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 the Circle of Faith team
This week’s Circle of Faith link is with a group calling themselves ‘24-7 Prayer’. For those of us who try to follow Paul’s encouragement to “pray without ceasing”, we can appreciate this contemporary and global activity. Their website explains “24-7 is an international, interdenominational movement of prayer, mission, and justice working in more than half the nations on earth.” Prayer rooms are now operating all around the world in over 12,000 locations. The most recent blog, called “Postcards from Macedonia,” touches on “engaging with refugees,” “meals for the homeless,” and “sharing Jesus.” Browse around; you may want to post a prayer, yourself!
By Shirley Paulson, CS, MTS
One of the most beautiful and unique gifts Christians bring to the world is the joy of Easter. At first, Mary Magdalene, who loved Jesus so much, didn’t recognize him when he stood outside the tomb. Two other disciples, walking with him to the town of Emmaus after he was risen also didn’t recognize him for a while. Thomas couldn’t imagine the idea of resurrection without physical contact with him. His crucifixion was indeed jarring to all of them, probably leaving them feeling defeated and heartbroken. But he had taught them all how to look again – how to reconsider what was going on – in order to find the living, timeless Christ among them. (See the final seven chapters in the Gospel of John.)
Regardless of their individual struggles, Jesus helped each one deal with the meaning of this resurrection and to re-think the meaning of life and the relevance of God’s kingdom on earth. He was their evidence of victory and hope, a sign that all the sorrows of the world – sin, pain, and even death – would ultimately yield to this Easter joy.
But interestingly Mary, the two unnamed disciples walking to Emmaus, Thomas, and the others all saw the situation from different points of view. Their approach to the startling news of resurrection was ‘ecumenical,’ in that they witnessed the same Christ in resurrection, and yet they understood it from their unique points of view. They were united in one Christ, as each one found just what he or she needed to experience resurrection in some fashion for themselves.
We are still witnessing the resurrection today from many different points of view. One example of the way different Christians discern spiritual lessons is the contrast between Pentecostalism and Christian Science. For example, “Pentecostal notions of discernment function within the context of an enchanted view of the world in which the boundaries between the eternal and the temporal and the spiritual and the material remain permeable” (Ecumenical Trends, January 2017, 8). Christian Scientists view the resurrection from the perspective of Jesus’ last spiritual breakfast with his disciples. “Discerning Christ, Truth, anew on the shore of time” his disciples then and now “rise somewhat from mortal sensuousness, or the burial of mind in matter, into newness of life as Spirit.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Eddy, 34).
In these cases and in probably most other Christian contexts, our discernment of God’s practical presence strengthens our understanding of Jesus’ resurrection. Our faithfulness and commitment to its meaning in our lives is the greatest gift to humanity. How comforting it is to realize that our different views of it need not diminish its power to heal the fears and sins of the world and to heal broken hearts and bodies. ‘Looking again,’ as Jesus taught his disciples to do, unites us as his followers, and gives us the space to see the resurrection in just the way we most need it.
By Circle of Faith team
As last week's blog illustrated, a common issue for those engaged in ecumenical and interfaith conversations is wrestling with how to view the ‘other’, or someone who isn't like ‘us’. Christian Science teaches that all are the children of God, even as we recognize theological differences between 'us' and 'others'. How are you living out the fact that the ‘other’ is actually your sister or brother? Here's one answer from the Euphrates Institute, an organization dedicated to practicing peace in the world, and especially in the Middle East: Turn the 'Other' into a Brother – regardless of other faith traditions or any other source of ‘othering’.
By: Beth Gibson, guest blogger
I was in my seat listening to an interfaith panel when I first became aware of how I was mentally responding to the panelists. I found I was engaged in measuring their words and message against some kind of spirituality measuring stick. How did it stack up, so to speak, to Christian Science? It felt unsettling to be doing this. Later I took time to ponder this and, at first felt justified. Wasn’t it important to discern what was and what wasn’t Christian Science theology, in line with these words of Mary Baker Eddy:
“The difference between religions is, that one religion has a more spiritual basis and tendency than the other; and the religion nearest right is that one.” (from Christian Healing p. 1). But the mental measuring also felt intellectually arrogant, especially in light of these words of hers: The truth is the centre of all religion. It commands sure entrance into the realm of Love. (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 20).
As I continued to ponder the best attitude to nurture in interfaith contexts, I recalled a Christian Science Journal article by Thomas McClain “Our Posture in the World” in which he points to all humankind’s movement in thought and healing towards the Christ. The article quotes the gospel of John: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32). Including myself as one of the “all men” moving towards Christ, Truth, the real standard, I felt that a mere academic exercise pitting theology against theology wasn’t helpful to my interfaith activity. Instead, I choose to focus more on points of connection, or sharing from the heart. For sure, the revelation of divine Science stands for all to encounter, share, and discern correctly. And I am moving in my understanding of spiritual matters and so, I trust, are my brothers and sisters.
As time has gone by and my interfaith activities continue, interestingly it is a Catholic friend as the Executive Director of a spiritual care centre for our local street population, and a Lutheran friend as the chaplain at the local high security jail who remind me of the willingness to be present, with an open heart and discerning thought, with those who I may feel don’t have beliefs that “measure up.” These two friends beautifully share how they learn and are inspired by the very individuals they are supposed to be helping.
It is my own experiences of reciprocal blessing that refreshes my heart and is what I have come to love about ecumenical and interfaith work. And I’ve also discovered it has a natural outreach effect!
If you have thoughts to share, visit our Circle of Faith Facebook group.
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
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)