador Advisory Committee persons Kay Lindahl and Paul Eppinger,  Parliament Ambassadors Sande Hart and Simran Jeet Singh, and past CPWR staff Ruth Broyde Sharone, each leading regional interfaith efforts.

(Check out the Parliament’s event photo album here)

As the legacy of NAIN leaders were heard over video and live speeches, one by former NAIN Chair Kay Lindahl reminded that interfaith is rooted in the beauty of conversation, relationship, and collective action in an original poem in tribute to NAIN penned by Lindahl’s husband, Frank Hotchkiss.

NAIN’s next annual conference will be held in Detroit in 2014 with interim fundraising efforts working to increase youth scholarships. A goal of $25,000 over the 25th year was announced and kick-started with a generous $2,000 donation from the global action network, United Religions Initiative.

“Gathered As One” was graciously shared with CPWR for publication.



We, gathered as one,

Here, now, in this place,

Seeking a holy harmony,

Can we let these walls recede,

Dissolve, and be replaced

By visions of historic landscapes -

Where tribes of peoples long ago

Created stories, rituals and beliefs

That now form our differing faiths -

Those landscapes of earliest times:

Mighty rivers, plains, mountain valleys,

Desert oases, steep cliffs, shores by the sea,

Great forests; all visible

In a swirl of differing colors

With differing sounds and song?



Then, can we envision differing structures

Made to honor Gods or God:

Rings of stone, great mounds, kivas,

Pyramids, stone sundials in stone cities

High in the clouds, fine temples,

Great cathedrals, all of diverse design

In differing lands, with differing chants

And differing songs of worship?




Let these also recede, dissolve –

All the magnificence

Created over many centuries,

And now return to a vast

Far-reaching, interweaving expanse

Of those early native landscapes

and see

All the people of our global family

Marching from the four directions,



As we create, here, now,

A new magic space for all who seek

To heal and be strong stewards

For our global home,

all who seek peace,

Who know of the transformative power

Of love and of those mysterious,

Blessed, spiritual connections

With the sacred.


Frank Hotchkiss 8/8/13










Historical Baptist Calls for Religious Freedom

Religious-freedom_by Alejandro Gonzalez, USA Todayby Robert P. Sellers
CPWR trustee

Many persons feel they “know” Baptists as a group because of the unkind words of a few Baptist individuals or denominations.  Indeed, some very public Baptists have made statements highly offensive to persons of other faiths—and, perhaps surprisingly, also disturbing and embarrassing for historic Baptists who remember their roots and denounce such judgmental, unkind sentiments.  Baptists, like adherents of all religions,are a multicultural and wildly diverse lot, exhibiting different personal, social, political, and theological perspectives.

Those Baptists, however, who do recall their historic values[1] will courageously champion religious freedom.  Thomas Helwys (1550?-1616?) sixteenth-century Baptist forebear, opposed the religious and political establishment in England and separated his congregation from the Anglican Church.  In 1612, he wrote that “[James 1] has no authority as a king but in earthly causes . . . [for] men’s religion to god is between God and themselves. . . .  Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.”[2]  For his viewpoint, Helwys was thrown into London’s Newgate Prison, in whose damp cell he died around 1616.  His voice had been silenced, but some historians say his pronouncement “was the first statement of radical religious freedom to be published in English.”[3]

Roger Williams (1603?-1683), another English cleric, “campaigned against the enforcement of religious conformity by civil authorities”[4] in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but in 1635 was exiled “under pain of death for his religious convictions.”[5]  Establishing the first Baptist church of America in the colony of Rhode Island, he wrote a tract in 1652 that inquired “whether or not such as may hold forth other worships or religions, Jews, Turks, or anti-Christians, may not be peaceable and quiet subjects, loving and helpful neighbors, fair and just dealers, true and loyal to the civil government.”[6]  The question was rhetorical, because Williams believed all persons could be peaceful, loving, helpful, just, and loyal neighbors.

Eighteenth-century Baptist Isaac Backus (1724-1806) lobbied the first Continental Congress in 1774 and came away with a resolution, signed by John Hancock, that “acknowledged the Congress’s ‘sincere wish’ to extend ‘civil and religious liberty’ to every denomination.”[7]  John Leland (1754-1841), a fellow Baptist New Englander,[8] “at a legendary meeting near Orange, Virginia, . . . threatened to oppose [James] Madison as a candidate for Virginia’s ratifying convention and agreed not to do so only after extracting a promise that Madison would pursue explicit protection for religion in the Bill of Rights”[9]—a pledge that led to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”[10]  Honoring this spirit of freedom, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty—begun in 1936 in Washington, D.C. and funded by 14 national Baptist bodies—operates today as the “best-known Baptist agency lobbying in behalf of religious liberty.”[11]

Today many Baptists who perceive themselves as “free and faithful” Baptists in this historic way are involved in interfaith dialogue, cooperation, and friendship.  In Phoenix, for example, Paul Eppinger creatively guides the Arizona Interfaith Movement,[12] an organization of 21 religious groups that convenes Faith Forums on topics like “forgiveness and reconciliation” or “texts of terror in scriptures of faith,” hosts multi-religious artists in Voices of Faith Concerts, builds Habitat for Humanity interfaith houses, and sells Golden Rule interfaith Arizona license plates.

In Nashville, visionary Robert Parham directs the Baptist Center for Ethics,[13] an agency that has recently produced two highly-regarded documentary films that tell important stories of interfaith engagement: Different Books, Common Word, which recounts five examples of Baptist-Muslim relationship-building in America after 9-11, and Sacred Texts, Social Duty, which focuses on various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives of Chicagoans who discuss government taxation.

In addition to individual Baptists like Eppinger and Parham who value our pluralistic society, “free and faithful” Baptist congregations across the country are reaching out to persons across religious boundaries.  Members of First Baptist Church, Seattle, have worked alongside Ahmadiyya Muslims to feed the homeless in their community, and were invited guests at the opening of a new mosque in Redmond, California.  Parishioners of Wilshire Baptist Church and Temple Emanu-el in Dallas have a decade-long relationship of worship pulpit-exchange and congregational shared meals, and are embarking on a Jewish-Baptist exploration of the Holy Land in April 2012 co-led by their rabbi and pastor.  In Norman, Oklahoma, when local Muslims were afraid after 9/11 that violent reactions might be aimed at their mosque or families, Baptists from North Haven Church offered them protection, comfort, and even rides to the supermarket for Muslim women who felt too intimidated to go outside of their houses alone.

Beyond these local instances of neighborliness and solidarity there are also institutional expressions of Baptist interfaith commitment.  Five North American Baptist conventions joined with the Islamic Society of North America to co-sponsor the first National Baptist-Muslim Dialogue in Boston in January 2008, and the second national conference and a series of regional workshops are being projected for 2012.  Finally, the Baptist World Alliance[14],which represents 218 member Baptist bodies in 120 countries, was so struck by the peaceful initiative of 138 global Muslim scholars who in 2007 crafted A Common Word between Us and You that they not only sent a very thoughtful response that appears on the official website of A Common Word,[15] but also established a permanent Commission on Baptist-Muslim Relations.

It cannot be denied that Baptists on the whole still have many sins of intolerance and unkindness for which to repent.  Nonetheless, there are historic Baptists who treasure their heritage of religious freedom and whose efforts to relate to and learn from persons of other faiths should be recognized.  It is the stories of these good neighbor Baptists that I hope will be told and remembered.

Robert P. Sellers is professor of missions and theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and represents Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches, USA.  He is a member of the Board of Trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Notes on Sources

[1] The historical information in this paragraph was originally published in Robert P. Sellers, “What Baptist Traditions Teach Us about Loving our Neighbors,” American Baptist Quarterly 223 (Spring 2009): 113-115.

[2] Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, quoted in William H. Brackney, A Genetic History of Baptist Thought  (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2004), 17.

[3] Bill J. Leonard, Baptist Ways: A History (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2003), 9.

[4] Robert Jewett, Mission and Menace: Four Centuries of American Religious Zeal (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008), 21.

[5] Daniel L. Buttry, Interfaith Heroes (Canton: Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, 2008), 33.

[6] Roger Williams, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed, quoted in Leonard, Baptist Ways, 76.

[7] Ibid., 124.

[8] Brent Walker, Church-State Matters: Fighting for Religious Liberty in our Nation’s Capital (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2008), 15.

[9] Joseph M. Dawson, Baptists and the American Republic, quoted in Ibid.

[10] The U.S. Constitution, accessed at

[11] Leonard, Baptist Ways, 409.

[12] Discover information about Paul Eppinger and the Arizona Interfaith Movement at

[13] See for more about the work of Robert Parham and the Baptist Center for Ethics.

[14] Statistics on the membership of BWA can be found at