Rev. Richard L. Dowhower (A.B., D.D. [Hon.] Thiele), first worked with the American Family Foundation at a seminar for educators in the early '80s in Pittsburgh, where he was then serving. This was a time when most professionals saw neither the right nor the reason to be concerned about cults. His engaging explication of the problem then reflected an already well-developed "teaching ministry" that continues to reach a wide audience in a variety of forums.
As early as 1975, he was working, from his parish base, with the Pittsburgh Association for individual Freedom (an early affiliate of the Cult Awareness Network). By 1979 he was making a TV presentation on cults in Harrisburg, PA, while serving a new parish, and testifying at a hearing on cults convened by the Pennsylvania state legislature. Quite apart from cult-related counseling in his own parish - and with others who learned of his sensitivity to the issues - Rev. Dowhower has worked hard to educate fellow pastors.
In 1979, he testified before his own denomination's department of Church in Society and authored a pamphlet for the Pennsylvania Conference on Interfaith Cooperation entitled "The Dangers of Pseudo-Religious Cults, a Statement of Pastoral Concern for Parents and Youth by Catholic and Protestant Religious Leaders." In 1982, he published "Confronting the Cults," a two-part article in LCA Partners (Feb. and Apr. 1982) a journal for pastors and church professionals in his denomination.
He has also reviewed books touching on cult-related issues for other Lutheran publications and for AFF's Cultic Studies Journal. In addition, Rev. Dowhower has written for AFF the important and widely distributed pamphlet "Cults: What Clergy Should Know."
The education of military chaplains has been one of Rev. Mr. Dowhower's special projects, including presentations to U.S. Navy chaplains in Philadelphia (1979), in Groton-New London, CT (1981), and at their school in Newport, RI (1985-87, 1990). Apart from the military, Rev. Mr. Dowhower has presented at the Pastors' Conference of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Bowie (MD) Interfaith Clergy Association, and the Lutheran Social Services of Allegheny (PA) Region.
He has also worked routinely with campus pastors and college students - at Bucknell, Dickinson, and Thiele colleges, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Maryland - as well as with high school students in the central Pennsylvania communities of Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, Shippenburg, Hamburg, and Lansdale. Rev. Mr. Dowhower continues his parish work and cult education ministry while serving as pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in Bowie, MD, and as an active member of AFF's Clergy Education Committee.