What’s Happening: Distinguished Guests

Over the years, The Crossing has been pleased to host a variety of distinguished guests.   We have been honored to learn from these internationally renowned authors, educators, and speakers on a variety of topics. We are grateful for their willingness to challenge our perspectives on a variety of issues and social concerns.

Christopher Heuertz

Christopher Heuertz is an author, speaker, Enneagram coach, non-profit consultant, and anti-human trafficking activist.  He is a contemplative  activist, ecclesial provocateur, curator of unlikely friendships, instigator for good, witness to hope, and clergy for common people. His latest book is focused on his study of the Enneagram as a spiritual tool:  The Sacred Enneagram.  His book, Unexpected Gifts, is a reflection of what he has learned through living in intentional activist community for much of his life. After 20 years of grassroots work in some of the world’s poorest slums, red light areas and places of intense human suffering, Chris and his wife, Phileena Heuertz, are co-founders of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism, located in Omaha Nebraska where their mission is to nurture the integral connection between contemplation and action. 

Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is the senior vice president and editor of Voices on Auburn Seminary. From 2009-2015 he was the Executive Editor Of Global Spirituality and Religion for Huffington Post‘s Religion section and formerly served as editor of Beliefnet. From 2003-2011, Raushenbush served as Associate Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel at Princeton University, and served as President of the Association Of College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA) from 2009-2011.

An ordained Baptist minister in the American Baptist tradition, Raushenbush is a graduate of Macalester College and Union Theological Seminary in New York.  Paul is a native Madisonian, a graduate of Madison West Side High School and his family was deeply connected to the progressive history of Wisconsin.   Paul’s father was Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin, and his grandparents Elizabeth Brandeis and Paul Raushenbush were faculty in the Economics Department and helped to develop the first Unemployment Compensation bill in the United States.

You can find the written version of Rev. Raushenbush’s talk by clicking on this link to the Auburn Seminary “Voices” page.

The Parent’s Circle – Family Forum (PCFF)

PCFF is a joint Palestinian Israeli organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost a close family member as a result of the prolonged conflict.  We were blessed in the Fall of 2016 to welcome three of their members to the Crossing and listen to their stories of loss and their passion to work for reconciliation, understanding and peace in their homeland: L-R are Rami Elhanon (Israeli), Najwa and George Saadeh (Palestinian). For more information, go to www.theparentscircle.com



Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour is a working woman, racial justice and civil rights activist, every Islamophobe’s worst nightmare, and mother of three.  Ambitious, outspoken and independent, Linda shatters stereotypes of Muslim women while also treasuring her religious and ethnic heritage. She is a Palestinian Muslim American and a self-proclaimed “pure New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn!” She is the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York and co-founder of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPOWER Change. Linda has been at the forefront of major civil rights campaigns including calling for an end to unwarranted surveillance of New York’s Muslim communities and ending police policies like stop and frisk. In wake of the police murder of Mike Brown, she co-founded Muslims for Ferguson to build solidarity amongst American Muslim communities and encourage work against police brutality. She is a member of the Justice League NYC, a leading NYC force of activists, formerly incarcerated individuals, and artists working to reform the New York Police Department and the criminal justice system.

Karen Leslie Hernández 

Karen Leslie Hernandez is a Theologian with a focus in Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism. She has a Master of Sacred Theology in Philosophy, Theology and Ethics with a focus in Religion and Conflict Transformation from Boston University School of Theology, ’11; a Master of Theological Research in Christian-Muslim Understanding from Andover Newton Theological School, ’07; and a BA in Peace and Justice Studies with a concentration in Islam from Wellesley College, ’05. Karen was raised Catholic and is now the only theologian that is a Latina and a United Methodist, doing this type of multi-faith work in the United States. She has also published with several media outlets, including The Interfaith Observer, Feminism and Religion, the Women’s United Nations Report Network, State of Formation, The American Muslim, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, and she is the only Christian, worldwide, to publish a regular Op-Ed Column with OnIslam in Cairo, Egypt. Karen currently lives in San Francisco, is an Ambassador with the Council on the Parliament of the World Religions, and she is exploring working with the homeless and domestic violence victims in 2015.

Karen also works as a professional choreographer/instructor, doing mostly educational theatre with high school and college age students. She has found an outlet that is primarily untapped – that of finding our common sacredness through movement, regardless of what tradition you come from.


Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek

November 2014 we were privileged to welcome The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Church and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. He has been an active leader in the shaping of the Palestinian liberation theology. He was the first to articulate a Palestinian theology of liberation in his book, Justice, and only Justice, a Palestinian Theology of Liberation, published by Orbis in 1989, and based on his dissertation for his degree in theology. The book laid the foundation of a theology that addresses the conflict over Palestine and explores the political as well as the religious, biblical, and theological dimensions. A former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, he lectures widely both at home and abroad. His latest book, A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, was published by Orbis in 2008.  He was one of the speakers at a conference co-sponsored by the Crossing with other community groups:  Voices for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land.

Rev. Malcolm Himschoot

April 2014 we were privileged to welcome Rev. Malcolm Himschoot to the Crossing for several opportunities for students and community members around gender diversity and social justice. Malcolm Himschoot is an ordained UCC minister and transgender man who has served wider church and local church settings since being featured in the 2005 documentary film Call Me Malcolm. Alongside local and community ministry, he has traveled to promote gender dialogue and transgender diversity education. He served the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns as national Interim ONA Coordinator in 2007, and served with the Human Sexuality Reference Group of the World Council of Churches in 2008. Malcolm co-founded the UCC GenderFold Action Alliance, a network by and for transgender and gender-variant people in the UCC, building leadership, education and advocacy.

Brian McLaren

March 2014 author and activist and public theologian Brian McLaren was in Madison. He spoke first at one of our partner churches on Christian identity in a multi-faith world and on the future of the Church. Following he joined students and staff of the Crossing at a dinner where he listened to students and engaged in dialogue about the future of the church and progressive campus ministry.

Brian is an ecumenical global networker among innovative Christian leaders. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings around the world. His public speaking covers a broad range of topics including postmodern thought and culture, Biblical studies, evangelism, leadership, global mission, spiritual formation, worship, pastoral survival and burnout, inter-religious dialogue, ecology, and social justice. He is primarily known, however, as a thinker and writer. His most recent book is on Christian identity in a multi-faith world: Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

Dr. Richard Davidson

January 2013, we were honored to welcome Dr. Richard Davidson to give a talk entitled Your Brain On Meditation. Dr. Davidson is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, Director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imagining and Behavior, and the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, and Founder and Chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. He is well known for his research with the Dalai Lama. On Tuesday evenings you will often find him at the Crossing meditating with the Tergar Meditation Community (co-sponsor of this event).  The packed house of students, who came out on a bitterly cold night, was an indication to us of just how interested students are in meditation – and in neuroscience brain research.

Matthew Vines

In March, 2013 the Crossing was pleased to host Matthew Vines. Matthew gave a public lecture, preached at a local church (Plymouth UCC), met with Scott Anderson (Executive Director Wisconsin Council of Churches) and held several informal meetings with students. Support for his visit came from grants provided by the Southwest Association UCC Social Concerns committee and Associated Students of Madison (ASM). Matthew Vines has been featured in the New York Times and is the founder and president of The Reformation Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to changing church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. He is currently writing a book for publication by Random House in early 2014. Check out http://www.matthewvines.com/.

Mel WhiteDr. Mel White

In the Spring of 2011, we were excited to welcome Rev. Dr. Mel White, author of Stranger at the Gate and To Be Gay and Christian in America.  Dr. White spoke to a full house on the topic: To be Gay and Christian, and met with a group of students for some small-group conversation.   Dr. White who has been  featured on 60 Minutes, for his incredible life journey, is a widely acclaimed speaker on University and College campuses.  He and his partner Gary Nixon were the co-founders of  Soul Force dedicated to promoting  non-violence especially in relationship to LGBT issues.   Mel’s visit was supported by grants from  the  Associated Students of Madison (ASM) and the Southwest Association UCC Social Concerns committee.

Parker PalmerParker Palmer

Parker Palmer (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley) is an author, educator, and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change, exploring the relationship between the inner spiritual life and our activities and work in the world. He founded the Center for Courage and Renewal which oversees his “Courage to Teach” programs for K-12 teachers, along with parallel programs aimed at professionals in medicine, law, ministry, and philanthropy.

Parker has visited The Crossing on several occasions, shared his insights over a meal with Crossing students, and held meaningful discussions. Find out more about his work at http://www.couragerenewal.org/parker.

Marcus Borg

Marcus Borg (Ph.D., Oxford University) is Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University. Known as one of the leading historical Jesus scholars of this generation, he is the author of ten books, two of which have become best-sellers, Jesus: A New Vision and Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. His most recent publication is The Heart of Christianity: How We Can Be Passionate Believers Today (2003). He has lectured widely in this country (including at the Smithsonian and Chautauqua Institutions) and overseas (England, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Israel, and South Africa). His books have been translated into German, Dutch, Korean, and French. (Text taken from OSU’s philosophy department website)

Dr. Borg’s lectures at First United Methodist church, “Two Visions of Christianity in America Today” and “What Christianity is All About: Loving God and Changing the World,” provided the background for a discussion with Crossing students and the scholar during the spring of 2008.

Norman Wirzba

Norman Wirzba is an associate professor and chair of the philosophy department at Georgetown College. He pursues research and teaching interests at the intersections of theology, philosophy, ecology, and agrarian and environmental studies. In particular, he focuses on understanding and promoting practices that will equip both rural and urban church communities to be more faithful and responsible members of creation. Current projects focus on eating as a spiritual discipline, theological reflection as informed by place, and agrarianism as a viable and comprehensive cultural force. His essays and books have been placed alongside those of Wendell Berry’s and include Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight and The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age.

Dr. Wirzba gave the vespers service message and engaged in conversation with Crossing students on the Earth Day service in 2007.

Peter GomesPeter Gomes

Peter Gomes (May 22, 1942 – February 28, 2011) was an American Baptist minister and a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as well as the Faculty of Divinity at Harvard University, where he served in the Memorial Church since 1970. During his life, Dr. Gomes was widely regarded as one of America’s most distinguished preachers, Professor Gomes has fulfilled preaching and lecturing engagements throughout this country and the British Isles. his New York Times and national best-selling books include The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart 1996), and Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living (1998). In The Good Book, Dr. Gomes explores why the Bible is so often used as a tool for division and exclusion and why so many intelligent and compassionate people are embarrassed to say they find wisdom and comfort in the Bible. In this groundbreaking book, the man Time magazine called one of the seven best preachers in America, shows what the Bible says about topics that concern us all, including joy, suffering, evil, and goodness. With compassion, humor, and insight, he gives readers the tools and understanding they need to make the ancient wisdom of the Bible a dynamic part of their modern lives. Dr. Gomes preached the vespers message on October 24, 2004 and mingled with students afterwards.

Lucille (Sis) & Jerry Levin

Lucille (Sis) & Jerry Levin live and work for peace in the Middle East. Jerry was the CNN bureau chief stationed in Lebanon in the 1980s and was kidnapped and held captive for months. Through persistence and charisma, his wife, Sis, managed to create the conditions for his release. The story of this saga was published as The Beirut Diaries and later turned into a TV movie. Sis has since attended seminary and become an ordained Episcopal priest. She also received her doctorate in conflict resolution from Columbia University. She currently teaches non-violent communication and conflict resolution in a k-university curriculum at the University of Bethlehem. Jerry works with Christian Peacemaker Teams located in Hebron (West Bank), providing a buffer and non-violent presence between Jewish settlers and Palestinians.

Sis and Jerry came to Madison as part of the Spotlight Series (a focus on contemporary issues) at the Memorial Union in October, 2003. They also spoke at The Crossing and led a workshop for teens and parents at St. Stephen’s lutheran Church in Monona as part of their series of speaking engagements entitled: “Getting in the Way of Violence: From Hostages to Peace Advocates–A Series of Conversations with Sis and Jerry Levin.”

Elias Chacour

Elias Chacour is a Palestinian Christian who is a citizen of Israel. Now Archbishop of Jerusalem (Melkite Catholic Church), Chacour grew up walking the hillsides where Jesus lived–where Jesus taught “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” He has worked for reconciliation and peace in the Middle East, especially by building high-quality schools in the Galileean village of Ibillin where the students and faculty include Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Druze. More than fifty percent of the 3,000 students are young women. He is a three-time nominee for the nobel peace Prize and winner of the World Methodist Peace Award as well as the Niwano Peace Prize and has written two books: Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land: the Story of a Palestinian Israeli who Lives for Peace and Reconciliation.

Elias Chacour spoke at the Crossing in 2003 and with Crossing students in 2008. The Crossing Quest to Israel Palestine trips have toured the schools and used Chacour’s peace making work as a basis for discussion. Supporters of Chacour’s schools and his work have started a group called Pilgrims of Ibillin.

Robert Enright

Robert Enright is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Educational Psychology department. He studies forgiveness and the positive role forgiveness education can play, especially in areas of conflict. He has developed curriculum for school-age children grades kindergarten through sixth grade and plans on developing curriculum through high school. This curriculum has been adopted by classroom teachers in the inner city of Milwaukee and in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He started a non-profit, The International Forgiveness Institute, to support his forgiveness curriculum initiatives. His book, Forgiveness is a Choice, lays out the steps to true forgiveness–a forgiveness that benefits the forgiver even more than the forgiven.

Dr. Enright has spoken several times at vespers meals and has also partnered with the Quest to Northern Ireland groups, providing historical background, cultural perspective, and training in forgiveness education. In addition to these connections, the International Forgiveness Institute is housed in The Crossing building.

Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub

Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub grew up in Lebanon with a Muslim family, but attended a Presbyterian boarding school and considered himself a Christian–first a Presbyterian, then a Baptist, and finally, a Quaker. Later in life, he became a practicing Muslim. Dr. Ayoub has authored numerous books and articles on Islam and Muslim-Christian relations.

Between 1988 and 2008, Dr. Ayoub was a Professor and director of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion, Temple University, Philadelphia; a Research Fellow at the Middle East Center, University of Pennsylvania; and the Tolson visiting professor at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California. He currently holds a position as an Adjunct Professor at the Duncan Black MacDonald Center, Hartford Seminary, Connecticut. In addition to his academic role, Dr. Ahoub has served as one of the U.S. Deparment of State’s ambassadors to various parts of the Middle East and S.E. Asia to comment on American society and institutions, Islam in America, and inter-religious dialogue.

Dr. Ayoub came to Madison as the keynote speaker for the Lyons Lecture held at First United Methodist Church of Madison in April 2009. Crossing students attended the Saturday lectures and enjoyed Dr. Ayoub’s message at Vespers the following day. Dr. Ayoub and his wife joined students for the meal following Vespers and then spoke with the Quest Israel/Palestine group later that evening.

John Shelby Spong

John Shelby Spong, author of such books as “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” and “A New Christianity for a New World” was bishop of the Episcopal Diecese of Newark for 24 years before his retirement in 2001.  A promoter of an inclusive faith, his books and lectures have both spoken to and angered many.  Bishop Spong considers himself a believer who knows and loves the Bible deeply, while recognizing that parts of it have been used to undergird prejudices and to mask violence.

Bishop Spong was the distinguished lecturer for the Lyons Lecture series held at the First United Methodist Church in Madison in Spring of 2010.  A large number of Crossing students attended the lectures held on Saturday and on Sunday, a small group of students met with Bishop Spong and his wife at The Crossing for tea and cookies.  We appreciated this opportunity to discuss ideas in an intimate setting with one of the leading theologians of our day.