On behalf of the Trustees and Officers of the Templeton Foundation I would like to welcome you.
Today we celebrate the twenty-second anniversary of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Founded by Sir John Templeton, the Prize was conceived almost 30 years ago as a way to communicate the many wonderful contributions and advancements that were being made in religion to a world that was at that time preoccupied with material progress and that of science, medicine, space, and technology. Sir John was concerned with the lack of acknowledgement by the world for the progress that was being made by many religious leaders in different parts of the world as well as for his own spiritual development.
He envisioned an international award that would recognize progress made in the knowledge and love of God and communicate this to the world. It was his contention that learning about what people of all faiths are saying and by observing their works and lives would inspire and uplift millions of people to further study, personal growth and worship of God.
Although there were other prizes and recognition in other fields such as the Nobel Prize for outstanding scientific and cultural achievement and the Pulitzer Prize for excellence in journalism, there were none for God and spirituality.
By making this award the largest prize it would bring immediate recognition as well as help the recipient in the field of his or her pursuit. It also said that progress in religion is more important than any other area or all the areas combined.
In 1973 the first Templeton Prize was awarded. Annually since that time the Prize has sought to honour one who has contributed to humanity’s greater knowledge of God through originality or research in religion or spirituality. The Prize is given to any living person of any creed, race, sex or geographical background.
It encourages understanding of the benefits of diversity of religions, because it believes there are a variety of ways that the creator is revealing Himself to different people.
The award is not given for saintliness, or mere good works but is given for original, fruitful projects that either increase man’s love of God or that lead to a deeper understanding and breakthrough in religious knowledge. The stated objective of the Templeton Prize is to stimulate the knowledge and love of God on the part of mankind everywhere for it is imperative that progress in religion accelerates as progress in other disciplines evolves.
The recipients are selected by a panel of nine judges representing at least four major religions. Reviewing the nominations the judges ask, what has this person done which was entirely original?
Secondly, was it primarily spiritual rather than merely humanitarian? Then, did this original contribution by this nominee result in a great increase in either man’s love of God or man’s understanding of God?
The recipients have all exemplified these qualities.
Also, they have helped to focus attention on the diversity of present-day religious thought and work, representing more than twelve countries and most of the major religions of the world.
The recipients have epitomized the very diversity of performance and background that Sir John sought to recognize in order to bring attention to the new and exciting developments in the understanding of God.
May I on behalf of the Trustees of the Prize say a sincere thank you to the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey for having this 22nd ceremony here and to the Dean and the Reverend Kathleen Richardson for leading us in prayers; and to the Reverend Dr. Colin Morris who will introduce the 1994 recipient of the Templeton Prize and to all of you for gracing the occasion with your presence.