Ecumenical and interfaith ideas
"The truth is the centre of all religion," Mary Baker Eddy wrote. Here, you'll find ideas that honor that center, the "circle of faith" of which we're all a part. We hope they are helpful as you listen and contribute to the healing dialogue going on between faiths worldwide.
Christian Science in the Christian Community
By Susan Humble
I was the first and only Christian Scientist that attended a conference in Seattle a few weeks ago, and I was noticed. It was sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the United Church of Christ. Speakers represented various ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations, and denominations. The conference title was, “Charting New Frontiers: Multiple Religious Participation & the Changing Religious Landscape.”
Why was it important that I attend? And why do I think this topic is important enough to share with our readers? Because, as our hearts open to being involved in ecumenical and interfaith dialogues, having a growing understanding of the changing religious landscape can help us be more effective in our conversations, our sharing, and our praying to heal misconceptions. And I was presented with numerous opportunities to address specific misconceptions about Christian Science.
Discussions about multiple religious belongings, also referred to as double belonging, focus on both those who practice multiple religions themselves (i.e. an Indian who belongs to a Christian denomination and also practices their traditional native beliefs, customs, rituals, and ceremonies). And also, families whose members belong to different religions (i.e. Christian and Muslim). This could apply to Christian Science families whose parents practice different types of healing treatments. With the growing number of religions represented, and the increase in people practicing these religions in the U.S., we have been and will be in dialogue with those to whom this double belonging applies.
This multiple religious belonging is sometimes a struggle for individuals and families. For instance, for families, questions about how to raise children in different religious traditions, how to celebrate religious holidays, daily religious practices (reading, prayer, religious relics in homes), and food choices are a few of the topics families negotiate. And for individuals, for instance, who believe in Jesus and still practice their ancestral religious practices?
Since this conference, a question I am pondering and I invite you to ponder with me: How can we as Christian Scientists better deal with the problems of multi-religious traditions that arise in our families or even in our private lives?
What about the healing of the mistaken notion of the invisibility of Christian Science? When I introduced myself and the church I represent, I could tell by some of the responses that some were taken back by a Christian Scientist’s presence, particularly since I learned that most in the room had never had a Christian Scientist attend any of their conferences.
I prayed about each decision that I needed to make. Before I entered the room, I stood at the door and prayed about where to sit, who to approach and engage in conversation, about questions to ask, or comments to make during discussions. Eventually, participants at the different tables opened up, and if they had any knowledge of Christian Science, I was able to answer questions, listen to their experiences, and join conversations. Some had no direct knowledge of Christian Science and I was able to answer their questions. Additionally, I made an important contact with someone who has been resistant to Christian Science and has agreed to introduce me to others in Seattle. At the end of the conference several came to me and expressed their hope that I would attend again. And I plan to!
By Madelon Maupin
Thanksgiving is not only one of our most beloved national holidays. It’s also a tremendous opportunity for ecumenical and interfaith worship in our communities. I’ve had the joy of attending several such services and suspect many readers have as well.
The takeaway each time is what a privilege it is to come together in gratitude for our country, our communities, families, churches, friends and a host of other reasons to join the prophet to declare: “Stand up and bless the Lord your God for ever and ever” (Nehemiah 9:5).
In addition to the Thanksgiving service itself, much opportunity exists for interfaith and ecumenical dialogue in the planning sessions prior to the big event. Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Jews, Muslims, Christian Scientists and many other communions decide which gifts will be shared with the community -– whether it’s a rabbi singing a worship song with his guitar, a pastor supplying a stirring sermon, or someone reading Scripture. Everyone loves to contribute and what an ideal occasion to see so many talents from community members on display.
A number of Christian Science churches have learned the blessings and fellowship that come with sharing Thanksgiving gratitude with neighbors. Thirty Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist, Los Angeles, played an active role in planning and providing a Thanksgiving service for their community in Pacific Palisades, California, for eight years. When members who actively participated were asked why they got involved, one responded: “It is a joy to know people who have this kind of sincere commitment to their church and then combine it with love for our community. These religious institutions don’t see themselves as insular and love giving to the community.”
A Christian Scientist active in both the planning and execution, Carole Carter, said that following her remarks at the Pacific Palisades service about the healing power of gratitude, a monk from the Church of Self-Realization expressed his sincere thanks to her. He then quoted Christ Jesus’ familiar statement, emphasizing the first word: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). The Christian Scientist realized he embraced the same foundational idea that God’s children are already perfect, and can act out from that glorious fact. It was a special moment of shared insight she remembers years later.
While this particular Christian Science church never hosted the event (because their auditorium couldn’t hold the hundreds of community members who regularly attended the community Thanksgiving service), members brought something to the service to share, such as reading the President’s yearly Thanksgiving Proclamation, or providing selections on gratitude and praise from both The Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
Another Christian Science church in the Midwest (First Church of Christ, Scientist, Brentwood, Missouri) worked with the local Interfaith group to plan the first-ever Thanksgiving service for their community, hosting it in their auditorium. Now in its fifth consecutive year, this is a loved tradition that features different faiths annually hosting the service. Christian Scientists remain actively involved in the planning and preparation. This year’s community service focuses on newly-arrived immigrants who will express their profound gratitude for the safety and compassion that awaited them as they had to relocate to this new town and country.
All of us at Circle of Faith wish you, your family and neighbors a Thanksgiving overflowing with appreciation for The Great Giver’s manifold blessings.
Please share your experience with any ecumenical or interfaith Thanksgiving services you have had in your community, by posting on the Circle of Faith Facebook group.
One of the advantages of opening our Circle of Faith page on Facebook is that it gives us a place to have conversations with you – our community of ecumenists and interfaith activists, as well as readers and thinkers. Today we are highlighting just one of the many stories we’ve received throughout the world. Robin Clarke, from Melbourne, Australia wrote in to tell how much she loved and learned from her recent experience attending a local interfaith event. We love her discoveries: that the rules of engagement are essential in any of these sensitive conversations. But the beautiful part of the framework of love is that it results in everyone’s gain in understanding more. It gives each one a chance to lift the conversation with their best gifts.
By Robin Clarke
I had a powerful experience today and I thought I would share some reflection about it.
As professional development, I went to hear an inter-faith panel of speakers after school for two hours in a nearby suburban school. There were two Christians, a Jewish rabbi and a Muslim woman on the panel. They are all educators in schools like me.
It was brilliant as they openly and frankly discussed the challenges and successes they have in their own domains. They are all dedicated to inter-faith exchanges like these. The audience members also responded in a very positive way.
There are some rules of engagement in inter-faith exchanges, as you know. They approach the others of different faiths with utmost respect. No-one ever attacks another. No unkind judgments are made. People genuinely seek to know about the other and understand their viewpoint.
Firstly, they seek out commonalities as it makes everyone comfortable to start with.
Then, they are more able to accept and even embrace the differences between them. This is more challenging but leads to genuine exchanges. They talk about having hard talks in safe places. The aim is not to convert anybody but to learn about each other.
I really liked their approach today and loving hearing that type of dialogue and story telling. A lot of it really resonated with me as I can see we do have a lot in common as they were so sincere and full of faith.
I am grateful for this realisation today. I thought you might like to know.
Thank you for sending us your story, Robin. We look forward to hearing from many more of you from all over the world. Leave a message in the Facebook comments, or contact us at email@example.com. We’ll find a way to share your stories and photos. This is so encouraging for all of us to hear from one another. We’re not alone, because Christ is impelling us to act together, even if our actions happen within our own communities.
By David Corbitt
Now that our elections are over and the new Trump Administration will begin the process of a peaceful transition of power, I ask myself what can I do to help in the religious sphere to unite and heal the fear of Muslims and their teachings.
For many years now I’ve heard the arguments that the adherents of Islam have a secret agenda of sinister motives. Listening to many dear friends, family members, and even strangers over the years become impassioned about this topic, for me the arguments have never truly lined up.
Part of my Bible study includes matching up a Psalm with a story or teaching in one of the Gospels. Often the inspiration is quick, while at other times I may need to read and sing the Psalms for a while.
One day my daughter alerted me to a TV news story (Evangelical FRD’s version) about a Christian church in Memphis welcoming a group of Muslims who were building across the street and conquering their fear with love.
Pastor Steve Stone of Heartsong church shares his church’s story of a Mosque moving in next door to his church. He states that his stomach tightened when he heard the news and was gripped with fear.
I love his counsel to one of his church members, and I would guess that he also took his own counsel to find healing by reading through the Gospels.
Here is my 3-Step Guide for building trust and learning to love my neighbors.
- Turn to and read through the Gospels—Pray on bended knee!
- Learn more through researching primary sources and not trusting secondary sources, agenda driven commentaries, and hearsay laced opinions.
- Look for specific opportunities to meet and converse with Muslim-Americans. Attend an interfaith event or join a chapter of the Euphrates Institute.
The basics of Islam: khanacademy.org
As I learn more about Islam, I see both similarities and differences with my Christian Science Christian faith. This is encouraging to me because we all have similarities and differences in our faiths. A similarity with Muslims is a deep love for God or Allah as well as a love for each and every neighbor. Also, a sincere and thoughtful approach to prayer. I love how they set aside time five times a day to pray and lift thought. Our differences may include them not agreeing that the Bible is their “sufficient guide to eternal life” and viewing Jesus as one of the prophets as opposed to their Savior/Son of God.
- Shahadah: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith.
- Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day.
- Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy.
- Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan.
What examples of sincere welcoming, embracing, and conquering of fear can you share with us?
By Shirley Paulson
We’re devoting a few weeks to re-visit some of the popular blog jewels of the past couple of years. Some of our newer readers may not have seen these, and they’re great reminders for those of us who do remember them. Today, we are getting re-acquainted with some contemporary ways of looking at the practicality of Christian theology. This blog first appeared in November, 2015.
Here’s an ecumenical question. How does Christian Science fit in the modern discussion known as ‘Practical Theology‘? As a life-long Christian Scientist, I have always thought theology was naturally ‘practical’ because of its healing impact. What I did not know until more recently is that mainstream, especially Protestant, Christians have been thinking of practical theology as a particular field of study since the eighteenth century! It is only in the last couple of decades that its meaning has expanded to the point where the voice of Christian Science can contribute meaningfully.
Here’s what’s been going on. In the first two Christian centuries, the greatest concern for Christians was to build up one another in the faith, such as in healing works affirming God’s loving presence. From the fourth to the seventeenth centuries, a kind of ‘moral theology’ came about through the institutionalization and regulation of the community by the clergy.
Then the 18th-century Enlightenment changed everything. Clergy began to focus more on what they could do to help their parishioners. But by the nineteenth century, ‘practical theology’ had become a distinct guide just for clergy to handle church duties. Without clergy, liturgies, homilies, and the like, Christian Science didn’t have much reason to be involved in that type of ‘practical theology’.
And in the 20th century, the church stopped trying to ‘own’ practical theology, allowing other forms of help and healing. But church officials then began turning to therapy knowledge to find ‘practical’ answers, especially psychology. So again, Christian Science dependence on Christ alone for healing didn’t fit this kind of practical theology either.
But now, farther into the 21st century, the field of Practical Theology is becoming increasingly engaged in a kind of ‘dialogue’ between the ancient texts (like the Bible) and contemporary experiences. Turning the focus from doctrines and church mechanics, there is more interest in finding ideas from the ancient texts – primarily the Bible – that relate directly to human experience.
Here’s a tantalizing idea from a contemporary practical theologian, Mark Sutherland: “Theology has traditionally claimed to be the ‘queen of the sciences’,” he writes. “It is time for this somewhat lofty and archaic claim to be substantiated in practice.”
I think it’s good to know what other Christians have been thinking about, because the time is ripe for Christian Science thinkers to contribute ‘practical’ ideas from their study of the same Bible to this very important contemporary conversation.
How does The First Church of Christ, Scientist participate in ecumenical affairs?
The Committee for Ecumenical Affairs works under the auspices of the Committee on Publication, and is engaged in ‘correcting in a Christian manner’ the misconceptions of Christian Science, particularly within the Christian community. Ecumenical team activities include writing pieces that appear on christianscience.com and articles for The Christian Science Journal and Christian Science Sentinel, and participating in ecumenical conferences, meetings, and organizations such as the National Council of Churches.
What is ecumenism?
Ecumenism is a worldwide movement among Christians to promote unity between Christian churches or denominations (or ‘communions’) in response to Jesus’ prayer that we be one (John 17:21). It recognizes the body of Christ in its entirety, learning to understand the ways, values, and communications styles of our fellow Christians. Ecumenical dialogue is vibrant and respectful, welcoming the gifts of others, while maintaining the integrity and purpose of each Christian faith tradition.
Why should Christian Scientists participate?
The ongoing dialogue with Christian leaders, clergy, and religion educators allows everyone to grasp better the idea exactly why Christian Science is Christian.
All churches and denominations are concerned with maintaining the purity of their ideas and practice of religion, and the ecumenical dialogue respects that integrity in others. It is with a spirit of humility that Christians value one another's faith and service to the common cause of Christianity. As we learn from others, we often find ourselves learning to appreciate and articulate better our own denominational roots. We have the opportunity to cultivate bonds of love and dispel misunderstandings. Ecumenism is one of many ways to practice active Christianity.
One of the most compelling reasons Christian Scientists have become ecumenically involved is that other Christians have been asking for us to participate in the greater dialogue and especially to explain and share our unique gifts more widely.
Talking to other Christians about Christian Science
One of the greatest stumbling blocks to successful ecumenical engagement can be the language we use. Every church or denomination has its own jargon, which can be baffling or unwittingly offensive to others. Without understanding the language, culture, and history of others, we often find ourselves trying to share our most precious ideas only to discover they mean something entirely different to our listeners. With love for others, we make the effort to learn their Christian ‘language’ in order to communicate the greatest depth of thought. Just as we maintain our own culture and identity when we learn a foreign language, we also maintain the identity of Christian Science while we learn the Christian practices and theology of others.
Prayer and insights about ecumenical engagement
- Getting our assumptions right in interfaith work by Brian Talcott
- Opening closed doors by Maryl Walters
- Invitation to worship by Kristin Jamerson
- What Christian Scientists Believe (Video) by Madelon Maupin, Brian Talcott, Eric Nelson
Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon (who first invited the Christian Science Church to engage in the ecumenical movement, 2008)
Video: Mary Baker Eddy — A Heart in Protest
Responding to common questions
Ecumenical activities for you!
Michael Kinnamon talks about the meaning of ecumenical dialogue (YouTube video)
Discussion with Michael Kinnamon about Christian Science in ecumenical dialogue (in The Christian Science Journal)