For 2002 Winter Games, Faiths Agree
BY BOB MIMS
Cooperation Is in, Indoctrination Out
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
Bishop William Swing, arguably the poster cleric for ecumenism, was
pleasantly taken aback by the desire for interfaith cooperation he found
while leading a two-day seminar on spirituality in the upcoming 2002 Winter
"We were surprised by the breadth of religious diversity present and
the willingness of people to rise up and make commitments to each other,"
said Swing, spiritual leader of California's Episcopalians and founder of
the 7-year-old United Religions Initiative (URI).
"The quality of the exchange was from the heart. We were able to
address hard issues without people forming into opposition."
Besides the predominant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
faiths represented included Islam, Buddhism, Unitarian, Unity, Baha'i,
Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ,
Lutheran, Southern Baptist, Jewish, Episcopalian, Quakers and Christian
"I can't remember a time in Salt Lake when there was as much diversity
as there was at this conference. This was a good beginning," said Dave
Randle, chairman of the Olympic Chaplain Committee, a co-sponsor of the
meetings with URI and the Salt Lake Olympic Interfaith Round Table.
Notes and impressions from the seminar will be compiled into a report
to be presented to the round table meeting Feb. 8.
In addition to providing 40 chaplains for Olympic venues, the interfaith
coalition is exploring other ways to serve the hundreds of thousands of
athletes and fans expected to visit Utah during the Games. Hospitality
ventures, interfaith worship and cultural events topped that list.
"In Atlanta [home of the 1996 Summer Games], families of athletes from
poor countries who couldn't afford to come otherwise were hosted and housed
by some of the congregations there," Randle said.
Swing agreed that hospitality will be key to delivering the message of
love all faiths profess to share.
"It might be anything from having a pilgrimage around Salt Lake area
sites during the Olympics to having a sort of 'prayer wall' where people
could come from all over the world to put their prayers in cracks, like
they do at [Jerusalem's] Wailing Wall," he said. "Or it could just be having
hot chocolate and directions to places of worship; it might be having a
What representatives unanimously ruled out, Swing and Randle said, was
pushing any one belief system over another. Service, not indoctrination,
will hold the interfaith endeavor together during the Olympics.
"We all see this. We are all in agreement that this is not an occasion
to proselytize, but to form a common posture of faith hospitality to all
people," Swing said.
"We're saying to the world that Salt Lake wants to be about different
kinds of values for the new millennium, to go forth as an international
community," added Randle. "There is a spirit of really wanting to work
together in a way that hasn't been done before. The Olympics are serving
as a wonderful catalyst."
That is the kind of talk that warms Swing's ecumenical heart.
"Faith has much to offer as either being part of the problem for total
civilization or a solution," he said. "Religions will either slow down life
with their prejudices or enrich the total life of the world."
©Copyright 2000, THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE