Session 5 of the Open Paris Conference was a panel discussion on Interfaith Partnerships lead by Dan Haugh, Mark Oestreicher, Adam McLane, Rich and Chris Curtis. As usual, as the session is live blogged I apologise for any typos etc:
Aware that with no one from another faith this is slightly different, but want to reflect from a Christian viewpoint on partnership and dialogue.
Adam: Grew up in a university town, Indiana, where most of his friends parents were Professors from the university from India, Japan etc. Now live in a community of refugees, especially currently Somalians and East Africans. Figuring out how that welcome and integration works.
Rich: Born and raised a Catholic so filled with guilt, left faith. Mother passed away, walked into a church, and then began a journey within a different group of denominations. Worked with young people for 8 years. Wanted to travel the world alone, when his mum died he took over a child she sponsored, that had grown in 18 years to 13 children and wanted to meet them and see what difference the giving made. God introduced him to places Rich never expected to be introduced to, Hindus, Budhhists, Muslims, denominations of Christians, new age spirituality – really glad he got to spend time with them – read the works of these different faiths – interestingly enough didn’t spend too much time with the Bible – maybe as his faith was so central and wanted to see common links with the faiths. We’re not really that different, all linked, not afraid to spend time with those of other faiths, could learn from them, could witness for Jesus whilst with them. Now linked to mainly Christian agencies, but also missions from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam etc. Gives a much greater perspective, and a chance to reconfirm Christian viewpoints.
Dan: other faiths were seen as wrong, and when he did, his social streams emphasised that the only reason is to convert people, so he didn’t seem them as people but saw them as targets or projects and if it didn’t work he’d move on. His “friends” knew that it wasn’t authentic friendship, and over time God’s grace has shown some different ways to do this. Learnt when you know someone it is really hard to demonise someone – this is a good thing.
Gemma: Daughter attends school with 373 children with 67 languages, a Church of England school, but as part of the Gay Village, and the South Coast lots of different nationalities and seasonal workers. Daughters has lots of friends of other faiths and sees it as normal, for example different names, faiths, and diets.
Andrew: What’s your theology of relationship, what does success look like in ecumenical inter-faith dialogue, do you feel there is anything that crosses the line?
Adam: incarnational as part of the minority. Refugees are looked after but education etc. is not processed properly, so started an after-school tutoring group to help with homework, just to love neighbours as part of the community.
Dan: success can sometimes be not conversion but helping them to be a more devout Muslim, Jew etc., helping people to grow in their own faith. Theologically influenced by The Gospel in the Pluralistic Society by Lesley Newbegin which speaks about this pluralistic world having distinctives of Jesus. Learnt a lot, and been convicted of weakness of prayer from friends of other faiths, learning a posture of humility rather than a posture of arrogance. Don’t want to put so much emphasis on what I can do, but on the power of the Holy Spirit. We can be known as generous, compassionaite, justice, respect, dignity. As we have stereotypes of other faiths they have those of us and maybe we can challenge them.
The concept of asking are you a Christian, and using scare tactics of hell is something I am not comfortable with. Don’t mind saying it, but very happy with Christ exclusivity, but we’re all still trying to work out what is happening.
Rich: if my inter-faith relationship pulls me into a sinful state then I would stop it, but I’ve never been taken there by omeone of another faith or no faith, only by himself.
If Jesus died for all of us, what gives the club (the church) the right to say who is forgiven or not. Weren’t all forgiven?
Adam: don’t want to undermine parental authority, so will check whether parents are ok, often fine until baptism when they in effect switch faiths.
Discussion moved on very rapidly to discuss blatancy v subtlety of faith (including story of 3 atheistic young people who were killed in a car crash and how would you handle that) and that different people have different styles and that is what we are called to be, but there is importance to understanding the commonality and the distinctiveness but that the path to God is only through Jesus.
There is something interesting in Christianity to reflect on what we do when someone says “no” to faith.