Vital Signs

Episcopalians Go Interfaith

An interfaith education conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Episcopal Church warned that evangelicals and evangelism are potential obstacles to positive relations between Christianity and other religions.

Among the featured speakers at the Interfaith Education Initiative was Methodist theologian Wesley Ariarajah, a former official of the World Council of Churches who has denied the need for Christian evangelism, as well as Harvard professor Diane Eck, also a Methodist and Harvard’s first openly lesbian dormitory mother.  She heads the Pluralism Project, which celebrates the growing interfaith nature of America’s religious demographic.

Also speaking was Shanta Prem-awar-dhana, who heads the National Council of Churches’ interfaith efforts and who shares Ariarajah’s and Eck’s preference for dialogue over conversion.  The conference was sponsored jointly by Episcopal Relief and Development and the church’s Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

Speaking before about 100 people in an auditorium perched high in one of the National Cathedral’s gothic spires, Ariarajah assured a sympathetic audience that the world is “irreversibly interfaith.”

“Globalization has thrown us together as an interfaith community,” said Ariarajah, who teaches ecumenical theology at Drew University in New Jersey.  “We’re...

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