Change the World Through Interfaith Dialogue
We may see ways in which the outer world needs to change, but how about the ways our inner world needs to change?
Western Hills United Methodist Church in El Paso, Texas, sought to answer this question in an ordinary yet radical way--sitting down to dinner with neighbors. While many churches saw the Change the World weekend as an opportunity to engage in acts of Christian service, one group of Texas churches led by Western Hills saw the event as a chance to listen to and learn from Muslim neighbors in partnership with the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue/Turkish Raindrop House in El Paso, Texas.
Western Hills joined with the Bond Memorial United Methodist Church in Clint, Texas, and First United Methodist Church of Fabens, Texas, to share an Interfaith Dialogue Dinner at the Raindrop Turkish House.
What follows is a reflection from Western Hills Senior Pastor Dr. Mark Alexander on his experience of Change the World, a United Methodist-wide movement that happens in May when churches get involved in their communities in big and small ways.
All of us, I assume, have had chief moments in life that we could say are "game changing" for us. For the four dozen or so Western Hills members who attended the Interfaith Dialogue evening at the Raindrop Turkish House last night, I believe it was such an event. We conversed with new friends from another culture, learned a great deal about the history and land of Turkey, and we heard a short presentation about the Islamic faith quite different from what our American media often relates. I don't believe any of us who attended, dined, and began the dialogue with our new friends will be able to understand Muslim people in the same way.
The fact that we cannot think alike or walk our walk with God alike (Wesley's term was "opinions") should not prevent us from uniting our hearts with others. It is to allow the liberty of other opinions without allowing ignorance or prejudice to preclude our sense of union as people. If our hearts be right with God, and if we seek to live as God-followers with one another, then we should join hands and provoke one another to good works as a response to God's work within us. The narrowness of prejudice and bigotry was universally condemned by our founder.
What I believe we saw last evening were genuine people seeking genuine understanding of one another, and wanting to learn from one another how we might work together to make a better world. We genuinely can learn from one another without compromising who we are or eliminating from our lives those with whom we disagree in our opinions. The Catholic Spirit gives rise to "cordial, hearty fellowship to those whose hearts are right with God, while valuing and praising God for all its own advantages."
Or, as Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim and champion of Interfaith Dialog, once wrote, "The fabric of tolerance is much too weak to hold interfaith dialogue; it must be done between one another through the knitting together of relationship." Praise God, we've begun the conversation that may be "game changing."
View videos and photos or join in the conversation about the Change the World Campaign and link to: rethinkchurch.org/changetheworld.
The General Board of Global Ministries, the mission agency of The United Methodist Church, is a partner with Change the World and Rethink Church: rethinkchurch.org.
Date posted: May 23, 2011