The first Interfaith Academies were held in Kansas City on June 13-27, 2007. This is a national event for religious professionals and students to engage professionally and spiritually. The Academies are designed to provide an intensive professional development opportunity for ecumenical and interfaith leaders. The primary goals for Interfaith Academy leaders are to:

Equip participants with the skills necessary to function as leaders to their own faith communities, even as they relate to those of others; Create opportunities for participants to learn about some of the major religious traditions in the U.S.; Generate discussion from multiple perspectives among participants about the meaning of religious pluralism in our society; Provide religious leaders in educational institutions with the educational resources to duplicate such a forum regionally, thereby encouraging leadership skills in a multi-faith community; Explore ways that unique religious communities may cooperate and collaborate around common issues; and Provide the basis for future partnerships among participants.

The seminar is divided into three emphases, designed to achieve these goals. The three emphases include:

1)  A basic introduction to a variety of religious traditions;

2)  An interreligious discussion on the meaning of religious pluralism in the U.S.; and

3)  An interreligious discussion of best practices and necessary skills to function as an ecumenical and interreligious leader of one’s own tradition in a multi-faith world, i.e., how to best resource their communities.[1]

Approximately forty-five professionals and students traveled across the United States and Canada to attend. The Academies were funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and inspired by the Rev Bud Heckman. Partners of the Academies included the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, Religions for Peace-USA, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, and the Saint Paul School of Theology, which housed the participants. CRES arranged for visits to religious sites and the Nelson-Atkins; they also organized various other events, including a movie night, two public panels, a showing of the Hindu and the Cowboy, and a press conference. Panels discussed religion and the media, and lesser-known faiths.[2]


References

[1] Religions for Peace USA. n.d. “Interfaith Academies for Religious Leaders.” Religions for Peace USA. Accessed January 17, 2019. http://www.rfpusa.org/interfaith-academies-for-religious-leaders/.

[2] Barnet, Vern. 2007. “NATIONAL INTERFAITH ACADEMIES IN KANSAS CITY” CRES. Accessed January 17, 2019. http://www.cres.org/pubs/ifa/index.html.