Christian Witness in an Increasingly Multi-Faith (and Secular) Canada | One Body

 — May 16, 202416 mai 2024

A few weeks ago, I attended the “Grand Opening” event of a new Buddhist Temple recently constructed in my north Edmonton neighbourhood. It was a beautiful event, marked by ritual and ceremony, hospitality and fellowship. It also involved a fair bit of informal interfaith dialogue with the monks of the temple and between fellow visitors of various traditions, who, like me, appreciated the opportunity to see inside the temple and to learn what this new community was all about.

This is now the third new non-Christian prayer space and second Buddhist temple to open in my neighbourhood in recent years, the other being a new mosque, adding to the array of Christian churches and other prayer spaces already present there. It also reflects the diversity of the population that now lives in “our part” of the city: a population that values spiritual realities and draws life from religious traditions “ever ancient, ever new,” to steal St. Augustine’s formulation.

The ever-growing diversity of religious traditions present in my neighbourhood, a pattern now present in nearly every town and city in Canada, is celebrated by most voices in our community, but lamented by others. The latter is true especially of persons who look upon Canada as a “Christian country” and express regret that Christians have “lost a lot of ground” in terms of social presence and influence. Immigration, secularization, de-colonization, “woke-ism” and other factors are typically cited as the main culprits responsible for this erosion of Christian identity, influence, and interests. Whatever one’s perspectives on such matters, the reality is that Canada is, has always been, and will likely continue to be a land of ever-increasing cultural diversity and ever-growing religious plurality.

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On the front lines of negotiating life together in Canadian neighbourhoods and communities, ecumenists and interreligious specialists are sometimes called upon to help navigate the hard edges of differences between religious communities, especially when the values espoused by one tradition seem to be in contradiction or competition with one another. This can be challenging work to be sure, but it is also one of the most rewarding aspects of “the job,” and when it is successful, it typically leads to new friendships and collaborations that in a moment of tension might not have seemed possible.

One area of particular concern to many Christians living in the context of religious pluralism is how to strike the balance between the universal mission of the Church (to “go and make disciples of all nations…”) and the pastoral intuition to enter into dialogue with people of different religions and cultures. At the heart of this concern lies different theological understandings among Christian churches about who the non-Christian neighbours are (vis-à-vis Christianity), the way that grace operates (or not) in their lives and the Scriptural teaching about salvation. The Faith and Witness Commission of the Canadian Council of Churches recently studied these matters, publishing their findings in a joint statement in 2018.

The Commission found that “doctrinal debate about faith and salvation is still largely unresolved among [Canadian] churches.” Some churches espouse a more “exclusivist” perspective: “this theology maintains that explicit, overt commitment to Jesus as Saviour is required for salvation.” Others adopt a more nuanced “expansive-inclusive” approach such that “God’s saving grace and unconditional love, which Christians recognize in Jesus, is so absolute, complete, and comprehensive that all humankind is susceptible of being embraced by it, whether Christ has been explicitly acknowledged or not” – a theory that is often called “anonymous Christianity.” A third perspective, espoused by certain Canadian churches, advocates for a “many paths to God” theology, which the Commission identifies as “a position quite different from the first and second views.” According to this third theological perspective: “Christians hold to the core principle of ‘Christ as Saviour’ but acknowledge the validity of other religions as true paths to finding the perfect end towards which religion strives.” Each of these perspectives invites a quite distinct approach to evangelization in a context of religious pluralism.

A helpful, practical guide that I have turned to frequently for insight into such matters, and that I often recommend to others, is the 2011 classic: Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct.

This extraordinary document, the fruit of five-years of intense work and dialogue at the international level, was released jointly by the Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), the World Council of Churches, and the World Evangelical Alliance. This tripartite partnership itself (which I believe to be unprecedented) signals the importance of this theme for Christians everywhere in the world and across the broadest spectrum of denominational identities within the church.

The text is written in three parts, presenting:

  • a theological “basis for Christian witness”;
  • a dozen principles for Christians to follow “as they seek to fulfil Christ’s commission in an appropriate manner, particularly within interreligious contexts”, and
  • six recommendations “for consideration by churches, national and regional confessional bodies and mission organizations,…especially those working in interreligious contexts.”

Key messages include:

In all aspects of life, and especially in their witness, Christians are called to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, sharing his love, giving glory and honour to God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 20:21-23).

If Christians engage in inappropriate methods of exercising mission by resorting to deception or coercive means, they betray the gospel and may cause suffering to others. Such departures call for repentance and remind us of our need for God’s continuing grace (cf. Romans 3.23).

Christians are called to commit themselves to work with all people in mutual respect, promoting together justice, peace and the common good. Interreligious cooperation is an essential dimension of such commitment.

The entire text is excellent and really should be required reading for anyone who wishes to give Christian witness in an increasingly multi-faith (and secular) Canada.

Another very helpful resource that I have utilized extensively in my pastoral work in the Church is the first-rate manual and website developed by the National Office of Religious Education (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), entitled On Good Soil: Pastoral Planning for Evangelization and Catechesis with Adults.

Playing off Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Luke 8), who sows seeds in every type of soil condition and circumstance, On Good Soil presents an in-depth analysis of contemporary “Canadian soil” and offers rich insights and best practices for sowing the seeds of the Gospel in the Canadian reality.

Included among the recommendations, evangelizers and catechists are counseled to pay close attention to the many “internal” and “external” challenges facing the Church today. Internal challenges include: relevance, response to the sexual abuse crisis, polarization in the Church, and a lack of transparency. External challenges include: multi-generational perspectives, increased multi-cultural and multi-religious communities, individualism, secularism, and a whole host of other “–isms”, that characterize Canadian society today.

Within this whole context, the authors of On Good Soil offer beautiful words of advice for today’s Canadian Catholic evangelists and catechists:

The goal or purpose of our activity must be a sincere desire to show Christ to the world: to make known his love for all people. Authentic witness is not motivated by numbers, nor is it competitive. Christian witness is respectful of the other, and thus does not coerce, threaten or manipulate. The call to respect the other does not mean leaving the explicit proclamation of God and Christ aside, but to know “when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, n.31c). [On Good Soil, #36]

The rich “soil” of contemporary Canada need not be a place of disappointment, threat, and (certainly not!) hostility for Christians, or between Christians and people of other faiths or persons of no faith. Rather, acknowledging the increased reality and depth of religious and non-religious perspectives that make up the diversity of our country, Canadian Christians can and must be even more intentional about presenting the gospel in ways that show forth the love of Christ for all.

Julien Hammond has been the ecumenical officer for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton for over twenty years. He has served as a member of the Roman Catholic-United Church of Canada Dialogue, the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in Canada, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)-Roman Catholic International Consultation. He is currently a member of the Jewish-Catholic national dialogue, co-sponsored by the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Posted: May 16, 2024 • Permanent link:
Categories: One Body, OpinionIn this article: evangelism/evangelization, interfaith, multifaith, pluralism, proselytism, witness
Transmis : 16 mai 2024 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : One Body, OpinionDans cet article : evangelism/evangelization, interfaith, multifaith, pluralism, proselytism, witness

Representatives from the three partner churches stand in front of the construction site at Bloor Street United Church in Toronto. The national offices for the Anglican, Presbyterian, and United churches will be moving to the newly-built offfice space in 2026. From left to right: Rev. Douglas Ducharme, minister of Bloor Street United, Rev. Victor Kim, principal clerk of the PCC, Rev. Michael Blair, general secretary of the UCC, Rev. Alan Perry, general secretary of the ACC, and Bob Hilliard, trustee of Bloor Street United

Anglican, Presbyterian, and United churches sign lease to share national office space

 — May 10, 202410 mai 2024

It’s official; the national offices of the Anglican Church of Canada, the United Church of Canada, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada will be moving in together after signing leases to share space at a redeveloped church site in downtown Toronto.

General Secretary of the ACC General Synod, Archdeacon Alan Perry, said in a May 7 staff email, followed by a public news release the following day, that all three churches had signed leases to share national office space at the renovated site of Bloor Street United Church, located at 300 Bloor Street West in the Annex-University of Toronto neighbourhood. Construction on the new facility is “well underway,” he added, with a target to move in by spring 2026.
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Candles for peace floating on the river Thames near Oxford, England

Called to Be Salt and Light: Open Up Space to Stand for Peace

 — May 10, 202410 mai 2024

The Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission on Justice and Peace deplores the violence and cycle of reprisals in Palestine and Israel that is leading to thousands of lives lost and even more death, suffering, and trauma to come.

We call on Christian communities across Canada to be salt and light in a way that opens up space to stand for peace with justice for all.
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Pope Francis gives a gift to Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury during a meeting with Anglican primates in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican

Meeting Anglican primates, Pope Francis talks about overcoming divisions

 — May 2, 20242 mai 2024

Unity within Christian communities and the unity of all the churches will grow only as believers draw closer to Jesus and learn to be honest in examining if they are listening to the Holy Spirit or to their own preferences, Pope Francis told leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“We are called to pray and to listen to one another, seeking to understand each other’s concerns and asking ourselves, before enquiring of others, whether we have been docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit or prey to our own personal or group opinions,” Pope Francis said May 2 as he welcomed to the Vatican Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and the primates of the Anglican churches.

“Surely, the divine way of seeing things will never be one of division, separation or the interruption of dialogue,” the pope said. “Rather, God’s way leads us to cling ever more fervently to the Lord Jesus, for only in communion with him will we find full communion with one another.”

Pope Francis read his speech to the group, but also set aside time to respond to the primates’ questions, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told reporters. The questions, she said, allowed the pope to talk about “his own passions in ministry, unity in diversity, harmony, and he said in several ways that ‘war is always, always, always a defeat.'”
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The skyline of Rome from the south of Vatican City with the dome of St. Peter's Basilica on the left and the Apostolic Palace in the centre

2024 Anglican Primates’ Meeting will be held in Rome for pilgrimage, consultation, and meeting with Pope Francis

 — Apr. 24, 202424 avril 2024

Senior archbishops, presiding bishops, and moderators of the churches of the Anglican Communion will meet in Rome for the 2024 Primates’ Meeting (April 29-May 3). Conceived as a pilgrimage, they will pray and study Scripture together, visit holy sites in Rome, and reflect together about the mission and witness of the Church in the world.

In the first gathering of Anglican Primates to be held in Rome, the Primates’ programme will include a meeting with Pope Francis and conversation with Cardinal Grech about the meaning and promise of synodality for the whole Church.

The city of Rome is full of historical and spiritual significance for the whole Christian world. Pope Gregory the Great sent Augustine of Canterbury on mission to England in 597. Especially since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), Rome has been a centre of inter-Christian encounter and ecumenical research.
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The Fourth Global Gathering was held in Accra, Ghana by the Global Christian Forum

Message of the Fourth Global Gathering of the Global Christian Forum

 — Apr. 20, 202420 avril 2024

The rain came with a cool breeze, driving away the humid heat through the open windows of the church. An auspicious blessing from God! So began the collective story of the 4th Global Gathering of the Global Christian Forum in Ghana, a country where Christianity is vibrant and thriving. An outpouring of hospitality and generosity characterised our time together from 16-19 April, 2024.

The very first youth gathering in GCF’s history preceded the main Forum from 13-15 April. The diversity and vision of the young adults gave energy to their own conversations about justice, hope, and reconciliation.

This is the 25th Anniversary of the Global Christian Forum, something we celebrated joyfully. Throughout its existence, the GCF has been a unique space for all major streams of Christianity to be together for encounter and prayer. It is the broadest expression of Christian faith and one that reflects the movement of the majority of churches from the global north to the global south.
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Mosaic depicting the baptism of Christ in the Arian Baptistry in Ravenna, Italy

Baptism in Ecumenical Dialogue: Questions about the Trinitarian Formula | One Body

 — Apr. 12, 202412 avril 2024

With our recent celebration of the Easter Vigil in mind, it’s a good time to reflect on the ecumenical significance of baptism and offer a brief review of some of the dialogues that have taken place on this topic. From a Catholic perspective, the ecumenical significance of baptism is clearly affirmed in Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism, which states that: “all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers [and sisters] by the children of the Catholic Church” (#3).
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Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, speaks at a news conference to present the dicastery's declaration, <i>Dignitas Infinita</i> ('Infinite Dignity'), on human dignity at the Vatican press office

New Vatican document combines modern transparency with eternal teaching

 — Apr. 11, 202411 avril 2024

Two things struck me while reading Dignitas Infinita or “Infinite Dignity,” the new declaration on surrogacy, gender and life from the Vatican released April 8 by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

For one, the document sets a new standard for transparency about how it was written, and, second, it goes to lengths to impress on its readers how long the church has taught on these topics.

The document, which applies church teaching to current threats to human dignity, makes clear that human dignity does not depend on wealth, intelligence, social status or abilities, but on the intrinsic worth of every human being.
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Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada from 2019 to 2024

Anglican Primate Linda Nicholls announces plans to retire in September 2024

 — Apr. 9, 20249 avril 2024

Archbishop Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has announced that she will step down from her role on September 15, 2024.

The canons of the Anglican Church of Canada require primates to retire upon reaching their 70th birthday. Archbishop Nicholls will reach mandatory retirement age in October.

Archbishop Nicholls was elected as the 14th Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada on July 13, 2019. She was the first woman to hold the office in Canada and only the second in the Anglican Communion.

Prior to her election, she served as Bishop of Huron (2016-2019) and Area Bishop of Trent-Durham in the Diocese of Toronto (2008-2016). She was also Coordinator for Dialogue for Ethics, Interfaith Relations and Congregational Development at the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office. She spent almost twenty years as a parish priest in the Diocese of Toronto.
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Pope Francis shakes hands with an Indigenous woman during an audience at the Vatican with people taking part in a workshop jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and of Social Sciences on the knowledge of Indigenous peoples and research carried out in the sciences

Indigenous wisdom and science can work together to solve crises, pope says

 — Mar. 14, 202414 mars 2024

The world’s cultures, traditions, spiritualities and languages must be acknowledged, respected and protected, especially those of Indigenous peoples, Pope Francis said.

The entire patrimony of human knowledge “should be employed as a means of overcoming conflicts in a nonviolent manner and combating poverty and the new forms of slavery,” he said in remarks read by an aide March 14 to participants attending a workshop at the Vatican.

The Pontifical Academies of Sciences and of Social Sciences jointly sponsored a workshop March 14-15 on the knowledge of Indigenous peoples and the work and research being carried out in the sciences.
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