Texas Evangelical calls for interreligious conversation

Evangelical Christians are often missing from interreligious dialogue- too often, dialogue is the meeting place for people on the liberal ends of all the various religious traditions. But in Northwood, Texas, about ten miles northeast of Ft. Worth, pastor Bob Roberts of the Northwood Church, a large Baptist congregation, has been hard at work calling for conversation with people of other faiths.

On a Sunday in January, his church hosted Muslims and Jews from the nearby community for a distinctively Christian worship service. Saturday, those in the group had met at the Islamic Center in Irving and on Friday at Temple Shalom of North Dallas. The services were distinctly Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, and were not an effort to compromise differences of belief, but to learn about each others’ actual worship and practice.

Said Roberts,

“If we’re going to get along … I need to understand your core convictions, how it impacts your worldview … and I want you to understand Christianity,” he told them. “I want us to be honest about our differences so that we can build a relationship.”

This weekend (November 11-13), Roberts and colleagues are sponsoring “The Global Faith Forum” at the church. Billed as moving “From a Conversation about Other Faiths to a Conversation with Other Faiths,”  the conference includes speakers from various religious traditions addressing the issues that keep groups from encountering one another honestly and joining together in service to the wider community.

Theological debate is not what the conference is seeking, Roberts notes. “For me, questions as to who is God and how do we find salvation, are not the primary questions I’m seeking and seeking to answer at this forum,” he wrote. “I’ve come to acknowledge that theologically there are irreconcilable differences in some of what I believe and what others believe. But, how we relate to others, and how we work together in the world is everything.”

Roberts is careful to name the effort as “multifaith,” and not “interfaith.” He declares,

“As a Christian,” he says, “I also believe the verse where Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.’ So if I’m going to be a committed Christian I can’t pick and choose which part of the Bible I would believe.

“Because truth is truth. Truth is not relative,” Roberts said. “Multifaith says ‘we have differences.'”

“If I’m going to be a committed Muslim I can’t pick and choose which parts of the Quran I believe. Or a Jew, for the Torah.”

“The old conversation of interfaith basically said if we all agree on everything then we can get along. So what we need to do is minimize our differences … and only talk about what we do agree upon,” the Baptist pastor said Sunday. “But there’s a problem with that. That’s great if you’re liberal, if you’re a liberal Muslim or liberal Christian or liberal Jew, that’s fine.”

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About D Andrew Kille

Editor of the Bible Workbench
This entry was posted in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, National and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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