What’s in a Name?

Interfaith Center at the Presidio

Interfaith Center at the Presidio

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and it’s about time I get back to it. I hope that at least some of you out there missed me!

Among my various activities, I edit the Bay Area Interfaith Connect, which has been published by the Interfaith Center at the Presidio for nearly ten years. Here’s a thought that came my way recently about the language we use to describe interreligious encounters:

Interfaith? Multi-faith? Interreligious? Multi religious? Pan-spiritual? Religio-pluralistic? What name ought we give to the work that we do as ICP “welcomes, serves, and celebrates the diverse spiritual wisdom and faith traditions of the Bay Area”?

In a recent guest editorial in The Interfaith Observer, the Rev. Bud Heckman, executive director of Religions for Peace, USA, suggests it’s time to take another look at how we talk about ourselves. In an era where “interfaith” can mean anything from a gathering of different Christian denominations to a community of those “who concurrently hold multiple affiliations,” people may have very different understandings of what they are about, and sometimes “don’t want to be caught dead with the others.”

Heckman’s suggestion is to be more precise in our language—to leave the term “interfaith” to “the small but growing number of people who see faith, religion and spirituality as boundary-less enterprises of exploration and who allow for multiple affiliations.” The term “interreligious” could then refer more specifically to “the broad arc of things that are multi-, inter- and intra- for -faith, -religious and – spiritual.”

What do you think?

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