Seeking Wholeness in the Mosaic of Diversity
Not a best kept secret, perhaps, but a little-known fact: The Episcopal Diocese of New York has a ministry that involves other Christian denominations and other religions. Our Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission works in two directions. On one hand, it gathers information about other faith traditions through personal meetings between their leaders and ours. On the other hand, it educates our own diocese about these other expressions of faith and does so for the purpose of enabling stronger relationships among local clergy as well as among diocesan-level bodies.
Underlying these two directions lies a particular understanding of Luke 17:19b: “Your faith has made you whole.” Whole, as the Commission understands it, envisions the whole range of faith expressions, brought together, not as an amalgam or synthesis, but as a body held together by mutual respect and appreciation—distinctions maintained.
Recently the Commission compiled a list of the questions we would want a dialogue partner to answer—questions that would enable us to round out our understanding of them. More than that, the answers might yield insights for us Episcopalians that would help us deepen our own self-understanding.
The complete list numbers 40 questions, some of which would be inappropriate for a particular dialogue partner. The Commission envisages this list as a starting point for an adult education series, where clergy and/or lay leaders of different denominations or religions share their distinct liturgies, doctrines, polities, customs, etc. Such an event would not only hold interest for the rank-and-file members of the congregations involved but might also attract interested “nones.”
Here is a representative sample of the questions on the list:
- Does your tradition have sacred scriptures? If so, how are they used in worship and for study?
- Are there any elements that are necessary/required for a physical space to be considered a sacred worship space in your tradition?
- How does your tradition make decisions about social issues?
- Does your faith have a leader? If so, who is the leader of your faith?
- How does the structure of authority in your tradition work?
- Is there a role for monasticism in your religion?
- Does your tradition encourage proselytizing?
- What is the place of women in your tradition?
- What books, audio-visual material would you recommend that we look at to best learn about your faith tradition?
For the complete list of questions, email the Rev. Curtis Hart, Chair of the Commission, at [email protected] If you do make use of this list of questions, please let the Commission know how it went.