The Rev. Tom Goodhue, director of the Long Island Council of Churches, is an old college and seminary friend of mine. LICC is actively engaged in interfaith dialogues through their Long Island Multi-Faith Forum. Over 100 trained speakers from eleven different religious traditions represented on Long Island go to places of worship, schools, hospitals, prisons and more to promote greater interfaith understanding.
In an editorial last month, Tom mused on the challenges of dealing with groups that might be considered “heretical” by others in their tradition. How should one deal with such groups as Messianic Jews (generally not accepted by Jews), Ahmadiyya Muslims (often rejected by both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims), followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, or even Mormons (who are not considered Christians by many other Christian groups)?
Rev. Goodhue proposes no conclusive answers. But he does suggest some approaches that can help in the encounter among religions of whatever persuasion. (What follows is only a summary; you can find his full editorial at the link below).
- Be humble.
- Remember your roots.
- Listen carefully before jumping to conclusions.
- Try to remember that heterodoxy is not heresy.
- Go visit even if you disagree. Maybe especially if you disagree. Unless your own faith is really weak, observing someone worship in a way different from yours will do you no harm.
- Don’t pretend an offshoot represents the wider community.
- Be honest.
- Be honest with yourself. Many who profess conventional theology live as if they were agnostics, and nearly all of us have some beliefs that fall between unusual and downright weird. In fact, every tradition teaches something that seems ludicrous to nearly everybody else.
I encourage you to take a look at the full editorial:
- “My Heretics and Yours”
The Prelude, Long Island Council of Churches, May 2007