Canadian churches reflect on identity in a multi-religious world

 — Nov. 28, 201128 nov. 2011

Churches in Canada addressed challenging questions, with a strong interfaith perspective, while responding to the document “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Guidelines for Conduct” in an event held at the University of Toronto on 22 November.

The document “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Guidelines for Conduct” was launched by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance in June. It was commended to the churches for reflections in their own particular contexts.

The meeting brought together eighty participants from a wide diversity of church traditions, university students and interfaith partners.

The event was initiated by the WCC and jointly organized by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the Canadian Churches Forum for Global Ministries.

Natasha Klukach, WCC programme executive for North America, asked participants not to shy away from difficult questions, especially in regard to Canada’s history of mission and the tragic legacy of church-run native residential schools in the 19th century, where children were mistreated in the name of “cultural assimilation.”

She said, “The text of the document does not assume the end of a conversation, but the beginning of one.”

The participants engaged in addressing questions, such as, “How do the guidelines in the text speak to us in an increasingly multi-religious society in Canada? And how can they help us have more openness among churches, when it comes to talking about mission and evangelism?”

Two panel discussions offered perspectives on the guidelines. The first, including Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Patti Talbot, programme coordinator for People in Partnership at the United Church of Canada, and Fr. Damian MacPherson, director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, examined applications of the text in different Christian traditions.

Initiating conversations among faith communities

Many participants shared that the guidelines accurately reflect current practices in their churches. However, some noted that churches in Canada are often reluctant to talk about evangelism, and the text could be a good tool for facilitating conversation and building together a common vocabulary.

There was a wide agreement that churches were not active enough in finding opportunities for building relationships with other faiths, and the text can serve as a valuable avenue for entering into dialogue.

A second panel examined the implications of the guidelines. The Rev. Jim Foster, vice-president of Global Ministries for the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Dr Johnson Mbillah, advisor for the Program on Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa, and Pandit Roopnauth Sharma, president Hindu Federation of Canada, asked intriguing questions about inter-religious relations in Canada.

During the discussions Mbillah challenged Canadians to reflect critically on how their mission activities in other parts of the world may encourage conflict.

He said, “The value of the document is related to our Christian identity. It is about what is expected of us and not what is expected of the other.”

As a Hindu, Sharma spoke passionately about his experience, saying that his faith community has often been victim of the attempts of conversion. He advocated greater awareness of the text in this context and encouraged further inter-religious conversations.

The event concluded by identifying the need for engaging in ecumenical dialogue about mission and evangelism, stressing greater commitment to inter-religious dialogue, and encouraging churches to reflect critically on mission history and present practices, as well as initiating more opportunities of such encounters. Canadian churches are also looking forward to hold similar events in other cities.

Rev. Jeremy Bell of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, reflecting on the text and the day’s conversation, said, “The text is not intended to be a mirror of ourselves. It’s a catalyst, not a catechism. What we need is persistence in dialogue and the courage to keep talking to each other.”

Clare Amos, the WCC programme executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, commended the efforts of Canadian churches. She said, “The willingness of such a wide range of Christians to participate in this process is a very significant development. The key task now is to ensure that recommendations of the document are widely known and adopted through the whole Christian constituency.”

Posted: Nov. 28, 2011 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Canada, Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, evangelism/evangelization, interfaith, multifaith, proselytism, WCC, World Evangelical Alliance
Transmis : 28 nov. 2011 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Canada, Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, evangelism/evangelization, interfaith, multifaith, proselytism, WCC, World Evangelical Alliance

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