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WNRF Marks 25 Years of Religious Futurism
by Dr. Rev. Richard Kirby, Jul 20, 2005
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As I speak these words on the 20th of July, 2005, those of us who have worked as religious futurists are looking back to the meeting of the Religious Futurists in Toronto at the World Future Society Meeting in 1980. We are celebrating the first quarter century of the Religious Futurists Movement.

I use the word celebrating which is a priestly or liturgical word because I want to make the point that a reflection on religious futurists and their work --- if it comes from within the movement --- should be a religious reflection, which is to say a priestly, pastoral or prophetic one. With that in mind I would like to invite all of us who have work in this field to ask the rather searching question of what God has been doing in our work; what God is doing; and what we think God is calling us to do for the next quarter century of the religious future of the religious futurist movement.

I will stick to what I know by couching the beginning of my reflections in autobiographical form. Many of our members such as Dick Spady were present at the Toronto meeting in 1980. I did not myself encounter the religious futurists until 1982 when there was a gathering of the religious futurists network in Phoenix Arizona. At that time the religious futurists movement was within the National Council of Churches.  It was managed by the Reverend John C. DeBoer out of the Joint Strategies Action Committee JASAC of the Division of Church and Society of the National Council of Churches. At that time they had a newsletter called Visions. It was edited by the Reverend William A. Heins who worked as editor for quite a few years.

I finished seminary training in New York in 1985 and kept in touch with the religious futurists and was writing for them quite regularly from about 1984 on, on subjects like the Moral Governance of Artificial Intelligence, a series of three articles.

This led to contact from the religious futurist, Professor Parker Rossman and in due course he and I produced a book together Christians and the World of Computers (1990).

I now project a successor volume provisionally titled Christians in the Worlds of Money and Finance. I have preached ten sermons on finance, money and wealth creation in the last two years and written three fictional tales. These will be the basis of this work, which will serve as the charter for a London office of the Finance Institute set up by me and Dr. Irina Tagunova earlier this year (April 2005). In turn, from this we can see the likely training and commissioning of chaplains in the worlds of money - for examples to banks, venture capitalists and even to casinos!

In 1987 I sat down at the kitchen table of a small apartment in London where I was living at that time doing my Ph.D. in theology and wrote on an air gram to some of the people in America about the possibility of having an international group of the religious futurists. In due course I was put in touch with the then leader of the field , Reverend Dr. Earl D. C. Brewer. The results of this was the so-called Princeton round table meeting took place in 1988 where Gordon Arthur and I came from England, Parker Rossman and his brother Vern attended and also our friend Mark Albrecht and Earl Brewer himself. We met at Princeton Theological Seminary and the World Network of Religious Futurists was formed at that time in 1988 with Earl Brewer voted in as chairman and myself as secretary, later to become administrator.

That same year at the World Future Society meeting an editor came to speak to us from a publisher Mansells in London. This publisher was producing a series of books on the future and wanted to find a writer for the subject of future religions.

Earl Brewer was asked to do this and invited me to join him. Over the next couple of years we worked together and duly produced the first systematic textbook of the field of religious futures. It was called the Temples of Tomorrow, subtitle World Religions and the Future.

At the time of writing (2005) Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dror and I are pondering a second edition of this book called to be called Space Temples, which will also build from his own book Futurizing the Jews.

These processes of collaboration and creation and theological reflection are typical of the work of the religious futurists movement as a whole.

In the year (1993) that The Temples of Tomorrow appeared, the World Parliament of Religions Centenary took place in Chicago and I attended it and took the Temple of Tomorrow with us. This led me to a long relationship with a seminary in Oklahoma and the creation of a course on the spiritual philosophy of the arts.

Earl died the same year and I duly succeeded him as the chairperson.

Meanwhile the journal Visions had changed its name to Global Visions. It was variously edited by Bill Heins and by Mr. (now Dr.) Gordon Arthur.

At this juncture it is right to mention the outstanding contribution to the field of Jay Gary. I met Jay in January 1996 and at that time we covenanted together to share our interest in the religious orders of the future as well as the religious futurists in general. Jay had formed the order of Global Servants, and my colleagues and I had formed the order of the Academy of Christ.

At the time of writing these initiatives are very much alive and looking to take some new forms in relations to our work with the military chaplains and with NASA.

Jay became nationally prominent before the time of the Y2K problem with the possible computer crash of the year 2000. His book The Star of 2000 about the relationship of Jesus Christ to the year 2000 was a significant contribution to our field.

For 18 months before 1999, Jay also served as Executive Director of the World Network of Religious Futurists and did outstanding work setting up a website WNRF.org and turning it into a worthy successor to the periodical publication Global Visions. Since that humble start, the World Network of Religious Futurists has taken significant steps forward in its coverage of religious news and religious futurists news across many fields.

About ten years ago I took a trip to Israel and stayed with Rabbi Dr. Dror at his home in Yeroham. There we sat in the desert together and prayed and planned our shared work, which continues to this day.

In the year 2000 we began discussions with the managers of the World Future Society with developing a chaplaincy program for the World Future Society as a whole, as I thought that this was an appropriate form of ministry by the religionists to the futurists. Moshe and I became the first practitioners of this joint chaplaincy of ministers and we at the time of speaking are ten days away from expressing its 5th year.

As a natural sequel to that Moshe and I developed a chaplaincy program for the World Network of Futurists itself and last month I was invested in the first stage of two stages of investiture on June 21 the first day of summer, with the process to be completed on July 30th 2005 in Chicago.

Meanwhile my resignation from the position of Administrative Manager after 17 years in that role has paved the way for founding member Dr. Gordon Arthur to take up the duties of Administrative Manager or Administrator around the first of August. At that time also we will have a new chairperson in the person of Aziz Nasir. He has been for sometime the deputy chairperson and is now moving to the next level of responsibility from which he can develop initiatives suited to the religion of Islam. He divides his time between Pakistan and London, England.

I would like to speak here about the Presidency of the Network. Shortly before Earl Brewer passed away in 1993, we had prepared for him to step up from the position of Chairperson, leaving that to me along with his mandate to me that I serve within this role as Chief Executive Officer, to the new position of President. It seemed obvious that the growth of the Network into diplomatic work, for example, required a Head of State position. With the death of Dr. Brewer, this office and role of President passed into disuse pending the arrival of a suitable occupant. 

About three years ago this requirement was satisfied when Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dror, the most distinguished Jewish and Israeli futurist of the last century, graciously agreed to take up the task of being WNRF President as lifetime appointment, We are very blessed by his continued occupancy of this office, and wish him long life and health! His recent book with Tsvi Bisk, Futurizing the Jews is a precursor to a collaborative work on Space Temples which Dr. Dror and others will be crafting in the near future as a guide for NASA, the Military Chaplains and other constituencies concerned with what we call Astronomical Civilization, within the one-word culture we are calling Astronomicalism.

WNRF has had some work for government. In 1993 Dr. Drors son, the eminent soldier (Major in Israeli Army) and youth leader in interfaith peacemaking, Amos Davidowitz, graciously and resourcefully arranged for four religious futurists to serve as consultants to the Government of Greece in a process of conflict resolution touching upon the problems of religion in Cyprus and related areas. On that trip, we also stayed with Mayor Panos Kaltsis, Mayor of Delphi, and visited the site of the Oracle of Delphi.

The prolific activities of our members are too numerous to mention in this short essay, but I am planning to find an archivist and historian so that the history of the future of religion can properly be told. For now, I must close the strictly retrospective part of this essay buy mentioning our annual merit Award, the Earl Award, named after our founding father Earl D.C. Brewer. This recognition of the successful pursuit of excellence in our field has been a kind o backbone of our presence in our field. 

I will now list* in chronological order the first 14 recipients. The award is given retrospectively, usually in the late July World Future Society annual meeting, for the previous calendar year. There is a trophy, a framed certificate and the speech made in the recipient's honor, together with the speech of acceptance.

  • 1991 Rev. Dr. Earl D.C. Brewer (award in 1992) [Georgia]
  • 1992 Dr. Parker Rossman [Connecticut, now Missouri]
  • 1993 Dr. Richard J. Spady [Seattle, Washington]
  • 1994 Barbara Marx Hubbard [California]
  • 1995 Dr. Edward J. Wenk Jr. [Seattle, Washington]
  • 1996 Dr. Jay E. Gary [Virginia Beach, Virginia]
  • 1997 Rev. Dr. Carol E. Parrish-Harra [Tahlequah, Oklahoma]
  • 1998 Rev. (Rabbi) Dr. Moshe Dror [Yeroham, Israel]
  • 1999 The Hon. Mayor, Salvatore (Sam) Caruso [Slidell, Louisiana]
  • 2000 Kenneth A. Miller, MD [Wisconsin]
  • 2001 August (Gus) Jaccaci (New Gloucester, Maine)
  • 2002 Marilyn Fiedler (Minot, North Dakota)
  • 2003 Dr. Arthur K. Ellis [Seattle, Washington]
  • 2004 Aziz Nasir (award in 2005) [Eminabad, district Gujranwala, Pakistan; and London, England]
This is now perhaps a point in the short essay to do some reflecting on what we have found and where we want go next.

Its my conviction that we are just at the dawn of the real mission of the religious futurists program which is to fulfill its starting intent. The starting intent was to take the world of futures forward to the religions and conversely to take the world religion to the World Future Society and other associations.

I feel that we have come a long way in teaching religions about futures oriented work. I do not think we have come very far yet in bringing spiritual reflection methods such as prayer, meditation and worship to the process of the futurists skills. It seems to me that this would be the task of the next 25 years. We want to progressively integrate our prayers with our thinking, and to progressively integrate our worship services and liturgies with group inquiry processes, in seeking the future. We want to train up a school of prophets who will be able to listen to the fresh word of God and deliver it to the people.

Perhaps one example of this is the work of the Religious Futurists group with the military and with NASA the space authority.

There are two starting points for this in recent years. When the United States began the battle of Baghdad and the ensuing presence in Iraq I thought it was time for me to become a member of the Military Chaplain Association. I did this and 2 years ago attended the annual Institute of the World Future Society with Dick Spady. There we made friends with people such as the Reverend Admiral Barry C. Black, who since then has become Chaplain to the US Senate, and also former Admiral David White who is now in his  last week or so as outgoing Executive Director of the Association.

The incoming Executive Director, the Reverend Dr. Gary Pollitt, a former navy chaplain and theologian is also the vice president of the Military Chaplain Association and is working closely with a group of us (an ad hoc MCA/NASA or Space Civilization or Space Chaplains interdisciplinary Task Force) who have now have had two colloquia on the relationship between NASA, the military chaplains and the concerns and energies and hopes of religious leaders and spiritual principals.

This seems a suitable point in which to end this brief reflection, in which I have had to omit so much that have been told, about our work with medicine, seniors, cities and so on and so forth.

I am deeply convinced that the next stage over the next 25 years will be to bring the spiritual practices of the religions, such as prayer, meditation, worship, repentance and the amendment of life and all the attention to God that leads us to live compassionate, and holy and saintly lives to the communities of futurists and to their philosophies and practices. It is with this reason that we are developing a chaplaincy service not only to the World Future Society but to the Religious Futurists. The task of this chaplaincy seems to me to be to identify the spiritual gifts of the members, the talents of the group as a whole community, our calling and vocation, and the fresh spiritual word which is leading us all to the fulfillment of our place in the World Body Politic as spiritual leaders and servants of the servants of God.

What I see coming up next will be liturgies and prayer books for religious futurists and fiction suited to spiritual science fiction, and a hymn book that we can call for the moment simply the Songs of the Stars. Perhaps some kind of Gallery of future religions in the Space Age, designed like the Futurama in Atlanta Georgia, will become the home for our nascent Hall of Fame for the 14 Earl Award winners and those wonderful saints of the stars who will them into our chamber of spiritual innovation.....along with our science fiction stories such as The Song of the Stars which is a musical I wrote decades ago, now being set to music by the Christian musician and composer Stephen E. Marshall.

In the practical worlds of religion and government, we can look forward to fulfilling our seven-year old dream of a Million Youth-Power engine among religious youth world wide in our Youth Against Road Rage.

Likewise Dr. Dror and I have begun to consider adapting the Spiritual Exercises of St, Ignatius Loyola of the Jesuits, to the Space Age, as part of our spiritual training of our future scholars and teachers as they prepare to design a residential community which will be a kind of Space-Age Monastery crossed with a scientific Lab, a chapel and a theological college training space chaplains for the public and private sector; for we hope to train chaplains for the Space Tourism program as well as for the military.

May this little essay become a seed for a mighty Narrative Tree telling our story, our myth of the Future of Religion in the Future.

May God bless our work richly, and may we walk in his Way as we help each other comprehend and celebrate the Path of Holiness for the 21st century with its perilous prospects and wonderful opportunities for global civilization, leading us, as Barbara Gilles tells us in her essay on Nurturing Civilization Builders, to build Star Schools for the Children of the Stars. 



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