Sunday, 19 April 2009

Common Word Conference at Fuller Seminary Concludes

The four day international gathering of fifty Evangelical and Muslim religious leaders at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena ends today.

Picking up from the Common Word document and the Christian response from Yale last July, the Fuller conference has addressed the theological and practical challenges of interfaith dialogue.

There has been unanimous agreement among those present for the collaboration to continue in order to enhance mutual understanding and diffuse tensions between the two faith communities.

The atmosphere has been relaxed, honest and open. Issues tackled in a gracious but direct manner include the uniquensss and authority of Jesus, evangelism, conversion, apostasy, the rights of religious minorities and Zionism.

Tim Morgan of Christianity Today made these observations:

1. Muslims and Evangelicals who are committed to the work of dialogue spend a lot of time explaining to each other why extremists do what they do in the name of their own faith.

2. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have been, are now, and will be in a deep encounter for generations to come. While there was little discussion of Jews and Judaism, the reality of this encounter was for me inescapable. Dialogue that does not lead to tri-a-logue will not survive the test of time.

3. Muslims and Evangelicals once and for all must settle, resolve, mutually understand, and respect their divergent doctrines of God. The end value of such a heroic effort of understanding must not be underestimated.

4. One scholar admitted to what he called "dialogue fatigue." Actually, I see that as real progress. When Muslims and Evangelicals press beyond the far point of verbal exhaustion, isn't that when we can breakthrough to some other new place? Listening to God requires our silence.

5. Evangelicals and Muslims do each other a disservice when they mutually shy away from airing their grievances openly due to quick pursuit of easy faith-based harmony.

6. There is true urgency to this pursuit of relationship and understanding between Muslims and Evangelicals. The consequences of growing tension between Islam and Christianity are growing greater. As I said to one participant, "Lives and souls hang in the balance."

My paper on Christian minoritiees living under Muslim rule can be seen here or read here or downloaded here.

The conference has been sponsored by Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, North Park University, Chicago, and the World Islamic Call Society in Tripoli, Libya. WICS fulfills a role similar to World Vision within the Islamic community.

A conference statement will be issued shortly.