It gives me great pleasure to introduce the new Executive Director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Dr. Larry Greenfield, former Trustee and Vice Chair of the Parliament, who previously served as Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago. Dr. Greenfield, who has served the Parliament as Interim Executive Director since September 2015, was elected by the Trustees of the Board of the Parliament in its spring meeting this past weekend.
Greenfield is an exceptional person in many ways. He is brilliant and deeply philosophical, but at the same time a bit surprising in his stylish suits, David Letterman-esque ties, and silk pocket handkerchiefs. He’s a good listener who maintains strong eye contact and clear focus, yet whose thoughtful ideas and carefully chosen words cause his conversation partners to pay close attention to what he says. He is a man of principle and courage, who’s written and spoken publicly on topics as wildly diverse as the family, health care, the wealth gap, environmentalism, politics, love, marriage equality, the Middle East, democracy, religious abuse of power, community renewal, adoration, humility, charitable acts, and forgiveness of enemies.
Dr. Kusumita Pedersen, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at St. Francis College and Co-Chair of The Interfaith Center of New York, an adherent of Sanatana Dharma and Vice Chair of the Parliament, says that “Larry brings a wealth of leadership experience in different institutions and a broad range of abilities to this position, as well as a deep thoughtfulness about our mission and how to achieve it.” This leadership experience is exemplified by Larry’s prior responsibilities as Professor and Dean of Students, and later as Senior Fellow of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago, as well as by his tenure as President of Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall/Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. These experiences have enabled Larry to establish profound friendships in academia and also helped to mold him into a wise and collaborative administrator who will guide the Parliament office staff with skill and kindness.
Similarly, his previous leadership roles as Theologian-in-Residence/Editor of Protestants for the Common Good, Co-Director/Co-Founder of The Religion Institute, Director of the Faith and Healthy Sexuality Project, and Vice President/Senior Research Scholar of the Park Ridge Center have given Greenfield a breadth of knowledge about the non-profit sector of society. As Rabbi Rachel S. Mikva, the Herman Schaalman Chair in Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary, a Reform Jew who is a Parliament Trustee and Member of its Strategic Planning Committee, has observed: “Larry has long understood how to engage the power of religion to multiply blessing in society.”
Of special significance is Greenfield’s admirable character. Tom Lemberg, a writer and former lawyer, the Parliament’s Board Secretary who describes himself as spiritual but not affiliated with any organized religion, has been struck by Larry’s personal goodness. He adds that “Larry is a man of great integrity, judgment, and ability, whose commitment to interfaith work, to social justice and to the work of the Parliament make him a splendid choice to serve as our Executive Director.”
One of Greenfield’s most endearing qualities is his ability to work well with others and to affirm their giftedness and acknowledge their hard work. Andras Corban Arthen, Vice Chair of the Trustees and Chair of the Site Selection Committee for the next global Parliament, a Pagan who is Spiritual Director of the EarthSpirit Community and President/Interfaith Liaison of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions, recognizes this trait of Larry’s and writes that “I offer him my congratulations as he becomes our new full-time Executive Director, and look forward to working closely with him as we move toward organizing the next Parliament.”
Dr. Robert Henderson, the Founder of Henderson Consulting Group and a Member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, captures the collective impression of the numerous Trustees of multiple professions and faith traditions who unanimously elected Greenfield to his new post. Henderson summarizes our feelings well: “We are so fortunate to have Larry as our new Executive Director—his deep experience, skill and personal qualities make him an excellent person to help lead the Parliament in service to the interfaith movement.”
I am happy to join Kusumita, Rachel, Tom, Andras, Bob, and many others in congratulating Dr. Larry Greenfield upon his election to serve the Parliament of the World’s Religions as its Executive Director. It will be my distinct privilege to serve alongside Larry in leading our dedicated and talented Board of Trustees as we work to promote harmony among the world’s religious traditions and engage guiding institutions to advocate for global peace, justice, and sustainability.