Interfaith Partners of South Carolina appoints new board chair

COLUMBIA, S.C. – For many in the U.S., South Carolina would not be the first place to spring to mind when thinking of religious tolerance. However, this hot state in the heart of the south has a growing group of committed citizens who are working to ensure all voices are heard.

One of these committed citizens is Holli Emore MDiv who has just been appointed the new board chair of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina (IPSC).

Emore is a practicing Pagan in the Kemetic tradition and is also the director of Cherry Hill Seminary which provides graduate studies through a Pagan lens.

For over ten years IPSC has worked for solidarity in freedom of religion in South Carolina. The organization was started by Carl Evans Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina as a way to share elements of faith. Its mission is “to bring together people of diverse religious, spiritual, and secular paths throughout our state to cultivate a more harmonious community.”

IPSC has grown to support religious tolerance and celebrate religious diversity through events such as Peace in the Park. IPSC has also been at the forefront of many initiatives to promote tolerance and was a catalyst in bringing into law the South Carolina Religious Freedom Act that was signed in 2022.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that interfaith discourse was until very recently a little reticent to bring Pagans into the fold. As a group, Pagans and those who are Pagan-adjacent are often shy to come forward. This could in part be due to a fear that they may not be taken seriously or even openly shunned. Those under the rather large umbrella of Paganism can be a tough community to pin down, given that the term Pagan can encompass so many traditions, belief systems, and cultural paths.

There can also be the tendency to cross over into other religions which confuses many who may have assumed that religion means committing to one set faith. Then of course is the sporadic physical nature of Pagans who rarely have their own structures in which to congregate and often have to share with other communities such as Universalist Unitarians which means building a collective force for change is a challenge.

This is why the appointment of Holli Emore as chair of Interfaith Partner of South Carolina is so very significant and indeed inspiring.

Rick Berry, the current Public Information Officer for IPSC shared how Emore’s appointment was both a pragmatic and symbolic decision. Pragmatic in that Emore’s work as the previous PIO saw IPSC’s community members grow from 425 to 800 and her experience in leadership and delegation meant, according to Berry that Emore “keeps the organization vibrant, broadening to all faiths.”

Symbolic in that Emore will be the first leader of the IPSC who is Pagan, a group frequently marginalized, especially in the south where Christianity is often considered the default religion. As such, Berry sees Emore’s position as providing a model of acceptance. Berry also praised Emore’s delegation skills, as well as her ability to use interfaith work as a means of social integration.

This is borne out when looking at Emore’s record for showing in support of social justice, marching at Black Lives Matters rallies, and adding her voice to the plight of Syrian refugees. She was even at one time considered the Pagan liaison to the sheriff’s office.

Holli Emore, MDiv.

Emore’s willingness to stand up for injustice provides much-needed exposure to Pagans as a legitimate group as well as shows the Pagan community that they need not hide in the shadows. Moreover, she has become a role model to inspire other Pagans to stand up in support of civil and human rights.

Emore admitted that when she was first approached about the position she declined. When the call came again to lead she took it. “What I’ve learned about interfaith is that it’s not about religion but relationships.”

Perhaps it was this realization that encouraged her to finally accept the position, as well as the awareness that most people she has come into contact with are curious rather than prejudiced toward Paganism. Her work requires her to interact and build relationships with many different paths and she reflects that interfaith work is not about, “Seeing how we are the same but looking for commonalities.”

She feels that interfaith skills are essential, not just in building relationships with people outside of one’s path but often within it. “If Pagans had more interfaith skills they would get along better!”

Emore also acknowledges the work of those who have come before her, “I tread in very large footsteps. Here I am thinking of the strides we made as an organization, first under the visionary leadership of our founder Carl Evans, and most recently Adrian Bird, and then Cheryl Nail. Indeed, I want to acknowledge up front that each of these has worked harder than anyone may ever know to set the stage for where we are now.”

Left to right, Cheryl Nail, past Chair, Tayyaba Saddiq, former board member, and Holli Emore [courtesy]

When asked what her plans were for the group as the new chair, Emore stated that she simply wished the group to continue with the work they have already started. Soon they will be welcoming a delegation from South Korea who will learn more about interfaith work here in the U.S.

The much-loved festival, Peace in the Park, is returning this September after a hiatus of four years. The family-friendly event will be held in  Columbia, SC, and celebrates eleven different religions through art, music, and more.

If decisions are made by those who show up, the appointment of Holli Emore as chair of IPSC shows that perhaps other Pagans need not be afraid of sharing their path, it may even be seen as a civic duty.

The Wild Hunt is not responsible for links to external content.

To join a conversation on this post:

Visit our The Wild Hunt subreddit! Point your favorite browser to, then click “JOIN”. Make sure to click the bell, too, to be notified of new articles posted to our subreddit.

Comments are closed.