A Report on the 2019 Annual Assembly

Nearly 300 people gathered on May 30 for Interfaith Action’s 2019 Annual Assembly and to hear veteran journalist Ray Suarez.

The evening began with a meet & greet with Suarez, followed by dinner and a brief video reviewing the year’s accomplishments.

Board Elections

  • Three new members were elected to Interfaith Action’s board of directors: Stephen Magistad, Seymour Mansfield, and Erin Murphy.
  • James Rubenstein was elected to the Foundation board of directors.
  • Bruce Nerland was honored for his two years of service as board president, and departing board members Dr. Marcia Ballinger, Louis André Fischer, and Joanne Jones-Rizzi were thanked for their faithful service, leadership and support.
  • New officers were chosen: Bill Brady, president; Cynthia L. Lesher, vice president; Lao Lu Hang, treasurer; Dr. Jennifer Miller, secretary.


This year’s Bringing Faith to Life Award—given to an organization or person who engages in faith-based work to relieve poverty and address its root causes, and does it in a way that inspires others to engage in this work—was presented to Janet Murphy of St. Matthews Episcopal Church. Janet, who tutors as a volunteer with Interfaith Action’s Opportunity Saint Paul, exemplifies bringing faith to life as part of a concerted effort within a house of worship. Janet’s nominator wrote, “Janet has faithfully come every Thursday, patient and ready to help when asked. Other tutors have come to rely on her knowledge. Janet is an asset to our homework center and we appreciate her dedication, experience, and knowledge.”

The Interfaith Progress Award, given to work that expands interfaith cooperation and addresses a compelling community need, went to Rev. David Ostendorf and the leadership team of the Interfaith Response Network, a group of clergy and faith leaders who respond to and counter hate incidents aimed at any of our religious or racial communities or their followers.

The nominator described Rev. David Ostendorf this way: “Rather than wringing his hands about our daily news, Dave is courageously responding to the signs of our time. He is countering strategies of fear and division with efforts to reassure people by reaffirming our fundamental human unity.”

The leadership group of the Network includes:

  • Doug Mork, Cross of Glory Lutheran Church (ELCA)
  • Morris Allen, Rabbi Emeritus, Beth Jacob Congregation
  • Erich Rutten, St. Peter Claver Catholic Church
  • Justin Schroeder, First Universalist Church of Minneapolis
  • Adam Spilker, Mount Zion Temple
  • Elona Street-Stewart, Synod of Lakes and Prairies, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • Carl Walker, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church
  • Steve Hunegs, Jewish Community Relations Council, Minnesota and the Dakotas
  • Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota

“Who Will Be in the Pews in 2040?”

Following the program, the group heard from award-winning journalist Ray Suarez about the rapidly changing demographics and social trends in the country affecting faith communities. Listen to his full talk.