Eulogies for Joel Beversluis
On Tuesday March 18, 2003, Joel Beverluis passed out of this world after several months of struggling with cancer. He was a wonderful man who shall be dearly missed by his friends from around the world. We all wish his family the best and thank them for supporting his tireless efforts at promoting interfaith dialogue over the past ten years and more.
Dear Celia and other members of Joel's family, I met Joel many times at interfaith gatherings over the past years and I was always impressed by his commit tent to the field of interfaith work and to children. Joel did so much to help promote interfaith concepts and to bring the many interfaith groups and organizations together. I will always think of him as one of the quiet light bearers of the interfaith movement whose life and dedication to interfaith harmony has been a truly beautiful example to us all.
In Love, Alison Van Dyk, Chairman, Temple of Understanding Board march 20
He was such a beautiful man, with great soaring breadth of spirit. He as generous to me personally and I was very grateful for his willingness to offer his forthright support of an interfaith campaign I direct. As a former journalist, I also respected him highly as the most careful and diligent chronicler of our contemporary interfaith movement, as well as being one of our best historians, along with Marcus Braybrooke. The interfaith movement is very much richer from his having devoted so much of his life to nurturing its spirit, to helping it grow and to faithfully recording so many of its words.
Richard Rosenkranz, March 23rd (Founder: World Tibet Day; and Interfaith Call for Religious Freedom & Human Rights)
3. Remembering a Giant Among Us
Joel Beversluis was schlepping books across a large patio outside conference rooms at the UC Berkeley Student Union in 1994, the day I met him. The last time we hugged good-bye was late at night outside the conference center of a small Catholic college in Wichita last August - he was moving boxes of interfaith books back into his car for the drive home to Michigan.
In nine years we've only spent three or four months together, always at interfaith gatherings, a long weekend with North American Interfaith Network colleagues or a whole week in South Africa at the Parliament of the World's Religions or summer summits at Stanford in the formational years of United Religions Initiative. We talked at airports and in hotels, and once Jan and I were happy to share our living room couch and conversation into the wee hours when a conference brought him to San Francisco.
Good times together, but for such a few short years. I didn't know Joel well enough to write a eulogy of his life. But when he died last Tuesday, I lost a treasured colleague and friend. And the global grassroots interfaith movement said farewell to a giant among us, a quiet pioneer whose work as a scout helped direct and empower an interfaith movement developing into dozens of different expressions all over the world. In the narrow confines of our gatherings, I knew Joel well enough to know what a stunning loss his death is to the movement he loved so well.
Joel left a 20-year career at Eerdmans Publishing, a large, well-respected Christian press, to found CoNexus, an interfaith publishing house that was grassroots, both in its interests and its daily struggle to generate an adequate income for the family while generating a resource center serving people in villages and megalopolises everywhere who are hungry for good interfaith tools. No doubt the CoNexus impetus came from accepting an invitation from the Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions as they planned a huge centennial celebration of the Chicago 1893 Parliament. He was asked to compile and edit a resource document for those attending the 100-year anniversary of the first public interfaith dialogue in this nation.
Like its predecessor, the 1993 Parliament turned out to be significant historically, and Joel's document became Sourcebook of the World's Religions (Third edition, 2000, CoNexuspress.com). It is the one book an interfaith activist cannot do without, scanning the depth and breadth of an emerging global movement bent on transforming interreligious interaction from violence to mutual respect and cooperation.
Besides building CoNexus Multifaith Media into the largest distributorship of interfaith resources in this country, besides taking those resources to one gathering after another and another, he became a participating leader, joining the board of directors of North American Interfaith Network (NAIN). For several years he's written and edited the NAINews & Interfaith Digest, making it the best ongoing record of grassroots activities published in English, to my knowledge. His hat as journalist was well earned as he recorded the first stories, bits of news, and reports of neighborhood strangers from different faiths deciding to get to know each other, here and abroad. Last year he and Stephen Fuqua, a URI affiliate in Texas, launched InterfaithNews.net, an e-journal that promised to start a virtual conversation about this work among practitioners, educators, and interreligious activists around the globe.
Gandhi's suggestion that interfaith relations require humility was exemplified in Joel Beversluis. He didn't talk about the work he did for the Parliament and for Harvard's Pluralism Project, simply doing it with gentle good humor, a complete commitment, and a twinkle in his eye. His Midwestern evangelically rooted Christian faith embraced peoples of all faiths and spiritualities, and he cared profoundly about getting the word out to everyone about the possibility of healthy, constructive relationships with the other.
In the Sourcebook, Joel wrote, “The quest for a global ethic and other forms of collaboration are now historically possible because of the emergence of what some of us are naming 'the community of religions.' This term describes the shift across religious consciousness that encourages partnership and responsibility for the common good.” Full of love and service, Joel Beversluis gave us the first roadmap for that nascent community. We can each honor that extraordinary heritage by living into the possibilities it promises.
Paul Chaffee, Interfaith Center at the Presidio, March 22, 2003