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Walking in the Sacred Way: Ojibway Prayer

In a prayer offered by an Ojibway elder, themes of brokenness, restoration, and balance with all of creation are present. From a North American First-Nations/Native American perspective, we can begin to see these themes in a new light within our own communities.

Grandfather,
Look at our brokenness.
We Know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

(more…)

Ecumenical Progress: 5 Thoughts on Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration - AP

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration – AP

Leaders of two major branches of world Christianity joined together on November 30, 2014 to issue a joint statement about the need for shared theological reflection, commitment to common purposes, and dialogue with other religious groups to establish understanding and justice. Special consideration was also given to Christians living in war zones in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, are pictured here signing the resolution. Below are excerpts from the text (inset), with comments following major sections.

For more on these perspectives, see past posts The Impact of Pope Francis and How the East Sees the West.

1. There is a common lineage and history, even if they have been estranged for centuries. By establishing these models at the outset, the statement invites an atmosphere of familial ties.

We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

(more…)

World Cup of Theologians: Greece – Theophilos III

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Theolphilos III, the Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, has been the leader of the Orthodox Church in the region since 2005. In a region of such religious, cultural, and political tension, his leadership of a church with longest historical continuity but a smaller physical presence puts him in a unique position to advocate for religious mutuality and co-existence.theophilos

In 2011, Patriarch Theophilos III sat with Anna Koulouris of the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics, and Culture for an interview about the role of the Orthodox Church in the region.

How much of a role does the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate play in speaking about Palestinian rights, especially with its close proximity to areas like Silwan? Does the church feel a responsibility to take a political stance on the issue?

We try not to interfere or turn ourselves into politicians, but at the same time this does not mean that we do not have compassion for the suffering and the affliction through which the people are passing here. And this is why the churches here have established a kind of council to discuss issues of common concern. We are addressing issues like the recent shooting in Silwan and others. Our purpose is to try, from our position, to contribute to mutual respect and understanding and to peaceful coexistence and symbiosis. This is the duty of the church. This is why we as churches have officially and repeatedly made statements and expressed our position over the status of Jerusalem.

Our position on Jerusalem is that we want it to be an open city, to be accessible to everybody, and that Jerusalem has enough space to accommodate all religious communities. We say it is enough for us to be allowed to visit and venerate the places that are commonly holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Even if we do not have claims over the site itself, we have claims to the holiness and sanctity of the place. The Temple Mount is an example. Another example is King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion. When we have our holy day of Pentecost, which we celebrate in our monastery and at the school on Mount Zion, after the service we go in our liturgical vestments in a procession to King David’s Tomb, which is a synagogue. There we go for worship, to say our prayers and leave. This is what we want. This is our understanding of the holy places. This is why I have said Jerusalem has enough space to accommodate everybody.

Politically speaking, everybody has claims over Jerusalem and everybody wants Jerusalem to be his or her own capital. But from the religious point of view, Jerusalem is the capital of God. And my personal position is that Jerusalem breathes with three lungs: a Christian lung, a Jewish lung and an Islamic lung. And those lungs, they breathe harmoniously. This is how we see the future of Jerusalem.

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Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

Qur’an Christology?

Adrian Warnock has a post about 11 things Muslims agree with Christians about Jesus. How can  a functioning Christology be made out of this to turn the corner from interfaith dialogue to ecumenical dialogue? (more…)

Exploring Peace (excerpts from ‘Living Buddha, Living Christ’)

In this excerpt of “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” Thich Nhat Hanh explains how we can impact the world by changing the way in which we understand and practice peace.

We often think of peace as the absence of war– [we think] that if the powerful countries would reduce their weapons arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds– our prejudices, fears, and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of the bombs are still here, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs.

To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war– to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts– is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come.

(pp. 76-77) (more…)

Sudden Enlightenment, Christian Discipleship

Francis X. Clooney, SJ responds to a question posed following an interfaith event in which he shared his experiences within Hinduism:  “Is enlightenment compatible with Christian faith?”

He writes:

I think there were two components to the question I was asked: First, is it compatible with Christian faith that someone have a sudden, radical change in life, a single mind- and life-altering experience, insight? Second, can a Christian who experiences enlightenment have that irreversible unitive experience, realizing all reality to be simply, entirely one?

The question of enlightenment turns out to be timely, in light of this Sunday’s Gospel, the call of the first apostles in Mark 1.14-20. For is it not a kind of enlightenment scene? Consider what we hear: (more…)

Guidance and Light

This shows an Islamic starburst tile pattern (which traditionally symbolizes the spread of Islam throughout the universe), a lighted lamp and the first half of a verse (5:46) from the Qur’an which states:

Sample Images from "Guidance and Light" by Scott Rayl

“And We (God) sent, following in their footsteps Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which was before him in the Torah, and gave him the Gospel, in which there is guidance and light…” (more…)

Challenging Islamophobia – A Christian Duty

In this article, Ray Gaston of Birmingham, UK argues for a radical interpretation and implementation of 1 Corinthians 13 in response to Islamophobia in the West.

…I want to present not an analysis or apology for Islam, I leave that to Muslims themselves, neither will this be a potted description of the practices of Islam for Christians. (There are other good resources for Christians to find out about Islam and to find out about the particular communities of Muslims that reside in the UK.) Instead I want to argue for a Christian praxis within this context of rising Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime. This praxis is founded upon two sources – one Islamic and the other Christian (more…)

Christian Tirthankara: Ford Finders

This morning I was having a great conversation at Starbucks with Pastor Chris Coffman, the associate pastor of outreach at our church.  We were talking about pastoral sin. (now THERE’S a fun topic for you!)

We talked about the tension between the need/desire for church members to know that their pastors are human, but their fear that they will be “too human”.  Historically when pastors have been shown to be “too human” they are figuratively crucified and drummed out of ministry.   The burden of proof in finding this balance does not lie on the lay person, however. The burden of proof (as it were) lies on the leader.  He or she has the responsibility to make an effort to make the fact of his weaknesses known, without destroying her credibility among the people of the congregation.

I don’t exactly know why, but the concept of tirthankara came to my mind.  (Of course, I’m sure the same thing came to YOUR mind!) Winking smile (more…)

Japanese Theology: What Can Be Learned? (Part 1)

Prior to understanding Japanese Christian theology, it is important to know how the Japanese view religion in general. In Japan there are basically two distinctions when it comes to religion: the revealed and the natural religions. Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and some new religions are considered to be revealed religions, because they have specific books and scriptures to live by and upon which religious life is practiced. In contrary to revealed religions, the natural religions are more tradition and folklore-based religions, followed with few or no specific books or scriptures. Even though Shintoism does have texts and scriptures to a degree, it is considered more as a natural religion.

It is important to emphasize that in Japan, when people talk about religion, they generally mean the revealed religions, and in particular Christianity. When Japanese people mention that they are nonreligious, it means they do not commit themselves to a revealed religion or religious organization. Japanese people often see all the religions as one entity, and not separate from one another. It is often said that the Japanese are born Shinto, marry in a Christian (western) style and die Buddhist, as many Japanese are buried in the Buddhist way. Japanese do not have the urge to be committed to any particular organized religion. In Japanese, this mindset is called mushukyo, meaning “non-religion” or even “non-religious.” (more…)

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