A Bishop’s Quest


A Bishop’s Quest is the story of one man’s efforts to create an alternative to religiously-inspired conflict.

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A Bishop’s Quest

This is the print edition. You can buy the Kindle eBook edition here or buy the ePub edition (for most Apple devices) here.

A Bishop’s Quest is the story of one man’s campaign to gather the best of religion in order to counter rising religiously-motivated violence.

In 1993, the United Nations was planning to celebrate its 50th Anniversary in San Francisco (where the U.N. Charter was signed in 1945) and asked the Episcopal Bishop of California, William Swing, to host an interfaith and intercultural celebration at Grace Cathedral featuring all nations and all religions. In context of this event, it dawned on Bishop Swing that the nations of the world have met daily for 50 years to pursue peace, but during that same time, the religions haven’t met once. It was time to create a United Religions.

A Bishop’s Quest describes Bishop Swing’s initial travels to confer with the great religious leaders of the world about this idea. These fascinating conversations reveal the admirable uniqueness of each faith and at the same time explore their limitations in cooperating with others. In the course of six months of global travels, Bishop Swing had access to palaces and leaders on thrones, militant figures in compounds, and Cardinals in the Vatican; he preached in a jungle for seven days to 200,000 people. Since he began the pilgrimage with little knowledge of interfaith history, his travels provided a first-hand education as few people in the world have experienced.

Ultimately, Bishop Swing realized that he could not meet his goals by dealing with religious institutions in a top-down manner; he had to work up from the grassroots, and a primary challenge was organizational design. He reached out to Dee Hock, inventor of the VISA Card, who helped him establish an organic structure rooted in small groups all around the world, called Cooperation Circles. David Cooperrider, one of the originators of the Appreciative Inquiry movement, pitched in to help design empowered organizational structures that could function, and grow, organically.

In 1996, Bishop Swing wrote: “The reason that religions seem so powerless and impotent in the face of global challenges is because they don’t have a common platform from which to speak, from which to take collective action for global good, or from which to hold each other accountable. Someday, young people will look around for help in taking on the problems of the world, and they will notice that religions are content to massage their thoughts of superiority and exclusiveness while avoiding the real matters. They are great at baptisms in water, but silent about the rising waters of climate change. They are great at celebrating life, but quiet about the rising population problem that will suffocate life. The youth will note religion’s cowardice in abandoning the needs of the global family in favor of servicing their parochial families of faith. It will take courage, and lots of it, for religions to grow into the new world of faiths together, while at the same time holding on to the ancient roots of fighting faiths. Religion in this [the next] millennium will require the healthiest, most stringent disciplines of the past as well as a willingness to be remade to assist all life in the coming generations.” Bishop William Swing, A Bishop’s Quest

See the book trailer here.

See Former Secretary of State George Shultz praise United Religions Initiative in testimony before the United States Congress in this video.

See another view of URI’s creation in Birth of a Global Community: Appreciative Inquiry in Action by Canon Charles Gibbs and Sally Mahe

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