McCormick well represented at Melbourne Parliament

01-28-2010 by

Geoff Ashmun
McCormick’s longstanding interest and investment in interfaith relations was again demonstrated powerfully at the Fifth Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia.

Several students, faculty, alumni/ae, staff and former staff lent their academic, pastoral and administrative skills to an event drawing approximately 6,000 attendees from 200 countries.

Many involved in past Parliament events know of McCormick’s deep roots in the organization. Former president David Ramage was among the first individuals to be approached by the Hyde Park Vivekananda Society about its hope to hold a centennial Parliament in 1993 in the city where it all started on September 11, 1893.

Ramage recruited, among others, Presbyterian minister Dirk Ficca (M.Div., Class of 1981) to organize the centennial Parliament connecting with the global diversity of Chicago’s religious communities and organizations. He also recruited the Rev. Dr. David Daniels, now Professor of Church History at McCormick, to connect the 1993 Parliament with the diversity of Chicago’s African American religious communities, including Pentecostal and black evangelical leaders and congregations, the Nation of Islam, and Ethiopian Hebrew congregations.

Currently the Executive Director of the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR), Ficca has been joined by several members of McCormick’s community past and present for Parliaments in Melbourne, Barcelona and Cape Town. Zabrina Santiago (M.T.S., Class of 2008) was appointed Partner Cities Director in 2008.

In Melbourne, Dr. Robert Cathey, Professor of Theology at McCormick, was a respondent to Professor John N. Sheveland (Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA) paper on ‘Cultivations of Solidarity,’ a textual analysis of passages from the Bhagavad-Gita, the Dhammapada (sayings of the Buddha), and Paul’s letters to the Galatians and 1 Corinthians.

Janaan Hashim, J.D., an adjunct professor for McCormick since 2006 presented or moderated in five sessions including a ground-breaking program she organized on ‘Muslim Women Securing Their Own Individuality: Different Societies, Same Struggle’ with Islamic professional women from Saudi Arabia and Iran. She also organized a follow-up program session to ‘The Headscarf Debates,’ a very well attended session at the Barcelona Parliament that focused on France, Turkey and the United States. She also moderated the session in the Parliament’s Islam 101 Series: ‘Muslim Women’s Contributions to a More Just and Sustainable World,’ which included scholars and leaders from Indonesia, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.  

Honna Eichler, a M.Div. senior at McCormick, worked on preparing the hundreds of program sessions for the recent Melbourne Parliament, while M.Div. student Daniel Ross-Jones raised his own support from the United Church of Christ in Milwaukee to attend. Richard Pak, a M.Div. senior, worked in IT support for CPWR, as did Matt Black (M.Div., Class of 2007). Katie Lindahl (M.T.S., Class of 2008) also lent her time, energy and creativity to the CPRW offices.

Professor Cathey, who co-teaches a Religious Pluralism course at McCormick with Janaan Hashim, characterized the Parliament environment as “a rich context for theological students, educators, and religious leaders to explore the variety of ways that people are recovering a sense of soul, a feeling for divinity in what is still our quite secular age.”

“We can celebrate the fact that Chicago and McCormick Seminary have been part of the Parliament process for many years - past, present, and, hopefully, future.”


In a forthcoming issue of McCormick Notes Online, Dr. Robert Cathey is publishing an extensive account of his experience at Melbourne. Excerpts from his article were used for this report.