Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On inter-religious dialogue, ecumenism, and grassroots engagement

Associated Baptist Press has published a story on "The New Face of Interfaith Dialogue" in which I'm quoted. The article is primarily about Christian participation in inter-religious dialogue, but after introducing the proper distinction between that endeavor and ecumenical dialogue as an intra-Christian task, the story turns to the current challenges faced by the ecumenical movement and the need for attention to the grassroots in both interfaith and ecumenical relations. A portion of the middle section of the article follows:

Meanwhile, the progress being made in interfaith work is slowly spilling over into ecumenical outreach, which experts say is a more difficult field. “The closer you get in the family, the more the temperature goes up in the room,” said Chaffee, who’s also on the board of the North American Interfaith Network.

Theologian: Emphasize the grassroots

Baptist theologian and ecumenism advocate Steven Harmon said he’s seen that phenomenon first-hand.

Just about every observer thinks we are at something of an impasse,” said Harmon, adjunct professor of Christian theology at Gardner-Webb University. “It does not have the kind of excitement or urgency there was a few decades ago.

Harmon, who last fall was on a Baptist World Alliance team that held exploratory talks with leaders of the Orthodox Church, said to be successful both movements must have more than symbolic and theological meanings.

Whether it’s ecumenical or interfaith, ultimately there needs to be more emphasis on what happens on the grassroots level,” he said.

As Chaffee put it: “As soon as you start making friends, it changes everything.

Read the full story.

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