Evening events were led by President Richard J. Mouw and Dean Doug McConnell
“Why are we doing this? I think it’s part of our emphasis on hospitality,” explained Fuller President Richard J. Mouw at a recent forum on interfaith dialogue. “This is about making room for our Mormon friends, Muslim friends, Jewish friends—making space in our own lives and hearts for their concerns.”
Two “Why Dialogue?” discussion forums were held Monday and Tuesday, February 9 and 10, at Fuller’s Pasadena campus, both organized by Fuller students Matthew Krabill, Carrie Graham, Cory Willson, and Melody Wachsmuth, in conjunction with the President’s Office.
Monday evening Dr. Mouw presented his thoughts on the “whys” and “hows” of interfaith dialogue from an evangelical perspective. Following his comments, he joined a panel with Professor of Old Testament James Butler, Professor of Systematic Theology Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, and theology student Carrie Graham for a panel discussion, each sharing some of their personal experiences with dialogue.
Tuesday’s talk by Doug McConnell, dean of the School of Intercultural Studies, explored the intersection of our commitments to interfaith dialogue and world mission. Dr. McConnell emphasized the tension between the New Testament “sending” passages and the need to do so relationally, which means taking culture and worldview seriously. Joining McConnell for a panel discussion were Senior Professor of Islamic Studies J. Dudley Woodberry, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and Intercultural Relations Evelyn Reisacher, and School of Intercultural Studies student Matthew Krabill. A time for audience questions closed each event.
Acknowledging that evangelicals’ concern for evangelism often leaves them ambivalent toward interfaith dialogue, panel members urged Fuller students to see how conversation with neighbors of other religions might grow their faith and enhance the communities in which they lead. “In order for a Christian theologian to do good Christian theology, he or she needs to begin to do interfaith dialogue,” emphasized Dr. Kärkkäinen.
Student Carrie Graham shared the significant role interfaith dialogue has played in her own seminary experience, and encouraged others to become involved in interfaith discussions through programs such as InterSem, a retreat for Los Angeles-area seminarians of various faith backgrounds. “I think that it’s too risky to not engage in dialogue,” she said. “This is about acknowledging the context in which we live—locally, globally, interpersonally—and grappling with the things I think we’re called to grapple with.”
“There’s something powerful about watching a descendant of Isaac giving a blessing to a descendant of Ishmael,” Dr. Mouw noted, as he described a powerful experience from his own life when he witnessed connection and dialogue taking place between two individuals of different Abrahamic religions. “In that moment, I had a profound sense that my God was smiling.”
For more information on interfaith dialogue at Fuller, visit www.fullerinterfaith.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.