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See a different telling of the Council's history at  IFCouncilHistory
See a worksheet time-line below this page
See  Recommendations of the 1996 Mayor's Task Force
See a quick look at Vern's Interfaith Work in KC
See a 500-word brief of three milestones



after the demise of MICA  and Ecumendia (st Mary's sr)
NCCJ / Harmony complicated history, but at times involved with interfaith work, not teased out below

MICA (Metropolitan InterChurch Agency) [expires 76 or 77?]
Ecumedia [ through 80s?] 

Habatat for Humanity  community one (Al De Zutter) Spirit of Service(Rodge Kube/David Ross),   Festival of Faiths

1982 CRES incorporated (World Faiths Center for Religious Experience and Study)

1984 CRES publishes the first issue of what later becomes “Many Paths,” a monthly 12-page color publication of local interfaith news and commentary

1985 First annual Family Thanksgiving Sunday Interfaith Ritual Meal, developing friendships which made the Council possible

1986 April Islam and the Muslim World IRC

1986 Dec 31 First “Future is Now” celebration (Arena), later redesigned as an explicitly Interfaith observance by the Rime Buddhist Center (2000)

1987 Christian Jewish Muslim Dialogue Group formed, lasted through 1993 (Oslo) and perhaps a bit beyond

1989 May Kansas City Interfaith Council formed with persons from local American Indian, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian Protestant, Christian Roman Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Sufi, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, and Zoroastrian communities. 

1989 Aug Harmony in a World of Difference Religion Task Force Covenant signed by (almost all) members of the Interfaith Council.

1990 KC Press Club, cosponsored by CRES, CJM, IFC hold day-long conference on religion in the media at Rockhurst

1993? KC Star enhances its multi-faith regular features

1996 Religion/Spirituality Cluster of Mayor Cleaver’s Task Force on Race Relations calls for a “Council of Congregations”

1996 Crescent Peace Society formed

1997? Mayor Cleaver boosts idea of Congregational Partners, at first independent, then a part of Harmony, working at least through  2005 when it had 29 congregations involved (Janet Moss).

??? MLK Interfaith Service, originally Christian-Jewish, expanded when?

2000? Spirit of Service (a couple years around 2000)

2000 Dec 31 the “Future is Now” begin in 1986 becomes the World Peace Meditation and is hosted annually by the Rime Buddhist Center

2001 Institute for Spirituality and Health founded with interfaith advisors by Steve Jeffers at Shawnee Mission Medical Center

2001 Sep 16 City-wide interfaith “Remembering and Renewing” Observance arranged by CRES and the Council at the suggestion of Congressman Dennis Moore

2001 Oct 26-28 “Gifts of Pluralism” Interfaith Conference with 250 folks from every faith tradition participating, with talks, workshops, small groups and a concluding Declaration unanimously approved.

2002 Sep 10 Jackson County (Religious) Diversity Task Force submits 77-page Report on the five-county area

2002 Sep 11 Interfaith Day-long city-wide First Anniversary Observance of 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, beginning at Ilus Davis Park, with a procession to Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, concluding with an interfaith ceremony and workshops. Some 50 congregations and 14 faiths were involved. As well as participation from civic leaders, the KC Symphony, Lyric Opera and KC Ballet.

2002 Oct 13 CBS special on interfaith work in Kansas City

2003 Adam Hamilton, UM Church of the Resurrection, preaches a series, "Christianity and the Religions of the World," using local leaders of Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist faiths

2004 Institute of Interfaith Dialogue establishes presence in Kansas City and offers an evening of Whirling Dervishes at the Lyric Theater, later establishes Raindrop Turkish House in Lenexa

2005 CRES encourages the Council to become independent; it reorganizes as The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. It holds its first annual Table of Faiths luncheon

2005 First Salaam Shalom Celebration

2007 June 13-27, first national Interfaith Academies held in Kansas City, one for religious professionals, one for students, run concurrently, with international participation. Kansas City was selected because of the accessibility of site visits to supplement the classroom instruction, by partners Religions for Peace-USA and Harvard University’s Pluralism Project.
   “At the Pluralism Project, we consider Kansas City to be truly at the forefront of interfaith relations. This is — in no small part — due to the tireless efforts of Vern Barnet, whose work and writings have been an inspiration to all of us at the Pluralism Project.
     “In a recent column, he wrote, ‘Community is created not so much by intellectual debate but by people getting to know one another.’ I am struck by the innovative ways the people have gotten to know one another here, from CRES and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council to the play, ‘The Hindu and the Cowboy’ and the Gifts of Pluralism conference.”
   —Ellie Pierce,  principal researcher for The Pluralism Project at Harvard University
     Funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, partners for the Academies were the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, Religions for Peace-USA, the Saint Paul School of Theology where the participants were housed, and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. CRES arranged for visits to six religious sites and numerous other programs that enriched the academic experience — a tour of the Nelson-Atkins, the movie night with the public, a public panel on religion and the media, a panel on lesser-known faiths, arrangements for Hindu and the Cowboy.

2007 First Annual Festival of Faiths

2008 December CRES publishes the last issue of “Many Paths”

2009 The North American Interfaith Network held its annual convention here (at Unity Village). Vern had been on the planning committee.
     [I spent lots of time and involved lots of people in preparation following the NAIN procedure with the official approval of the NAIN officers. Then a switch. I was embarrassed at bringing others into the mess and was quietly furious about the way the programming was handled and did not attend, nor did any member of the Interfaith Council. I declined to promote it. They might as well have met in Anyplace.]

2009 CRES concludes its independent programming with its final annual Family Thanksgiving Sunday Interfaith Ritual Meal, and other organizations agree to arrange it for the future.

2010 First Annual "Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award" initiated at the 26th annual Thanksgiving Sunday Ritual Dinner, November 21, 2010, at the Regnier Center, Johnson County Community College, co-sponsored by the Heartland Chapter - Alliance of Divine Love and the Johnson County Community College Office of International Education and Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in cooperation with the interfaith community with meeting support from All Souls UU Church and cooperative partners The Greater Kansas City, Interfaith Council, 3HO Kundalini Yoga Center, Baha'i Faith Community of Greater Kansas City, Community Christian Church, Crescent Peace Society, Cultural Crossroads, Culturally Speaking, Festival of Faiths, , Hatebusters, Hindu Temple and Cultural Center, Rime Buddhist Center, Sikh Dharma of Kansas City, Urantia Book Fellowship, and Vedanta Society. 

A Quick Look at Vern's Interfaith Work in Kansas City 
At the Pluralism Project, we consider Kansas City to be truly at the forefront of interfaith relations. This is — in no small part — due to the tireless efforts of Vern Barnet, whose work and writings have been an inspiration to all of us at the Pluralism Project. 
     In a recent column, he wrote, "Community is created not so much by intellectual debate but by people getting to know one another." 
     I am struck by the innovative ways the people have gotten to know one another here, from CRES and the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council to the play, "The Hindu and the Cowboy" and the Gifts of Pluralism conference. 
                        —Ellie Pierce,  principal reseaarcher for The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, 2007

1982 -- I created the Center for Religious Experience and Study ("CRES") as a multi-faith institute. With a strong academic backgroud and some experience in community organizing, the Center aim was to marry theory and practice in building interfaith understanding and relationships in order to access the wisdom of the world's faith traditions to heal the crises in the environment, personhood, and society.

1985 -- CRES began an annual Family Thanksgiving Sunday Interfaith Ritual Meal

1989 -- I founded the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council as a program of CRES, originally with religions from A to Z:  American Indian, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian Catholic, Christian Protestant, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Sikh, Sufi, Unitarian Universalist, and Zoroastrian. (Christian Orthodox was added later.)

1994 -- The Kansas City Star invited me to write a professional, weekly column, "Faith and Beliefs," continuing for 947 columns, ending in 2012.

1996 -- Vern drafted the Recommendation for a Council of Congregations in the Religion/Spirituality Cluster, chaired by Maggie Finefrock, for Mayor Cleaver's Task Force on Racism

1997 -- CRES began its substantial web presence 

2001 Oct 27-28 -- CRES created and led "The Gifts of Pluralism" 2-day conference with 250 folks participating, and a pre-conference event for youth Oct 26; the conference issued a significant statement about what we can learn from each other, completing the overview of the world's faiths in chart.

2001-2002 -- I chaired the Jackson County task force to survey the 5-county area after 9/11 (we produced a 35,000 word report delivered September 10, 2002).

2002 August -- A CBS film crew spent a week in Kansas City filming our interfaith activities.

2002 September 11 -- I lead a day-long, metro-wide interfaith observance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 

2002 Oct 13 -- CBS-TV broadcast nation-wide a half-hour special from its week with us in August, supplemented by locally-produced video on 2002 September 11.

2005 -- With my urging, the Council became a separate organization

2005 July 3 Sunday 10 am -- CRES presents RiverFest Interfaith Service at Berkley Riverfront Park at request of the City and the Port Authority.

2007 June 13-27 -- The nation's first "Interfaith Academies" for professionals and students sponsored by Harvard's Pluralism Project, Religions for Peace-UN Plaza, and others was held here, with arrangements by CRES.

2009 -- The North American Interfaith Network helds its annual convention here at Unity Village which I suggested.
     [I spent lots of time and involved lots of people in program preparation following the NAIN procedure with the official approval of the NAIN officers. Then a switch in process from a takeover. I was embarrassed at bringing others into the mess and was quietly disturbed about the way the programming was handled. I did not attend. I declined to promote it. I know of no member of the Interfaith Council attending. The reason for having NAIN conferences held in various locations is to promote local-national frmentation. It didn't happen here.] 

2010 -- An Annual "Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award" was initiated and presented as part of a Thanksgiving Interfaith tradition CRES led from 1985-2009

2013 -- Radcliffe Publishing in London issued the 740-page interfaith manual, The Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers, which I edited with three others here and which drew international consultants from contacts here

2015 -- Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire, my book of 154 sonnets with extensive notes about references to world religions was published. A second printing is scheduled for late 2019 or early 2020.

2018 -- Design, initiate, and teach a course, "Ministry in a Pluralistic Culture" at the Central Baptist Theological Seminary.

In my retirement, I have continued to provide programs and trainings for many groups.

Our situation is much changed since 1982, with the development of many groups doing various kinds of interfaith work benefiting the Kansas City metro area.

A longer overview of Interfaith efforts in Kansas City

A History of the Early Years of the Interfaith Council


Report of the Mayor's Task Force on
Race Relations, Religion/Spirituality Cluster

RELlGION/ SPIRITUALITY CLUSTER MISSION: to determine the current status of race relations within religious and spiritual communities in KCMO, develop a vision of the ideal status to be strived for, and make recommendations and action plans for bridging the gap for continuous meaningful change. The cluster group is composed of committed and diverse people who live or work in KCMO and have the expertise and passion to listen to the community and fulfill this mission.

Submitted by:
Chair Marisa Winston

Rev. Earl Abel
Rev. Vern Barnet 
Anand Bhattacharya 
Rev. Dan Bonner 
Kevin Bush
Peggy Ekerdt 
Rev. Don Gilmore 
Rev. Wallace Hartsfield 
Gwendolyn Hawks 
Rosemary Henderson
Rev. Bob Hill 
Nancy Lorenz 
Maggie Finefrock 
Imam Bilal Muhammad
Rev. David Nelson
Rev. Kirk Perucca
Tom Sweeny
Rabbi Joshua Taub
Sister Theresa Torres
Rev. Al Truesdale
Rev. Duke Tufty
Rev, Susan Vogel
Rev. Sandra McFadden Weaver
Seree Weroha
Rev. John Weston
Rev. Stuart Whitney

V. Recommendations and Evaluation [pages 15-18]

RECOMMENDATION. We recommend the creation of a metropolitan Council of Congregations to End Racism. 

REASON. Racism here cannot be ended by working simply within the confines of Kansas City, MO. Racism cannot be ended simply by statements by judicatories but must become a project owned by each congregation. Ending racism requires spiritual communities to assist one another in envisioning and working for a society that values each person as a child of the universe within the moral vision for which religions institutions are especially responsible. At present, there is no area organization of religious bodies to facilitate such communication and joint efforts. Racism will not be ended overnight; a long-term organizational strategy is needed. 

PROCEDURE FOR ORGANIZING THE COUNCIL. We recommend that Mayor Cleaver request an area foundation to provide sufficient resources for one year (office, secretarial support, printing, postage, and a project director), alter which the Council would be responsible for its own funding. The foundation should select a person, perhaps a retired executive with a nonsectarian vision or a teacher with experience working on racial and ethnic issues in the religious community, to direct the creation of the Council in the following steps: (1) consult judicatories and major congregations to acquaint them with the project and obtain their endorsement and cooperation, (2) using personal contact, build an advisory committee to guide the process and consider initial governance questions, (3) again, maximizing personal contact, assemble at least one representative from every congregation in the metro area to begin work on the mission of Council. 

 1. The primary mission of the Council is to articulate an interfaith theology which makes clear that our ultimate commitment includes ending all forms of oppression, and create and continually update a spiritual vision of love and justice for all people in the metro area. Building on the Harmony Religion Task Force Covenant and existing denominational statements, the Council’s vision should challenge the lack of urgency our society has given to ending prejudice and oppression, be frank about the nature of sin, separation, and illusion, indicate how interwoven racism and ethnic discrimination are with economic and other oppressions, eschew premature reconciliation, and guide the community toward the commitment and joy of spiritual kinship. 

THE WORK OF THE COUNCIL. In fulfilling this mission, the Council would work ways such as the following: 

2. Be a model of people networking across state, racial, ethnic, and religious lines, communicating and working together to make the vision a reality. The Council would help congregations know about what other congregations are doing—their problems, resources, and outcomes—through a newsletter, cable -programming (perhaps with Ecumedia), and other means. 

3. Uplift the vision and recognize those working to make it a reality in small ways and in a major yearly celebration, such as making the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday significant for all people at Kaufmann Stadium, or creating a spiritually explicit K.C. SpiritFest recognizing the possibilities for matured reconciliation and healing. 

4. Cooperate with efforts like the annual Harmony concert and encourage other such efforts. 

5. Facilitate congregational pairing, pulpit exchanges, joint work projects, area ministerial groups, and other efforts to achieve the vision. 

6. Facilitate the formation of interfaith and interracial congregational partnerships for the purpose of improving the lives of our city’s children and bringing racial harmony. Initially the many such partnerships can be formed between pairs of faith communities for the simple reason that pairs of congregations can join forces more coherently and effectively than a large number of congregations working together for the same objectives. We recommend that, to the extent possible, faith groups of different ethnic communities should be paired; for example, an urban black church and a suburban white church can form one such partnership. The purpose of these partnerships is not only dialogue but also bringing together resources for common community services, such as adopting elementary schools, establishing relationships with inner-city youth groups and neighborhoods, helping community centers to provide specific services, assisting youth agencies, economic development and such. 

7. Work with other organizations to provide trainers and educational resources to encourage recognition of diversity and skills for inclusion. 

8. Encourage congregations to undertake institutional racism audits including an examination of inclusiveness in the language of worship and other ways the expression of our faiths can be enlarged and enriched. 

9. Organize a youth mentoring program to break down barriers, promote understanding, and build relationships. 

10. Explore the multiplicity of images of the Sacred. Religions with specific seasonal observances could develop a contest for cards that celebrate a diversity of expressions. Art exhibits (perhaps at the Nelson and the Kemper) could display sacred images of various cultures and traditions. 

11. Establish opportunities for cross-cultural experiences to address issues of racism (identification of the pain, confession of responsibility, preparation for diversity activism). 

12. Support minority businesses by encouraging individuals and institutions to trade with them. The Council can assist religious organizations throughout the metro area to gain wide community support. This will help by building confidence communities, creating jobs, and reducing street crime. 

13. Encourage the various spiritual communities to organize interfaith discourses because we in the various spiritual communities can understand racial issues better by understanding each other’s traditions better. The Council can cooperate with groups like the National Conference (N CCJ), the Kansas City Inter-Faith Council (which is now updating its Speakers Bureau), the Christian Jewish Muslim Dialogue Group, and the World Faiths Center for Religious Experience and Study (CRES). 

14. Provide interfaith and intercultural leadership development immersions, held at the University of Diversity Retreat Center at the 40 Acres and a Mule Campus. The highly structured multi-day events, requiring residence at the Center, will bring a diverse group of 40 youths and adults into critical dialogue and learning experience with one another. Local and national resource persons (such as the Rev Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church) will facilitate these immersions, along with the staff developed by the Council of Congregations. 

EVALUATION. The Council should periodically report its work to its member congregations and to the community. It should evaluate itself and seek community comment. Some of our specific recommendations, such as the Partnerships, can be evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively. The bottom line for evaluations is how effective each activity is in promoting the vision of inclusiveness articulated earlier in this report by the Religion Spirituality Cluster.

“Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever ?owing stream.” — Amos 5:23 - 24 

“Anyone who starts out with the conviction that the road to racial justice is only one lane wide will inevitably create a tra?ic jam and make the journey infinitely longer.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

“Like a virus it's hard to beat racism, because by the time you come up with a cure, it's mutated to a ‘new cure-resistant‘ form. One shot just won't get it . Racism must be attacked fiom many angles.” — J. Yamato 

Special thanks to Botello and Associates for many hours of data analysis, Peggy Waldon at KCPD for support staf and Maria ‘Stacey’ Stapleton at Temple B’nai Jehudah for typing the final draft. 


Concept Statement 
To create a Kansas City with harmony and racial justice for all through the efforts of all faith communities working together with each other and with the greater community in a way that unites religious and spiritual groups across racial lines to learn from each other and find their individual and collective voice and power to eradicate racism gm all individuals and groups may develop in faith an individual and civic talents unimpeded by the disease of racism. Then Kansas City will be that “city on the hill” that can model harmony and justice for the world. 

Prepared for the newsletter of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.

Here are three of many milestones in the history of the Council.

The Gifts of Pluralism Conference in 2001.— Over 250 folks spent two days learning about each others’ faiths at the State Line campus of Pembroke Hill School, to signal both states and our educational approach. Embracing American Indian, Bahá'í, Buddhist, Christian (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox), Free Thinker, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Sufi, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, and Zoroastrian traditions, the conference took over two years to plan, and has not been repeated. Kansas Congressman Dennis Moore and Missouri Congresswoman Karen McCarthy opened the meeting, and the governors, senators and others sent greetings. 

     To focus on developing relationships, out-of-town celebrities were eschewed. Many local resources were displayed, including drama, dance, and music. The “Appreciative Inquiry” process — one-on-one, in small groups, and in workshops — helped folks encounter each other in the depths of their faiths quickly. Panels of religious leaders addressed our culture’s environmental, personal, and social failings. Following an interfaith ceremony Sunday, a panel on the role of religion in Kansas City, with prominent figures from government, media, business, and non-profit sectors, was featured

     A 500-word Concluding Declaration, from comments posted on a wall, was unanimously adopted and signed in a rite using waters from rivers around the world and from area fountains. The Declaration begins, “This is an historic moment because never before have people of so many faiths [here] convened to explore sacred directions for troubled times.” The three crises of our age — environmental, personal, and communal — were identified with corresponding sacred wisdom from the three families of faith. 

     From the conference, the play, The Hindu and the Cowboy was created, a Jackson County task force was appointed to survey the 5-county area after 9/11 resulting in a 35,000-word report, waters as an interfaith symbol developed, and new people joined the interfaith movement.

Responses to 9/11.— On September 16, 2001, at Congressman Moore’s request, we quickly designed a major community-wide interfaith observance. 

Our 2002 anniversary observance, broadcast live, began before dawn with a Symphony brass ensemble playing at the pool north of City Hall where Council members poured “waters of tears.” Then in procession with police escort, we took our mingled water to the Episcopal Cathedral for day-long events including the Ballet and Opera. The evening, begun with Jewish and Muslim children singing together, included Mayor Kay Barnes and Governor Bob Holden, with mingled “waters of healing” distributed to each Council member. A month later, a national CBS half-hour special focused on our interfaith work and included a video from the water ceremony.

Interfaith Academies.— Our reputation led Harvard’s Pluralism Project and others to select Kansas City for the nation’s first “Interfaith Academies.” For two weeks in 2007, in classroom and field, professionals and students benefited from the interfaith civic environment the Council had grown. 

These and other milestones are detailed at There, photos and words of some no longer with us remind us of the beauty of their leadership and the generosity of their spirit.