Face down religious extremism, church leaders told - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
February 23, 2005

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Face down religious extremism, church leaders told

-23/02/05

Christians and people of other faith communities need to think hard about the sources of conflict and extremism within their own traditions, a Welsh church leader has told the assembly of Churches together in Britain and Ireland, which is meeting in Swanwick, Derbyshire, this week.

Dr Gethin Abraham-Williams, who is general secretary of the Welsh ecumenical council Cytun (ëtogetherí), said that the terrible terrorist attacks on 9/11 exposed ìweaknesses in the core texts of the three Abrahamic faiths ñ Judaism, Christianity and Islam.î

The different scriptures all contained passages which, wrongly handled, could lead to extremism, claimed Dr Abraham-Williams. He said this was a reality ìwhich many of us are reluctant to acknowledgeî and called for a change in theological ethics within and between the historic faiths.

The head of Cytun was speaking at the opening session of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland assembly, which has brought together 300 representatives of the Christian denominations and their associates in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to discuss the ecumenical future in those nations.

Dr Abraham-Williams, who is a senior figure in Welsh Christianity, contended that the major faith communities were challenged with the task of ìtransmutingî their convictions, not abandoning them.

Some Christian theologians who have argued in a similar vein point to the way that Jesus transformed the traditional teaching about ìan eye for an eye and a tooth for a toothî into ìlove your enemies, do good to those that hate you.î He did this by pointing to the core logic of the original injunction ñ which was to limit retribution rather than to sanction it.

Citing the work of Dr John Shepherd, latterly of St Martinís College, Lancashire, Dr Abraham-Williams went on: ìWe need to make the shift from seeing things as morally wrong because they are theologically questionable to seeing them as theologically questionable because they are morally wrong.î

The challenge came as part of a review and summary of ecumenical cooperation in Britain and Ireland following the Swanwick Declaration 18 years ago, which led to the major churches ñ including, for the first time, the Roman Catholics and Black Majority churches ñ pledging to work together in a new way.

The agreement was partly a response to the call of the late Cardinal Basil Hume to move ìfrom cooperation to commitmentî in Christian unity, and it led to the establishment of CTBI and national ecumenical bodies to replace a mainly Protestant and Anglican one, the British Council of Churches.

Bishop Michael Doe, head of the mission agency USPG, coordinated an audio-visual presentation last night that included accounts of both the successes and failures of ecumenism in Britain and Ireland over the past 18 years.

Delegates were told that among positive developments was a significant growth in local Christian unity, common action against racial and sexual abuse, Northern Irish church involvement in the peace process, the production of the first joint Scottish Christian hymn book (called Common Ground) since the Reformation, the Methodist-Anglican covenant, shared work in supporting missionary congregations, and in strengthened relations with churches in places like China.

But the setbacks had included the recent rejection of the Scottish Initiative for Union, and the failure of a lengthy Welsh process to appoint an ëecumenical bishopí, which one speaker said was partly ended because, ironically, ìAnglican clergy decided to uphold the integrity of their episcopate by voting against their bishops on this proposal.î

The Churches Together in Britain and Ireland assembly is described by its organisers as a ìmeeting and listening pointî for the churches in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This time the proceedings are partly open and partly private, because church leaders are still involved in confidential deliberations about the future of the ecumenical structures they began to set up in 1987.

Find books now:

Face down religious extremism, church leaders told

-23/02/05

Christians and people of other faith communities need to think hard about the sources of conflict and extremism within their own traditions, a Welsh church leader has told the assembly of Churches together in Britain and Ireland, which is meeting in Swanwick, Derbyshire, this week.

Dr Gethin Abraham-Williams, who is general secretary of the Welsh ecumenical council Cytun (ëtogetherí), said that the terrible terrorist attacks on 9/11 exposed ìweaknesses in the core texts of the three Abrahamic faiths ñ Judaism, Christianity and Islam.î

The different scriptures all contained passages which, wrongly handled, could lead to extremism, claimed Dr Abraham-Williams. He said this was a reality ìwhich many of us are reluctant to acknowledgeî and called for a change in theological ethics within and between the historic faiths.

The head of Cytun was speaking at the opening session of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland assembly, which has brought together 300 representatives of the Christian denominations and their associates in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to discuss the ecumenical future in those nations.

Dr Abraham-Williams, who is a senior figure in Welsh Christianity, contended that the major faith communities were challenged with the task of ìtransmutingî their convictions, not abandoning them.

Some Christian theologians who have argued in a similar vein point to the way that Jesus transformed the traditional teaching about ìan eye for an eye and a tooth for a toothî into ìlove your enemies, do good to those that hate you.î He did this by pointing to the core logic of the original injunction ñ which was to limit retribution rather than to sanction it.

Citing the work of Dr John Shepherd, latterly of St Martinís College, Lancashire, Dr Abraham-Williams went on: ìWe need to make the shift from seeing things as morally wrong because they are theologically questionable to seeing them as theologically questionable because they are morally wrong.î

The challenge came as part of a review and summary of ecumenical cooperation in Britain and Ireland following the Swanwick Declaration 18 years ago, which led to the major churches ñ including, for the first time, the Roman Catholics and Black Majority churches ñ pledging to work together in a new way.

The agreement was partly a response to the call of the late Cardinal Basil Hume to move ìfrom cooperation to commitmentî in Christian unity, and it led to the establishment of CTBI and national ecumenical bodies to replace a mainly Protestant and Anglican one, the British Council of Churches.

Bishop Michael Doe, head of the mission agency USPG, coordinated an audio-visual presentation last night that included accounts of both the successes and failures of ecumenism in Britain and Ireland over the past 18 years.

Delegates were told that among positive developments was a significant growth in local Christian unity, common action against racial and sexual abuse, Northern Irish church involvement in the peace process, the production of the first joint Scottish Christian hymn book (called Common Ground) since the Reformation, the Methodist-Anglican covenant, shared work in supporting missionary congregations, and in strengthened relations with churches in places like China.

But the setbacks had included the recent rejection of the Scottish Initiative for Union, and the failure of a lengthy Welsh process to appoint an ëecumenical bishopí, which one speaker said was partly ended because, ironically, ìAnglican clergy decided to uphold the integrity of their episcopate by voting against their bishops on this proposal.î

The Churches Together in Britain and Ireland assembly is described by its organisers as a ìmeeting and listening pointî for the churches in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This time the proceedings are partly open and partly private, because church leaders are still involved in confidential deliberations about the future of the ecumenical structures they began to set up in 1987.

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