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Ecumenical and Interfaith Issues

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On Friday we focus on ecumenical and inter-faith issues.

The Community seeks to promote cooperation and sharing of truths, learning to live beside those of other faiths in trusting relationships.

We do not have a fully developed statement on these issues but many members and friends would agree with the following comments derived from a review of Keith Rowe's book Living with a Neighbour who is Different by member Jeannie Walker:
There are three broad possibilities for Christian response to inter-faith encounter. They are:

  • exclusivist: salvation coming exclusively through Christ and the church, and adherents of other religions live in error;
  • inclusivist: salvation comes through Christ, but Christ is present, incognito, within other faiths; and
  • pluralist: many paths to salvation.

There are flaws in each of these positions. However, throughout he history of the Christian faith, Christians have found ways of living in harmony and shared respect with people of other religious convictions, eg Pope Gregory VII, Peter Abelard, Saint Francis of Assisi, and John Wesley.

Three theological affirmations for Christians engaging in inter-faith dialogue:

  1. God delights in diversity and seeks unity.
  2. The Spirit is present in all of life
  3. The centrality of Jesus Christ in Christian believing is not to be compromised.

Dialogue is a two-way process, not a one-way street where we impose our faith on others. However, questions arise for most of us:

  • what about the faith we hold so dearly in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour: 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me' (John 14:6)?
  • what about the Christian Church's mission to spread the gospel throughout the world?

In dialogue, everyone remains true to their own spiritual beliefs. Thus, the centrality of Jesus Christ for Christians is not to be compromised. Our confession of Christ is not something to be argued but something to be affirmed as the foundation on which our life is built.

A better starting point is an appreciation of the work of the Spirit, the presence of God active in every area of life and in every person. The goal of inter-faith dialogue is not to gather all on earth in the one 'super-faith', but, open to the Holy Spirit, to have an environment where diversity is held within a framework of mutual appreciation, common exploration and a shared search for the peaceable Kingdom.

The missionary conviction of the Christian faith is not called into question, but rather it is purified, strengthened and deepened when we place ourselves alongside our neighbours of other faiths in an attitude of respect, of listening and appreciation of the cultural and spiritual treasures belonging to them. The gospel is by definition for others, but it is so as the expression and message of a non-sectarian love. We rob our neighbour if we fail to evangelise; we rob the gospel if we indulge in proselytism. We serve the gospel by loving one another, by listening, by living together in harmony, by working to overcome barriers.

We are to live the Christ life deeply and lovingly, as He lived: his hospitality, forgiveness, care for the stranger, interest in the outcast and misunderstood are to be woven into our manner to avoid any hint of crusading fervour, triumphalism or rudeness towards the adherents of other faiths.

Our own encounter with the transforming Christ will deepen as a result of inter-faith dialogue as we enter ever more deeply into the compassionate, hospitable, risk-taking, God-trusting way of life that Jesus embodied.

(See Pipeline, April 2003, pages 5-6 for full text and attribution of sources used).


Multiculturalism has brought Australians into the presence of multi-varied religious otherness. Major religious traditions very different from the long established Christian traditions, have become firmly rooted in Australian soil and are certain of an inculturated Australian growth into the future, with the promise of rich cross pollination across all traditions. The differences can be welcomed by way of challenge. Particularly welcome I have found these aspects of eastern mysticism:

  • Islam offers a profound ideal of faith, while its Sufi form of mysticism exhibits an exuberant expression of ecstatic love of God.
  • Buddhism is strong on compassion and mindfulness, centred on protracted practice of meditation.
  • Hinduism has alerted me to non duality, leading me to question the dualism of our traditional asceticism from principles in our Christian tradition.

Eugene Stockton - "Mysticism in the Australian Environment Calls to a new Consciousness"

"It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business."

Mahatma Ghandi 1869 -1948. Quoted in "Pray Now 2004."


Genesis 21 | Isaiah 56

Prayer Activity

"Sit quietly for a few moments. Listen to your breathing. Think of God as 'Holy Breath' and cherish how close God is to you. Now acknowledge that God is as close as that to others."

From "Pray Now - Daily devotions for the year 2004." p.57.

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