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3 Wise Guys To Talk Values at Stetson on March 14


Three Wise Guys from public radio program

The Three Wise Guys include, from left: Rev. Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steven Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri. They will speak March 14 at Stetson University. Photos from twgradio.com

The Three Wise Guys, who host the public radio program “Friends Talking Faith,” occasionally get feedback from . . . well, from another kind of wise guy.

“We get folks who say, ‘Why don’t you stick to religion?’ ” said the Rev. Bryan Fulwider, former senior minister of the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. “Our answer is faith speaks to everything about life. It’s not just about how to say your prayers and how to read your Bible or your holy scripture. It’s about how you live and how you relate.”

“Friends Talking Faith” was founded five years ago by Fulwider and two of his friends: Imam Muhammad Musri, the senior imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, and Rabbi Steven Engel, senior rabbi of the Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orlando. With tongues in their collective cheek, this Christian, Muslim and Jew dubbed themselves the Three Wise Guys. Their program airs at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Orlando public radio station WMFE, 90.7 FM.

The trio will present a panel discussion, “The Three Wise Guys: A Conversation on Values,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, in the Stetson Room of the Carlton Union Building. The event, which is free and open to the public, is being presented by Stetson’s Office of Interfaith Initiatives and the Department of Counselor Education. Lindsey Graves, Assistant Director of Interfaith Initiatives, will moderate the event.

For every program on, say, the nature of angels, art and spirituality, or the “new beginnings of Rosh Hashanah,” “Friends Talking Faith” presents 10 programs on serious social and political issues, such as the Pulse tragedy, fake news, hate crimes and President Trump’s recent proposed ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“It’s not a program to preach about our religions,” Musri said. “It is looking at the current issues, the current struggles in society and trying from a faith perspective to bring a view that people are interested in hearing. We believe faith historically has always played that role. If we are not engaged in the now and the critical issues, what are we for?”

The seeds of the program go back 20 years when the trio of friends began hosting interfaith events in Central Florida churches, mosques and synagogues.

Three Wise Guys and Hindu spiritual leader

Hindu leader Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swami, second from right, was a recent guest on “Friends Talking Faith,” a public radio program hosted by the Three Wise Guys. They include: Imam Muhammad Musri, left; Rabbi Steven Engel, second from left; and Rev. Bryan Fulwider, right.

“We realized there was a real void in the community with people knowing each other and having a conversation,” Engel said. “People knew what another religion was but they didn’t really know personally about those people.”

And so “Friends Talking Faith” was born. Individual shows almost always include guests, such as Hindu leader Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swami, politicians, a transgender woman, evangelical Christian leader Rev. Jim Wallis, journalists, academics, Dr. Barry Kerzin (personal physician to the Dalai Lama) and many others.

“Our goals are to do something that seems to be done less and less, especially recently — to have people sit down with other people and have real conversations,” Engel said. “It’s not always easy conversations and not always comfortable conversations, but it’s having conversations to build relationships with people of various faiths or no faith.

“I think our country right now lacks real conversation: political conversation, social conversation, religious conversation. This is a really bad time for our country – people talk at each other, they don’t speak with each other. So we’re trying to model that. It’s part of our responsibility as faith leaders.”

“We, in Central Florida, are fortunate to have the Three Wise Guys in our community,” said Graves with Stetson’s Interfaith Initiatives. “They are fabulous leaders, as they model what interfaith dialogue can — and should — look like. They help us remember that change can occur in conversations that are respectful, informed and built on genuine relationships.

“We are bringing them to Stetson to serve as models for our campus community, to illustrate that our friendships and social circles should not merely include those who think like us, or share the same identities that we do.”

Leila F. Roach, Associate Professor and Chair of Counselor Education, said the Three Wise Guys’ program will examine the balance between personal spiritual and religious beliefs, and how those intersect with one’s values.

The program will address such questions as “How does one hold onto their deeply-held belief systems while not imposing these beliefs on others?” and “How does one respect others who have values and beliefs that are different from, and perhaps seem incompatible with, their own?”

Prior to their public program, the Three Wise Guys will address such issues during a meeting with graduate students in the Department of Counselor Education. That meeting will focus specifically on how personal spiritual and religious beliefs intersect with professional counseling values.

Such issues, Roach said, are a hot topic in the counseling profession. North Carolina and Tennessee recently passed legislation that allows counselors to refer — that is, refuse to see — clients based on a counselor’s deeply-held personal beliefs. For example, a counselor specializing in work with couples could refuse to see a same-sex couple.

“It’s a complicated issue in terms of how you hold your values and beliefs very sincerely, because we don’t want anybody to change, and at the same time you’re doing that, value and respect the lives of other people,” Roach said. “For some of our students who have grown up in very conservative backgrounds, this is really, really hard for them. And they are part of religious institutions that are telling them not to do this.”

Each of the faith traditions of the Three Wise Guys “have ideas that support valuing others and reaching a place of spiritual maturity,” Roach said.

— Rick de Yampert


If You Go

“The Three Wise Guys: A Conversation on Values” will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 14, in the Stetson Room of the Carlton Union Building at the Stetson University campus, 421 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand. Admission is free and open to the public.