Christian Unity and Dialogue
‘Generous Love’ inter–faith consultation group meets
Clerical and lay delegates from the various Church of Ireland dioceses gathered in Dublin, on Friday 7th September, to move forward the Church’s consultation on inter–faith mission and ministry, ‘Generous Love’. The name derives from the Anglican Communion’s Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON) document of the same name, ‘Generous Love: the truth of the Gospel and the call to dialogue’. The event had originally been scheduled for March but was postponed because of heavy snowfall.
The keynote speaker at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute was the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev Dr Toby Howarth. Bishop Howarth – who was born in Kenya and studied at Yale and in the UK – shared helpful insights on ‘Generous Love’ with delegates – both clergy and laity – from across the Church of Ireland dioceses.
The bishop spoke of some of the initiatives that had emerged as a result of ‘Generous Love’, in particular the Church of England’s ‘Presence and Engagement’ project, which is ongoing and vibrant. The group warmed to his first–hand stories of inter–faith engagement, alongside his understanding of the Christian need to respect, and to lovingly and courageously engage in friendship and dialogue with people of other faiths, while remaining true to the one Lord, Jesus Christ.
The afternoon session was introduced by the Rev Canon Patrick Comerford, after which the Rev Suzanne Cousins (Moville Group, Derry and Raphoe) spoke on ‘Generous Love in Multi–Faith Ireland’, her recently published dissertation (March 2018). This study in part examines the NIFCON document and the Church of England’s ‘Presence and Engagement’ initiatives that followed it, with a view to exploring what the Church of Ireland might learn from these for the increasingly multi–faith mission context that is Ireland. The presentation included photos taken at a recent Letterkenny Intercultural Platform Arabic event, which parishioners from Moville and Donagh attended and thoroughly enjoyed.
During the consultation day, there was much positive and healthy sharing of experiences of inter–faith engagement – witness, service and dialogue – that is already ongoing or envisaged for the parishes and dioceses represented.
The day carried with it a sense of optimism and determination to seek God’s help in developing this area of the Church’s work and life, and a feeling that this was timely. It is hoped that a strong and supportive network of interested people from across the dioceses will grow from the event.