Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One of the items approved at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church last week was Resolution number A035, which commits the Church to continued interreligious engagement. It commends the earlier Statement on Interreligious Relations passed at the 2009 General Convention and encourages all members of the Church to become involved in interreligious work such as prayer and study groups, community service, and educational programs.

The Statement on Interreligious Relations sets forth the reasons that interreligious dialogue is a moral imperative for our time. One of those reasons is the Lord’s command that we love our neighbors as ourselves, which means reaching out “in love and genuine openness to know and to understand those of other religions.”

Interreligious dialogue challenges any religion’s claims to exclusive or final revelation. As Christians, we believe that God’s unconditional love for every human being is revealed in all its fullness in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet we do not enter interreligious dialogue with the goal of converting others, which would undermine trust in the search for mutual understanding. As the Statement says, “Each tradition bring its own understanding of the goal of human life to the interreligious conversation…Claiming Jesus as the Way….requires us to ‘respect the dignity of every human being (BCP p.305).’ This grounds our expectation that we shall discover new insights and develop new relationships through interreligious dialogue. (V.27-28)”

Virginia Theological Seminary has demonstrated leadership in this area of growing importance to the Church. With generous funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, we have arranged to host a visiting Muslim scholar in the coming academic year. We will carry out other activities to foster interreligious conversations at the Seminary and in the Church in the year ahead. We are committed to interreligious dialogue as part of our educational mission.

Katherine Wood
Associate Director
Center for Anglican Communion Studies