Regional Community and Interfaith Specialist
St. Louis Multi-Stake Public Affairs Council
On January 1, 2009, for the first time ever, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints took office as President of the Board of Directors of Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls of Metropolitan St. Louis. Former Bishop Howard Nelson of the Florissant Ward in the St. Louis North Stake was elected by Jewish Rabbis, Muslim Imams, Catholic nuns, African-American Pastors, and other key religious leaders in the St. Louis area to lead this influential interfaith group.
While serving as Bishop many years ago, Howard began attending meetings of a Ministerial Alliance within his ward boundaries. After attending meetings for a year, the leadership of the Alliance asked him to serve as Secretary. Currently, he continues to do so after 27 years.
In 1991, Stake President Neal Lewis received a letter from Interfaith Partnership inviting the Latter-day Saints to participate. Howard was asked to represent the Church by the three Stake Presidents at that time, and has remained actively involved with this organization since then.
Over the past 23 years, Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls (IP/FBW) has grown to represent 31 religious denominations. Together, they learn and respect each other’s beliefs though dialogue groups, educational forums, and celebratory events. This organization also organizes service project opportunities bringing people of faith outside of their temples, synagogues, mosques and churches into neighborhoods that need the helping hands and kind hearts of teams of interfaith volunteers. The St. Louis region has a deeply diverse, interfaith response to do what needs to be done, and helps reverse the segregation and separatism that has held this region hostage for too long.
Howard has introduced the LDS Church to many at IP/FBW who have had no experience with the LDS faith. Historically, Mormons have suffered a great deal of ridicule and harassment. This has caused the LDS community to remain insular. The inclusion of this faith community in this broad interfaith effort throughout the region has dispelled a century of distrust and confusion, building bridges of understanding and collaboration between Latter-Day Saints and the members of Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls.
Before being elected as President of the Board, he served as the Secretary for 16 years. He has used his law degree to assist this organization with many legal matters. Howard has met Pope John Paul II, is good friends with the General Secretary of the Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, has spoken on local radio shows, has been invited to represent the Church on interfaith panels, has spoken speak at Jewish Synagogues, and has even been invited to preach on tithing during Sunday services of an African-American Church.
Howard loves all people of faith, and can see the good they all do in this world. Anyone who can serve in this capacity, for this length of time, while raising and providing for 13 children, and serving in various church callings, has to. There has been some sacrifice, but Howard feels it is worth it!