Disciples of Christ in a Multi-Faith World
Daniel E. H. Bryant, Senior Pastor, First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon
Why this study?
We live in an increasingly multi-faith world. People of different faith traditions are no longer foreigners living in different countries. They are often our neighbors, co-workers, or even members of our extended family. While we may still think of our nation as predominantly Christian or of “Judeo-Christian” heritage, today the largest growing groups in many communities are from other religious traditions. And when we take a closer look at the history of this continent, we realize there were large communities with vibrant faith traditions of their own before the first settlers arrived. Some may see these different faith traditions as a threat to their way of life, where others might see them as a blessing. Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng writes in his book on world religions, “There will be no peace among the peoples of the world without peace among the world religions.” (Hans Küng, Christianity and World Religions, Orbis: New York, 1993, p. 443).
Disciples’ Council on Christian Unity concluded in their document on “Disciples of Christ and Interreligious Engagement” that,
[W]e unequivocally affirm that to be faithful to God’s call in today’s religiously pluralistic world summons Disciples intentionally and whole-heartedly to engage in interfaith relations and work.
This study is not a study of world religions; rather, our goal is to understand why we, in the tradition we call the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), should engage in interfaith relations, how those relations intersect with our Christian witness, and what gifts we as Disciples have to bring to such relationships.
Early in Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) history, we preferred the term “brotherhood” to “denomination.” The idea was that we were not simply another church institution, we were family, brothers and sisters in Christ. At the heart of that conviction was the notion that we have been welcomed by God into this family, and because of this conviction, we believe our calling is to welcome others as God has welcomed us. Scripture is full of references to welcoming the stranger or the sojourner. Can proselytism, seeking to convert another, be compatible with hospitality? To welcome another person is to accept that person as they are, without asking them to change who they are. Just as it would not be hospitable for the host to seek to change the guest, so too it would be most impolite for the guest to seek to change the host. And so, whether the host or the guest, we retain our identity as Disciples of Christ when engaged in interfaith relationships. What’s more, to be authentic in our relationship, we witness to the truth we know in Christ. But in interfaith engagement, we also listen to the truth given by the witness of the other person. Only in doing so can we create a community of mutual respect and understanding, where “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4) The authors of this study believe that such a vision is needed today more than ever.
- Session One: A Room in the House of God
- Session Two: Learning from Our Neighbors
- Session Three: Conversion or Dialogue?
- Session Four: Sharing Our Gifts as Disciples
By Daniel Bryant (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) 2018 Council on Christian Unity, Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. This work is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. You are free to share—copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format.