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Dual and duelling dialogues? Guidelines offer aid

19 November 2015

How does the on-going quest for Christian unity relate to the search for inter-religious understanding? How can these two distinct forms of dialogue be related and practiced?

While intra-Christian and inter-religious encounters pose existential and spiritual challenges for Christians, they also pose nettling practical dilemmas for professionals charged with pursuing both inter-church and interfaith forms of dialogue.

A new resource from the World Council of Churches gleans the collective wisdom of ecumenical and inter-religious experts from church and academic settings around the world to address such questions.

Responding to widespread confusion of terminology and the need of church professionals in one arena also to tackle the other, Called to Dialogue: Inter-religious and Intra-Christian Dialogue in Ecumenical Conversation probes and clarifies the terminological and substantive challenges.

“Even as our intra-Christian dialogue continues, inter-religious encounter has become more widespread and visible,” said Clare Amos, WCC programme executive  for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. “And the marked pluralism of our globalized situation, along with such geopolitical shifts as migration, persecution and inter-religious violence, and religious extremism, has added urgency and poignancy to our search for understanding.”

The considerations were formulated by a consulting group of 16 ecclesiastical and academic consultants who met in 2014 and 2015, and their results were later refined. The brief resource is designed to help churches, church leaders and ecumenical officers make sense of these developments programmatically and as an aid in the design of their work.

The fruit of a collaboration between two WCC programmes — Faith and Order, and Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation — the resource includes reflections on two key New Testament texts and then offers, in that light, some fundamental theological bases for principles and goals of each kind of dialogue. It concludes with extensive discussion of practical issues and best practices for both forms of dialogue.

“The new languages and methods here affirm and promote both inter-religious and intra-Christian relations,” Amos said, “holding the promise of diffusing tensions, addressing violence, fostering understanding and reconciliation and deepening the religious commitment and spirituality of those involved.”

See the new resource Called to Dialogue

WCC Commission on Faith and Order

Strengthening inter-religious trust and respect