Stephen Copley: Arkansan Dedicated to Interfaith Advocacy

Using interfaith work as a means to create a world of peace, justice and respect, ordained United Methodist elder Steve Copley has served as a leader in interfaith advocacy for 25 years. For the last 5 years, he has taken on the role of Executive Director at Interfaith Arkansas after 16 years of serving as Chair of the Board. Shoulder to Shoulder volunteer, Glory B. Nix, talked with Steve recently to get his take on the importance of interfaith work in today’s sociopolitical climate.

GBN: Why do you beleive it is important for interfaith communities to come together?

SC: It is important as people of faith, for our voices to be heard. It is important for people of faith to be willing to share their positive values, like social justice, in public spaces. This way, we can positively impact our communities, states, and ultimately, our nation.

GBN: Have you faced any challenges working toward that goal?

SC: Our challenge lies in getting certain smaller groups to participate and speak out on the issues affecting them. Often times, they fear that getting involved and speaking out will make them targets of hatred and judgement.

GBN: As a reaction to the new President, have the goals of your organization changed?:

SC: The core values of Interfaith Arkansas have not changed, however we have had to respond to interfaith related issues within our community on a more frequent basis. What the recent change in politics really has done is, simply, heightened the importance of our mission.

GBN: What activities or events have been successful in your community?

SC: An event that we are particularly proud of as an organization is our monthly breakfast. Every month for about 6 years now, we bring faith leaders together to fellowship and address larger issues facing our community. These breakfasts have really provided an open forum to develop trust between our interfaith communities.

GBN: How have you personally witnessed growth within your community while involved in interfaith work?

SC: I think slowly but surely, as a community and state, I find people have a much deeper awareness and appreciation of people of different faith backgrounds; and with that, a deeper need to speak out on their behalf.

Click here to learn more about the work of Interfaith Arkansas.

Steve (far right) and fellow community leaders at Interfaith Arkansas’ “Interfaith Faith Leaders Study Group”.