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Iliff School of Theology Launches Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture

In October, about 150 people gathered for an inspiring fall evening weaving story and music to mark the launch of Iliff’s Institute for Religion, Politics & Culture. The highlight of the launch event was a presentation and discussion with the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo, who provided a generative model of the way dominant ideas of religion fall short of the breadth of our experiences or the histories that shape our lives. In addition to the powerful singing and art of young people that showed the way resistance, resilience, and creativity are the foundation of politics of inclusion and belonging, the guests were also treated to poetry from community leader Norma Johnson, music from Youth on Record, and poetry from Art from Ashes. Under the leadership of Director Rev. Amanda Henderson, a DSF/Ph.D. student at the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology, the Institute for Religion, Politics & Culture works to counter the ways religion is too often a cause of harm in our politics, and plant seeds for new ways of tapping into our religious, spiritual, and political lives to build communities of justice and thriving. “We imagine a world where all are seen for their unique and creative ways of being – where we live together in ways that honor interconnection and support mutual thriving. We imagine a time when religion in America is not simply one form of Christianity, politics is not red or blue, and culture is more than TikTok or galleries,” said Rev. Henderson. “The reality is that religion and politics are embedded in our systems and structures, and shape our day-to-day lives. Too often change-makers dismiss religion, and religious folks avoid politics. Ignoring the way religion shapes people and politics leaves us missing half the story of social change.”

Before launching the Institute, Amanda served for seven years as Executive Director of The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, bringing people from different religious traditions together for political action. Amanda is ordained with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is the author of Holy Chaos, Creating Connections in Divisive Times. She is also Mom to three young adults, enjoys adventures with her husband, and finds joy running and growing things: dogs, chickens, gardens, and creative projects of all kinds.

The Institute for Religion, Politics & Culture is working on several core projects:

  • The Complexified podcast, diving into the places where religion and politics collide with real life launched in August and is off to a great start!

  • Leading the Religious Equality and Democracy Caucus of State Legislators who gather for education, networking, and building power to assure religious freedom and equality remain the bedrock of our democracy.

  • Leading the Mindset Shift Project to better understand the ways religious frames shape understanding of the homelessness and housing crisis in the U.S.

To keep in touch with the events and development of the Institute, sign up for their updates by emailing your contact information to


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