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Welcoming the Interfaith Future

Religious Pluralism in a Global Age


Frederick Quinn

Members of many religions live alongside one another in sprawling urban centers and isolated rural communities, and conflict and misunderstanding among religions are widespread. From a Christian and Anglican perspective, this book searchingly examines the nature of such encounters and explores the meaning of religious dialogue and terms like conversion, syncretism, salvation, and pluralism. Tightly focused historical chapters discuss expanding twentieth- and twenty-first-century Catholic and Protestant views about other religions and conclude with a fresh interpretation of the formative Asian contribution to contemporary interfaith encounters. Three established, successful examples of on-the-ground religious interaction are also presented, including the work of Muslim leader Eboo Patel in Chicago, Episcopal Bishop William E. Swing in San Francisco, and Anglican Bishop Tim Stevens in Leicester. Ultimately, interfaith religious dialogue benefits from the prayerful use of visual symbols in addition to written commentaries. Several important, innovative Anglican figures are considered, including Kenneth Cragg, Alan Race, David F. Ford, Keith Ward, Desmond Tutu, Ian S. Markham, and Rowan Williams. The Anglican document «Generous Love» (1998) is presented as a wider, inclusive discussion of possibilities for interfaith dialogue. The author concludes by reflecting on the importance of the old hymn, «There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy» in the evolution of his own views and as a foundational statement welcoming the interfaith future. This book is a solid, lively, and lucid introduction of a volatile issue rippling its way through the contemporary Anglican Communion.


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5. The Protestant Strain (from 1945 on) 98


A growing interest in exploring the content of other religions, their histories, and the cultures of which they were a part was a feature of Protestant thought in the sec- ond half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, a stark dualism prevailed, many Protestant missionaries encouraged local peoples’ to accept a Western export ver- sion of unalloyed Christianity that included the categorical rejection of indigenous beliefs and practices, art and music. Once I encountered an elderly French mission- ary who had spent many years in the rainforests of Cameroon, and proudly showed me a room where converts turned in their traditional African marks and ritual objects, which he burned as “fetishes.” Meanwhile, museum curators were period- ically traversing the rain forest, trying to find such objects for their collections. The preeminent Protestant theologian of midcentury, Paul Tillich, was deeply moved by his late in life encounter with Buddhism in Japan, said he wished he could start all over on his theological writing, and sketched out a “Religion of the concrete spirit” which he left undeveloped. Lesslie Newbegin, a leading writer on Western missionary thought, was both an astute observer of India, where he lived and wrote for many years, and unyielding in his conviction that its religions were deficient. Newbegin was not an academic theologian, but wrestled throughout his life with questions raised in cross-cultural religious contact. Still, a greater under- standing of and tolerance toward other world religions was a feature of most of 5 The Protestant Strain (from 1945...

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