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, Ph.D.
News Flash: “World’s Top Religious Leaders Issue Rare Joint Appeal”
Last week, 22 leaders of the world’s religions gathered in Norway to make a joint appeal to people of all faiths “to make friends across religions.” (Carol Kuruvilla reporter for the Huffington Post 6/15/2017). Each leader stressed the vital importance of this new initiative called, “Make Friends.” The list of participants includes the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, and Ven. Khandro Rinpoche. Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity were represented in this joint appeal.
Here is a sampling of their statements that I highly recommend you listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRoUlohRiKQ.
The conference was organized by Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein of the Elijah Institute. He shared that these diverse religious leaders came together as a “testimony of what they have learned, a way of being in this world that does not base itself on competition, hate, or violence, but on friendship, trust, growing, and sharing together for the common welfare of the world.”
Why should I care about these religious leaders meeting and encouraging me to create friendships with others? First, they have taken very complex and difficult issues and focused on their key solution--that of creating friendship; in other words, getting to know people (the other). Second, they are sharing the wisdom learned from their experiences as they have been walking their talk.
In listening to their statements, I began to grasp the importance of their coming together and sharing and thinking more deeply about the importance of friendship at this time in our world. For me, it is calling for more than an attitude of tolerance with others, but rather a demand for active engagement in developing friendships. There are certainly many ways to develop friendships, and I found these religious leaders sharing from their experiences very helpful.
How am I going to proceed? Prayer, listening, and being open to new opportunities. I have learned from previous experiences that loving God more and desiring to love and get to know my neighbor brings opportunities for new encounters.
If you are interested in learning more about their meeting and the initiative, they held a press conference that can be viewed by continuing past their statements. At the end of the press conference Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein mentioned that a toolkit on developing friendships was created. That toolkit can be downloaded at http://elijah-interfaith.org/. I was curious about what he wrote, so I downloaded the document. In reading it I found it includes several practical suggestions on expanding friendships with those of different religions.
Please share your impressions and takeaways of the comments by these important religious leaders, and ways you are, or may, act on their ideas.
By Shirley Paulson, CS, MTS
As I was browsing through my ecumenical twitter connections this morning, I ran across some interesting comments and links. I want to share just a few here to indicate the ideas and issues other ecumenists are thinking and talking about.
The link to the google doc is: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18363h8Sx48vJwYicA-coZWvFDi4m-Ecv35_puzEbj0M/edit?usp=sharing
By Susan Jostyn, CS
On May 17, 2017, the National Council of Synagogues and the National Council of Churches (NCC) hosted a Jewish-Christian dialogue at the Episcopal Cathedral in Philadelphia. I attended as a proxy for Maryl Walters, who participates on behalf of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, as a member of the Interreligious Convening Table of the NCC. After a brief welcome, the day began with presentations about what it means to be children of Abraham. Here are a few ideas from speakers Rabbi Daniel Polish and Rev. Peter Baktis, plus the following discussion among attendees.
In the Bible, God self-identifies at times as “the God of your father Abraham…” (Gen. 26:24). Abram started out living with his human family, but God called him to part ways with them. As Abram and his wife Sarai obediently followed, they experienced many instances of God’s saving love. They longed to have children and God promised them a multitude of descendants, but they were barren at first. The stories of their transformation into Abraham and Sarah, their interactions with Hagar (Sarah’s maid, given to Abraham to birth Ishmael on her behalf before Sarah had Isaac), and the ways that these three collectively parented, all illustrate the challenges and redemption of continuously turning to God and striving to maintain high ideals while engaging with a politically and socially complex world.
Rabbi Polish noted that while Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths all recognize Abraham as a common ancestor, differences between them can be partially explained by the differences in how they view Abraham. Jewish adherents tend to think of Abraham in terms of family lineage. With the advent of Christianity and its inclusion of the Gentiles, Abraham is listed first in the lineage of Jesus (Matt. 1:1), and the focus turns more toward the promises given to Abraham (Rev. Batkis mentioned 48), his faith (Romans 4:9-16), and his works (James 2:21). Islam honors Abraham’s faith and considers him to be a father of inspired messengers who culminated in Mohammed’s teaching. Interestingly enough, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam don’t focus that much on Abraham on their own. Instead, his story tends to be discussed most often by these faiths when they are in dialogue with each other.
Rabbi Polish also pointed out that bitter disagreement can arise in families, even when children are seeking to faithfully embody the best qualities of their father or mother. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all basically monotheistic, and Rev. Batkis emphasized how each incorporates concepts of sacrifice, righteousness, compassion, and love of neighbor. Each person also considers Abraham from a unique perspective. There is dignity in our differences. Sharing our perspectives can enhance our understanding of, and keep us accountable to, God, Scripture, and each other.
During the dialogue, I mentioned how Christian Science honors Abraham’s faith and fidelity. I also suggested that Bible history can be read in two instructive ways: as the story of humanity seeking God, and of God embracing humanity. I am incredibly grateful for and inspired by the long history of humanity’s search. With this focus, Abraham’s family lineage has some importance. But when it comes to God’s embrace of humanity, the more important things I have learned from my forefathers and foremothers are about the blessings that come to those who listen to God. Though Abram’s story starts with him living at home, what sets him apart is God’s calling, Abraham’s listening, and his response. Incredible listening on the part of Hagar contributed to the survival of Ishmael, just as incredible listening on the part of Mary led to the birth of Jesus. In the end, none of Abraham’s children would have survived if it weren’t for God’s intervention. Therefore the story of Abraham can nudge us to realize that all of us are actually children of God. And, this is the ultimate focus of Christian Science: everyone’s "unfallen" (Science and Health, p. 476) status as beloved children of God.
Since that Jewish-Christian Dialogue in May, I have continued to be blessed by considering what it means to be the children of Abraham as well as children of God. As I attended Annual Meeting of the Christian Science Church in early June, I was immensely grateful for the beautiful gifts of our faith tradition. But, I was also—more keenly than ever—grateful for and prayerfully inclusive of people of all faiths. We are blessed by our individual churches, synagogues, and mosques, we are blessed by each other, and we are all blessed by our common Father-Mother, God.
By the Circle of Faith team
An ecumenical week drew together over 700 Christians from four continents and more than 70 churches in Rome, May 9-13. Rev. Dr. Martin Robra of the World Council of Churches said, “The spirituality of unity will take shape in the dialogue of life. Ecumenism is not just a matter of doctrinal dialogue and clarifications, but a dynamic reality that includes all dimensions of our witness to the world: so that the world may believe, since we are becoming one while together on the way."
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)