At its first meeting, the Dialogue listed the “relationship of mission, evangelism, and interfaith relations” under its fifth priority of missiology and witness. It turned its attention to interfaith relations particularly at its October 2006 meeting in Edmonton, when it invited interfaith guests Bikkar (Randy) Randhawa (Sikh), Allison Kydd (Anglican), and Don Mayne (United Church) from the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action to meet with them. At the same meeting, the Dialogue considered various documents prepared by each of the two churches:
- resolutions of General Synod regarding interfaith relations
- Anglican “Guidelines for Interfaith Dialogue”
- Anglican guidelines for “Worship with Persons of Other Faith Traditions”
- The UCC statement “Mending the World” and a study guide for it
- a brochure on United Church Statements on Interfaith Dialogue from 1926–1983
- the statement “Bearing Faithful Witness” on United Church-Jewish relations
- the statement “That We May Know Each Other” on United Church-Muslim relations.
Anglicans have not engaged in any direct dialogue with other faith traditions since the 1980s, as they are committed to working at interfaith dialogue ecumenically through the Canadian Council of Churches. The United Church, while sharing the same commitment, has also worked at building interfaith relations, in particular with Jewish and Muslim communities, through study material and joint action to encourage encounter as neighbours in the local community. “Mending the World” serves as both framework and priority for interfaith work.
A United Church member of the Dialogue observed that “once we realized that the call to be a ‘united and uniting church’ was not possible, we had to shift our understanding to work with others as ecumenical partners, instead of as an agent for union. The movement away from interchurch to interfaith reflects some despair at being able to effect ecumenical union.” Others asserted a continuing commitment to interchurch work, reflected in part in the establishment of this Dialogue.
An Anglican member observed that “the shift in the definition of ecumenism to ‘whole world ecumenism’ was seen by some as a unilateral shift that makes it appear that church ecumenism is less significant. It has been helpful to hear the origins of the educational work that the United Church has done and to realize that we are not really in very different places.”
One of the questions for future work in the Dialogue is the theological understanding of what Christians are doing when they engage in relationships with other faiths. What are the implications for Christology?
- That the next phase of the Dialogue undertake a study of Christology in our two churches in light of our consideration of how each church addresses the theological issues involved in interfaith relations.
“How can we learn to be at home in a multitude of settings, and when our teachers are not just those in the front of a classroom, but those who share their wisdom to the benefit and learning for all, in ways that are accessible to all?”
— GORDON JENSEN