Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Western Institute for Intercultural Studies

Observant readers may have noted a change in my blog profile, not only in the form of the addition of my photo, but also in a change in my organizational affiliation. In the past I worked through an organization called Neighboring Faiths Project, but various circumstances have come together to result in a transformation of this organization into something new. Over the last few months I have been working with a colleague, Ken Mulholland, one of the founders and former President of Salt Lake Theological Seminary, to form the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies (WIIS).

WIIS represents an expansion and revision of the work begun several years ago under the previous organization that have been transferred over to the new ministry. For some time now it has been my desire to help evangelicals and mainline Protestant Christians come to a new way of understanding the new religious movements in America and the Western world, one that shifts from viewing many of them as "cults" to a broader framework that understands them as religious or spiritual cultures or subcultures. Within this context I have been pursuing a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the new religions, and have also been reflecting on the history of Christian missions and cross-cultural missiology as sources that can inform how the story of Jesus might more appropriately be shared with those pursuing alternative spiritual pathways.

As we have expanded and revised the organization over the last several months we have seen new interest in what we are doing, new partnerships in our work, and a new project in the works.

* As mentioned in a previous post, Sacred Tribes Journal has been revived and the website expanded and greatly improved due to a partnership between WIIS and Michael Cooper and other faculty from Trinity International University. The journal is now peer reviewed, is currently seeking new submissions for future issues, and includes a Scholars Network in partnership with WIIS. In addition, a partnership between Sacred Tribes, Trinity International University, and WIIS has come together to put together a scholarly conference on new religions to be held at Trinity in October of this year. This conference represents a collection of some of the best Christian scholars and lay practitioners working in the field coming together in plenary and parallell sessions to reflect on moving the study of and response to new religions forward. As a result, it promises to present something unique in evangelical conferences on new religions.

* Not long ago we completed the website for WIIS which can be found at www.wiics.org. This website was designed by John Smulo, and we highly recommend his abilities at website and blog design. On the new website you will find many helpful features, including a description of our organization and its activities, as well as a listing of the scholars who comprise our WIIS Research Fellows, our presentations and training, and our latest project (described below).

* The first major resource produced by WIIS is called Transitions. For any number of reasons, each year large numbers of Latter-day Saints leave their church and move toward traditional Christianity. But with this migration comes many challenges, including emotional, cultural, and doctrinal issues. We are in the pre-production stages for the creation of a 10-part series that will include video segments, a facilitator's workbook, and participant guide, that will address the challenges in transitioning into traditional Christian churches and spirituality. This resource will follow in the tradition of Bridges and Grounded, two resources on Mormonism produced by Salt Lake Theological Seminary. Learn more about Transitions by visiting our website at this link.

I look forward to the continued contributions of WIIS to fresh perspectives and new resources addressing new religious movements.

3 comments:

Shawna Renee said...

This looks great John. I'm glad you're doing this work. It's very much needed.

Anonymous said...

The website looks great! Great job Smulo. Hey Morehead. Think your organization could put some material together for those transitioning from the Church to Christianity?

John W. Morehead said...

I'm glad you appreciate the site. I'm not sure what you mean by your reference to transitioning materials but if you could specify what you see as a need perhaps it could be considered.