Keynote Speakers 2018

Keynote Speakers 2018

 

Barbara A. McGraw

Barbara A. McGraw

Interfaith Leadership for Transformational Social Change

by Barbara A. McGraw

Today, all religious and non-faith communities are called to take action together to bring us back from the brink of potentially cataclysmic divisions now roiling our country, our communities, and our families.  Reaching across divisions is not easy, certainly.  But it is just as certain that it is incumbent on all of us to take leadership in small and large ways to overcome in-group/out-group biases and reach out to those with whom we disagree to find the threads of connection through which we may hope to find, through our common humanity, ways to work together for positive community and social change.

In my own interfaith leadership work on behalf of religious minorities, I have learned that bridging divides to achieve positive change requires deep self-reflection, working hard to overcome one’s own biases to try to see and, more importantly, feel where others are coming from.  It takes open-hearted dialogue for understanding – not to “win” an argument but rather to be present in empathic connection with everyone involved, even those with whom you disagree, so that compassionate solutions can be found.

We all need to rise to today’s challenge because we are at a tipping point.  Which way will we tip? – toward entrenched tribes that divide and seek to be the victor over and dominate other people and nature, or toward a vision of one humanity, beautiful and strong in its interconnections with each other as children of the earth?

Barbara A. McGraw is Professor, Social Ethics, Law, and Public Life and founding director of the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism, Saint Mary’s College of California. Recipient of the 2014 Mahatma Gandhi Award for Advancement of Religious Pluralism, she is a thought-leader in the emerging interfaith leadership field. She speaks on, and is an advocate for, interreligious understanding and cooperation in business, education, and government institutions and is author or editor of works on religion, interfaith leadership and religion, law, and politics, including Rediscovering America’s Sacred Ground; Taking Religious Pluralism Seriously (with Formicola); Many Peoples, Many Faiths (with Ellwood); The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion and Politics in the U.S.; “Religious Pluralism at the Crossroads,” and “Toward a Framework for Interfaith Leadership.”  Formerly a corporate finance attorney with the international law firm Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, she holds a Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics and Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Southern California and is a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court.

 

Donald H. Frew

Donald H. Frew

Challenges of Authenticity in Representing an Increasingly Diverse “Pagan” Community 

by Don Frew

In 1985, I was elected Public Information Officer for the Covenant of the Goddess. I was to serve as the primary outreach person and interface between CoG and the worlds of media, law enforcement, government, and the public in general. At the time, CoG was the largest, most diverse religious organization for Witches on Earth (welcoming Witches of all Traditions as well as Eclectics), and Witches were the vast majority of Neopagans, so by default – and through no choice of my own – I became spokesperson for an entire movement.

After all, no amount of “Well, many of us think this, but there are also many who think that.” and “a popular view is this, but there are alternatives” and “Witches aren’t the only kind of Neopagans, and Wiccans are a subset of Witches” , etc. etc. would keep a listener or an audience from leaving with the view that “All Pagans think this.” If the conversation was reduced to an “elevator speech” the problem was magnified dramatically.

From the beginning, my job was a dance between authentically representing myself, accurately representing my community, and effectively communicating the truth in a way that ensured the maximum likelihood of true understanding. As a Public Information Officer and later National Interfaith Representative for CoG, and then as a Board member or Trustee of various local, regional, national, and international interfaith organizations, I have continued this dance for over 35 years as our community has become increasingly diverse and complex… to the point that many question the use of the phrase “our community”.

I hope to address the challenge of authentically representing an increasingly diverse community undergoing change at an exponential rate. I can’t promise I have answers, but I have been on the frontline of facing the problems and have observations – especially from the interfaith movement – that might prove useful.

Donald H. Frew is an Elder in the NROOGD and Gardnerian Traditions of modern Wicca, and High Priest of Coven Trismegiston in Berkeley CA.  Within the Gardnerian Tradition, he is known as a historian and theologian.  Working with his wife, Anna Korn, they compiled, edited, and in 2007 circulated a new edition of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, incorporating material from their researches in early Gardnerian texts and resulting in a Book of over 650 pages.

Frew’s coven is a member of the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), the world’s largest religious organization of Witches.  He has served ten terms on CoG’s National Board, as Public Information Officer (PIO) and as First Officer (President).  While serving as CoG’s PIO, Frew worked with the Committee for Scientific Examination of Religion, the FBI, and the Justice Department to create a report for law enforcement on so-called “Satanic” crime – Satanism in America: How the Devil Got Much More Than His Due (1989) – credited by the FBI with reversing the tide of the “Satanic Hysteria” in America.

He is a National Interfaith Representative for the Covenant of the Goddess and has represented Wicca in interfaith work for over 32 years, on the Boards of the Berkeley Area Interfaith Council and the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, at all of the modern Parliaments of the World’s Religions (as a member of the Parliament’s Assembly of the World’s Religious & Spiritual Leaders), and as Vice-President of (and frequent contributor to) the online interfaith journal The Interfaith Observer.  He was the creator of the 2004 international Interfaith Sacred Space Design Competition – incorporating 160 designs from 17 countries – and editor of the resulting book, Sacred Spaces (2004).

Frew founded and serves as Director for the Lost and Endangered Religions Project – helping marginalized religious communities to preserve their religious traditions – as well as founding and serving as President of the Adocentyn Research Library, a Pagan library in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Frew has been active in the United Religions Initiative – the world’s largest grass-roots interfaith organization – since helping to create the organization in 1998 and currently coordinates the URI’s Spirituality & the Earth CC and the Earth Wisdom MCC (both in the URI’s Multiregion).  He has served as a North American Trustee on the URI’s first elected Global Council, as an At-Large Trustee on the second & third Global Councils, as a Continuing Trustee on the fourth Global Council, and serves again as an At-Large Trustee on the current Global Council.  He and URI founder Bishop William Swing are the only currently serving Trustees to have served on all of the URI’s elected  Global Councils.

Frew’s research on the origins of modern Wicca and his interfaith work keep him traveling and encountering the world’s cultures and people, having visited 25 countries to date.