12th Assembly 2009

Building bridges of faith

Uniting Church Ex-President, the Rev. Gregor Henderson, has called on Uniting Church members to take up the challenge of building interfaith relationships. Speaking at the launch of a new Relations with Other Faiths website and DVD, Mr Henderson said, “The 21st Century has to be a century of increasing interfaith understanding, interfaith respect and interfaith peacemaking together.”

Many representatives of other faith groups attended the launch. “We welcome you as colleagues in this most important enterprise in maintaining not only good relationships, but good friendships across the different faiths,” Mr Henderson said.

While Assembly is a national event, Mr Henderson reminded people of the importance of interfaith relationships at a local level. He told a moving story to express how different faiths can lead the way in peacemaking in Australian society.

Last December, while he was President, Mr Henderson attended the reopening of a church hall in Auburn that was burnt down in an arson attack after the Cronulla race riots. The local Muslim and Christian communities worked together to raise the funds to rebuild the hall. “It is crucially important that we continue to work together as people of faith across what used to be divisions but what we see are increasingly becoming bridges of faith among us. The more we find ourselves being challenged about our own beliefs, teachings and practices, we then realise that some of them need refining as we learn from each other.”

Mr Henderson said church-based interfaith dialogue in Australia has the potential to lead the way for the rest of the community. “I rejoice in being here today where we in the Uniting Church want to begin to take it to another level in our commitment to interfaith relations.”

Assembly President, the Rev. Alistair Macrae, welcomed people to the launch as friends. “There are great opportunities to model in these relationships how to live peacefully and respectfully with one another in this multi-faith society. He said the theological and ethical imperative to engage in interfaith relations is based in the commandment to love our neighbour. “In order to love your neighbour, you need to know your neighbour.”

Convener of the working group on Relations with Other Faiths, the Rev. Seforosa Carroll, said the launch of the website and DVD was a continuation of the Uniting Church’s commitment to interfaith relations. The website was three years in the making and addresses many aspects of working with groups of other faiths including resources for running interfaith events.

“Interfaith relationships … challenge us to deepen our understanding and tradition so that we can competently and confidently express who we are,” she said.

Jewish representative in dialogue with the Uniting Church, Peta Pellach, agreed that interfaith relations led to personal growth. “We grow and in our growth we become reconfirmed in our own faith,” she said.