To a church under a magnifying glass, interfaith guests brought views from unique angles throughout Convention.
Just ask a Chicago Lutheran ecumenist and a Pakistani expert in Islam who are among about 50 visitors to Convention here, some under the aegis of Bishop Christopher Epting, national church officer for ecumenical and interfaith relations.
Bishop Mano Rumalshah of the Church in Pakistan said sexuality issues should not eclipse interfaith concerns in a warring world.
But the Rev. Randall Lee — national ecumenical officer for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — said he was proud to walk with the Episcopal Church through contentious debates on sexuality’s role in the Church.
Rumalshah, the London-based General Secretary for the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, said the Episcopal Church must not ignore its interfaith responsibilities, especially to dispel myths about Islam.
“There was a deep and quiet expectation that, post Sept. 11, this church would take [more visible steps to address] the interfaith issue seriously,” Rumalshah said.
“One feels sad that this convention again has got [distracted] with just one issue,” he said, stating that he wished more time had been set aside to discuss Islam and its expressions worldwide.
But Rumalshah said he was encouraged by the progress made toward full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
“Last Convention I was very encouraged by the adoption of the covenant of [full communion with the ELCA], and to hear this time that it has realy moved on is a really moving thing,” he said.
Lee, who worked closely on the full communion pact signed at Washington National Cathedral in 2001, said he was honored to be included in this history-making Convention.
“It has been a privilege for me to walk with all of you through these very difficult days [during Bishop Gene Robinson’s consent process], and to be in prayer with you and for you” Lee said.
Lee said the full communion agreement forged between Episcopalians and Lutherans last Convention built the groundwork for the churches strong, supportive relationship.
“The history of full communion is that we share one another’s joys and bear one another’s burdens,” Lee said. “It’s been a remarkable journey for me to be able to do both.”
The Rev. Jonathan Linman, who teaches at New York’s General Theological Seminary, said when different faith groups come together that the mysteries of religion begin to unfold.
Linman said these communions – both formal and informal — are essential for people of different faiths to celebrate both their similarities and their differences.
“Humanism is not seeking the least common denominator,” he said. “It is coming together and sharing with one another.”