A Note on Methodology
This study is designed to be carried out by small groups of people who will commit themselves to meet regularly for a few months. The groups should include men and women, clergy and laity, and people who might bring a variety of theological perspectives. In those settings where it is possible, the study process would be enriched if the group is ecumenical in composition. One or more members should be assigned to take detailed notes of the discussions to enable the group, at the conclusion of the study process, to communicate its findings and insights to the Team on Interrleigious Dialogue.
The process of study
The study has nine major sections, and each section has from one to three study units. Each study unit in most cases has three parts:
1) texts that introduce the topic;
2) a short commentary to focus on the issues raised by the texts;
3) suggestions and questions for discussion.
Because there are many different contexts in which the study will be undertaken, the groups are invited to add their own texts, commentaries, and questions, if that will help clarify particular issues that are relevant in their own situations.
The study groups will bring different contexts and backgrounds to the theological discoveries study. In exceptional cases, there may be some groups, especially in seminary contexts, that may wish to do more outside reading. They may wish to extend their actual knowledge of people of other faiths through additional study, or they may want to do further reading in contemporary thinking on the theology of religions. A few bibliographical references are provided at the back of this book, but relevant readings will have be decided upon locally.
Involvement of people of other faiths
It is important and integral to this study that it includes some common experiences of dialogue with people of other faiths in our own localities. The study will enable some participants to articulate theological discoveries that have emerged from many years of inter-religious relationship and dialogue. For others this focus on the relation of Christians to people of other faiths may be a new one. Thus, your group should decide how, in the process of this study, you will include the first-hand experience and testimony of people of other faiths in your own community. Here are some of the ways in which this could be done:
A. The group may invite people from other religious traditions to participate in one or two of the unit discussions, making clear the nature and purpose of the study.
B. Alternatively or in addition, the group may plan, together with friends from other faiths, a series of two or three special sessions ranging across the general topics of the study and including others that are important in your community. This will enable the members of the study group to have some common experiences and references in the study discussions. In the process of the study, stay in touch with those whom you come to know.
C. The group should arrange with neighbours of other faiths to visit their places of worship, or community gathering, if this is possible in your area. Again, discuss the purposes of the study and prepare yourselves, with the help of friends of other faiths, for such visits.
While the study is primarily an occasion for Christian theological reflection on the significance of other faiths and our neighbours of other faiths, it should not be pursued in isolation. It is important that a special effort is made, as an integral part of the study, to engage the group as a whole in some common experiences with people of other faiths.