Scholars meet to strengthen Christian-Muslim dialogue

By staff writers
June 5, 2008

While the Church of England has postponed debate on a controversial resolution interpreted as encouraging the proselytism of Muslims, the Archbishop of Canterbury has chaired a gathering of scholars looking to deepen inter-faith engagement.

The ecumenical meeting had a particular focus on strengthening Christian-Muslim conversations. It brought together more than 40 participants from a broad range of geographical, cultural and denominational settings.

In his welcome to the participants the Archbishop expressed his gratitude that so many had taken the "opportunity for church leaders and scholars representing something of the geographical and confessional diversity of Christianity to discuss together the current experience of dialogue with Muslims - situating the significance of the open letter A Common Word within it, and determining what degree of consensus might be possible as we look forward."

During the discussions church representatives from around the globe, including Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Malaysia – alongside those from Western countries where Christianity is the majority religion - shared their experience of engagement.

Dr Williams said, "It has been tremendously important to me personally ... that we have heard such a range of perspectives. As well as deepening our shared understanding of the challenge before us it has, I think, renewed for us all the significance of the church's work in this area of cooperation with other faiths for the sake of peace in our common home."

Delegates at the Consultation were heartened by the great variety of initiatives, some by Muslims and some by Christians, that were taking place at many different levels - many with a well-established track record. A great emphasis was placed on the need to ensure that the results of these encounters were more widely disseminated and influenced the education and formation of young people. The Archbishop agreed to take forward further work, particularly in response to A Common Word.

The Consultation began with a meeting of the consultant scholars on 1 June and continued, with church representatives and under the chairmanship of the Archbishop, for a full day on 2 June. The Consultation took place at Church House, Westminster and concluded with the participants being welcomed at Evensong in Westminster Abbey followed by a reception and dinner at Lambeth Palace.

The Consultation was resourced by a group of more than 20 scholars from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, UK and USA. The church representatives represented the full denominational spread of Christianity with the majority of the leaders addressed in A Common Word sending representatives and including a large number representing churches in countries where Christians are in a minority.

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