The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado promotes justice, religious liberty and interfaith understanding through building relationships in order to educate, advocate, and catalyze social change.
We envision a society where all people are free and supported to live the life they wish for. We imagine faith communities from many traditions and backgrounds who are committed to work grounded in our shared values, in order to engage in collaborative action to dismantle systemic oppression.
We see people coming together across our many differences to build authentic, 'got your back' friendships, to celebrate together in moments of joy, to grieve together in times of pain, and to advocate and work together to improve people's lives.
The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado was founded in 1998 by a group of faith leaders from multiple backgrounds who were frustrated that their multiple faith voices were not being represented in the public sphere- specifically in politics or media. This group was determined that faith should be a force for good in public life- so they began to bring people together to engage in advocacy at the state capitol, to build stronger relationships, and celebrate multiple faith traditions. Key partners and leaders over the years were Cameron Methodist Church, Jefferson Unitarian Church, Park Hill United Church of Christ, Bill Kirton, Chuck Mowery, Sigrid Higdon, Maureen McCormick, James Laurie, Greg Movesian, Nathan Woodliff Stanley, Jamie Arnold, and Ved Nanda.
After September 11, 2001 The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado rallied around the Muslim community in Denver who was experiencing a backlash of discrimination. They helped organize a gathering of more than a thousand people who came to the Colorado Muslim Society to stand in solidarity - and to cry together for the pain the country was experiencing. Stories are told of the Interfaith Music Festival which provided an opportunity for people to come together across traditions to celebrate and enjoy music from multiple traditions.
In 2007, The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado became the leading faith voice working for full rights and equality for GLBTQ people, organizing people of faith to advocate for first civil unions, and eventually marriage rights for GLBTQ people (realized in 2014). The Public Policy Commission of TIA-CO worked to discern positions on bills and to advocate at the state capitol around a broad range of issues including assuring public money was not given to private religious schools through vouchers, and to advocate against wage theft.
In 2012-2013 The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado lost key grant funding as a primary funder changed the focus of their funding. Further, the economic downturn of 2008-2009 finally caught up to the non-profit sector. At this time the Board and Staff did deep soul searching to determine if there was still a 'need for the organization'. The group determined that the needs of the time were real, and that they would make key changes in order to re-build and ensure financial and organizational sustainability.
In the fall of 2014, Amanda Henderson joined the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado as executive director. The first year of the leadership transition was spent primarily listening to the community, learning the landscape of progressive advocacy, and testing new ideas. Key feedback revealed the vital value of the progressive faith advocacy work of The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. An evaluation of the 'interfaith' landscape revealed that key partners such as Abrahamic Initiative and Multicultural Mosaic Foundation held strength in 'interfaith dialogue', but were not able to outwardly adress 'political issues'. Other faith based advocacy organizations, were unable to engage in work on some issues such as GLBTQ rights and equality and women's reproductive choice.
This revealed a clear role for The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado as an organization of people from multiple faith backgrounds (or no faith background) committed to education and advocacy around rights and equality. Taking a bold, grass roots approach we were able to be nimble and responsive to the needs of our community. We were able to be present and participate in activism that was rising to the surface in the moment.
In 2014-2016 our country and our community saw multiple tragedies including police killings of black people, a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, a shooting in a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and a mass shooting in a gay latinx nightclub in Orlando. With each of these events The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado engaged in the work of bringing people together for healing, for rallies and vigils, and to march the streets and cry out for change. Responsiveness to community tragedy is in our DNA, beginning with our response to the attacks on September 11, 2001. We continue to fill this role and are seen within the community as a respected and reliable resource to respond to pressing community needs.
In 2015 The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado received a catalytic grant from the Gill Foundation which allowed us to grow. We brought a bold vision and a clear request, and they took a chance to support our vision. Through this grant we were able to bring more public programming, more people to engage, and increase in staff time and support. We tested new ideas including bringing paid 'Coordinators' from multiple areas of the state tasked with asking people to sign on to be a 'Force For Good', and to speak out against discrimination in the name of religion. Additionally, we trained 'Faith Spokespeople' to increase our public voice and presence. Through trying new things we learned what worked and what did not. We found success with trainings and with an increased network.
The trust put into the organization by the Gill Foundation attracted additional Foundation support. Soon we were able to build additional grant funding from the Colorado Health Foundation, the Buck Foundation, and the Denver Foundation and others.
The 2016 presidential election impacted The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado as we saw a marked increase in divisive and hateful vitriol in our politics and policies. We were called upon to respond to Executive Orders that discriminated against people based on religion, immigration status, sexual orientation and gender. Community leadership was needed to bring people together and to resist threats to freedom and equality. While the pace was daunting, there were ample opportunities to fulfill our organizational mission.
In 2017 we took on the role of a support institution in catalyzing social change projects. Our program, Facing Racism, was developed and then launched in partnership with Soul2Soul (a black women led anti-racism organization). Seeing a clear need in the community, we supported the initiation of a new nonprofit, the Colorado Village Collaborative, in order to launch Denver's First Tiny Home Village, Beloved Community Village. Through bringing together vital partners, building public and political will, and providing faith communities opportunities to live their mission in the community, we found a new way to live out our own organizational mission. 'Catalyzing Social Change' fits our mission by bringing people together across our differences in order to stand with those most marginalized, improve our local communities, and disrupt systemic oppression.
As we move into 2018 we see that the rapid growth we have experienced over the past three years has placed many new opportunities before us. We have a strong and experienced staff with a reputation for bold and creative leadership. We also see that we are in a time when we must diversify our funding, increase our 'deliberate' planning structures, and grow and strengthen our Board of Directors. As we do these things, we will be able to build our partnerships, mobilize faith communities, and increase our impact to bring lasting social change.