Greetings one and all!

 

The question, "Is interfaith the new ecumenism?" continues to surface.  These words can create puzzlement.

 

Inter faith happens and Christians are involved - often making things happen.  Many Christians do interfaith things together - or happen to be together doing inter faith things. Churches nationally and locally take forward their inter faith engagement with zeal recognising in this sphere of life a 'sign of the times. There is some clear ecumenical collaboration in an inter faith context, whether that be for dialogue, collaboration, or mission. But this could grow.

 

On the other hand there is a lot more to the movement for Christian unity than inter faith relations. Where is ecumenism going? Do we need to refresh and renew our ecumenical friendship and collaboration and extend it?

 

What do you think? What is your experience?

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Hi Celia.

 

I wrote a blog post on this a while ago for CT Connect - http://www.churchestogetherconnect.org/profiles/blogs/interfaith-th... 

 

Hope it helps the discussion along!

 

Peter

Great contribution. Glad to see it.

Celia

Peter Colwell said:

Hi Celia.

 

I wrote a blog post on this a while ago for CT Connect - http://www.churchestogetherconnect.org/profiles/blogs/interfaith-th... 

 

Hope it helps the discussion along!

 

Peter

Interfaith as the new ecumenism is particularly popular with some Quakers.  It can also bring back the old idea that ecumenism is only for liberals or Cathokics who want everyone to go back to Rome and evangelicals are just a nuisance.  I hope we've left all that behind.

The essential difference remains that the aim of ecumenical movement must always be that the world might believe that Jesus was sent by the Father.  That can never be the aim of interfaith relations as it would cause them to stop before they started.

Just as Christians often misunderstand each other's distinctives, so there is often misunderstanding between those of different faiths.  For example, if a Christians says to a Hindu that 'Jesus is the only way of salvation', what they might hear is that Jesus is the only marga (method) of achieving moksa (release from the wheel of rebirth).  So without serious conversation there is a double misunderstanding.

I like what John V Taylor wrote in his last book The Christlike God that if a Christian says to those of other faiths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, they may reply, "So you believe" but if instead the Christian says, "Whatever else God is, God is Christlike", the conversation is left open for exploration and discovery.

Thanks for your views which interest me a lot. I am away now and will not respond immediately to any further offerings but they would nonetheless be appreciated.

This might be a very simplistic answer but it really depends on how you view ecumenism and how you view interfaith relations. If you view ecumenism as working towards the visible unity of the church (regardless of where you think we are now) then it would be difficult to view interfaith relations in a similar way because surely the emphasis there is on dialogue. Perhaps the "working together" model of ecumenism could be seen as similar but surely that is only part of that journey whereas it is the full journey in terms of interfaith relations.

Related to this is the issue of the Christian imperative for mission to non-Christians which can obviously be a complicating in any dialogue with other faiths. This was one of the main topicss discussed at the Edinburgh 2010 conference and you can see some of the contributions to that discussion here

http://edinburgh2010.oikoumene.org/en/study-themes/main-study-theme...

A significant new contribution to the discussion of appropriate Christian mission in a multi-faith context has been made this week by a joint statement of the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance.  John Baxter-Brown, formerly a colleague of ours at Churches Together in England and now with the WCC, has been closely involved with this.

http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1634...

Iain McLarty said:

This might be a very simplistic answer but it really depends on how you view ecumenism and how you view interfaith relations. If you view ecumenism as working towards the visible unity of the church (regardless of where you think we are now) then it would be difficult to view interfaith relations in a similar way because surely the emphasis there is on dialogue. Perhaps the "working together" model of ecumenism could be seen as similar but surely that is only part of that journey whereas it is the full journey in terms of interfaith relations.

Related to this is the issue of the Christian imperative for mission to non-Christians which can obviously be a complicating in any dialogue with other faiths. This was one of the main topicss discussed at the Edinburgh 2010 conference and you can see some of the contributions to that discussion here

http://edinburgh2010.oikoumene.org/en/study-themes/main-study-theme...

Thanks for the link John, that's a great document.

i'm a bit late commenting on this as I've just joined but wanted to share my experiences.

I had my first expereince of Ecumenism on the 9th June when I attended a Westminister lobby of MPs on international development after the local CAFOD office contacted me.As this was a combined effort of various organizations including Oxfam and Christian Aid the opening liturgical service was coined ecumenical.From my understanding of the word now I would have more appropriately termed it interfaith as it was a co-operation between faiths rather than it trying to promote Christian unity under one Church.Having said that I was very impressed with the outcome of this event and proof of the benefits of interfaith dialogue.Recently interfaith dialogue has again proved very effective as a combined front against the violence in Tottenham as we saw at the multifaith vigil on 9th August.

Hi Stefan,

Thanks for this contribution.

 

It is great to be active in and do our part with all believers for international development and the stand taken by the faiths together against the riots and for peace.  It is true that ecumenism (meaning christian unity efforts) and interfaith (meaning collaboration amongst different religions) are distinct fields but they are both important to each other and have an effect on each other.

Best wishes.

Celia

Dear All,

I am pasting below my article in Centro the newsletter of the Anglican Centre in Rome, which I am allowed now to send round a bit. I hope it might be of interest. I did have to think more deeply about the question. Best wishes. Celia

IS INTER FAITH THE NEW ECUMENISM?

 

“Can you unpack the title?” was a response to my enquiry, from a nationally engaged Christian inter faith worker. The question is confusing!

 

One interpretation is that ecumenism was the challenge for Christians during much of the 20th century and now inter faith relations is the challenge.  That is true. Migration and Christian engagement with society require substantial pro-active inter faith involvement by churches, individually and together. This is happening up and down the country. If only the good being done was more widely known!

 

Another view is that Christian ecumenism is giving way to the wider ecumenism of inter faith relations. People say we have moved on. Oikoumene, understood as the whole inhabited earth, extends beyond the Christian church to the wider dialogues. The methodology of ecumenism – building relationships, trust, dialogue, shared experience, even shared witness, can be applied in the new context. Difficult questions, if they arise, are with regard to the other faith.

 

A further interpretation sees inter faith relations as the new territory in which Christian ecumenism occurs. This has two aspects. One is the ecumenical flavour of most inter faith initiatives, where shared Christian witness and action is possible regarding some religious beliefs/practices and many common good agendas. The other is to recognize and address the real divergences in the Christian camp over aspects of interfaith relations. These include:  the refusal of some Christians to engage; a disconnect between the experience here and that of persecuted Christians elsewhere; dismay at doctrinal woolliness or syncretism; discord between evangelism and dialogue perspectives; alarming expositions of political, religious and territorial agendas. Receptive ecumenism applied here would help the various standpoints understand one another.

 

So?

A story: Theology students from two other churches attended a Catholic event on the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales document “Meeting God in Friend and Stranger”. The issue of potential exclusion from Holy Communion arose -we always come back to this! – which clouded their day. Christian ease in addressing inter faith relations does not undo Christian unease at having different understandings of unity and the pain of division.

 

In reality we must resist blurring the distinction between the commitment to and movement towards full Christian unity according to the mind of Christ, and interreligious dialogue defined as ‘all positive and constructive interreligious relations  … directed at mutual understanding and enrichment in obedience to truth and respect for freedom’ (Dialogue and Proclamation N9). They are different in nature and purpose as we know.

 

Our theology students need a profound (if not lengthy) formation to ecumenism, as distinct from and in addition to inter religious dialogue, so that we can still travel joyfully on the journey to full unity while living with the weaknesses and failures we experience on the path. As churches our commitment to a lived Christian unity precedes and informs inter faith engagement. In fact the ecumenical movement in England is a robust plant with roots (and fruits) in every city, town and village. This includes dialogue with migrant Christian churches and some new churches. A look at the websites of Churches Together in England and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland will illustrate this amply.

 

The post of inter faith officer at Churches Together in England was created to increase capacity and I stress it is an ecumenical post. I have seen interchurch collaboration grow in various ways and many new opportunities are opening up before us. The Assisi event highlights from a worldwide perspective the importance of Christian initiative in reaching out to all believers for the sake of a healthy society.

Maimonides describes the identity of the Messiah

And if a king shall arise from among the House of David, studying Torah and occupied with commandments like his father David, according to the written and oral Torah, and he will impel all of Israel to follow it and to strengthen breaches in its observance, and will fight Hashem's [God's] wars, this one is to be treated as if he were the anointed one. If he succeeded and built the Holy Temple in its proper place and gathered the dispersed ones of Israel together, this is indeed the anointed one for certain, and he will mend the entire world to worship the Lord together, as it is stated: "For then I shall turn for the nations a clear tongue, so that they will all procalim the Name of the Lord, and to worship Him with a united resolve (Zephaniah 3:9)."

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 11:4

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