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PreConference Plans
October 27-28, 2001
Pembroke Hill School, Ward Parkway Campus, 5121 State Line Road

Convened by  The Kansas City Interfaith Council
  Cosponsored by National Conference for Community and Justice    Kansas City Harmony    Spirit of Service

scroll down or click on this developing index:
Reports: (different pages)-Concluding Declaration  KCStar, Catholic Key, etc storiesdParticipant Credits
PreConference material:-(this page)--news releases--outcomes--features--schedule--notes--fact sheet-
  Proclamation by Gov Graves     Kansas Senate resolution- Appreciative Inquiry

Join us in shaping the future of religion in the greater Kansas City area by . . .

1. Acquainting ourselves with the richness of religious diversity in the greater Kansas City area

2. Learning how to learn from one another in the depths of faith

3. Discovering our own faiths anew by encounter with others

4. Articulating the wisdom in the faith traditions which can heal the crises of secularism — environmental degradation, personal distress, loss of true community, both local and global

5. Celebrating the arts and traditions which enlarge our common humanity

6. Connecting deeply with persons of other faiths with the hope of on-going friendships

7. Encouraging interfaith dialogue and understanding

8. Strengthening our various faith communities by working together in new ways

Never before in the history of metro Kansas City has such a multi-faith gathering been planned as the “Gifts of Pluralism” conference scheduled for Oct 26-28 at Pembroke Hill School.
    Convened by the 12-year old Kansas City Interfaith Council and cosponsored by three other organizations — Kansas City Harmony, the regional chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice, and Spirit of Service — religions represented run from A to Z, American Indian to Zoroastrian.
   “In deepening our own faiths by learning about others, we will help shape of the future of religion here,” said the Rev Vern Barnet, DMn, whose organization, CRES, is managing the conference. Barnet is known to readers of The Kansas City Star for his “Faiths and Beliefs” column each Wednesday in the paper’s FYI section.
    The conference features include:
 * workshops, displays, and a notebook about the many faiths in the community
 * panels on the wisdom of the faiths on environmental, personal, and social issues
 * a panel of leaders from business, government, media, and non-profit organizations answering “What is the role of religion in the community?”
 * many opportunities for personal exchange across faith boundaries through a method called “Appreciative Inquiry.”
 * a concluding Joint Declaration, with ideas developed by the conference participants, which will chart how religious groups can more effectively work together in the future.
     “Working together over the years, the members of the Council are clear that we do not seek to blend our faiths together or to invent a new one, but rather to strengthen the place of each of our traditions in the community through mutual stimulation and cooperation.  We now have an historic opportunity to address the problems of secularism with rich and varied spiritual resources right here in the heartland,” said Barnet.
     Council members overseeing the conference are Kara Hawkins (American Indian), Barbara McAtee (Bahá'í), Lama Chuck Stanford (Buddhist), the Reverend Wallace Hartsfield (Christian—Protestant), Chancellor George Noonan (Christian—Roman Catholic), Anand Bhattacharyya (Hindu), Rabbi Joshua Taub (Jewish), A Rauf Mir,  MD (Muslim), Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa (Sikh), Ali Kadr (Sufi), Ted Otteson (Unitarian Universalist), Mike Nichols (Wiccan), Daryoush Jahanian, MD (Zoroastrian). Uma is the regular Vedanta Council observer.
    In addition, representatives of the three denominations with world headquarters here are official Council observers for the conference planning. They are the Rev W Grant McMurray (Community of Christ), the Rev William C Miller (Church of the Nazarene), and the Rev Sharon Connors (Unity).
     Also supporting the conference are Ed Chasteen, founder of Hatebusters, and Maggie Finefrock, president of The Learning Project.
      Members of the larger community are offering advice to conference planners. They include architect Bob Berkebile, Congressman Dennis Moore, former Kansas Attorney Bob Stephan, former Kansas City Mayor Charles Wheeler, civic leader Beth K Smith, Johnson County businessman Ben Craig, the Rev Robert Hill, United Way official Mike Moors, DST Human Resources chief Joan Horan, SuEllen Fried, the Rev Bob Meneilly, Kansas State Senator David Adkins, Kansas City businessman Barnett Helzberg, and Johnson County civic leader Carol Sader. Others are being added to this group of advisors in order to bring many perspectives into the conference effort of building community.
     The Council is planning to attract 150 Christians and 150 participants from non-Christian faiths. Welcome are lay and professional religious leaders, educators, students, HR managers, medical workers, and anyone interested in experiencing the religious diversity of the heartland.

     Members of the CRES Board are Allan Abrams, Joe Archias,  Zohreh Behbehani, Anne Canfield, Dr Rick Childs, Suzanne Dotson, Dr Larry Guillot (chairman), Dr Hub Hubbard , John Shelton, Dave and Kristy Stallings, John Van Keppel, and Jim Worrell. The CRES Board of Advisors includes Dr Mary Cohen, John Gregory, Dr Bob Minor, Fred Krebs, and Donna Ziegenhorn.  Planning Committee members are Larry Guillot, Jonathan Bickham,  Goerge Noonan, David Nelson, Gene Flanery, A Rauf Mir, Joshua Taub, Rodger Kube, Diane Hershberger, Juan Rangel, and Vern Barnet.
     Work on the conference logo was contributed by Jay Boothby and Terry Crouse.

     Extensive information about the conference program is available by visiting the conference web site,, by phoning CRES at 913.649.5114 or Gene Flanery at 913.299.8415, writing CRES at Box 4165, Overland Park, KS 66204, or emailing Conference materials can be downloaded from the CRES web site,

Summary of
Expected Outcomes

Bringing together 300 people from every faith tradition, the Gifts of  Pluralism Conference will build and deepen the sense of community in Greater Kansas City, leading to the following outcomes:

Conference features . . .

meals shared together
question box and answer board
notebook and resource materials
individual and group networking
exhibits and cultural performances
learn about some Kansas City faith sites
worship and other devotional experiences
quiet room for prayer, meditation, reflection
small groups, panel discussions, plenary sessions

Conference schedule . . .

October 26 Friday PRE-conference

3:00 pm registration
4:00 pm Exhibit space opens
5:00 pm Open House for pre-registered people at hosting sites --
               Learn about your neighbor's tradition

October 27 Saturday

8:00 Registration
9:00 am Plenary Session: Greetings
9:10 am Plenary Session: Discovering Our Gifts: Appreciative Inquiry
10:00 am Plenary Session: The Three Families of Faith
11:00 am Workshops on Each Faith: Learn about your neighbor’s tradition
noon Break -- Exhibit space open until 2 pm
12:15 and 1:00 Lunch: two 45-minute seatings
12:15 and 1:00 Seminar (two 45-minute seatings) The Gifts of Pluralism: Pitfalls and Prizes
2:00 Multifaith Panel on Environmental Issues
    American Indian Spirituality - Kara Hawkins
    Baha'i -
    Unitarian Universalist - Alison Tomkins
    Wiccan - Mike Nichols
     Moderator: Dr Hub Hubbard.
2:45 Appreciative Inquiry 3:00 Break
3:15 Multifaith Panel on Personal Issues
    Personal Identity crisis:
    Hindu - Arvind Khetia
    Buddhist - Chuck Stanford
    Sufi - Connie Rahimah Sweeney
    Sikh - Charanjit Hundal
    Moderator: Dr Harold Raser
4:00 Appreciative Inquiry 4:15 Break
4:30 Multifaith Panel on Social Issues
     Social Cohesion Crisis
    Catholic - Louie Rodemann
    Protestant -
    Jewish -
    Muslim - Mohamed Al-Hilali
    Zoroastrian -
    Moderator: Rodger Kube
5:15 Appreciative Inquiry 5:30 Break
6:00 Dinner and Entertainment from sundry cultures
8:15 Closing the Day with Rites from each tradition

October 28 Sunday

11:00 am Interfaith worship
11:45 Break
noon Networking Box Lunch
1:00 pm Community Panel:  What is the role of religion in the community?
                                              Business, government, media, non-profit representatives
2:00 Break
2:15 pm Interfaith Panel: Next Steps for Us -- How can we better relate to one another?
       Panelists: Bilal Muhammed
3:30 Break
3:45 pm Appreciative Inquiry — Tentative Conclusions:
               What we have learned about ourselves, each other, and the Holy
4:45 Ending the Conference with  a Joint Declaration and Concluding Ceremony

The schedule will be adjusted to allow time for Muslim prayers at about 1, 4, 6, and 8 pm and others may use that time for their own meditation or prayer.

Conference notes . . .

CEU -- Graduate credit (one hour) is availble through the Continuing Education Division of the School of Education at the University of Missouri--Kansas City.

The LOGO combines a vision of organic unity and diversity in the image of the tree with a single trunk, many roots and branches. The world map suggests our global context and the Kansas City logo “City of Fountains” in the shape of a heart superimposed on the tree calls us to our local diverse presences and work.

APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY is a way for one-on-one and small-group exchange to be most productive and positive. Using a list of questions, participants listen and ask and answer questions from their own experiences to collect and celebrate the good news stories of a community — those stories that enhance cultural identity, spirit and vision. It is a co-operative search for the strengths, passions and life-giving forces that are found within every religious system. It involves an appreciation for the mystery of being and a reverence for life.

THE CONFERENCE NOTEBOOK includes descriptions of each faith, a religious calendar, and resource materials for metro Kansas City.


The Gifts of Pluralism: Shaping the future of religion in the Kansas City area --
A conference for everyone interested in learning about world religions
and how they address today's environmental, personal, and social issues
using the "Appreciative Inquiry" method of deepening relationships
Oct 26-28, 2001, Pembroke Hill School (State Line Campus)

1. KANSAS CITY FOCUS. This is the first  truly multi-faith conference in the history of the Kansas City area. American Indian, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Sufi, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, Zoroastrian faiths are participating. In addition, the conference planning includes observers from major denominations with world headquarters in the Kansas City area. Without out-of-town speakers, we will discover who we are here.

2. PARTICIPATION. This is not a “listen-and-learn” conference. It is participatory in several ways. (1) The “appreciative inquiry” method will be used throughout the conference to facilitate the building of relationships. (2)  In addition to talks and panels, cultural exhibits and demonstrations will appeal to more than just the intellect. (3) The conference will move toward a concluding Declaration with a process through  which all are invited to contribute. (4) We expect that plans for establishing an area-wide alliance of congregations, currently under study by the United Way, will gain significant momentum.

3. ALL WELCOME. The conference is open to anyone, but religious leaders (lay and clergy), HR people, and civic leaders are especially invited.

4. RELEVANCE. The conference brings the wisdom of the world’s  religious traditions to address environmental, personal, and social questions of our time.

5. THE SPIRIT. The conference arises from the experience of the members of the Council, and many other people, that leaning about other faiths is a way of deepening one’s own. There is no presumption equating the faiths—we place importance on appreciating each tradition in its own right and value the differences, even as we cherish our shared human kinship.

6. ORGANIZATION. The conference is convened by the Kansas City Interfaith Council, established in 1989. It is managed by the Council’s hosting organization, CRES, a 501(c)(3) organization promoting understanding among peoples of all faiths. Donations should be marked “conference” and sent to CRES. The conference is co-sponsored by the NCCJ, Kansas City Harmony, and Spirit of Service. Supporting organizations include HateBusters and The Learning Project.

State of Kansas
Proclamation by the Governor

     WHEREAS the citizens of the State of Kansas enjoy the blessings of the heritage of religious liberty, and
     WHEREAS the people of the State of Kansas observe many traditions of faith, and
     WHEREAS each community of faith deserves the recognition, respect, and protection of  all others, and
     WHEREAS the Kansas City Interfaith Council has organized the first interfaith conference for the greater Kansas City area, to be held October 26-28, 2001, at Pembroke Hill School located at the Kansas-Missouri state border, and
      WHEREAS Interfaith Council, since its inception twelve years ago, has embraced American Indian, Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Sufi, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, and Zoroastrian participation from Kansas and Missouri, and
     WHEREAS the Interfaith Council’s work is being managed by CRES, a Kansas City area interfaith network based in Overland Park, KS, and is cosponsored by the NCCJ (National Conference for Community and Justice), Kansas City Harmony, and Spirit of Service, and
     WHEREAS the conference, named “The Gifts of Pluralism,” provides an opportunity for peoples of faith from both Kansas and Missouri to participate in the shaping of the future of interfaith cooperation in the greater Kansas City area, and
     WHEREAS the conference brings the wisdom of the world’s religious traditions together to address environmental, personal and social questions of our time, with the focus on the greater Kansas City area, and
     WHEREAS the conference arises from the experience of the members of the Interfaith Council and others, that learning about other faiths is a way of deepening one’s own, and
     WHEREAS the Kansas Senate has already expressed support for the goals of the Conference and commended its planners,
     NOW, THEREFORE, I, Bill Graves, Governor of the State of Kansas, proclaim the weekend of Oct 27-28, 2001, as

Kansas Religious Heritage Days

a special time for the citizens of Kansas to reflect upon the American heritage of religious liberty and the diversity of faiths which enrich our common life, and an opportunity for citizens of the State of Kansas to recognize the possibilities for strengthening community through interfaith dialogue, exploration, and cooperation.

DONE  At the Capitol in Topeka
under the Great Seal of the State
this 27th day or August, A.D. 2001

BY THE GOVERNOR  /Bill Graves/
/Ron Thornburgh/ Secretary of State


State of Kansas

Senate Resolution No. 1855

A RESOLUTION commending the Kansas City Interfaith Council
and the Center for Religious Experience and Study for sponsoring The Gifts of Pluralism.

    WHEREAS, The Gifts of Pluralism, which is the first truly multi-faith conference in the Kansas City area, will by held October 26-28, 2001, at Pembroke Hill School located on the Kansas-Missouri state border. The conference is sponsored by the Kansas City Interfaith Council and managed by the Center for Religious Experience and Study. American Indian, Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Sufi, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan and Zoroastrian faiths are participating; and
    WHEREAS, The conference brings the wisdom of the world's religious traditions together to address environmental, personal and social questions of our time, with the focus on Kansas City. The conference arises from the experience of the members of the Interfaith Council, and many other people, that learning about other faiths is a way of deepening one's own; and
    WHEREAS, The conference in open to anyone, but especially invited are religious leaders, lay and clergy, and civic leaders: Now, therefore,

    Be it resolved by the Senate of the State of Kansas:   That we commend the Kansas
City Interfaith Council for sponsoring the conference, The Gifts of Pluralism, and support its objectives; and

    Be it further resolved:   That the Secretary of the Senate be directed to provide an enrolled copy of this resolution to The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn, Minister in Residence, CRES, P.O. Box 4165, Overland Park, Kansas 66204.

Senate Resolution No. 1855 was sponsored by Senator David Adkins.

I hereby certify that the above RESOLUTION originated in the SENATE, and was adopted by that body.

May 1, 2001.05.25

Dave Kerr, President of the Senate
Pat Saville, Secretary of the Senate

now on separate web page

Conference Method:  Appreciative  Inquiry
by the Reverend David Nelson, DMin

     This article was originally drafted for a business environment, but the principles apply everywhere and are planned as a dimension of the October 26-28 Interfaith Council Conference.
     The Reverend David Nelson, DMin, is the CRES associate minister and leader of  The Human Agenda, which provides coaching, consultation, training, and resources throughout the country. You can subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, “Human Sightings,” by visiting his organizations website at
     May  DRAFT.-- Please give us your suggestions, especially those arising from your use of these questions in pre-conference coffees, dinners, board meetings, and other occasions.

     Have you ever noticed while driving past a field of sunflowers that all the large blooms were facing the same direction? I am told that if you would take a day to watch, the field of yellow and black blooms would follow the Sun as it meanders its slow path across the summer sky. This interesting reality is known in science as the heliotropic principle. Plants turn to face their source of light and energy. Human organizations and groups operate in a similar fashion. Unlike machines that can be programmed to ignore the environment, people and organizations are influenced by what they pay attention to.
     “APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY” is a completely affirmative approach to doing business. Some have called it the most important advance in action research in the past decade. Traditional organizational development has focused on finding what is not working and preparing strategies for correcting it. In recent years we have discovered, however, that looking for problems and concentrating on fixing what is broken can consume energy with little result. My experience as a personal and professional coach has shown that the five principles outlined below have improved service to customers, increased staff satisfaction, enhanced service, and nurtured the growth of individuals and teams.
     Problem-solving identifies the “felt need.” Appreciative inquiry values the best of what is. Instead of spending time and energy on analyzing causes, it envisions what might be. Instead of looking at an organization as a problem to be solved, appreciative inquiry sees an organization as a mystery to be embraced.
     The Constructionist Principle: Human knowledge and organizational destiny are interwoven. The staff and customers in an office create the office environment, not some predetermined outside force. Together we create the quality space and atmosphere. Each person’s unique perspective, woven together with others’, creates a beautiful tapestry of excellence. Appreciative inquiry begins with interviews that help the leadership team identify the positive core from which to build.
      The Principle of Simultaneity: Inquiry and change are not separate moments but happen together. Inquiry is intervention. Excellent services begin when a potential client phones or walks into the office. The first questions we ask are often the most important in shaping the office experience. Even the most innocent question evokes change. The question is not, “Will we have an impact on another person?” We certainly will. Our choice is what will be the impact we will have.
       The Poetic Principle: Human organizations are more like books than machines. Pasts, presents, and futures are endless sources of learning and inspiration – like the endless interpretive possibilities in a good poem. As we share stories that give life and hope, we not only recall the past but also shape the future. There are never too many joy stories.
      The Anticipatory Principle: Our positive images of the future lead our positive actions. The studies of rehearsing success in athletics, research into relationships between optimism and health, experiments with placeboes in medicine, and the work with the Pygmalion* dynamic in the classroom all validate the insight that what we pay attention to becomes our reality. To increase satisfaction, it makes more sense to interview satisfied customers than dissatisfied ones. We are more likely to move in the direction we study.
     The Positive Principle: An affirming outlook and social bonding build and sustain momentum for growth. The more positive the question we ask, the more long-lasting and successful the result. Hope, excitement, inspiration, caring, camaraderie, sense of urgent purpose and joy in creating something meaningful together are all central in evolving to the next level.

     APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY has become the guiding theory in my consulting and coaching work. This method has made it possible for supervisors who once dreaded leading others now to enjoy being part of a life-giving force. Everyone deserves to reflect with appreciation about one’s work – and life. Remember the lesson of the sunflower.
    We grow in the direction we pay attention to.
* According to Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who lived on the island of Cyprus. He once sculpted an ivory statue of a woman whose beauty garnered a newfound, and nonetheless unrequited, love from Pygmalion. Aphrodite’s pity for the sculptor led her to awaken the statue to life.
     This myth was the basis for George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, which in turn was transformed into the much beloved musical comedy, My Fair Lady.

Directions for Using Appreciative Interview Questions
for October 27, 2001
Please adapt for pre-conference practice in pairs or small groups

Using the questions below, this interview process provides an opportunity to identify and celebrate the positive core of individuals and their spiritual groups. It is being genuine, not role-playing. It is a chance to practice two important skills:  listening and speaking.

Listening. When you are the interviewer give your complete attention to the other person. Appreciate the other person as the expert on their spirituality and their religion. Listen for understanding. Do not tell your story or share your truth at this time.

Speaking. When you are the speaker, tell your faith story clearly and with passion. Speak to be fully understood. Enjoy being appreciated by another person. This interview is not about collecting data but about building a relationship and practicing appreciation.

Introducing. You will have a chance to share a few words about the person you are interviewing.

Collecting Question 4 ideas. Groups will also collect the wishes you list in question four.  Appreciative inquiry, like these interviews, is the model for our interaction throughout this conference.
Religious Language and terms can mean different things to different people. Interpret the background statement and the questions in a way that is most meaningful to you while understanding your partner’s language in the sense your partner intends.

Background Statement. The sacred is revealed in many ways and in many places. Sharing your story and experience of that which is holy or most meaningful can be an extraordinarily enriching experience. Listening and appreciating another’s story can also be a great spiritual blessing.

1. Describe an important experience or tell a story of your faith journey. Was it a solitary experience or were others involved? Tell how others have supported you on your spiritual journey.

2. Without being modest, how would you describe yourself as a spiritual person? Is there a person or persons who have helped shape and nurture your spirituality?

3. What are the core values that give life to your faith community?  Are there important books and stories that are available to others who want to learn more about your religion?

4. Share three wishes you have for making greater Kansas City a shining beacon celebrating religious diversity and spiritual pluralism.


Questions for Discussion Following Panel Presentations

1. What interested you the most?

2. What did you learn about yourself from this panel?

3. What core values can you identify and embrace as part of your own spiritual life?

4. How can these values become more a part of our community?


 Questions just before the Closing of the Conference
“What We Have Learned About Ourselves, Each Other, and the Holy”

1. What about this conference most enlivened you?

2. What did you learn about your personal faith story during this conference?

3. What further study or experience are you interested in exploring?  Whose voices do you need to listen to?  What unlikely connections can you make or facilitate?

4. Based on your participation in “The Gifts of Pluralism,” what commitment(s) are you feeling called to make?  What small thing could make a big difference?  Who will you tell about this commitment?  Who or what do you need to support you in this commitment?

“I am only one.
Still … I am one.
I cannot do everything.
Still … I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not cease to do that something I can.”


How Will “Appreciative Inquiry”
Provide a Fresh Approach to Current Challenges?
Larry Guillot,  CRES board chairman

Business, government, nonprofit organizations—and the media—have customarily focused their planning and development efforts on problems: what is going wrong? What is not working?

      In recent years, numerous groups have taken another approach, for example:

* Life is more than problem to be solved. It is a mystery and a source of wonder to be lived and celebrated.
* Children cannot be raised well by focusing primarily on their mistakes. Children need praise and re-enforcement for what is done well.
* Community development falters when centered only on what’s wrong. Community leaders and planners now focus more on “asset mapping” and what is working right in the community to build capacity.
* Many businesses are focusing their organizational development and strategic planning activities on “appreciative inquiry” as an alternative to continuous concentration on problems and problem solving.

      David Cooperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University are credited with introducing the term “appreciative inquiry” as a method of organizational development and creating change.  Since, it has been used widely in business as an antidote to deficit focused planning and management.  This approach is not proposed to create a new buzz word, or a new fad, nor to neglect real problems.  It is an approach that acknowledges and factors in existing problems, but favors a more positive approach to create breakthroughs and to create positive change “from the inside”.

     The major assumptions of appreciative inquiry, as summarized recently by Sue Annis Hammond in The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, are:

   “1.  In every society, organization, or group, something works.
     2. What we focus on becomes reality.
     3. Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities.
     4. The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way.
     5. People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known).
      6. If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past.
      7. It is important to value differences.
      8. The language we use creates our reality.”
      (1998, second edition, pp. 20-21.)

     The Interfaith Council, CRES, and the conference planners believe this approach and methodology offers a fresh and fruitful avenue for interfaith dialogue and moving religious groups forward.

see also link to Conference Reports