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Center for Religious Studies

Coming in Fall of 2014

Igor and the Red Elvises hailing from the Ukraine/Russia. 

Inspired by Elvis, they will sing and play their dance music at UCM on September 29, 2014. 

Look for them!  Co-sponsored by the Center for Religious Studies and Performing Arts Series (PAS).



2013 - 2014 School Year

The 2013-2014 school year theme at the Center for Religious Studies was "Channeling Elvis." 

Dr. Marla J. Selvidge launched her signature class, "Elvis.  Memphis Messiah" in January of 2014. 

We launched the theme with a musical lecture, "Rock and Roll and Christianity" by Dr. Don Compier. 

His lecture was based upon his new book, Listening to Popular Music

Next Wendy Hawkins created a huge and stellar display about Elvis' life in the library. 

Luehrman, Shaffer & Check with drummer Mike Sekelsky

strummed and sang Elvis tunes to a sold-out crowd in the Union Atrium. 

To end the semester, PAS in conjunction with the Center,

will host a performance by an Elvis Impersonator, Matt Lewis. 


The Center also sponsored a "Capturing Elvis Art Contest."


The top prize of $200 went to Eunji Kim for her drawing entitled "Like Elvis."

Second place of $150 went to Christian Cutler for his photograph titled

"Assuming That Elvis Never Really Died, He Must Be Among Us Somewhere."

Third place of $100 went to Spencer Bowers

for his chalk drawing of "The King's Legacy." 

Dr. Marla J. Selvidge, Director of the Center, published her first book on Elvis, For the Love of Elvis,

sold on It is a positive reflection on his life and impact on world cultures. 

Her second book will explore the many religions that Elvis studied and embraced in his life. 

In preparation for this book, she visited Graceland.

She also published her first novel in the spring,

Demimonde. The Other Story.

During winter break Selvidge traveled to Cambodia and Vietnam and learned first hand

about the tremendous lasting effects that wars and atrocities have on peoples and their countries. 

She also visited many public, Confucian, Buddhist, and Hindu shrines.  

Dr. Helen Hwang, most recently, has created, directed, co-edited, and published the Return to Mago Webzine( An online network project, Return to Mago, Magoism the Way of S/HE, embodies Dr. Hwang’s research and vision of reviving the anciently originated cultural matrix of East Asia that she named "Magoism."  It has grown rapidly for 2013 and has now more than 45 contributors from around the world. Contributors include prominent scholars, poets, artists, activists, spiritualists, and essayists who write in English and other languages.

Dr. Hwang also directed and facilitated the 2013 Mago Pilgrimage to Korea, the first international Goddess Pilgrimage to Korea in modern history. During the period of two weeks, June 6-20, international pilgrims visited shrines, temples, dolmen sites, museums, mountains, and villages in Ganghwa Island, Seoul, Wonju, Mt. Jiri, Yeong Island (Busan), and Jeju Island and participated in a variety of events including conference, colloquium, Buddhist temple stay, and Shaman rituals.  Photos are taken from her website and the group picture is from the Goddess Conference during 2013 summer in Korea.

Dr. Guy Beck has been very busy this semester.  He sent the following list of his activities:

Book Chapters and Reference Articles:

“Two Braj Bhāshā Versions of the Rāsa-Līlā Pañcādhyāyī and Their Musical Performance in Vaishnava Worship.” In The Bhāgavata Purāna: Sacred Text and Living Tradition. Ravi M. Gupta and Kenneth R. Valpey, eds. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013, 181-201.

 “Hinduism and Music.” In The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts. Frank Burch Brown, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 358-366.

“Hinduism.” In The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2nd Edition. Charles Hiroshi Garrett, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Vol. 4, 173-174.

“Divine Musical Instruments.” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. V, 36-44. Knut A. Jacobsen, ed. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2013. This is my fifth article for this work, the first being, “Kirtan and Bhajan in Bhakti Traditions,” in Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. II, 585-598. Knut A. Jacobsen, ed. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2010.

Journal Article: “Bhakti Sangit: The Art of Music in Vaishnava Tradition.” Journal of Vaishnava Studies 21.2 (Spring 2013): 143-171.

Spring and Summer of 2013

Dr. Marla Selvidge recently completed a Web Design Certificate at JCCC and authored an article entitled, "Dancing Online with Your Students," for Spotlight on Teaching, a periodical produced by the American Academy of Religion. See link of article: php?option=com_content&view= article&id=1517&Itemid=1678

In addition, she completed a historical novel about Magdala and her frends who had amazing adventures in the first century C. E. The title is Demimonde. The Other Story. It will be published with Amazon for the Kindle and can be downloaded to a computer also. The paper edition of the book will be published soon!

Most of the school year was spent developing a new online class "Elvis. Memphis Messiah." At spring break she traveled to Graceland where she took a host of photos that she will include in this class.

In conjunction with the course to be offered in the spring of 2014 Selvidge has planned, a lecture on Rock and Roll and Christianity, a concert by UCM faculty featuring Elvis tunes, and a contest to "Capture the Spirit of Elvis." The Theatre and Dance Department will feature a play entitled "Graceland" and the Performing Arts Series is planning on hosting an Elvis Impersonator during the 2013-2014 school year. The ABC Choir may also dedicate one of their performances to Elvis. (Photo to the right is of Sun Studio where Elvis cut his first record. "That's Alright Mama.")

Selvidge has published articles in RV and farm magazines this year. This summer she will be publishing a book entitled "Demimonde," and working on another book about the religions of Elvis. Her recent RV travels have taken her to Minnesota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kansas. This summer she will spend three weeks in the Dakotas.



Dr. Helen Hwang signed a contract for the second year as a visiting researcher with Sangsaeng (Symbiosis) Research Institute, Daejeon, Korea. She continues to work for the English translation project of the Hwandan Gogi (Old Records of Hwan and Dan), a modern compilation of ancient and medieval esoteric books of Korea.

Hwang has co-edited and administered the blog Return to Mago: Magoism, The Way of S/HE that she created last fall. Contributors she invited include well-recognized scholars, researchers, artists, and writers from around the world. As co-editor, she has written and published a number of essays on various topics including Mago, the Great Goddess, and the female symbolism of ancient East Asian/Korean bells, also contributing to Feminism and Religion and The Daily Dreamer.

Dr. Hwang has been featured in an online radio show Creatrix Media Live. She is now Executive Director of the 2013 Mago Pilgrimage to Korea and has organized a conference, symposium, and colloquium in Korea for a group of international participants. Among them is the Intercontinental Goddess Conference being co-sponsored with Women’s Research Center at Seoul National University, Korea.

Dr. Beck has published a significant amount of work this year while giving lectures and concerts throughout the United States that include Vassar and Newport University. Some of the titles of his publications include: “Two Braj Bhāṣā Versions of the Rāsa-Līlā Pañcādhyāyī and Their Musical Performance in Vaiṣṇava Worship" and “Ragas of Love: Devotional Music in the Hindu Tradition.” Other titles include, “Hinduism and Music," “Sound and “Rhythm," "Divine Musical Instruments," and “Music and Religion.”

Beck recently finished a working with the 2010-2012 Mellon Foundation project, “Religion Across the Disciplines,” which addressed the growing isolation of Religious Studies from other academic disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences. His participation in the Religion and Music Working Group involved documenting the systemic lack of collaboration between Religious Studies and Music departments across the university spectrum, and outlining the ways in which these two disciplines intersect. The results of the research were presented at special panels at the annual meetings of two national conferences: Society for Ethnomusicology in and American Academy of Religion in Chicago. View the website in progress.

Summer and Fall of 2012

This year the Center for Religious Studies has enrolled record numbers of students in Gen Ed classes as well as minor and major classes.  Thank you UCM!

Marla J. Selvidge is upgrading her technology education in many ways, recently, she presented, "Reaching for the Stars not the Cloud.  Managing and Developing an Online Program in Religious Studies," at Sidlit, an education technology conference, in Kansas City in August.

In the summers and his off-days Albion Mends donates his time to serve others. Albion, in cooperation with Children's Hope International, donated funds from the Women's Missionary Union at the First Baptist Church of Holden and What's In Your Hand Ministries,  to help improve the economic status of women in Ghana through the Asutsuare Women Development Society.

Asutsuare, supported by other international organizations, is improving the lives of women through egg-farming. Donations to this group supported the purchase of chickens, vitamins, antibiotics, disinfectant, and chicken feed.  That donation was turned into a success by Felicia Humado. Her income from the sale of eggs has gone from $1.00 to $2.50 a day. Another woman who received the same benefit now has 2,000 chickens and has progressed from $1.00 a day to $150.00 a day.


Guy Beck spent his summer teaching online, working on a book about the Indo-Iranian contributions to religion and music, finishing a few articles for the new Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism, and practicing music.He played piano for two weeks at the Chateau Country Club and performed twice at the Hindu Vedic Centerin Baton Rouge. In August he attended a workshop at the Hindu Vedic Center on the topic of Ramayana.  Thankfully, he and Kajal survived Hurricane Isaac.  They live just outside New Orleans.


Dr. Helen Hwang will lead a group of Mago/Goddess Pilgrims to Korea in 2013 under the theme of "Meet Mago in Her Homeland." Helen writes, "I have studied Mago, the great Goddess of Korea and East Asia, for the last twelve years. I am very excited and honored that I will share my research with many interested people." For more details, please read Return to Mago: Magoism, the Way of S/HE.

While visiting several cities in South Korea, Dr. Helen Hwang lectured, conducted a field research with a team of graduate students and colleagues, and engaged in the project of translating ancient and modern Korean texts into English as a visiting researcher for a research institute. Dr. Hwang’s first lecture, “Reconstructing Magoism: Emerging Mago, Korean Women, and Old Consciousness of Korea,” was delivered in June and sponsored by the Women’s Studies Collegiate Program, Seoul National University, Seoul.

Her second lecture on her ongoing research of Mago, the Great Goddess, was given to a study group of feminist scholars and artists, organized by the Feminist Online Journal IF, Seoul. She also joined a field research team led by Dr. Shin Donghun and his graduate students of the Korean Literature Department in Kunguk University, Seoul. Together with the team, Dr. Hwang collected and documented numerous oral narratives of Mago from the villages in Daejeon, Buan, and Hongseong. She also traveled to several cultural sites such as Buddhist Temples, Shrines, and Mountain Stonewalls in other cities and met with the leaders and organizers of cultural and educational groups.


Spring 2012

Hare Krishnas visited Albion Mend's Exploring Religions classes in the spring of 2012. Jugal Kishore Dasa and Bhakta Justin presented the topic of "Social Order in the Vedic Culture," in one class and in the another class "Bhakti Yoga (Love and Devotion).  Students stayed after class for more than an hour talking with the Hare Krishnas.  Dr. Pauline Ratnasingham facilitated the Hare Krishnas arrival on campus.

Vern Barnet, D. Min.

In March, The Center for Religious Studies, coordinated, funded, and sponsored an event with The Lifelong Learning Program at UCM, entitled “The World's Religions: Pieces or Pattern?” Deems Brooks, Ph.D. with a committee including Renee Curtiss Meyer and Albion Mends, invited Vern Barnet, D. Min to campus. Dr. Barnet is a pioneer builder of interfaith dialogue and a weekly religion columnist for the Kansas City Star.  Dr. Barnet founded CRES an interfaith agency in Kansas City that has brought scores of religions and religious leaders together to talk to each other. 

On the table is a statue of Shiva, a Shofar, a Buddhist Prayer Bowl, and a Totem Pole.

April was a busy month with two public activities.  The Center sponsored a panel entitled "Religion and Politics in American Culture." While the United States claims the ideal of separation of church and state, issues of religion dominate political discussions on sex, prayer, health care, and clothing such as the Hijab.  Why have beliefs about contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage become so central to our politics and how do these beliefs effect how people vote?

Renee Curtiss Meyer, D.Min., adjunct at the Center for Religious Studies organized and hosted the panel. Participants included: Don Compier, Ph.D., Dean of St. Paul School of Theology, Darlene Budd, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science, Kamel Ghozzi, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, and Gregory Streich, Ph.D. Professor of Political Science!

Renee Curtiss introduces the panel
  Panel members Don Compier, Dr. Gregory Streich, Renee Curtiss, Dr. Kamel Ghozzi and Dr. Darlene Budd
Students enjoy listening to the panel discuss religion in politics.

The new LDS Temple outside of Liberty, MO

On a beautiful spring day in April the Center offered a free ride to the new Latter Day Saints Temple just west of Liberty, Missouri.  Working with Robert Fernquist, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and the Latter Day Saints Student Association, a van was rented and students were transported to the Temple.  Another group came on their own.  An LDS Temple is analogous to the "Holy of Holies" described in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.  While we were invited to visit it during the open house, in the future, it will be used mainly as a center for baptisms and restorative activities for invited Latter Day Saints.  Over 40,000 people attended the open house.


Fall 2011

Center for Religious Studies Faculty Tackle On-Line Issues

Three UCM faculty from the Center for Religious Studies shared their experiences about teaching on-line with colleagues from all over the world, "Fearing the Future: Challenges in Developing Online Programs in Religious Studies," at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Francisco in November.

The promo featured in the Program Book read, "It is here — online teaching — but many are trying to avoid or argue it out of existence. What happens to “community,” when you teach online? What about those great ecstatic intellectual moments in the classroom — will they be gone forever? Won’t teaching online destroy the traditional role of a professor? Will I lose my status? Teaching online can’t be quality education, can it? Are they going to replace us with adjuncts? Then what…? The academy will be ruined. Presentations and discussion will highlight organizational structure, creative audiovisual aids, testing, discussing, cheating, projects, and more. Presenters will share their creative successes and failures in ways that will be helpful to the audience."

From left to right: Drs. Marla J. Selvidge, Guy Beck, and Helen Hwang

Marla J. Selvidge, Ph.D., Director and Professor at the Center organized the panel and presented a visual Power Point on “The Politics of Religious Studies On-Line and On Campus."  As founder of the Center for Religious Studies, she has developed most of the face-to-face classes and a great percentage of the on-line classes for the minor and individualized major. Her presentation explained reasons for placing the programs on-line, strategies in its development, recruitment, support of faculty, acquisition of resources to support the program and the politics of offering a Religious Studies major at a state university. Lastly, she shared screen-shots of successful on-line teaching strategies.

Helen Hwang, Ph.D. an adjunct at the Center who lives in California, presented, “The Challenges of a Long-Distance Adjunct.” Dr. Hwang focused on balancing research and teaching on-line, and the challenges of teaching on-line which can free a professor from a physical classroom but can be confining when having to sit in front of a computer eight hours a day.  She also outlines numerous on-line teaching strategies that have worked for her.

Guy Beck, Ph.D. an adjunct at the Center who lives in Louisiana presented "Words and Music in Online Teaching: A Report from Louisiana after Katrina."  Dr. Beck has authored three books on the topic of music and teaching religions and shared with the audience how he uses music to teach religions.  "Why can't they listen to the music of religions while they are studying for classes," says Beck.  His books come with CD's that can be used by anyone teaching on-line without having to obtain permission.  His newest book, Vaishnava Temple Music in Vrindaban was published this month.

Richard Adams, an ABD from Emory University also presented, “Downloading Pedagogy: On-Line and Face-to-Face Classes.”  He argued that learning on-line teaching strategies can be brought to the face-to-face classroom successfully.

Summer 2011

Quan-Yin at the Lama Temple in Hohhot
Quan-Yin at the Lama Temple
in Hohhot

During summer and fall of 2011 Selvidge traveled to Japan, China, (Inner Mongolia) and Ecuador.  Some of her travels were presented on campus in two visual lectures, "Buddhisms in Japan and China," and "Christian Imperialism and Ecuador."

Dr. Stephen Wallace will publish "Advising Transfer Student Veterans," in the National Academic Advising Association Transfer Commission-sponsored Monograph in July 2012.   He has also written "Implications for Faculty Advisors," in the National Academic Advising Associationmonograph to be published in 2012. Wallace reports results of a national advising survey.  He also has co-authored  "Training Faculty Advisors," in Comprehensive Advisor Training and Development: Practices that Deliver, 2011. In 2011 Dr. Wallace also made a presentation entitled, "Assisting Students to Make Appropriate Academic Decisions," at the National Association for Developmental Education Annual Conference in 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Budai at the Quan-Yin Temple
in Inner Mongolia

Albion is hard at work on "If Gold Rusts What Will Iron do?” This is an essay that explores the culture of corruption in Ghana.  He regularly guest lectures at local churches and works with non-profits.

A statue of Confucius at the Temple
of Confucius in Beijing, China

Dr. Curtiss Meyer's research interests are in the areas of gender and religions, with a sub-specialty in Christianity and the human body, and eighteen to twentieth century America. Current research centers on views of homosexuality in mainline Protestantism.  Her research includes: “Homosexuality Pathologized: Forty Years of Mainline Debate,” “Fred Phelps and the Christian Right: A Shared Rhetoric” and “Body-Mind-Society: Theorizing Homosexuality.”  Currently she is working on a second doctorate, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Religious Studies with a sub-specialty in Sociology at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Dr. Jenny James is completing a contracted monograph, entitled “The Archaeology of the Imagination: Recovered Images of Sacred Feminine Healing in World Literature," which moves from Native American mythic structures which predate Indo-European myth to reciprocal structures in world religious literature. It will advance the study of Native American myth and reinforce the link between Native American traditions and feminism.

Spring 2011

During the spring of 2011 fourteen students, faculty, and staff enrolled in a new on-line course with a field experience, "Alaska History and Myth," developed by Dr. Marla J. Selvidge.   The class took students through a traditional approach to the history of Alaska while at the same time asking them to read critical works created by the indigenous peoples of Alaska.  Then the entire class took a cruise through the inside passage to the Alaskan towns of Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, and ended up in Anchorage.

Studying about Alaska and its myths came alive for us as we visited many towns and listened to Park Rangers and Naturalists.  Students kept telling stories about how they had found a building they had studied or listened to a Tlingit introduce herself in a traditional way.

To view a video snapshot of our adventures and The Center for Religious Studies, please double-click on this link:


Marla J. Selvidge, Professor and Director at the Center for Religious Studies, recently finished researching and writing "Menses, De Secretis Mulierum, and The Dead Sea Scrolls:  A Comparative and Theoretical Analysis,"  that will be published this year in a collection of essays entitled, The Haemorrhaging Woman. An Interdisciplinary Research into the Meaning of the Bleeding Woman in Medieval Culture and Art (4th-15th century), Peeters Publishers, 2011.

In January of 2011, she also just completed the acquisition and editing of a collection of papers entitled, Slavery and Feminist Biblical Interpretation in the Nineteeth Century, that will be published in the summer of 2011 as a special edition on-line and in hard copy with Postcripts, a periodical published by Equinox Press in the United Kingdom.  Contributors to the volume included Emerson B. Powery and Jean T. Corey of Messiah College, Claudia Setzer of Manhattan College, Joy A. Schroeder of Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Janelle Peters of Emory University, and Allison Stokes from the Women's Faith Institute in the Berkshires. 

Contents include analyses of several advocates of the nineteenth century.  Two works by former slaves:  Harriet Jacobs and Frances E. W. Harper entreat us once again to return to the awfulness of slavery.  Elizabeth Wilson, Anna Howard Shaw, and Anne Sadlier laid the foundation for early feminist biblical interpretation in the United States.  And, finally, one author surveys the contributions of  several women's  and slave's rights advocates, paying particular attention to strategies used in interpreting the Bible, including;  Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard, Sara Grimke', and Theodore Dwight Weld.

Labadee, Haiti
Limon Church
Jesus in Limon

Selvidge was recently the destination lecturer on board the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas during winter break 2010. Her visual presentations included "Postcards from Haiti: Politics and Art," "Cartagena and Its Beauty: El Dorado and the Spanish Greed for Gold," "Living Through the Panama Canal: A History of the Development of the Canal," "Tortuguero and Costa Rica’s Rain Forest: Protecting Sea Turtles," and "The History of Grand Cayman: Pirates Today and Yesterday."

November 2010

Selvidge and Hwang traveled to the American Academy of Religion in Atlanta, Georgia. As Co-Chair of the "Religions, Social Conflict, and Peace" Group, Selvidge presided over a series of papers on the topic of "Case Studies in Religion and Peacemaking."  The panel consisted of papers exploring the role of the Catholic Church during the war in the Congo, Foucault and Augustine on War, Global Faith-based Humanitarianism, and an introduction to the practical aspects of conflict-resolution through consulting with the Tannebaum Center for Inter-religious training.

Hwang gave a paper in a section exploring a variety of views on Taoism, "Representations of Daoism in Modern and Medieval and Modern East Asia."  Her paper, "Exploring the Visual Representations of Mago: Her Transnational Identities from a Daoist Goddess to the Cosmogonist" was very well received.  Topics of the other papers in this session included:  the perfected warrior, hagiography and the creation of lineage, and non-contact sexual alchemy.

In addition, Selvidge visited the Martin Luther King Center, the Jimmy Carter Library and Center, and the Atlanta Hindu temple.  She met with Tom Pearson at the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology in order to determine if the Center for Religious Studies could align with Wabash.

October 2010

We are happy that Renee' Curtiss Meyer has returned as an adjunct
at the Center for Religious Studies. She will be teaching face-to-face
"Exploring Religions" sections at both the UCM campus and the
Summit Center in Lees Summit. She brings with her a D. Min but will
soon complete her Ph.D. in Religious Studies at UMKC.
Welcome back Renee'!



Guy Beck  Ph.D. recently published  "Kirtan and Bhajan." In Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol.II. Edited by KnutJacobsen. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2010, 585-598.

In August, Beck presented in a panel on Sound In/As Religion at the 2010 meeting of the IAHR (International Association for the History of Religions)at the University of Toronto.

Beck spent six months in India on a US Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship.This involved attending advancedclasses in Indian vocal music and the collection of rare materials from the Archives of the Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta. He was fortunate to study with several prominent Gurus of the Agra tradition of Indian music. During this time, January through July, he gave lectures and concerts of Indian music at the American Center, Shantiketan University, Shantipur Ragini, Burdwan Music Circle, and in Udaipur (Rajasthan) for the Fulbright Spring Conference.

Recent performances during the Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship Research Project, “Agra Gharana: History and Performance.” January-July 2010                                                                                                                                        

  • February 27. Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) Program for the French Consulate on Indian Musical Instruments.

  • March 8-10. Fulbright Conference in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Organized by Mr. Adam Grotsky of United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF).

  • March 21. Visvabharati University in Shantiniketan. Organized by Prof. Somdatta Mandal and Sangeet Bhavan (Music Department). Lecture and Concert by Guy Beck in the Central Library Hall .

  • April 16. American Center, Kolkata, sponsored by USIEF. Lecture and Concert of Guy in the Lincoln Room. Organized by Smt. Sohini Das of USIEF

  • April 30. Calcutta School of Music, Kolkata. Guy Beck joins Pandit Vijay Kichlu, Subhra Guha, Sanjukta Biswas, and Tarun Chatterjee to teach a course on Hindustani vocal music, part of a three-day course. Beck demonstrated raga Nand.

  • June 1. SRA. Lecture and demonstration by Guy Beck,.  Organized by Sreyashi Mitra of SRA.

  • June 19-20. Shantipur Ragini Classical Music Circle, Shantipur, Nadia District, West Bengal. Organized by Sri Subhasis Banerjee of Shantipur Ragini, under recommendation of Smt. Navanita Banerjee of Bihaan Music. June 19: Lecture-demonstration on Musicology.  Both Dr. Beck and his wife Kajal were greeted with excellent hospitality—a red carpet was rolled out --literally! The enthusiasm of the hosts and students of Shantipur Ragini for Indian classical music was overwhelming. A full tour of local temples and historic places, such as Kalna, 108 Siva Temples, Gupta Vrindavan, and Advaitacarya’s Temple and home, was arranged by the hosts as well.
  • July 4. Nad Sangeet Cakra (Nad Music Circle), Burdwan, West Bengal. Organized by Dr. Tapasi Ghosh and the Nad Sangeet Cakra. Concert of Dr. Guy Beck and Dr. Tapasi Ghosh.

Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Ph.D. visited Korea during the summer of 2010 to execute a short-term research on Korean Buddhism, funded by NEAC Korean Studies Grants. Her research project is entitled, “Chinul’s Sŏn Community as Window to Buddhist Institutions of kyŏlsa (結社, religious society) and po (寶, funds) during the Late Koryŏ Dynasty of Korea.”

Primary sources investigated included the Songkwangsa Koryǒ munsǒ (松廣寺高麗文書, Koryo Documents of Songkwangsa) and secondary sources written by Korean scholars. Helen visited the archives of Songkwangsa (Sunchon, Chonnam) and the Buddhist Temple, Unjusa, which is known for thousands of Buddhas and pagodas, as well as two major sites of dolmens (portals to graves) in the southwestern region of Korea.

Marla J. Selvidge
, Ph.D.
will edit a group of articles to be published in 2011 for a special edition of Postscripts on the topic of "Nineteenth Century Feminist Biblical Interpretation and the Bible."

This past summer Selvidge lectured on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Brilliance of the Seas in the Mediterranean. Topics of her visual lectures included: "Florence and Imperial Christianity," "Roman Rulers and their Palaces," "The Architecture and Art of Venice," "The Mystery Religions in the Mediterranean," and "Muslim Architecture in Spain." She prepared people for ports of call that included Barcelona in Spain, Cannes in France, Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice in Italy, Corfu in Greece, and Dubrovnik in Croatia. 

She will be lecturing in December aboard the Royal Caribbean, Jewel of the Seas, on the following topics: "Postcards from Haiti,"  Cartagena and Its Beauty," "Living through the Panama Canal," "Costa Rica's Rain Forest and Efforts to Protect the Sea Turtle," and "A History of Grand Cayman, Pirates and All."  Ports of call include Labadee, Haiti; Limon, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Columbia; Colon, Panama; and Grand Cayman Island.



October 2009

UCM Center for Religious Studies was pleased to host Helen Hwang, Ph.D. as a Scholar in Residence this month.  Her visit was supported by the Dean of the Office of CAHSS and Women's Studies.  Helen has taught on-line courses for both Women's Studies and the Center for Religious Studies including:  "Race, Class, and Gender," "Legal Issues and Religion," and "Exploring Religions."


Dean Gersham Nelson and
Helen Hwang
  Mary Kelly, Director of Women's Studies and Helen Hwang

Dr. Hwang has become the foremost researcher in the area of the Goddess Mago.  "I have discovered a pre-and trans-patriarchal tradition that venerates Mago as supreme authority," says Hwang.  Her work led her to primary sources in Korea, China, and Japan.

Helen gave two lectures and was featured in a panel session. Lectures included:  "Feminism and East Asian Goddess Studies: Mago and her tradition of Magoism," and "The Female as Divine." The panel discussion was entitled, "The Myth of Male Supremacy and Female Subordination."  Renee Curtiss-Meyer, D.Min., Presbyterian Pastor and Ph.D. teaching assistant at UMKC,  spoke on the topic of,   "God is Male and the Consequences."  Dr. Hwang and  Marla J. Selvidge, Ph.D.,  Professor of Religious Studies highlighted their experiences of male supremacy in higher education.

Helen Hwang at a local diner in Kansas City
Lunch with Helen - from left to right: Helen, Albion Mends, Michelle Magee (O.P.), Dr. Sean Kim, and Tyler Burns, student

September 2009



UCM Center for Religious Studies with support from the Office of the Dean of  CAHSS and the Departments of Music and Art and Design  hosted  Artists and Scholars in Residence Dr. Guy Beck and Kajal Beck.   Guy Beck is author of Sonic Theology: Hinduism and Sacred Sound and the editor of Sacred Sound: Experiencing Music in World Religions.  Dr. Beck's lectures included "Krishna, Caste, and Reincarnation and a workshop on instruments of India entitled "Melody/Rhythm in North Indian Music." His last adventure was a concert of the "Sacred Music of India" in Hart Recital Hall. Dr. Beck will be teaching an on-line course on "Hinduism" and another on "Buddhism" for the Center for Religious Studies.

Kajal Beck, companion and spouse of Guy Beck, gave a lecture and hands-on workshop to scores of Art students in the Department of Art and Design.  Her presentation included innovative Indian batik designs, tie-dye, and contemporary water-colors. 

Dr. Les Brothers, Chair, Department of Music with Guy Beck and Marla Selvidge

Joleen Goff, Instructor in Art with Kajal Beck

Spring 2009

UCM  was proud to host Scholar in Residence, Vincent Virga, in March of 2009.  His life story was inspiring and his acquaintance with some of the most important people in the world left us in awe.  He told stories of the Clintons, Primeminister Sharon, and dozens of other public people for whom he had served as a picture editor.  He gave several lectures based upon his new book, Cartographia, including "Ancient Maps and the Religions of the World," "Why is Europe a continent?" and "Maps as Cultural Landscapes."  The event was co-planned with the Department of Geography with support from Phi Kappa Phi and the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.



Selvidge co-chaired the International Studies Program Development Committee. It took one year for the committee to draft the major. Mends guest-lectured to several groups on campus including the Sisters of Ujima. He also published an article on ghana.web entitled, "The Diet of our Ancestors," Whang published and lead several academic sessions of the worship of the Goddess. Her two most recent publications are: "Issues in Studying Mago, the Great Goddess," in The Constant and Changing Faces of the Goddess. Goddess Traditions of Asia, and "Returning Home with Mago, the Great Goddess from East Asia, " in Trivia: Voices of Feminism. Wallace published, "What were they thinking? Decision-making in the experiences of College Students at risk," in the NADE Digest.

Marla J. Selvidge's most recent work is a collection of articles entitled, "Messianic Ambitions of the Bush Family" published by The Journal of Political Theology (Equinox Press). She introduces the collection with "Nationalist Religion and the Mission of the American Empire:  A Tale of Two Messiahs," while contributing an article entitled, "The New World Order:  Messianic Rhetoric and Dreams of the Senior Bush Administration."

Joy Stevenson (International Center), Donald Wallace (Criminal Justice) , and Musa Ilu (Sociology)

Online Minor Debuts at Center

Steve Wallace, Ed.D. now a Professor at Shippensburg University rejoined us this summer. He will be anchoring our online minor by teaching two courses a semester including summer. The Center has planned online classes through 2010. This minor will give many people who cannot travel to Central Missouri an opportunity to earn a minor at home or from anywhere in the world.

Helen Hwang Joins the Center

Dr. Hwang recently attended the national conference of the American Academy of Religion in San Diego, CA and published two articles in Trivia: Voices of Feminism and Ocher Journal of Women's Spirituality.  She was also featured as a speaker at Feminist Hullabaloo, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 


Helen has presented three papers at regional conferences in Berkeley and Claremont, CA, convened three sessions for the regional conference of AAR Western Region CA besides teaching two courses in Cal Poly Pomona.  Her recent articles are listed at the right.

Dr. Helen Hwang

"Returning Home with Mago, the Great Goddess, from East Asia" in Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Issue 6, Sept. 2007.

"The Female Principle in the Magoist Cosmogony" in Ochre Journal of Women's Spirituality, Spring 2007.

Center Hosts International Speakers

David Radcliff, D. Min., Director of the New Community Project

David Radcliff, D.Min., Director of the New Community Project brought insight to us about the topic of religious and social Conflict in Myanmar (Burma) and Nepal. His organization takes students around the world. The Center is planning to work with him in the future in the area of internships and travel classes.


Saffa Koroma, (left) education secretary for the Sierra Leone United Methodist Church and Richard Frazier, associate professor of curriculum and instruction.



Saffa Koroma, (left) Education Secretary for the Sierra Leone United Methodist Church, lectured on "Religions in Contemporary Sierra Leone."   The Center co-sponsored this event with Richard Frazier, (right) Associate Professor, Curriculum and Instruction.

"Christianity, Gays , Lesbians, and Trans-Sexual Issues"

An event organized by Renee Curtiss Meyer, D,Min in November drew a sell-out crowd. Renee brought together Rev. Dr. Sally Haynes, Senior Pastor First United Methodist Church, Warrensburg; Rev. Jay McKell, Senior Pastor Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Overland Park, KS; and Rev. Lee Hagan, Senior Pastor St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod in Concordia, MO., and Juliana Weber, Director at the Newman Center UCM, to discuss this most important and volatile issue.

Left to Right: Juliana Weber, Rev. Jay McKell, Rev. Fr. Sally Haynes, Renee Curtiss Meyer and Rev. Lee Hagan

Panelists:  (left to right):  Juliana Weber, Rev. Jay McKell, Rev. Dr. Sally Haynes, Renee Curtiss Meyer and Rev. Lee Hagan

Mends Full Time

Albion Mends received his first full-time contract at the Center this year. He is teaching for both Africana Studies and the Center. Albion fills his life with substituting for pastors on the weekends plus sending containers of goods to help the unfortunate in his homeland, Ghana. Students have begun recruiting him for lectures on campus, the most recent was "Africa and Child-Soldiers."

Marla J. Selvidge Edits Volume on Bush Presidencies

Dr. Selvidge has been working with Julie Clague, Ph.D. at the University of Glasgow to develop volumes to publish in the area of "Religions, Social Conflict, and Peace." The first volume will appear in January, entitled; Messianic Ambitions of the Bush Administration. Selvidge recruited scholars from Canada, Indonesia, Syria, and South Africa. Her contribution to the volume includes two articles entitled, "Nationalistic Religion and the Mission of the American Empire: A Tale of Two Messiahs," and "The New World Order: Messianic Rhetoric and Dreams of the Senior Bush Administration." Selvidge was recently asked to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming volume on the topic of "War in the Contemporary World."

Spring 2007

Dr. Selvidge hosted over a dozen specialists on campus representing "New Religions." The guest speakers included Steve Hillen from the Jehovah's Witnesses; Rabbi Shmuel Wolkenfeld from Messianic Judaism; Yohanon and Naboth from The Twelve Tribes; Ray Bosch, EPA Attorney for Soka Gakkai; Byron Newcomb for Theosophy; Danavir Goswami, President and Founder of the Rupanuga Institute of Hare Krishna; Jeluna, High Priestess within the Wiccan traditions; Ronald Higgins on Adidam; Maggie Kittinger, Executive Director of Scientology, Kansas City and  Brad and Diane Masters of the Masters Institute of Energy Medicine in Lees Summit.

Byron Newcomb

Danavir Goswami, President and Founder of the Rupanuga Institute of Hare Krishna

Byron Newcomb, Theosophy

Danavir Goswami, President and Founder of the Rupanuga Institute of Hare Krishna.

Jeluna, High Priestess within the Wiccan traditions

Brad and Diane Masters of the Masters Institute of Energy Medicine

Jeluna, High Priestess within the Wiccan traditions.

Brad and Diane Masters of the Masters Institute of Energy Medicine.

Maggie Kittinger, Executive Director of Scientology, Kansas City

Danavir Goswami, President and founder of the Rupanuga Institute of Hare Krishna

Maggie Kittinger, Executive Director of Scientology, Kansas City.

Danavir Goswami, President and founder of the Rupanuga Institute of Hare Krishna.

Numerous other people on campus supported the "New Religions" class by giving of their time. Zachary Lewis, Carla Prael, and Judith Penrod Siminoe presented a panel on "My Spiritual Journey." James Box, David Babcock, Larry Michaelsen, Robert Ferquist and others introduced us to the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints. Stephen Wilson presented an interesting PowerPoint on the "Biological Perspective on Religious Belief." Lisa Schmidt and Terry McNeely created our logo for the class and Carol Knight videotaped all of the sessions which will be used in future classes.

Fall 2007

Panel Discussion: "Voices of Makkah"

The pilgrimage to Mecca is a requirement in the life of a Muslim if she/he can afford it.  For many it is a life-changing event.

From Left to Right:
Haitherm Gauwas and
Dr. Mustafal Kamal

The panel consisted of people who have traveled to Mecca and those who will be traveling to Mecca.  Many thanks to the following who shared their time and experiences with us.  Mustafa A. Kamal, Chair, Computer Information Systems will speak on the "History of the Pilgrimage to Makkah."  

Nancy Starrett

Nancy Starrett,  University Relations, Customer Service Liaison,  will tell us what it is like to plan for the event in, "Preparing for the Hajj."  Haithem Jameel Gauwas, Consultant, Academic Affairs at the International Center, has made the trek to Mecca twice and will explain that journey in, "Experiencing the Hajj."  During the event free brochures that describe the beliefs within Islam and issues regarding women in Islam were provided to the audience.


Kwaanza December 2006

Albion Mends was an invited speaker at Northwest Missouri State University on the topic of "The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa and our Heritage." Renee Curtiss Meyer is leading her church through a capital campaign in order to raise money to pay a building debt. Her many duties at home include taking care of five horses.


October 2006

The Center hosted two international scholars.  Swami Prajnanananda from Orissa, India, lectured on the following topics: Creativity and World Religions," and "Loving Your Neighbor Can Change the World." He spent most of the day with students signing books and giving an interview to KMOS-TV. His lecture was sponsored by the Minority Scholars program.

Over the next weekend The Center helped to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Hariharananda, the mentor of Prajnanananda.  Dr. Selvidge was an invited speaker and the Center was a co-sponsor of the event.  Selvidge's Power Point topic was entitled, "Religion and Human Possibilities." The Swami left Kansas City for Germany where he was to be the main speaker at a peace conference.

Swami Prajnanananda

Dr. Marla J. Selvidge and Swami Prajnanananda

Swami Prajnanananda
Orissa, India

Photo: Lisa Schmidt

Dr. Marla J. Selvidge and
Swami Prajnanananda

Photo: Lisa Schmidt

Eric Anderson, a Ph.D. sociologist from Bath, England lectured on the following topics: "The Problem of Heterosexuality and a Homophobic Culture," and "Gay Athletes and the Cult of Masculinity." Anderson's book on Gay Athletes was used in our class on "World Views and Values."  It was a treat to meet the author and dialogue with him about the text.  Eric spent lunch and dinner with the students and then we bid him farewell.

Dr. Eric Anderson
Photo: Lisa Schmidt
Dr. Eric Anderson, joined by 
UCM President Aaron Podolefsky, center, 
and Dr. Marla J. Selvidge

Dr. Eric Anderson, UCM President Dr. Aaron Podolefsky and Dr. Marla J. Selvidge
Photo: Lisa Schmidt
Dr. Anderson speaks to UCM students regarding The Problem of Heterosexuality and a Homophobic Culture
Gay Athletes and the Cult of Masculinity


Dr. Eric Anderson receives a UCM t-shirt from executive assistant to the president Dr. George Wilson
Photo: Lisa Schmidt
Dr. Marla J. Selvidge and Dr. Eric Anderson enjoy a light hearted moment as Anderson receives a UCM t-shirt from executive assistant to the president
Dr. George Wilson. 

September 2006

Dr. Selvidge was invited by Jorunn Okland of the University of Sheffield to join the team of scholars who will produce a 14-volume work on "Women and the Bible.  An Encyclopedia of Exegesis and History of Culture."  As one of the two women chosen from the United States, she will be responsible for "Women's Rights Movements and the Education of Women in the 19th century." The encyclopedia will be published in German, Italian, Spanish, and English.  Editors will meet regularly in Naples, Italy.
Albion Mends regularly speaks in churches throughout Warrensburg, Butler, and Holden, Missouri

July-August 2006

Dr. Selvidge lectured aboard the Coral Princess Cruise Ship on a cruise to Alaska.  She developed Power Point presentations with the help of Lisa Schmidt, and Terry McNeeley entitled, "Totems, Today, and Tomorrow;" "Shooting the Breeze:  Oral Traditions of Alaskans," and "Bear Skins to Bearing the Skin," a history of clothing and military garb in Alaska.
Albion Mends published two articles on the  "A Trip to Ghana by Dr. George Acquaye" and "A Generation Grew Up."  During this year Albion received a resolution that included special honors and accolades from the Missouri House of Representatives during a Black History Program in Warrensburg.

November 2005

Dr. Marla J. Selvidge makes a presentation at the Peach Conference

Dr. Marla J. Selvidge at the Peace Conference
Photo:  T. Hemling

Thirty one students, staff, and professors attended the 2005  Peace Colloquy. "From Fears to Friendships. Exploring Religions of the World," at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, MO.   They participated in seminars and took a bus to various religious sites in Kansas City. The Center underwrote the keynote speaker through a grant from the Provost's office. Dr. John L. Esposito, Georgetown University, lectured on, "The Islamic Threat:  Myth or Reality." Marla J. Selvidge presented a lecture at the Peace Conference, "Tomorrow, Women, and World Religions."

Albion Mends was Interviewed on WCLM Radio, Richmond, VA by telephone.  The Radio Book Club's topic: A book by Dr Godfrey Mwakikagile,  Relations between Africans and African Americans-misconceptions, myths and realities.

Marla J. Selvidge chaired sessions of papers given by international scholars  on "Religions, Social Conflict, and Peace" at the National Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Philadelphia

October 2005  

Albion Mends led a session at the Missouri Statewide Gospel Conference at UCM.

September 2005

The Center hosted Katarina Kracht, Visiting Scholar from the University of Bremen in Germany, spoke on the topic of "Latino Religions in the Americas."

The Center hosted Renee Ann Curtiss Meyer, Ordained Minister, Pastor of the New Horizon Presbyterian Church, spoke on "Presbyterianism, Feminism, and Ordination."

KMOX produced a program featuring the Center for Religious Studies that aired this month.

Dr. Marla J. Selvidge accompanies students on trip to Ireland.

Dr. Marla J. Selvidge planned and hosted a tour of Ireland's religious sites.
Photo: T Hemling

July-August 2005

Marla J. Selvidge visited religious and historical sites in Nova Scotia.

Albion Mends distributed container of goods to people in Ghana.  Taught and spoke weekly on the Ghana Radio.  Helped with the planning of Panfest Celebration in Cape Coast, Ghana.

June 2005

The Center offered its first online course "Exploring Religion."  Classes filled with 56 students.

May 2005

Albion Mends in Ghana Albion Mends organized community-wide 40-foot shipping container of goods to Cape Coast, Ghana.

Marla J. Selvidge planned and hosted a tour to religious sites in Ireland for students and associates.

The Center hosted a lecture by Hans Offerdahl, Visiting Resident Scholar for Peace, Diversity, and Understanding, on the life of Father Romero.  


Albion Mends in Ghana

February 2005

Ghanian boy The Center planned and hosted the First Annual World Politics and Religion Forum! George Wilson, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs introduced the panel. Stephen Wallace spoke on "Islamic Sacred Law and Political/Cultural Identity."  Albion Mends spoke on "Peaceful Ghana Surrounded by Civil War:  A Christian Perspective" Hans Offerdahl, Visiting Resident Scholar for Peace, Diversity, and Understanding  spoke on "Was Voting for George W. Bush a Religious sin?" Marla J. Selvidge, spoke on "Gender Politics and World Religions".




Ghanian boy offers a smile
Photo: A. Mends