Anglican Approaches to Christian–Muslim Dialogue

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Anglican Approaches to Christian–Muslim Dialogue
Transcript Journal of Anglican Studies DOI: 10.1177/1740355305058891 2005; 3; 219 Journal of Anglican Studies  Michael Ipgrave Anglican Approaches to Christian–Muslim Dialogue   The online version of this article can be found at:   Published by:   can be found at: Journal of Anglican Studies Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: unauthorized distribution. © 2005 SAGE Publications and The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or  by Ilie Chiscari on November 30, 2007 http://ast.sagepub.comDownloaded from    Journal of Anglican Studies  Vol. 3(2) 219-36 [DOI 10.1177/1740355305058891] Copyright © 2005, SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) and The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust. Anglican Approaches to Christian–Muslim Dialogue* Michael Ipgrave A BSTRACT Three aspects of the Anglican understanding of Christianity can make a distinctive contribution to Christian–Muslim dialogue today. Recognition of the importance of context highlights the complexity and variety of the situations in which Christians and Muslims encounter one another. Basing unity on a sense of collegiality which can withstand disagreement offers a model for shared working across religious differences. The interpretation of Scripture through reason and tradition under the guidance of conscience points to a dialogue between those addressed by the Bible and by the Qur’  nrespectively. These themes are illustrated through contemporary Anglican involvement in three Christian–Muslim projects, and their theological implications are explored. In this article, I wish to outline some of the distinctive contributions which Anglicans can make to Christian–Muslim dialogue. I will be looking primarily at areas of method, rather than issues of content; and my treatment will be thematic, rather than historical. 1  I should also make clear that I am not suggesting that it is either possible or desirable to delimit an area of dialogue which is exclusively occupied by Anglicans. Rather, I shall seek to identify some of the distinctive contributions * This paper is adapted from a lecture given in February 2004 at the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue in Tehran, and also incorporates points arising from a dialogue with Shi’ite scholars at the Centre for Religious Studies in Qom during the same visit to Iran. I am very grateful to my friend and colleague Baqer Talebi and other colleagues at the Institute and at the Centre for their hospitality, and for the stimulus they have given to developing my thinking in this area. 1. For an interesting historical survey of some Anglican contributions to this area, see Lucinda Mosher, ‘Anglicanism and Islam: Then and Now’, a paper delivered to the Anglican Society at General Theological Seminary, New York in April 2002. unauthorized distribution. © 2005 SAGE Publications and The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or  by Ilie Chiscari on November 30, 2007 http://ast.sagepub.comDownloaded from   220  Journal of Anglican Studies which Anglicans can offer to the ecumenical involvement of all Christians engaging with Islam and with Muslims. Conversely, it is equally true that Anglicans have been profoundly in fl uenced in their approach to Christian–Muslim relations, and to inter-faith questions in general, by theological perspectives drawn from other Christian traditions, most notably by the corpus of re fl ection which has grown out of the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate  ‘On the Relation of the Church to the Non-Christian Religions’. In particular, I shall be assuming that Anglicanism as a whole is broadly committed to the conciliar position that Christians and Muslims both worship the same God, ‘who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men’. 2  There are indeed many Anglicans who would not accept this thesis, but in so far as an of fi cially endorsed Anglican position can be discerned it takes as a presupposition of dialogue the identity of the God of Christians and the Allah of Muslims. 3  It is important from the outset to recognize that, while Anglican identity grew out of the history of the Church of England since the Reformation, and has been profoundly shaped by that history, recent growth in the Anglican Communion has been particularly in the churches of the global ‘South’, in parts of Africa and Asia. In some of these countries, Anglicans and other Christians are a minority in Muslim-majority states; in others, Christian and Muslim communities of roughly equal size live together. Moreover, in the traditional Anglican heartlands of the British Isles, the USA and the old Commonwealth countries, substantial Muslim minority communities are now to be found. 4  Throughout every part of the Anglican Communion, therefore, Christian–Muslim relations have become an increasingly important theme. Of course, within this complex scene, there are many different ways, at many different levels, and motivated by many different objectives, in which people in our two communities engage with one another. Some of the most vibrant and creative interaction happens in local neighbour-hoods and communities, between churches and mosques, or among individual Christians and Muslims. In what follows, though, I want fi rst 2. Nostra Aetate , cap. 3, in Austin Flannery OP (ed.), Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents  (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1975), p. 739. 3. For justi fi cation of my claim regarding Anglicanism, see Michael Ipgrave, ‘God and Inter Faith Relations: Some Attitudes among British Christians’, in Viggo Mortensen (ed.), Theology and the Religions: A Dialogue  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), pp. 218-34 (230-31). 4. According to the 2001 census in the UK, 1,591,000 people identi fi ed themselves as Muslims, representing 2.7 per cent of the total population ( fi gures on www. unauthorized distribution. © 2005 SAGE Publications and The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or  by Ilie Chiscari on November 30, 2007 http://ast.sagepub.comDownloaded from    Ipgrave  Anglican Approaches to Christian–Muslim Dialogue  221 to describe brie fl y three projects of Christian–Muslim dialogue which have a measure of of fi cial standing within the Anglican Communion. I shall then try to show how, in different ways, all these three re fl ect key aspects of a recognizably Anglican approach. Finally, I shall point to some of the underlying theological challenges which these dialogues present to us. In what I say, I will be speaking in terms of the potential which I believe Anglicanism has to offer in its contribution to Christian–Muslim realities. The painful reality, of course, is that often that potential is unful fi lled. I would argue that one of the reasons that happens is because as Anglicans we often fail to live up to our distinctive vocation. Three Contemporary Anglican Projects Each of the three projects to which I shall refer is in one way or another linked to the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose ministry provides one of the key focal points of unity among Anglican Christians. Each also has an ecumenical dimension. They are, respectively: the monitoring of Christian–Muslim relations undertaken by the Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON); the agreement signed between the Archbishop and the al-Azhar university in Cairo; and the series of ‘Building Bridges’ seminars of Christian and Muslim scholars. Another signi fi cant initiative linked to the Archbishop, which I cannot discuss in detail here, speci fi cally concerns my own country. In the English context, we are exploring ways in which a Christian–Muslim forum can be established at national level, to give a space in which we can together af fi rm our convergences and explore our differences, and to provide a platform from which we can together work for the common good of our society. I mention this here not only because of the impor-tance of the project itself, but also because it highlights a strand in Anglican thinking which seems to me to resonate in many ways with Islamic concerns—namely, the sense we have of bearing responsibility for the well-being of the entire society in which we live, not merely for the de fi ned fellowship of our believers. Project 1 In 1998, presentations on Christian–Muslim relations formed a signi fi cant part of the Lambeth Conference. As a response to these presentations, the bishops mandated the Network for Inter Faith Concerns in the Anglican Communion (NIFCON) to monitor the progress of Christian–Muslim relations around the Communion. NIFCON itself is not involved organizationally in dialogue with Muslim groups, but offers a place for meeting and a space for re fl ection to Anglicans who are so engaged. Like unauthorized distribution. © 2005 SAGE Publications and The Journal of Anglican Studies Trust. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or  by Ilie Chiscari on November 30, 2007 http://ast.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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