Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 17 December 2018.Phone: 312-629-2991
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions was founded in 1988 as a non-profit organization rooted in a legacy of the first Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago nearly a century before. Held in tandem with the Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition, the World’s Congress of Religion—also known as the World’s Parliament of Religion—has been recognized as the commencement of formal interreligious dialogue and often credited with introducing Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism to the United States. In 1988, the Council was brought to life by the vision of two monks from the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago and by support from religious leaders, academics, and local interfaith organizers in Chicago. Their goal was to establish an organization that would host a centennial celebration of the historic gathering. This goal was realized with the 1993 Parliaments of the World’s Religions, also convened in Chicago. Subsequent Parliaments have been held in Cape Town, South Africa (1999), Barcelona, Spain (2004), Melbourne, Australia (2009) and Salt Lake City, Utah (2015). The Council for a Parliament of World Religions is comprised of a board of trustees, fifteen honorary international advisors, and five to eight staff members (a number that goes up when the Parliament is being planned). Volunteers are also an important part of the organization. During the 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake City over 1,000 people volunteered to make the event possible. Among the staff is the Council’s Executive Director Rev. Larry Greenfield, who also holds leadership positions with the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago and the Community Renewal Society and is former dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School and of the University of Rochester. Dr. Robert P. Sellers, a professor of theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas, became chair of the Board of Trustees in 2016. In addition to hosting the Parliament, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions initiates “dialogues and nurtures relationships among people of difference” through five program areas: the Women’s Task Force, the Ambassador Program, Educating Religious Leaders, Sharing Sacred Spaces, and Faiths Against Hate. In all of its outreach, however, the Council is careful to emphasizes that it “seeks to promote interreligious harmony, rather than unity,” desiring to maintain the uniqueness of each faith that may be threatened by assimilation in a campaign for unity. The Ambassador’s Program, Women’s Task Force, and Educating Religious Leaders program areas are intimately linked with Parliament events. The Ambassador program invites leaders within the interfaith movement globally to aid in the vision and development of the Parliament. The Women’s Task Force is composed of female Trustees members of the Council, and was created “to support women’s leadership and programming at and between Parliaments and at critical institutions including the United Nations, and to assure that women’s voices are heard at the vital nexus of women’s dignity, human rights, religion and spirituality.” At the 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake City, the Task Force was instrumental in hosting the first inaugural Women’s Assembly. For the 2009 Parliament, the Council developed a Task Force of U.S. Seminaries to explore the role of interfaith understanding in theological education. The results include a report, an online catalogue of syllabi, and sessions during the 2009 Parliament in Melbourne. In 2012, in response to hate crimes that persist in the United States, the Council created a multi-tiered national campaign called “Faiths Against Hate,” which endeavors to “transform fear and anger into peace, love and interreligious harmony.” In service of this goal, the campaign hosts dialogue sessions with local and international interfaith organizations to assess new trends and discuss strategies to ameliorate religious hatred. In addition, the campaign has created a library of webinars that can be used by interfaith activists and educators, hosted workshops, and fostered an online interfaith community to serve as a support network. Over 40,000 activists have participated in Faiths Against Hate conversations on Parliament-run social media platforms. The Council for a Parliament of World’s Religions is funded by foundation grants and contributions from individuals. Since its inception, the Council has received significant funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, the Hardin Generativity Trust, the Rockfeller Foundation, the Luce Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, among others, as well as from over 1,500 individual supporters.