Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations

The ecumenical movement is the Episcopal Church's response to Jesus' prayer for his disciples in John 17:21 "that they may all be one." The Office for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations offers prayers for unity and participates in formal dialogues to nurture a spirit of understanding and respect, while collaborating actively in mission and ministry opportunities.

In response to numerous requests, the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, assisted by Dr. Lucinda Mosher's NeighborFaith Consultancy, is pleased to offer an annotated list of items (including some with links and downloads) answering FAQs on interfaith concerns. This list will grow. Please revisit it often!

 

Just as reading the Bible straight through (from Genesis 1:1 to the last verse of Revelation) is not the most fruitful approach for a newcomer to Christian scriptures, so it is with the Qur’an—Islam’s holy book. Although the Qur’an is much shorter than the Bible (it’s’ about the same length as the New Testament), it is not a “quick read”. The newcomer to it may be bewildered by its structure, which is quite different from that of the Bible. It helps to know that the Qur’an first appears in human history in a time and place very different from twenty-first century America, in a language very different from English—and that it is read by Muslims within the framework of diverse, complex traditions of interpretation.

So, where to begin? Here are some recommendations to Christians and other non-Muslims who wish to better understand the Qur’an and how Muslims read it.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, et al., editors, The Study Qur’an (HarperOne, 2015).

The best one-volume Qur’an translation-commentary available in English, created by a team of diverse scholars (both Sunni and Shi‘a), with several helpful essays providing background and context. If you’ll have only one Qur’an translation in your library, start with this one. However, as is true also for Bible study, it is best to consult multiple translations. So, also highly recommended: M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, translator, The Qur’an: English Translation and Parallel Arabic Text (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Carl Ernst, How to Read the Qur’an: A New Guide, with Select Translations (University of North Carolina Press, 2011)

A distinguished professor of Islamic studies summarizes the latest research into the historical and literary dimensions of the Qur’an from a Western academic standpoint.

Mustansir Mir, Understanding the Islamic Scripture (Routledge, 2007)

Mir, a Pakistani-American Islamic scholar, gives in-depth exegesis of Qur’anic passages central to Islamic theology, ethics, and spirituality, rooted in traditional Islamic commentary.

Michael Birkel, Qur'an in Conversation (Baylor University Press, 2014)

Quaker scholar Birkel interviews various Islamic imams and scholars in the West, asking each to explain what one of their favorite Qur’anic passages means to them.

Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations, second edition (White Cloud Press, 2007)

A scholar of Arabic and Islamic literature, Sells translates the shortest and, by Islamic tradition, earliest surahs of the Qur’an, bringing a keen poet’s sensibility to his rendition and commentary on each of these surahs. Accompanying the book is an audio CD of Qur’an recitation.

Michael Lodahl, Claiming Abraham: Reading the Bible and the Qur’an Side by Side (Brazos Press, 2010)

Nazarene theologian Michael Lodahl reads Biblical and Qur’anic narratives side-by-side, elucidating theological nuances from the differences between stories of shared prophets such as Mary, Jesus, Noah, and Abraham.

Ingrid Mattson, The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life, Second edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)

Mattson, a Canadian-born convert to and scholar of Islam, narrates the story of the Qur’an both in the life of Islam and the lives of individual Muslims.

Walter H. Wagner, Opening the Qur’an: Introducing Islam’s Holy Book (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008)

A beautifully-written (albeit lengthy), step-by-step guidebook by a Moravian scholar, aimed at the serious Christian reader seeking in-depth understanding of the Qur’an’s context and contents in a comparative mode.

Michael Ipgrave, ed., Scriptures in Dialogue: Christians and Muslims studying the Bible and the Qur’an together. Church House, 2004.

This short book both reports on the Building Bridges Seminar held in Qatar in 2003 and serves as a handbook for Christians and Muslims wishing to engage in dialogical scripture-study.

Koran by Heart (HBO documentary, 2013)

This documentary follows three children in an international Qur’an memorization and recitation competition, along the way providing an insight into the deep piety and complicated technique of Qur’an recitation.

 

In response to numerous requests, the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, assisted by Dr. Lucinda Mosher's NeighborFaith Consultancy, is pleased to offer an annotated list of items (including some with links and downloads) answering...

In response to numerous requests, the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, assisted by Dr. Lucinda Mosher's NeighborFaith Consultancy, is pleased to offer an annotated list of items (including some with links and downloads) answering FAQs on interfaith concerns. This list will grow. Please revisit it often!

Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. Unity Productions Foundation
A documentary produced in 2002 by Alex Kronemer and Michael Wolfe that depicts stepping-stones in the biography of the Prophet of Islam and the relevance of each in the lives of early 21st-century American Muslims. Although now fifteen years old, it is still a valuable tool for instruction and dialogue.

Omid Safi, Memories of Muhammad (HarperOne, 2009). 
Blending personal reflection with solid scholarship, this beautifully written book helps non-Muslim readers understand the Prophet of Islam as a complex historical figure and the connection Muslims have to him.  

Ingrid Mattson, The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life, second edition. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
A well-known expert with a gift for storytelling offers comprehensive insight into what the Qur’an is, how it came to be, how Muslims learn it, and what it means in their lives.  

Amir Hussain, Oil and Water: Two Faiths, One God (CopperHouse, 2006).
An introduction to Islam written for Christian readers by a devout Muslim scholar with deep appreciation of Christianity. 

The Hadith of Gabriel
A traditional primer on the basics of Islam.

 

In response to numerous requests, the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, assisted by Dr. Lucinda Mosher's NeighborFaith Consultancy, is pleased to offer an annotated list of items (including some with links and downloads) answering...
The Episcopal Church is an active participant—as a full member or supporter—in a number of ecumenical and interreligious networks and regular events. This page provides links to these groupings in alphabetical order.
Anglican Communion Network for Interfaith Concerns
http://nifcon.anglicancommunion.org/
Bread for the World
http://www.bread.org/
Christian Churches Together
http://christianchurchestogether.org/
Church World Service
http://cwsglobal.org/
Churches for Middle East Peace
http://www.cmep.org
Churches Uniting in Christ
http://churchesunitinginchrist.org
The Consultation on Common Texts
http://www.commontexts.org
The National Council of Churches
http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/
National Religious Partnership for the Environment
http://www.nrpe.org
National Workshop on Christian Unity
http://nwcu.org/
Parliament of the World's Religions
https://parliamentofreligions.org/
Religions for Peace USA
http://www.rfpusa.org/
The World Council of Churches
https://www.oikoumene.org/
The Episcopal Church is an active participant—as a full member or supporter—in a number of ecumenical and interreligious networks and regular events. This page provides links to these groupings in alphabetical order. Anglican Communion Network for...

May 25-June 4, 2017

Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement which the Archbishop of Canterbury is inviting people around the world to join. The wave of prayer will start in May and run for 10 days between the Christian festivals of Ascension and Pentecost.

May 25-June 4, 2017 Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement which the Archbishop of Canterbury is inviting people around the world to join. The wave of prayer will start in May and run for 10 days between the Christian festivals of Ascension...

On Jan. 6, 2001, after 30 years of dialogue, the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, while maintaining their autonomy, agreed to come together to work for joint mission in the world and to allow clergy to move freely between the two churches.

On Jan. 6, 2001, after 30 years of dialogue, the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, while maintaining their autonomy, agreed to come together to work for joint mission in the world and to allow clergy to move freely...

The day’s events included first a common prayer in Lund Cathedral, led by Pope Francis and Lutheran World Federation President Munib Younan and General Secretary Martin Junge; the procession was led by a Salvadoran cross created for the occasion and involved women and men from every continent and many generations.

The Episcopal Church was invited to attend through our ecumenical partnerships with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American and the Church of Sweden. The Rev. Margaret Rose, Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, attended on behalf of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. The liturgical celebration in Lund was followed in the afternoon with an event at the nearby Malmö sports arena and included a joint commitment between the Lutheran World Federation and Caritas International to work together to alleviate poverty and respond to refugees.

This event included music and testimonies around a large, illuminated floor cross. Anglican and other ecumenical partners from around the globe were represented in this diverse and marvelous gathering of confession, repentance and call to action.

Videos are available at www.lutheranworld.org; you might especially enjoy the press conference, which includes discussions of DotW and Eucharistic hospitality: https://vimeo.com/189685569.

The day’s events included first a common prayer in Lund Cathedral, led by Pope Francis and Lutheran World Federation President Munib Younan and General Secretary Martin Junge; the procession was led by a Salvadoran cross created for the occasion...

Episcopalians and United Methodists met in Chicago, Illinois for the fourth session of their Dialogue on Full Communion (26-28 October 2016). Committee members and staff from each church shared in conversation, meals, and prayer. 

In personal updates and sharing, committee members spoke of the deep polarization in our nation and of the poisonous political rhetoric in this election season. These divisions are not new and our churches are not exempt. We acknowledge that United Methodists and Episcopalians also participate in the divisiveness raging in our society.

Our current passion to draw closer together reflects our need for repentance in perpetuating such division and our commitment to live into the unity for which Christ prayed. 

Work at the meeting included completion of an informational document (FAQs). The dialogue committee brought a statement for full communion called “A Gift to the World: Co Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness,” nearer to completion. We noted numerous examples places where United Methodists and Episcopalians are already working in mission together, most recently in our ecumenical solidarity at the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. 

Our efforts of working toward full communion have progressed over many years. We are convinced the time is now to move forward toward legislation and church wide engagement. “Why Now?” is the final question of our informational document. We quote it here as a mandate for our future work and our commitment to engage the wider church:

To a world torn by division, mistrust and fear, our witness of Full Communion is a beautiful sign of life and hope. After all, Jesus prayed for his disciples to be one as he and the Father are one, so that the world may know (John 17); Paul also reminds us that we are one Body (1 Corinthians 12). 

We are richly blessed by a sharing of resources, as we join forces in crucial mission endeavors and tackle ministry challenges together. We have been in conversations about communion for fifty years. The examples of shared ministry and Christian friendship over many more years are innumerable. In many places, interchangeability and flexibility in ministry are essential. There is in our culture an increasing cynicism about divisions among churches, and a lack of passion for and identity with denominational entities. When we labor for unity, our own identities are clarified and redeemed.

Naming our oneness in Christ will be the fulcrum that will energize new and creative ministries in our communities, and joint activism for the dawning of God’s justice in the world. In passionate outreach to the world, “two are better than one,” for they lift each other up—and with Christ at the heart of this communion we will discover “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12). 

Participants:
Bishop Frank Brookhart (Episcopal Co-chair)
Bishop Gregory Palmer (United Methodist Co-chair)
The Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey (United Methodist)
The Rev. Jordan Haynie Ware (Episcopal)
Dr. Deirdre Good (Episcopal)
The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Williams (United Methodist)
The Rev. Patricia Farris (United Methodist)
The Rev. Dr. Tom Ferguson (Episcopal)
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson (United Methodist)
The Rev. Dr. James Howell (United Methodist)
Bishop David Rice (Episcopal) 

Staff: Dr. Glen Alton Messer (United Methodist), Ms. Jeanette Nunez (United Methodist), the Rev. Margaret Rose (Episcopal) 

 
Episcopalians and United Methodists met in Chicago, Illinois for the fourth session of their Dialogue on Full Communion (26-28 October 2016). Committee members and staff from each church shared in conversation, meals, and prayer.  In personal...

Reports by Ellen K. Wondra

Commission on Faith and Order, June 17-24, 2015, Monastery of Caraiman, Busteni, Romania

Following the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2013, the Commission on Faith and Order was reconstituted and had its first meeting at the Monastery of Caraiman near Busteni, Romania. The Commission comprises 49 members from 5 continents, supplemented by 5 WCC staff members, 3 consultants, and 1 guest. In addition to TEC, two other churches of the Anglican Communion are formally represented: the Church of England and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

This was the first meeting for about two-thirds of the Commissioners. Much of the meeting entailed orienting new members and reviewing the purposes and procedures of Faith and Order. The Commission’s primary purpose is “to serve the churches as they call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one Eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe.” Over the next eight years, this work will be carried out within the framework of the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.

Considerable time was given to building a consensus about major task areas for Faith and Order for the next few years. Three general areas of study were discerned, along with initial areas of focus:

  • The Church on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in Today’s World
    • Theological and ecclesiological foundations of pilgrimage, justice and peace;
    • Proclaiming and confessing Jesus Christ with one voice in a multireligious, multicultural world;
    • Church facing the issues of justice, peace and creation; issues of migration, racism, economic justice
  • Pilgrimage Towards a Common Vision of the Church (with attention given to specific themes of authority and anthropology):
    • Promote the reception and response to the ecclesiological study The Church: Towards a Common Vision and analyze official responses;
      • give further attention to bilateral dialogues engaging the theme of the church;
      • indicate further work to be done;
    • use The Church as a means for dialoguing with “newer” or “emerging” churches on their understanding of the church;
    • convene a consultation exploring the progress made from Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry to The Church: Towards a Common Vision;
    • study ecclesiology in relation to pneumatology (i.e. the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church);
    • reflect on newer ecclesial movements and expressions
  • The Church on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace Engaged in Moral Discernment:
    • Proceed with the moral discernment project on the basis of what has already been accomplished;
      • prepare study materials for its use and discussion locally;
      • organize a consultation in which points of agreement, methods, and differences are clarified;
      • explore what processes are at work when a community decides to change its moral position on a particular issue.
    • Two small working groups, one on authority, both in relation to moral discernment and in relation to ecclesiology; and another one on anthropology.

For the remainder of the meeting the study groups met and organized their work for the coming two years. All Study Groups are expected to meet at least once before the next Commission plenary in Summer 2017.

Participation in the Commission on Faith and Order offers TEC an opportunity to participate in the shaping of the worldwide ecumenical agenda—a possibility not presently offered by the Anglican Communion—and to learn from other churches in regard to important issues such as justice and peace, and moral discernment in relation to ecumenical ecclesiology. These are both important themes within TEC as well as between TEC and its dialogue partners. TEC’s representative is a member of Study Group 2, working on responses to The Church and on fostering relations with “newer” and “emerging” churches, including evangelical and Pentecostal churches.

 

Meeting of Study Group 2, Pilgrimage Towards a Common Vision of the Church, June 16-20, Klasztor Ojców Dominikanów, Krakow, Poland

At this meeting, Study Group 2 divided into two subgroups: Subgroup 1 to discuss WCC engagement with “newer” and “emerging” churches (including Pentecostal, evangelical, and charismatic churches); and Subgroup 2 to assess responses to the WCC convergence document The Church.

Subgroup 1 has identified seven categories of ecclesiology with which a Faith and Order dialogue can be engaged. A 3000 paper for each ecclesiology will be completed by January 2017. is planned to provide by January 2017. The objective of these papers is to ask: “How do these ecclesiologies respond to TCTCV?”. Connections with the leaders of mentioned churches will be also planned. The members of the Sub-group 1 have considered that there is no need to meet again before the Commission 2017. The work can be done by videoconferences. A first contact after Krakow’s meeting will take place in September 2016, organized by the F&O’s Secretariat.

Subgroup 2 discussed 19 of the 20 responses to The Church received thus far. Nineteen of these responses are from Europe, Australia and North America; one is from India. The group discussed how to elicit more responses from the Global South and non-Anglophone churches; and how to discern the significance of the low number of responses from these areas. The responses are largely welcoming and positive towards The Church, with various points of critique, mention of issues that are still contested, and many comments on themes that need further elaboration. The group identified a number of common themes that group members will investigate more carefully in the responses:

  • Apostolic faith in relation to the historic episcopate; authority and primacy
  • The role of laity and synods
  • The relationship between the local and universal Church
  • Definition of legitimate diversity, the nature of unity, the nature of authority and the theme of moral discernment.
  • Koinonia – a theme that is received positively, but requires more elaboration
  • The theme of sin in relation to the church as such
  • Sacraments and the sacramentality of the church
  • Further work on Chapter 4
  • Reception

The deadline for responses is December, 2016, with responses expected from TEC, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Orthodox churches. The subgroup will meet via Skype or a similar platform, and face to face in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2017.

The Episcopal Church’s representative, Ellen Wondra, a member of Subgroup 2, will work with TEC to produce a response to The Church before January 2017. A draft response will go to the meeting of Executive Council in October 2016, for consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on World Mission and, it is hoped, Executive Council as a whole. Dr. Wondra will also review responses to The Church to discover how they consider the theme of koinonia.

Respectfully submitted

(The Rev.) Ellen K. Wondra, PhD
Research Professor Emerita of Theology and Ethics
Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation
Chicago, Illinois

Reports by Ellen K. Wondra Commission on Faith and Order, June 17-24, 2015, Monastery of Caraiman, Busteni, Romania Following the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2013, the Commission on Faith and Order was reconstituted and had...