Partner Reflection: Interfaith Harmony Week 2014

Written by Hannah Crivello
February 27, 2014

A reflection by Kathy Sharp, Mission Center President, Greater Pacific Northwest, Community of Christ

When you?re an interfaith friend of Seattle University during the United Nations' "Interfaith Harmony Week", you enjoy a rich banquet of inspiring and fascinating friends who grow your faith and challenge your assumptions. And there will be cheesecake?as rich as the dialogue that precedes it.

So it was on February 6th when nearly 90 interfaith leaders shared a meal and conversation and heard insights on authentic interfaith dialogue from Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, Spehar-Halligan Visiting Professor of Ecumenical Collaboration in Interreligious Dialogue at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry.

Seated with me was a faith leader that became a trapeze artist in mid-life, who taught faith and life lessons to his students. Also at my table was a Jewish young adult running a non-profit for progressive causes in Israel, a Hindu Swami and his assistant, Protestants, and Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry Dean Mark Markuly. My Community of Christ ministry colleague from Nepal was delighted to meet several people of his Southeast Asian culture and language.? We were so different in life experiences, yet so open to what could be learned from each other! Harmony, indeed!

In his keynote, Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon identified challenges we may face when we engage in interfaith dialogue, including from our own faith communities, who may not see its value. On the other hand, Dr. Kinnamon said we should not tolerate ?repressive tolerance?:? in the name of religious diversity, accepting faith practices that diminish human beings. Kinnamon described the four stages of Interfaith Relations, from competition and co-existence to cooperation, and finally, commitment. Commitment, says Kinnamon, means we stay together, ?even in the face of significant disagreement about matters of real importance,? so that we can ?face common challenges that demand shared response.?

Thank you, School of Theology and Ministry, for your generous hospitality and for bringing together a diverse mix of spiritual leaders from the Puget Sound community. I look forward to next year?s table fellowship, and of course, more cheesecake!

For more information on Interfaith Harmony Week at Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry, visit here.