Meet Rev. Steven Greenebaum

Steven

Steven describes himself in this way: “My faith is Interfaith. My spiritual path is Judaism. My tribe is Humanity. I’m also a minister, choir director and vegetarian.”

Steven was formally an Associate Minister at Interfaith Community Church in Seattle, Washington, where he served from 2007-2010. He has an abiding interest in and passion for Interfaith.  Steven’s book The Interfaith Alternative was published in April of 2012 and is at present available in Europe, Australia and Canada, as well as the U.S..

Steven holds Masters Degrees in Theology, Mythology and Music. He was also the Director of Music at the Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Marysville, for ten years.

Steven has been deeply interested in environmental and social justice issues all his life, spending three years as the Executive Director of Citizens for Environmental Responsibility.


33 Responses to Meet Rev. Steven Greenebaum

  1. Barbara Stahl says:

    I just read your book which I happened upon at our local library. I can’t wait for my husband to read it. Your book is exactly what my husband and I believe. I am Jewish and he is Methodist, but are Interfaith in our hearts. Your church is exactly what we have been looking for in our community. I am wondering if you know of any such church in the Columbus, Ohio area?

    • steven says:

      Hello, Barbara. Thank you for your comments. They are very much appreciated. Thus far, I don’t think there’s a church like ours in your area. We are at the beginning of what I hope will be a movement. I don’t know if you’ll have the interest or the time, but if you and your husband are interested, you might consider taking a bit of a leadership role. The first step might be to get a book group together, read the book and discuss how such a community might be started in Columbus. Are you familiar with Meetup? That might be one way. One of the things our church has done is put our bylaws, Mission and Vision statements on our website so that folks in the future don’t feel they need to reinvent the wheel (though I feel certain that every group will want to tweak things). But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves. For now, I really do think a book group that can read the Interfaith Alternative and discuss it can be a good start, particularly if you are able to include folks of differing faiths. I’d be happy to help with some guidelines on setting a framework for discussion.

      I hope this helps. I’ve needed to take a breather, but am planning to write a book soon that can be a guide for people wanting to start their own Interfaith church. In the meantime, again, let me know if I can be of any help.

    • steven says:

      Hello again Barbara, You might note that Pam Spence (below – posting date July 21st) lives in your area and is attempting to bring a group together to chat. This is a great way to start.

  2. Nancy says:

    Hello, Reverend Greenebaum,

    Like others who have responded, I came across your book by chance in a Barnes & Noble store, and found the “message” very timely and powerful. And like others I am curious how it contrasts with UU. I.e., at the time I happened to be exploring the philosophy and community provided by Unitarian Universalist congregations , and there seem to be very similar themes with your philosophies. So I’m excited to see you have significant experience there (your specific music involvement at UU). Can you explain the difference (if there is anything essential) between your path and that of UU? Or would you say they both support your interfaith philosophy equally?

    Thx for your book. Very thought (and heart) provoking.

    Nancy

    • steven says:

      Thanks, Nancy. Things are a bit full right now. I’ll hope to have a reply for you in the next week.

    • steven says:

      Hi Nancy. I want to apologize for being so slow to respond. There’s no good excuse. You ask an important question. How does Living Interfaith, and the embracing of Interfaith as a faith, differ from UU (Unitarian Universalism)?

      First, two quick caveats.

      One is that UU has no governing body that establishes doctrine. So UU congregations can vary quite a bit. As example, there are some very specifically Christian UU churches and there are some quite Humanist UU Fellowships that are very specifically NOT Christian. Many UU congregations are some blend of people of differing spiritual backgrounds. So generalizing can be tricky, as there is bound to be at least one UU congregation somewhere that falls outside that generalization. So please know that I know that there will be exceptions to however I characterize UU.

      The second caveat is that our culture tends to “compare” two differing entities in order to establish which is “better” or “best.” That will emphatically NOT be my purpose here. To my thinking Interfaith and UU are indeed different, but not in the sense that one is better than the other. Rather, there is something very specific that Interfaith is about that can make it more, or less attractive to a person – depending very much on what that person seeks.

      In general, UU welcomes people from all spiritual backgrounds into the UU family. You are probably aware that UU is a relatively recent combination of Unitarians and Universalists (1961), and while both were rather “liberal” Christian entities in their origin to begin with, the Christian heritage is, for the most part, left behind. As example, many of the traditional Christian hymns that have made it into the UU hymnal have had their words changed to make them less Christian and more universal. This thrust towards the universal, while (once again) having exceptions, is the general thrust of UU.

      Interfaith, as a faith, seeks to celebrate our differing spiritual paths. So, when we celebrate Christmas or Easter (as example) a Christian gives the morning’s message. We celebrate Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i and other spiritual path’s holy days as well – including UU (we just celebrated Flower Communion, led by a member who is UU), and when we do, we embrace for that day that path’s tradition. During a Christian service, we’ll sing the Doxology. During a Jewish service we’ll sing the Shema. And so forth. Roughly half of our services are celebrations of humanity’s diverse spiritual paths. We are intentional about this as one of our major thrusts is to learn about each other. As we say during the service, “Not to convert or convince but to share.” An article of our faith is that an important part of learning to treat each other with respect is learning about and celebrating our diverse spiritual paths as one family – the human family.

      That’s half of our services. In all honesty, the other half of our services might seem very similar to what one might find at a UU service. If you look at our service themes (and you may have already), that will become clear. Like UU (and many others, like my beloved Nuns on a Bus) Interfaith is very much justice oriented. Similar goals, just a differing approach.

  3. Chris says:

    Wonderful book! However, I think it woud be really, really something to see a book such as yours and its content combined (within the same volume) with pyschological development theory. I don’t know how one would go about doing it, but I am sure it would be a very interesting and fascinating read. Interfaith needs a fuller understanding of human development, as does any other faith. I will recommend your book to others, no doubt.

    • steven says:

      Belated thanks for your kind comments about the book. We’ll have to agree to disagree about combining theory regarding psychological development and faith. There’s an implicit value judgment about such a linkage that I don’t find helpful.

  4. Pam Spence says:

    Hello Steven,
    A friend posted a link on Facebook today to the NYT article about The Living Interfaith Church. Kismet! I have just been named chair of the Interfaith Council by my faith group, the Federation of Christian Ministries who often describe themselves as “post-denominational.” I am a fully commissioned and licensed ecumenical minister through the state of Ohio and in that capacity have celebrated rites of passage for many interfaith and “non-affiliated” couples. I would be very interested in hosting a reading/discussion group to explore a possible ongoing interfaith worship group. I am somewhat of a poster child for the interfaith movement myself, having been baptized Church of England, confirmed Methodist, graduated from a (Vatican owned) Catholic seminary, worked on staff for a Unitarian church and currently work as editor of a Jewish newspaper.
    I notice someone else on this list in the Columbus (OH) area who has expressed an interest and am wondering if you might serve as a matchmaker, providing her with my email address so we might connect?
    Going to get your book next and like that idea of starting with a reading/discussion group.
    Peace,
    Pam

    • steven says:

      Hi Pam, Thank you for your comments. I don’t off hand know who you’re referring to, but when things calm down a bit, I’ll see if I can figure it out. I think starting with a reading/discussion group is a good idea. You might “advertise” it through “Meetup.” And if it helps, our little community meets twice a month. This is intentional. The idea is that no one should have to “leave” her/his spiritual path to join Interfaith worship. About half our congregation goes to their “home” church every other week, and joins us every other week. Let me know if I can help. What we are hoping for here is a multitude of Interfaith spiritual communities. Best, Steven

  5. jane dixon says:

    As a Unitarian Universalist, I am wondering how you see your church as different from ours.

    • steven says:

      Hello Jane. You ask a very reasonable question. If you’ll look just a little further up the page, you’ll see that others have shared your question. On April 30th of this year I tried to answer it. It is, of course, NOT an exhaustive answer. But it does, I think, get to the heart of it. It is assuredly not that one path is “better” than the other. Rather, the thrust is different.

  6. ArchiesBoy says:

    Wow! Here’s hoping you’ll start a branch in L.A. ASAP! :-D

    • steven says:

      Thanks! What you might consider is starting an Interfaith “Meetup”. It might help to start (only as a start!) with “The Interfaith Alternative” so that you are all, if not on the same page, at least speaking the same language. We’re a small spiritual community. I doubt we’ll be expanding to L.A. any time soon. :-)

  7. Linda Jones says:

    I too just read your interview in the NYT. So happy you are forming this church and movement. I hope you have had the chance to come across Meher Baba and his teachings about bringing the religions together as beads on one string. At the end of the NYT article you say you were hoping to join something like this not start it. I have found Meher Baba has clearly shown the way that all religions are one. Blessings on your journey and that of your church!

    • steven says:

      Thank you. Yes, I’ve come across Meher Baba. Our paths are not the same, but I think you are right, we are trying to move in a similar direction.

  8. Laura says:

    My husband and I have been looking for a spiritual home exactly like what you have created for years. We would like to attend services and be more involved but live in the Kansas City area. Do you podcast your services? If not, do you have plans to start doing so?

    • steven says:

      Thank you for your comments. We have an entire ONE sermon up on YouTube (“Living Interfaith”). It is our hope to put entire services up on YouTube as we can. We’re a small church and really don’t have the resources to do more. But as we grow, we do hope to make our services more available. We ALSO very much hope to encourage Interfaith spiritual communities to begin wherever there is interest. We’ll try to help with that process in our newsletter.

  9. Samantha says:

    Reverend,

    I am so happy to hear about you and the Church you have started. I hope that it spreads like wildfire with the love God intended. I am argumentative by nature and have always been one to question the absolutes that christianity puts out that only they will make it to heaven. I have never understood how an all-powerful being who created everyone, that gave us free will so that we were not simply robots following orders, would then choose only one view point or religion for his children to follow. My best explanation of my view that I have been able to come up with is that God is the tree trunk, religion are the branches, and the people are the leaves. I am looking forward to getting your book to see what you have to say about it all. God Bless.

    • steven says:

      That’s a good metaphor (and very Interfaith!): God is the tree trunk, religion are the branches and people the leaves. Far too many of us still argue over which branch is “right”!!

  10. Sam Davis says:

    If Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life and nobody can come to the Father, except through me,” how can I believe this and embrace others faiths that would go contrary to that statement?

    Thank you sir.

    • steven says:

      Thank you for your post. The bottom line is this: if what you state is what you believe and it helps you to be a better person, please know you’ll have no argument from me. I’m not here to say “The Interfaith way or the highway.” And I do wish you well.

      If you are truly asking the question “How can you believe Jesus is the way
      and still respect other faiths?”, you might want to examine Christian
      theologian Marjorie Suchocki’s book “Divinity and Diversity.” She spends
      her third chapter on this very question. It’s an important one.

      • Forest says:

        Sam is correct, true Christians can have no part in this. Truth is what matters, not making people feel good. What if someone’s faith says that molesting children is the way to better themselves? Are you going to affirm them?

        Truth is the only thing that matters, and if different faiths disagree, at least one of them has to be wrong, they can’t both be right. So if you can tell a the child molester that his faith is wrong, well, I guess that proves that the Inter Faith Church is wrong because you just went against what you stand for.

        Truth matters. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Either His statement is true, or it’s false. It can’t be both. If you affirm other faiths as valid, then in actuality you are saying that you don’t really have faith and believe that the claim of Jesus is true. Thus, true Christians can have no part in this.

      • Anthony says:

        To me, I believe that verse means “How can you possibly know who God is if you don’t see how my (Jesus) life is?”. Jesus could’ve been saying “I am a way to God, I am the truth about about God & I am the life from God”.

        God bless you, Reverend. I don’t declare any denominations or political label in my life but I support you in what you do.

        • steven says:

          Thank you for your thoughts. If you are interested, “The New Interpreter’s Study Bible” delves into this question with similar conclusions, as do many Christian theologians as well as ministers.

  11. Kelli Crackel says:

    I think this is wonderful. I have been trying for years to establish some kind of interfaith church here in rural Georgia, but really have no idea how to make it work. I am Pagan, my parents and children are Christian, I have friends of all faiths. I’m no closer to figuring out how to pull off an interfaith group in the Bible Belt, but you better believe I won’t give up. Your church is an inspiration to me and others like me who have been told over and over that interfaith services could never work. Thank you for that. It gives me hope and strengthens my resolve to keep trying to bring understanding among people of different faiths.

    • steven says:

      Best of luck to you. If Living Interfaith can be of help, let us know. Have you signed up for our e-newsletters? One of our hopes is to help people such as you who are interested in starting an Interfaith church (or other spiritual community). Are you familiar with “The Interfaith Alternative”? One way to start is to form a book discussion group (Meetup is a good way to let people know). Again, all the best!

  12. Pam Spence says:

    Now have your book and will def explore starting a book discussion this fall (as soon as we get through Rosh Hashanah an Yom Kippur!). I am in Central Ohio and if any others who are reading this blog are interested, shoot me an email at ojc@insight.rr.com. Thanks.

    Pam

  13. All the people should embrace this effort of unify all these faiths beause all of these faiths have one common: the self absistene and belief for the afterlife and morality. The white light religions should unite to one, the things then will be more clear.

    • steven says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. I’m not sure there is a “should” here. Differing folks will seek differing paths. But I do hope that we can become less focused on our differences and both more focused and more energetic about pursuing our common goal of a loving, compassionate world.

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