Printer Friendly

The ecumenical impact of inter-religious dialogue.

Has the Ecumenical Movement a Future? is the provocative title of a book published in 1974 by W.A. Visser 't Hooft, the first general secretary of the World Council of Churches. In this book, Visser 't Hooft poses what he considers to be the three fundamental questions facing the ecumenical movement: -- Is the ecumenical movement suffering from institutional paralysis? -- Should we replace mission as it has been practised up till now by a dialogue with the other religions? -- Should the ecumenical movement follow the agenda of the church - or the agenda of the world?1

While it would be interesting to explore Visser 't Hooft's analysis and conclusions regarding these vital questions, that would take us too far afield. What is significant for the topic of this article is that this ecumenical pioneer, who was deeply motivated by the search for the visible unity of the church and the church's mission in the world, and whose basic theological formation remained Barthian to the very end, should admit in 1972 that one of the basic questions that faces the future of the ecumenical movement is the issue of "dialogue and mission". Only a decade earlier Visser't Hooft would have insisted that the missionary mandate and what it called for was so self-evident that the question did not deserve even a discussion. But as one who always had his finger on the pulse of the ecumenical movement, he was able to discern the increasing impact of inter-religious dialogue, and the difficult and often painful and deeply divisive issues it raised for the Christian understanding of mission, especially in relation to people who live by other religious traditions.

Before entering this discussion, however, let me make two remarks about terminology. First, the term "ecumenical", when used in the Christian context, denotes all the movements that contribute to the search for the unity of the church and of humankind. Thus, there are many partners within the one ecumenical movement, and the emergence of inter-religious dialogue has had different degrees of impact on them. During and after the Second Vatican Council, for instance, the Roman Catholic Church developed teachings and engaged in activities that have made significant difference to the Christian response to the inter-religious reality. In what follows, however, I shall largely limit myself to the impact inter-religious dialogue has had on one of the instruments and expressions of the ecumenical movement, namely the World Council of Churches, recognizing that this will inevitably provide only a partial look at the subject pointed to in the title.

Second, it is important to say a word about the terms "inter-religious" and "interfaith". Wilfred Cantwell Smith, perhaps the most creative and courageous of the pioneers in the field, rightly emphasizes the importance of defining our terms in order to avoid confusion; and he himself has made helpful distinctions between the terms "religion", "belief", "faith" and the like. But alas, in the explosion of literature in this field, "inter-religious" and "interfaith" have come to be used interchangeably; and that will be evident in my use of these terms as well.

Dialogue and the missionary mandate

Visser 't Hooft's concern about the impact of interfaith dialogue on the missionary enterprise was natural, since one of the earliest impulses for the modern ecumenical movement came from a sense of urgency in relation to world mission. It was the conviction that the "Decisive Hour of Christian Mission" had come which impelled John R. Mott to call the world mission conference in Edinburgh in 1910, with the primary purpose of pooling resources and developing a common strategy for the "world's conquest" for Christ. The task of "taking the gospel to all the regions of the world" was seen to be of such paramount importance that it was necessary to transcend and eventually overcome the theological and confessional differences among Christians which hampered its progress.

Thus it is important to recognize that even though the missionary movement joined the World Council of Churches only at the third assembly in New Delhi in 1961, it was the first of the movements to constitute itself into an ecumenical force, with the firm foundations for the International Missionary Council already laid at the conclusion of the Edinburgh conference in 1910. And when the Faith and Order and Life and Work movements came together in 1948 to form the World Council of Churches, the IMC decided to stay out so that its focused attention on world mission would not be watered down by being part of a wider movement. Such were the deep convictions on mission that motivated the early ecumenical endeavours.

Certainly there were from the beginning voices calling for a different approach to other religious traditions. But they were marginal within the movement and had little or no impact on the primary first of "winning the world for Christ". And even though leading missiologists like Hendrik Kraemer had close contact with people of other faiths, mission and the theology of religions were issues for internal discussion within the church and the missionary movement. The peoples of other faiths were the objects of the missionary outreach.

The first breakthrough came in 1956 when the study centres around the world were asked to join in the study project on "The Word of God and the Living Faiths of Men", to continue the inconclusive and deeply divisive debate at the world mission conference in Tambaram (1938) over Hendrik Kraemer's preparatory volume, The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World. In carrying out the project, P.D. Devanandan, director of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS) in Bangalore, who had a deep concern with "nation-building" in post-colonial India, decided that a Christian discussion of the living faiths must be informed by real encounters with persons of other faith traditions.

This was an important landmark, because it established the principle that the peoples of other faiths should no longer be the objects of our discussions, but partners in our conversation. The concept of "dialogue" was born, and it was to make a decisive impact on all subsequent discussions of mission within the ecumenical movement.

The confidence created by actual encounters with people of other faiths led to a plea for what Stanley Samartha called "a post-Kraemer theology of mission", which would no longer define others as "non-Christian", but as people who live by other faith convictions. The passion with which this new view was held is reflected in Samartha's words:

With the passing away of Kraemer an era in the history of the theology of mission has

ended. It was an era which, at its height, was marked by aggressive certainty, unbounded

enthusiasm, a sureness of direction and assured hope for the coming harvest. There is no

doubt that Kraemer dominated the scene and, with his massive scholarship and real concern

for the mission of the church, upheld many drooping spirits in mission boards. But times

have changed. The clear-cut division of the world into Christian and non-Christian made in

his Tambaram book is no longer valid. Today one talks about Christian faith and other


It is not my intention here to trace the history of the subsequent developments; but as Samartha said, times had in fact changed, and the whole experience of the growing interfaith encounters was soon to be expressed within the World Council of Churches in the creation of a new sub-unit for "Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies" and an exploration of the meaning of "seeking community" with people of other faiths.

The far-reaching and deeply disturbing impact of inter-religious dialogue on the understanding of mission within the ecumenical movement was attested to in the impassioned and sometimes acrimonious debate at the WCC's Nairobi assembly (1975). It was the inevitable showdown within the ecumenical fellowship between the traditional understanding of mission as converting others to become Christians and an emerging concept of "mutual witness", in which dialogue was seen, not as just one more tool for mission, but as a context in which authentic witness might be given.

Every weapon in the arsenal of the traditional understanding of mission was deployed to ward off the dangers presented by inter-religious dialogue to mission and evangelism -- charges of syncretism, compromise of the uniqueness and finality of Christ, loss of mission and spiritual confusion. If Edinburgh 1910 was the "Decisive Hour of Christian Mission" for John R. Mott, Nairobi 1975 was the Decisive Hour of inter-faith Dialogue for Stanley Samartha. What saved the hour was the convincing witness given by those, mainly from Asia (like Lynn A. de Silva, J.R. Chandran and others), who were actual practitioners of dialogue. The assembly, though made up of a majority who were inclined to affirm the traditional understanding of mission, was not willing to deny or betray the experience of those who had entered into a new relationship with their neighbours. In so doing, it also opened the door to a new understanding of mission within the ecumenical movement.(3)

The impact of inter-religious dialogue on the understanding of mission was such that the "Guidelines of Dialogue", drawn up within two years of the Nairobi assembly, primarily to deal with the fears and suspicions vented there, were able to say that "dialogue has a distinctive and rightful place within Christian life". The text went on to affirm that "in giving their witness they [Christians] recognize that in most circumstances today the spirit of dialogue is necessary".

And then, the clear affirmation:

For this reason we do not see dialogue and the giving of witness as standing in any

contradiction to one another. Indeed, as Christians enter dialogue with their commitment to

Jesus Christ, time and again the relationship of dialogue gives opportunity for authentic

witness. Thus to the member churches of the WCC we feel able with integrity to commend

the way of dialogue as one in which Jesus Christ can be confessed in the world today; at the

same time we feel able with integrity to assure our partners in dialogue that we come not as

manipulators but as genuine fellow-pilgrims, to speak with them of what we believe God to

have done in Jesus Christ who has gone before us, but whom we seek to meet anew in


This much quoted-passage symbolizes a significant moment in the ecumenical movement. If, as Samartha said, one era of understanding on mission came to an end with Kraemer, this statement in a real sense marked the beginning of a new era. While there is still a plurality of understandings on the nature and practice of mission within the ecumenical fellowship, and while there are those who would still gladly align themselves with Kraemer, no discussion on mission within the ecumenical movement today can ignore the reality and practice of interfaith relations.

In fact, the WCC's Vancouver assembly (1983) chose the word "witness" in preference to "mission"; and its section on "Witness in a Divided World" spoke about dialogue as an "encounter where people holding different claims about ultimate reality can meet and explore these claims in a context of mutual respect". It went even further to say that "from dialogue we expect to discern more about how God is active in the world, and to appreciate for their own sake the insights and experiences people of other faiths have of ultimate reality". I This bold assertion of the presence of God in the experiences of others was again challenged, also by some of the same voices heard at Nairobi, but the report, which went much further than Nairobi, was generally acceptable to the assembly.

There is no need to belabour the point. One can illustrate this development also from several other official statements, including those from the world mission conference in San Antonio (1989) or the WCC's seventh assembly (Canberra 1991). The point is that the practice of inter-religious dialogue has brought about a radical revolution within the simple, straightforward and clear-cut missionary mandate inherited by the ecumenical movement in its early years.

Some of those who led the missionary movement prior to this decisive impact of dialogue on our understanding of mission -- of whom Bishop Lesslie Newbigin is a good example -- refuse to accept that the revolution has taken place. Instead, they blame dialogue for the considerable confusion within conservative circles about the purpose and goals of mission at a time when religions, freed from the power distortions of the colonial era, are asserting themselves as equal partners. But the profound crisis within the conservative missionary enterprise and the temptation to turn to fundamentalism can never be faced unless one concedes the impact which the practice of inter-religious dialogue has made on our understanding and practice of mission. It is an impact that has made a difference. It is not possible to return to Tambaram.

The search for a theological foundation

A second, and equally important impact has come in the area of theology. As interfaith dialogue became a serious and more widespread activity, it became increasingly evident that the churches did not have a theology that could make sense of the challenge of religious plurality. If one revisits the Nairobi debate and analyzes the fears, anxieties and theological reservations that prompted the controversy over dialogue, it becomes clear that the underlying problem was that the churches did not have a theological handle with which to take on board what was being offered in the area of "seeking community with people of other faiths".

The Protestant churches within the WCC had interpretations of the person and work of Christ, concepts of revelation and salvation, theologies of mission and a theology of religions which in the final analysis reduced the world of other faiths to no more than a vast mission field. The emphasis on the one -- one Lord, one faith, one Saviour, one way, one community, which was reinforced for effective missionary purposes as the only one -- made the Protestant Christians the least equipped to live in a religiously plural world. And if the Orthodox theological tradition had better handles for getting a grip on plurality, it was not evident, at least in the Nairobi debate, that these had been developed to deal with the challenge of religious plurality.

At Nairobi, therefore, many traditional theologians experienced the dialogue venture as something that shook the theological foundations of the church. Not only did it challenge traditional Christology and missiology, but it also threatened to take away the very raison d'etre of the church vis-a-vis people of other faiths. As someone who took part in the Nairobi debate, I could not help feeling that there were many who, at the religious level, would not know what else to do with a Hindu than to convert him or her into a Christian!

The "missionary obligation", as traditionally interpreted, needed the world of other faiths as the "mission field"; without it, not only the missionary enterprise but faith itself was in danger. Many experienced the dialogue debate as a "life-and-death question" not only for missions, but also for the church. In this respect it was a genuine debate struggling to come to terms with a decisive moment in the ecumenical journey.

In reality, however, it was a fresh theological challenge to the ecumenical movement. The movement did not have a theology of plurality. It did not know how to talk about Jesus Christ and witness to what God has done in him except in Christocentric and exclusivist terms. It could not make theological sense of other religious experiences and of those who had heard the gospel but had chosen not become part of the church.

In the periods following the Nairobi and Vancouver assemblies, the WCC's Subunit on Dialogue attempted to respond to this theological challenge. The study booklet on My Neighbour's Faith and Mine -- Theological Discoveries in Interfaith Dialogue (published in 16 languages), the book in the WCC Risk series on The Bible and People of Other Faiths (10 languages), both aimed at congregations, and a series of theological consultations on the theology of religions were responses to the theological impact of interfaith dialogue on the World Council of Churches.(6)

This significant theological impact of interfaith dialogue on the movement is also attested by the several hundreds of volumes and the thousands of articles that have appeared over the past ten years, in all parts of the world, seeking to find an adequate theological basis for a new relationship among faith communities. It has been said that the contemporary Christian encounter with the people of other faiths, especially in the context of dialogue, has to be compared to the first encounters of the Jewish-Christian theology with Hellenistic thought and culture: a long process may be ahead, but nothing can ever be the same again.

The change of religious consciousness

What we have dealt with so far is the more obvious, direct and discernible impact that the inter-religious reality has had on the ecumenical movement. But what is more important is the change of climate which the phenomenon of inter-religious dialogue has brought about in the religious atmosphere. This is somewhat more difficult to pin down.

In recent years concern has grown about the increase of fundamentalism within all religious traditions and the conflicts around the world in which religious symbolism and sentiments are used and abused for social and political ends. This is an important concern, and calls for careful analysis and concerted action, so that some of the advances made in the interfaith relations are not lost to political expediency.

But this is only one aspect of the reality. The other is that we are witnessing today a remarkable lowering of the barriers that have separated religious traditions for centuries, resulting in what might be described as the emergence of an "interfaith culture" on the religious scene.

The proliferation of local dialogues, the popularity of interfaith movements and organizations, the readiness to engage in interfaith worship, the increased instances of interfaith marriages, the use of each other's spiritual practices, the, growth of popular interfaith literature, the greater willingness to engage together on common issues, and the fact that every respectable Christian theologian today feels compelled to deal with the interfaith questions, are only the symptoms of a much deeper reality. I hope it is not too much to assume that these are only the tip of the iceberg, and underneath it is a whole new religious consciousness in the making. If I were to single out what seems to me to be the most challenging and demanding impact of the interfaith reality on the ecumenical movement, it would be this change of consciousness. As in many instances of social change, not everyone recognizes or discerns the changes taking place, even in his or her own consciousness.

One problem is that not everyone agrees whether this change is for the better or for the worse; whether it is of the Spirit or not; whether God is calling us to walk in faith on an uncharted road or whether the urgency is to get back onto the road we know.

Some have dismissed all of this as "New Age" thinking, seeing behind it "a neo-Hindu-Buddhist plot" for the "spiritual takeover" of the West. Others, like Lesslie Newbigin, while recognizing the need to be in good relationship with peoples of other faiths, are alarmed by the theological challenge, and see the situation as a new danger to the ecumenical movement. In their view, we must dig our trenches even deeper in order to guard what they consider to be the "truth of the gospel" against relativism. Newbigin argues that since Christians have been shown Jesus Christ as the one road to follow, what is needed today is to reaffirm the "logic of mission" and regain our "confidence in the gospel".(7)

Visser 't Hooft, with whom we began this enquiry, while also affirming the need to respect other religions, was more concerned with the emergence in the contemporary world of "a cult of life" or "neo-paganism" which also pervades some parts of the interfaith movement. Defining "paganism" as the glorification of life for its own sake without any reference to God, Visser't Hooft declares that "the religion of life and the faith in the living God are totally incompatible" with each other.(8)

While these reactions are to be taken seriously, the reality is that interfaith dialogue has deeply shaken the theological and religious consciousness of the ecumenical movement. If the oikoumene is the whole inhabited earth, and if God is the creator of all that is and intends to bring all things to their fulfilment, it is no longer conceivable that large sections of the life of the people can be left outside the focus of the ecumenical movement.

Interfaith dialogue has taught that a group's conviction and confidence that it is called to give a specific witness to God and how God deals with humankind does not in itself separate it from the human family. More importantly, it does not provide a reason not to discern God's life with all peoples or to disregard people's experiences of their life with God. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, in his inimitable style, has complained that the problem with theology done without any consciousness and knowledge of other religious traditions and of the faith of others is that it leaves out much of the data needed to do theology. Already thirty years ago, he predicted that the "time will soon be with us" when a theologian who attempts to do theology without this consciousness will be "as hopelessly out of date as one who attempts to construct an intellectual position unaware of what Aristotle has taught, or unaware that the earth is a minor planet in a galaxy that is vast only by terrestrial standards".(9)

What interfaith dialogue has done to the ecumenical movement is to signal that this time has in fact come. We may not yet be fully equipped to face it, but there are clear indications that the ecumenical movement has read the signals correctly. It is not surprising, then, that the WCC can no longer plan assemblies or major conferences without raising the question of a symbolic presence of persons of other faith traditions. And on a range of issues such as the ecological crisis, human rights, peace, reconciliation, HIV/AIDS, justice for women and children, the question is often raised: "What do other religious traditions say about this?" or "Which persons of other faith can contribute to this discussion?" As a consequence, many such issues, which at one time were subjects of discussion within each of the religious communities, have now entered the widening agenda of the interfaith organizations.

If the time is indeed here, our response so far has been only symbolic. This is because of a lack of "theological courage" on the part of many to take down some of the old pillars on which the movement was built, even though they can no longer support the structure. But those who accuse the ecumenical leadership of taking the movement down the path of destruction simply pile up arguments based on the old presuppositions, not realizing that it is those very presuppositions and the whole theological tradition built on them that is being questioned and set aside.

What we have is new wine. Jesus taught that putting new wine into an old wineskin will ruin both the wineskin and the wine. The new wine needs new wineskin.

Ecumenically, one of the new wineskins in the making since the WCC's New Delhi assembly (1961) has been the concept of "humankind". This came into prominence in order to take account of the universal dimension and scope of the gospel message. It is noteworthy that the Uppsala assembly (1968), which was the first assembly to commend interfaith dialogue to the churches, reaffirmed the study on "The Unity of the Church and the Unity of Mankind" (later "Humankind"). What was significant was that this study was to be undertaken within the Faith and Order Commission, which had traditionally concentrated primarily on doctrinal issues in Christian unity. Had the time come when the unity and renewal of "humankind", the whole oikoumene, would become the focus of ecumenical concern?

One of the sections that dealt with this question at the Faith and Order plenary commission meeting in Louvain, Belgium, in 1971 was on "The Unity of the Church and the Encounter with Living Faiths", showing the commission's sensitivity that humankind does live by other faith traditions as well. But rereading the report of that discussion shows how narrow and exclusive was the perspective from which the whole question was approached:

Is the encounter with other faiths an encounter "in Christ"? Does God reveal himself outside

the specific stream of Christian history? Must Christians believe other faiths contain

authentic revelation before true dialogue can begin (sharp division here) ... ? How can the

particularity of Christian faith be claimed as the basis for mankind's unity amidst other

religious and ideological claims of a similar kind?(10)

The quotation illustrates the Council's apparent inability to deal with any question except from a Christocentic, often even from a Christo-monistic standpoint. In fact the whole of the WCC's concern for "humankind", "the whole human family", the "wider oikoumene" was for a long time caught within what Konrad Raiser has called the paradigm of "Christocentric universalism". What we are witnessing today, he says, is a paradigm shift in the ecumenical movement which seeks to take the oikos, the household of God, in its true and full meaning as locus of God's concern:

The oikoumene then is not a description of a given state of affairs. It is not a matter of

structures, but of dynamic, real relationships. When we say oikoumene, we are not referring

to global abstractions, such as "one world", the "whole human race" or "one united world

church". We are speaking of actual and at the same time endangered connections and

relationships between churches, between cultures, between people and human societies in

their infinite variety, and between the world of humankind and creation as a whole.

Raiser sees relationships as the very essence of life and of the oikoumene:

All human beings in their living, knowing and acting are from the very beginning related to

their world, to other people, to their living environment, to those things that are necessary

to life. Being-in-relationship is as much a part of our nature as being-in-oneself... Human

knowledge is accompanied by the quest for connections. But it does not create these

connections, but rather perceives even more comprehensively the original interconnectedness,

which was there even before we are aware of it.(11)

The contrast between this statement and the approach taken in 1971 by the Unity of the Church and Unity of Humankind study is in many ways indicative of the change in perception and orientation that has taken and is taking place within the ecumenical movement. The impact of inter-religious dialogue (among other factors) is one of the catalysts of this change.

It is interesting that while the WCC's first general secretary saw, in 1972, the impact of interfaith dialogue on mission as the second of the three crucial issues facing the ecumenical movement, the present general secretary, reflecting on the same question twenty years later, places the challenge of religious pluralism to Christocentrism as the first of "the new challenges facing the ecumenical movement" which are bringing about a paradigm shift.(12)

The new or "wider" ecumenism

There are some within ecumenical circles who are uncomfortable with the emergence of such phrases as "new ecumenism", "wider ecumenism" or "ecumenism of religions", fearing that this signals the end of the "Christian ecumenism" which was primarily concerned with the recovery of the visible unity of the church.

This is an unfounded fear. There is nothing in interfaith encounters which calls a halt to the search for Christian unity. The experience of Christians who have been in dialogue with persons of other faiths is that the dialogue partner never treats one as a Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican or Orthodox, but as a Christian. It is quite fascinating to watch how Christians are forced, in actual dialogue situations, to look for common language to talk about the fundamentals of their faith. They have little choice but to overcome their differences momentarily, or to show them as different approaches to the commonly held beliefs which keep them in that faith community.

It is interfaith encounters which have convinced me that Christians can in fact speak a common language about their faith if they really want to, or have to, and that it is possible to bear authentic witness to Christ without having to use exclusive language. It is in this sense that Kenneth Cracknell sees in the interfaith encounter a hope for the renewal of the church.

The call for a "wider ecumenism" is provoked, among other factors, by the impact of the several decades of inter-religious relations. It is not a cry, as I have said, against Christian ecumenism, but a call for the recovery of the scope and the depth of what should really be encompassed in the term "ecumenical". It arises from the awareness that the whole world -- all its peoples and all their histories -- is the subject of God's concern. It is based on the conviction that the unity God intends is for all people, not for some. It comes from the realization that God's creation, in its goodness and variety, as also in all its complexities, problems, sufferings, alienation and rebellion, is the locus of the activity of the Spirit of God. It affirms, as Raiser says, that all of life, rooted as it is in God, is inter-related from the beginning, and that what we are after is to perceive, enter into and rejoice in this "original interconnectedness" which "was there even before we become aware of it".

The call for a "global ethic" at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago (1993) and the interfaith gatherings that have accompanied such United Nations events as the "summit for children", the "earth summit" and the "social summit" are also "time signals" pointing to the fact that if all life is interconnected and all peoples are of God's concern, and if we are co-workers with God in the task of healing the earth and the life of all its peoples, then we should have a larger vision of what is "ecumenical", both in scope and in our understanding of partners and co-workers in the ecumenical movement. It is not a call to establish that "all religions are the same" or an admission that religious communities have no specific witness to offer. It is rather our preparedness to be more willing than before to be more involved than before in more of what God is doing among us.

We do have the option of staying with a tribal god and a narrow understanding of salvation history, of defining our purpose in terms of seeking our own unity, and of seeing the rest of the world as misguided until we have shown them the road. We can continue to insist as an ecumenical movement that our deeply divided situation, which we have been unable to overcome in seventy years of conversations, is still the "sign" of the coming unity of humankind. In a world that is falling apart with violence and war, we can still maintain that we have been "called out" and that the answer to the problems of the world is for everyone to believe as we do and to become part of our community.

Of course, this is a caricature; and in reality what Christians believe in is more complex and more nuanced than that. But perhaps such a caricature is a helpful way of pointing to what the "wider ecumenism" is calling us out of. It is a way of saying that the new ecumenism is not a loss of "confidence in the gospel", to use Newbigin's term, but a new "confidence in God" that comes from our rootedness in the gospel. It may not be within the "logic of mission" of a past era, but it is certainly within the "logic of the kingdom" for our day. It is the recovery of the pilgrim character of the church; its eyes are fixed not only on what God has done, but also on what God is doing and intends to do.

In September 1998, the World Council of Churches will meet in its eighth assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, also to mark its jubilee, the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. One of the most significant processes of preparation for the assembly is a study process on the "Common Understanding and Vision" of the WCC, which seeks to discern the vision and ministry to which the Council is being called within an ecumenical movement which has been affected both by what has happened in the life of the churches and by the many significant events, radical changes and the phenomenal developments in fields of science, technology and communications over the past half century.

Inter-religious dialogue is one of these impacts. In 1980 Wilfred Cantwell Smith spoke of it as a "small current that has begun to flow around and through the Christian church". And then he added the warning: "It is a current which, although we are only beginning to be aware of it, is about to become a flood that could sweep us quite away unless we can, through greatly increased consciousness of its force and direction, learn to swim in its special and mighty surge."(13)

The flood is here. Swim we must!


(1) W. A. Visser 't Hooft, Has the Ecumenical Movement a Future?, Belfast, Christian Journals Limited, 1974, p.30.

(2) Stanley J. Samartha, "Contact, Controversy and Communication", Indian Journal of Theology, Vol. 17, 1968, p.25, as quoted by Eeuwout Klootwijk, Commitment and Openness: The Interreligious Dialogue and Theology of Religions in the Work of Stanley J. Samartha, Zoetermeer, Boekencentrum, 1992, p.62.

(3) For the full report on "Seeking Community" and the dialogue debate see David M. Paton, ed., Breaking Barriers, Nairobi 1975: The Official Report of the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, WCC, 1976, pp.70-85.

(4) Guidelines on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies, Geneva, WCC, 1990 (4th printing), p. 11. The full report of the consultation that brought together the contending parties at the Nairobi assembly to agree on the "Guidelines" is Stanley J. Samartha, ed., Faith in the Midst of Faiths; Reflections on Dialogue in Community, Geneva, WCC, 1977.

(5) David Gill, ed., Gathered for Life: Official Report of the Sixth Assembly, World Council of Churches, Geneva, WCC, 1983, p.40.

(6) The English versions of My Neighbour's Faith and Mine and The Bible and People of Other Faiths were published by WCC, Geneva; on the theological conversations, see "From Baar I to Baar II", Current Dialogue, no. 26, June 1994.

(7) The phrases cited are two of the chapter titles in Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Geneva, WCC, and Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1989; others are "The Logic of Election" and "No Other Name". All of these are attempts to restate in a pluralist context some of the traditional pillars on which mission theology was built. On the question of the road, Newbigin affirms: "As a human race we are on a journey and we need to know the road. It is not true that all roads lead to the top of the mountain. There are roads that lead over the precipice. It Christ we have been shown the road. We cannot treat that knowledge as a private matter for ourselves. It concerns the whole human family" (p. 183).

(8) Op. cit., pp.73-75.

(9) Quoted from the minutes of the sixth meeting of the WCC working group on dialogue with people of living faiths (March 1985), p.27.

(10) Faith and Order, Louvain 1971: Stud-%, Reports and Documents, Faith and Order Paper no. 59, Geneva, WCC, 1971, p.191.

(11) Konrad Raiser, Ecumenism in Transition: A Paradigm Shift in the Ecumenical Movement?, Geneva, WCC, 1991, p.86.

(12) Ibid., pp. 54ff.

(13) Wilfred Cantwell Smith, "The Christian in a Religiously Plural World", in John Hick and Brian Hebblethwaite, eds, Christianity and Other Religions,
COPYRIGHT 1997 World Council of Churches
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Ariarajah, S. Wesley
Publication:The Ecumenical Review
Date:Apr 1, 1997
Previous Article:From celebration to commitment: a proposal/vision for the year 2000.
Next Article:Survey of church union negotiations 1994-1996.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters