Wednesday, December 03, 2008

When is "interfaith," not?

One of the interesting things I get to do right now is attend meetings of local clergy and interfaith groups. At my count, there are three such groups my supervisor and I attend regularly. One is an explicitly interfaith coalition which focuses on action in the community. One is a generic area clergy association. One is an association of urban religious communities. My supervisor is very active in all three groups.

There was recently a question as to whether one of the urban churches was still a member of that association – whether they intended to be members or not. In reply to a query, the minister of that church responded that the congregation had no interest in continuing to work with the group since it had “moved away from its original stated purpose.” He attached a copy of that purpose, adopted in 1977. Well. Yeah. I read it with dismay – language about the Love of Christ, making the gospel visible, and a unity that “finds its source in a common faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” GULP!

My initial reaction – WTF??? And – How come they let us UUs be part of it, then? How can I continue to attend these meetings, knowing I don’t share a “faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior” with most of the others?

Then I calmed down. I’ve gotten much better at handling God-talk, after three years at a Christian seminary. And I started thinking…

The group works together on liturgical events – interfaith services for significant holidays. It also cooperates in supporting and disseminating information for events like the Crop Walk, the AIDS Walk, and local charity efforts, including a food pantry.

What about these activities doesn’t make the gospel visible? What does this clergy person perceive the group to have become that doesn’t make visible the Love of Christ (as well as the wisdom of Buddha, etc.)? Is the real problem that the association has allowed in religious groups that aren’t explicitly Christian, or at least not his brand of Christian?

So I took my questions to my internship supervisor. He said, “Oh, back then we weren’t allowed in. But that was revised some time ago.” And he went to his files and found the update, adopted over a decade ago. The “love of Christ” was changed to Love of God; “churches” to religious communities; “clergyman” to clergyperson. Laypeople were included as members, too, in the update. The changes make it possible for a broader range of communities to participate, like us Unitarian Universalists. But now the question has been raised – does the group want to return to its original stated purpose and become, once again, an exclusively Christian organization? Or remain truly interfaith, not just interdenominational?

We'll see how this plays out...


Julie-Ann said...

Very interesting. I would like to know the denomination of the church that pulled out. Ha! I ask at Solstice! And, did your supervisor suggest sending them the revised document?

Sometimes pettiness just amazes me when it overtakes the greater good.

Earthbound Spirit said...

The history and revisions have been shared with the entire group, to bring everyone up to date. There is an ongoing civil discussion, and the issue will probably be on the agenda for the next meeting. I'm learning (again) to practice non-attachment. Darn those lessons that keep recurring!

I constantly have to remind myself that doctrinal and creedal issues are not petty to others. From their perspective, salvation is on the line, and how one believes and what one practices is important. This is an important piece of learning for me, having been well-marinated in Unitarian Universalism over the past 2 decades, then baked for 3 years in a very liberal Christian seminary (where most of my classmates espouse some form of universalist theology whether they admit to it or not).

Interfaith Wedding Rabbis and Ministers 4U said...

such a nice name earthbound spirits. This is really cool.