New initiatives explore relationships between ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue

May 20, 2014

GENEVA

Addressing the urgency of witnessing to the gospel in current ecumenical and multi-religious situations, the World Council of Churches (WCC) will develop materials to assist churches engaged in both ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious dialogue.

Ecumenical dialogue is about conversations between different Christian churches while inter-religious dialogue is concerned with the conversations between different world religions.

The agreement to produce these materials was an outcome of conversations in a recent meeting, organized by the WCC’s Commission on Faith and Order and the WCC’s program for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, May 12-14 at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland.

Questions related to the relationship between ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues, their commonalities and distinctive features, were in focus at the meeting.

Participants discussed different geographical and structural contexts in which questions of ecumenical and inter-religious relationships arise. The conversations showed that sometimes groups or individuals may find themselves with responsibility for both ecumenical and inter-religious concerns, and would welcome assistance about the different goals and methods appropriate to each context.

On other occasions, it was said, expertise in one field could lead to a devaluing of the insights and importance of the other.

Participants of the meeting from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North American region included people responsible for ecumenical and inter-religious relations in WCC member churches, as well as Christian academics and researchers.

“This meeting is a timely first step towards a constructive dialogue that will mutually enrich the churches’ work globally in inter-Christian dialogue, and dialogue with other world religions,” said Clare Amos, WCC program executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

“With the WCC, there is a long history of expressions of both ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. Both expressions of dialogue have much to contribute to the other,” said Canon John Gibaut, director of the WCC’s Commission on Faith and Order.

Cooperation between the WCC’s Commission on Faith and Order and the WCC’s program for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation in working on these themes is in response to the new way of working adopted by the WCC 10th Assembly in South Korea last year.

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