"On Faith" panelist Elaine Pagels is Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University and author of best-selling books about the pluralistic nature of early Christianity. Her book Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (2003), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, focuses on religious claims to possessing the ultimate truth. Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels (1979), an analysis of 52 early Christian manuscripts unearthed in Egypt and known as the Nag Hammadi Library. The book was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best books of the 20th Century. She also authored The Origin of Satan (1995), and Adam, Eve and the Serpent (1988). Pagels was awarded Rockefeller, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships in three consecutive years. Her next work, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, is co-authored with Karen King and set to be published in the spring of 2007. She is on leave from Princeton for the academic year 2006-2007 while a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York.
What we need to ask is what pressures generated each tradition's claims to monopoly, against whom such claims were made, and what is at stake in making them.
The Reverend William J. Byron, S.J., a former president of Catholic University, is on leave this year from his position as research professor at the Sellinger School of Business and Management, Loyola College in Maryland to serve as president of St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia. The “On Faith” panelist served as interim president of Loyola University , New Orleans in 2003-04 and for three years prior to that, was pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington , D.C. From 1992 to 2000, he taught "Social Responsibilities of Business" at Georgetown University , where he was Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Ethics and served as rector of the Georgetown Jesuit Community. He was president of Catholic University for a decade (1982-92). Byron writes a syndicated bi-weekly column, Looking Around , for Catholic News Service, and is the author of a dozen books, including A Book of Quiet Prayer (2006); The Power of Principles: Ethics in the New Corporate Culture (2006) and Answers from Within: Spiritual Guidelines for Managing Setbacks in Work and Life (1998) . A founding director and past chairman of Bread for the World , Byron was also named the 1999 recipient of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities' Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for his contributions to the advancement of Catholic higher education. In that same year, he received the Council of Independent Colleges' Academic Leadership Award. Byron, who holds a doctorate in economics as well as theology degrees, served in the U.S. Army's 508 th Parachute Infantry Regiment before entering the Jesuit order in 1950. He was ordained a priest in 1961.
"On Faith" panelist and rock musician Salman Ahmad founded the popular South Asian band Junoon
. The group has sold over 25 million albums and in 2001 became the first rock band invited to perform at the U.N. General Assembly. Ahmad also was appointed U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS. He personalized the "I Care, Do You?" U.N. poster campaign in Pakistan by taking the well-known verse of the Koran about reverence for human life and paraphrasing it to say: "Saving one life (from AIDS) is like saving the whole of humanity." Born in Pakistan , Ahmad grew up in New York . He obtained his medical degree from Pakistan 's King Edward Medical college in Lahore . He helped form Pakistan 's first pop band, Vital Signs
, whose debut album sold a million copies. Ahmad decided to give up his stethoscope and pick up his guitar, and after leaving Vital Signs
in 1990 he founded Junoon
. Recently Ahmad appeared in two documentary films: It's My Country Too
, about Muslim-Americans, and Rockstar and the Mullahs
. Both were broadcast worldwide on PBS and the BBC. A passionate activist in promoting peace between India and Pakistan , Ahmad made a song/video Ghoom Tana
. It is on his latest solo album INFINITI.
The Right Rev. Mark Sean Sisk has been Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, one of the Episcopal Church’s largest dioceses with over 200 congregations since 2001. Before returning to New York as Bishop Coadjutor in 1998, the "On Faith" panelist served for 14 years as President and Dean of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. The bishop also worked as a parish priest for 10 years before his predecessor Bishop Paul Moore asked him to join his staff as Archdeacon of Westchester, Putnam and Rockland Counties in New York. Mission, worship and nurture are the three main focus areas of Sisk’s episcopacy. At the root of each is the promise of keeping our Lord and our faith centered in our lives while we work together to help the most vulnerable in our society. He believes that his and other moderate, socially conscious Christian viewpoints need to be heard. It is his hope to function as a bridge-builder in dealing with the important social issues confronting us as a nation. Sisk earned a degree in economics from the University of Maryland and a Masters of Divinity at General Theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained in 1967.