Synod 2010 concurred with the recommendation of EIRC that Interfaith Dialogue is an activity to be included in the EIRC mandate. It should be noted however, that, while there are some surface similarities between ecumenical relations and interfaith dialogue, these different activities must be clearly distinguished. Ecumenical relations are encouraged and/or maintained with communions (Christian churches and ecumenical organizations) that are part of the global Christian community. Interfaith dialogue is an activity of people from other faiths coming together to understand each other better, and where possible, stand together on selected issues that address the “common good” for our society.
For the CRC, this distinction is important. There are Christian churches that define the word ecumenical to include all relationships with religious people of any faith tradition. EIRC, while wishing to be respectful of people who are of a different faith-persuasion, wishes to prevent the confusion that comes with such an inclusive use of the term “ecumenical.” The phrase “we are one in the Spirit” is an oneness that flows from our oneness in Christ. Hence, EIRC wishes to have the distinction understood (i.e. “Ecumenical Relations” and “Interfaith Dialogue”).
The interfaith mandate of the EIRC is to:
- Compile resources for the Christian Reformed Church which will guide interfaith encounters.
- Monitor and facilitate the interfaith encounters that come through ecumenical activities and within the context of the ministries of the CRC.
- Provide advice and perspectives for the CRC as requested.
- When appropriate, represent the CRC in interfaith dialogues.
Interfaith engagement is about building relationships among people of different faiths in order to work together for the common good because all human beings are created in God's image. This is accomplished through listening as well as sharing and learning what makes the faith perspective of the participants both similar and different. Such dialogues also provide opportunity for the clear articulation of the Christian faith – giving an “account of the hope that is within us.” The development of building strong and accepting relationships with people of other faiths is essential to the very purpose of interfaith dialogues.
An essay on “Reformed Christian Engagement with People of Different Faith” which examines a Reformed understanding of the non-Christian religious traditions, biblical foundations, and the Reformed Christian’s engagement with people of other faiths.
Here are a few resources and ideas to help guide you in your interfaith encounters.
- Loving Neighbors of Other Faiths by Calvin Theological Seminary
- Video: "Loving Your Neighbor of a Different Religion" by Calvin Theological Seminary
- Blog: "Key Resources on Other Religions" by Cory Wilson
- Resource Toolkit: Salaam — Helping Churches Connect with their Muslim Neighbors
- Book: Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear by Matthew Kaemingk (Eerdmans, 2018)
- Book: Truth over Fear: Combating the Lies about Islam by Charles Kimbal (Westminster John Knox Press, 2019)