An Inside Look at the Global Interfaith Agenda
by Carl Teichrib, 2001
Please visit his website at www.forcingchange.org
NOTE: the following article details an interfaith event attended by the author. It is meant to provide you with insights on how the interfaith/New Age movement works and thinks, and how you can respond to its advances.
January 11-14, 2001, St. Petersburg, Florida.
For those of us from the "snow-belt," St. Pete can be a wonderful place in the middle of January. The salty Gulf of Mexico breeze and the warm sunshine create a perfect escape environment from the clutches of our long, cold winter. Everybody north of the "40th parallel" knows this. So it was no surprise to discover that one of this year’s earliest interfaith events would take place in "sunny St. Pete."
Starting on January 11 and ending on the 14th, interfaith activists from as far away as Korea and the United Kingdom gathered in St. Petersburg to attend the "Religions is Dialogue: Moving from Conflict to Trust" conference. Held in the Unitarian Universalist Church in the heart of the city, the event’s purpose was to create common vision and cooperative strategy to advance the global interfaith agenda for this year and beyond. God opened the doors, and I attended.
It was through my on-going research into the occult, New Age, and interfaith movement that I came to find out about this conference. For the past five years I have attended numerous interfaith and occult events–all for the sake of obtaining first source research material (I don’t recommend anybody do this unless you are specifically led by God). After contacting the International Association for Religious Freedom–one of the events hosting bodies–and explaining my past interfaith associations, I had an invitation to attend in St. Petersburg.
In this type of "investigative journalism" there is rarely a dull moment. One never knows how these types of meetings will go. Flexibility to the program and alertness to one’s surroundings are key components in gathering first source material in a potentially hostile setting (and yes, I have had some very dicey situations!). If the crowd is large, I can usually remain anonymous. This time less than 50 people were there. At first appearance it was going to be another "too close for comfort" situation, but instead of having the small size work against me, God used it to my advantage. As it turned out, three of the five largest interfaith organizations in the world were there, and they were represented at the "directors level."
How was this "advantageous?" Everyone was comfortable. It had the atmosphere of "family." Hence, by the end of the first evening, any potential suspicion fell away, and the directors of these three major institutions were willing to open up and talk. And talk they did!
Here is the breakdown of the key interfaith leaders in attendance and the organizations they represent,
• Marcus Braybrooke, Director of the World Congress of Faiths (WCF) and arguably one of the most prolific writers on interfaithism. He is considered by many to be the most knowledgeable and influential man in the interfaith movement. The WCF is located in the United Kingdom. Mr. Braybrooke is also a Patron of the International Interfaith Centre at Oxford.
• Richard Boeke, Chairman of the WCF. He too lives in the UK.
• Allan Race, Editor of WCF’s publication World Faiths Encounter. Mr. Race is also a Trustee of the International Interfaith Centre.
• Andrew Clark, Secretary-General of the International Association of Religious Freedom (IARF), also located in the UK.
• Doris Hunter, IARF Director for the United States.
• Jim Kenney, International Director for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR)–the group that organized the 1993 and 1999 World Parliament of Religions. Mr. Kenney is also a Trustee of the International Interfaith Centre. The CPWR is headquartered in Chicago.
Of the five global interfaith organizations, only the World Conference on Religion and Peace (located in New York city) and the United Religions Initiative (located in San Francisco) were not officially represented, although some of the conference participants and attendees had played roles in both of these absent groups.
Others participants included,
• Dr. Hal French, Professor at the Dept. of Religious Studies, University of South Carolina, author of Zen and the Art of Anything.
• Frank Tedesco, Buddhist scholar and interfaith activist. He currently resides in Korea and flew to the US to participate in this conference.
• Dr. K.L. Seshagiri Rao, Chief Editor for the Encyclopedia of Hinduism, and Professor at the University of South Carolina
Because the event was held in the Unitarian church,Unitarians were in the majority. Other "faith communities" (I found out that "faith traditions" has been replaced as "faith communities" in the politically correct interreligious world) present were,
• Christianity. In all cases those representing "Christianity" held a very liberal view. Marcus Braybrooke and his wife were among the Christians present. Some attendees claimed a form of "grafted" Christianity, such as Christian-Buddhist or Christian-Unitarian. Many admitted being brought up as a child in the "Christian faith." Richard Boeke, who played a fundamental part throughout the four days, had been at one time the pastor of a Southern Baptist church. He’s now a Unitarian minister. On a couple of occasions I heard attendees confess that they had been "saved" at a Billy Graham crusade but had "come to their senses" soon thereafter.
• Hindu. Representation included one lady who "converted" to Christianity while in India to escape her overbearing family’s legalistic brand of Hinduism. Once she moved to the US and was freed from her "fundamentalist" Hindu family, she converted back to Hinduism. She told me that if she ever moved back to India, she would once again become a "Christian."
• New Age/Wiccan. Representation included the Thursday evening interfaith worship service (remember, this is a religious meeting, and "worship" is planned into the program agenda). During this time, a ceremony was conducted in which a wiccan invoked a "blessing,"
"I am the four corners of the earth, north, south, east, and west, which bound the sacred circle where we stand, ready to receive our gods. Beloved Mother, by many names and faces are you known. As you are the name ‘ever young,’ let us stay young forever and ever grow within our faith. As you are the fertile mother, ever giving. Help us to harvest the sweet fruit of this gathering–tolerance, understanding, and love."
Other "faith communities" included,
• Judaism. On Friday evening we were led in an interfaith Judaic Shabbat service, conducted by the Beth Rachamim Synagogue–which is one of only a handful of overtly gay and lesbian synagogues in the country. Throughout the service, prayers and reaffirmations were made to endorse their homosexuality.
• Theosophy. The Theosophical Society (see my Lucifer Rising series for more information on Theosophy) set up a display table and gave a workshop presentation.
• Native American. Saturday afternoon a sweat lodge was set up for those who wanted to partake in a Native American spiritual experience.
• Humanism. Humanism was presented as one of the "religions" (or should that be "anti-religions"?) and was given a time slot for a Saturday afternoon workshop. Strange as it may be, the St. Pete Unitarian church had numerous brochures and informational sheets for anyone interested in humanism.
• Kashi Ashram interfaithism. Located near the east coast of Florida is Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati’s interfaith ashram. "Ma," the guru of the Kashi Ashram, has blended a variety of western and eastern spiritual traditions. Ma’s interfaith teachings have been an example to the interreligious community and she has been involved in a variety of world interfaith events and organizational activities. At least two of her followers were present at the St. Pete meeting.
• Scientology. Besides giving a workshop on Scientology, a Scientology drama and musical team gave a performance during Saturday evening’s cultural program.
Other religions were involved–such as Buddhism–but this gives you a good cross-section of the "faith communities" present at this meeting. And while "Christianity" was represented, the reaction to "fundamental Christianity" was very interesting. As with every other interfaith meeting I’ve been to, fundamental Christianity was unashamedly bashed. Claiming to be a way of "tolerance," the interfaith movement is, in reality, extremely intolerant when any religion–such as Christianity–proclaims exclusive truth (see John 14:6). According to interfaithism, all religions are pathways to truth–except the exclusive message of Jesus Christ.
So what "inside information" did I come away with? Here it is,
• The next Parliament of the World’s Religions. After the 1999 Cape Town Parliament of the World’s Religions, it was determined that a parliament should be convened every five years. Due to circumstances, the next parliament will not be held until 2005, one year later than expected. According to Jim Kenney, the CPWR wants to bill its next event as a type of "Olympics" of world religions. To this end, the CPWR wants cities to compete in hosting the event, much like the Olympic system. Here’s the inside scoop; Mr. Kenney made it very clear that at least 10 major world cities have started the bidding to host the 2005 parliament, but the CPWR hasn’t even made the "call to host" public yet! Watch as the momentum for the next parliament builds as cities compete to host it. It is also expected that other players (possibly corporate, financial, and institutional) will come alongside with support packages and endorsements. If all this takes place–and it looks like it will–the interfaith agenda for the next five to ten years will catapult forward in an unprecedented way.
• United Religions Initiative. The URI and its global charter was founded by Bishop William Swing at the behest of the United Nations and the vision of Robert Muller, a top UN official. Bishop Swing and the URI has been exposed by Christian researchers for a number of years. While this is nothing new, the reaction by the historically established interfaith community to the URI is noteworthy. URI, under the direction of Swing, was considered the black sheep of the interreligious family. Statements made by Swing caused a real rift between the URI and the other interfaith groups. Now that Swing has stepped down and handed the reigns to Charles Gibbs, the global interfaith community is ready to embrace the URI as a respectable player. Watch as the URI gains influence by the fact that international interfaith leaders are more willing to work with it.
• Earth Charter. Jim Kenney explained in private conversation that the interfaith movement is in agreement with and working towards the acceptance of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Earth Charter program. This is no surprise. However, up until this point there hasn’t been a strong official link between the Earth Charter and the interfaith agenda–it’s been implied and there has been a crossover of individual support, but tighter links have been harder to substantiate. Mr. Kenney’s remarks point toward a much deeper connection than previously thought. Watch as the interfaith movement and the Earth Charter program work closer together.
[The Earth Charter is a platform document intended to shape a new world civilization around Earth-first principles and a strengthened system of global governance.]
• International Association of Religious Freedom in America. The IARF is the oldest interfaith group in the world (it was founded in 1900), but it doesn’t have a strong presence in the US. One of the anticipated results of having this conference in St. Pete was that the IARF would cement ties with US interfaith activists. IARF has been a substantial player in Japan, India, and the UK, and now it plans to sink deeper roots in America.
• World alliance of interfaith organizations. The most important development that came out of the St. Petersburg meeting was that the three global bodies proposed an informal world alliance strategy. During the event they refrained from calling it an interfaith "world federation," but in many ways this is what was being discussed. All of this came about through "coffee table talk"–informal discussions in the lunchroom and lounge.
Where will this alliance go? At this point it’s hard to say. At the very least, the CPWR, the World Congress of Faiths, and the IARF will work together in a tighter fashion. A common internet data base for interreligious networking was discussed. As the leadership from the three major bodies that met at St. Pete continue to flesh out this alliance, the other two groups (URI and the World Conference on Religion and Peace) will, in all probability, join. Watch as the interfaith movement shapes itself to become a more cohesive and potent force at both the national and international level. Only time will tell what will come of this alliance.
Where does this leave you? As a follower of Jesus Christ and His exclusive message of salvation, stay alert to how the interfaith movement is shaping your own community and the church. The New Age/interfaith movement recognizes that education at the grassroots level is vital to its global agenda. Already many churches and Christian schools have succumbed to its philosophy of "religious pluralism." In Jesus own words, "take heed that no man deceive you." (Matt. 24:4) Likewise, counter the dangers of this philosophy by ingraining God’s truth in yourself and your children.
Consider the exhortation of Deuteronomy 6,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
Copyright: Carl Teichrib, 2002. Please visit his website at www.forcingchange.org
See alsoSymbols and their meaning