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Islamic and Christian theological institutions make important contributions to the progress of interreligious dialogue and relationships in Indonesia. The practices of lecture exchanges and resource sharing between Islamic and Christian academic institutions have become quite common. For instance, the Faculty of Theology of Duta Wacana Christian University and Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, both in Yogyakarta, have established a long-term formal cooperation in both teaching and research activities. It can be said that the reputation of the study of religions in those institutions depends heavily on the maintenance of their mutually constructive cooperation. Indeed their cooperation has attracted several universities abroad, not only to learn from them, but also to participate in the relationships.


Relationships between Muslim and Christian academic institutions have also transformed the approach of the study of religions employed in those institutions. Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, for instance, has been a pioneer in introducing critical textual study of the Koran and phenomenological study of religions. Figures such as Professor Mukti Ali, a former rector of that institution, and Professor Amin Abdullah, the present rector, contribute much to the development of such approaches within the Islamic academic circle. In the case of Duta Wacana Christian University, its Centre for the Study of Religions not only conducts collaborative research projects involving Muslim partners, but also the annual “Studi Institut Tentang Islam: SITT’ (Institute of Study about Islam), aiming at equipping Christian leaders with fresh knowledge on Islam learned directly from Muslim scholars and leaders. In 1996, the centre conducted a seminar, inviting other Christian theological schools in Indonesia, in which curricula regarding religious studies in Christian theological seminaries were reviewed, with a perspective on interreligious dialogue in mind.


Yahya Wijaya (Th.M., 1996)
Yogyakarta, Indonesia



The Sts. Peter and Paul Romanian Orthodox Church is located in College Point, Queens, New York. It has been offered liturgical hospitality by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for the Romanian congregation to do services and organize cultural events. This cohabitation of the sacred space has led to many interfaith experiences, concretized in mutual ecumenical participation in major events on both sides: Holy Week, Easter, Christmas, the blessing of the ice cross in front of the Church at Epiphany (in the Orthodox tradition) and others. The Episcopal congregation, led by Frater Paul E. Hamilton, is an example of openness for the application of the ideal ecumenical goal: unity in diversity.


Theodor Damian (Th.M., 1990)
Woodside, New York



Covenant Presbyterian Church, Lubbock, Texas: At a Maundy Thursday service, Imam Mohamed El-Moctar, synagogue president Anne Epstein, Hindu scholar Raviprakash Dani, and myself as pastor of Covenant, offered insights and prayers from each religious tradition around the theme “Prayer in Extremis.” Convenant hosted a General Assembly Interfaith Listening Team from the Philippines, which included a Christian pastor and an Islamic community organizer who participated in joint events of the church and the mosque. My wife and I were guests of the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue for a religious and cultural trip to Turkey. Covenant will participate in 2006 in an interfaith group offering worship experiences in the three Abrahamic faiths, Hinduism, and Baha’i, with Buddhism and other traditions to follow in 2007.


Davis Price (M.Div., 1972)
Lubbock, Texas



This year the Milesburg Presbyterian Church was involved with five other churches consisting of Methodist, Assembly of God, Baptist and independent in our community to put on an outreach event for the local community children at Halloween. The idea was to present another message besides the ghost and goblins associated with Halloween. We had two different sites in the community where the children could gather instead of roaming the streets. At each site there were food and games along with videos and storytelling that present the message of Jesus to the kids. More than 500 children participated in the event.


John Becker (M.Div., 2002)
Milesburg, Pennsylvania



I am the founder and facilitator of Heart to Heart Women’s Ministry. Our sole purpose is to live out God’s mandate to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” We understand that in order to love our neighbor, we must first love ourselves. God has provided us with a safe place for self-examination; therefore, we share our laughter, hopes, dreams, tears, and pain. We share our lived experiences and we learn from each other. Among this group are the young and the mature, and the faith communities represented are African Methodist Episcopal, United Methodist, non-denominational, Presbyterian, and those of the Jewish faith.


Shirley Hensford, (M.Div., 2003)
Queens, New York



I experience interfaith relationship mainly in the hospital setting where I work as Protestant chaplain. My daily ministry is to provide spiritual care for patients and their families whose faith and religion are varied. Located in urban Los Angeles, my hospital serves a community that consists of multiethnic immigrant populations, largely Hispanics from various parts of Latin America, Koreans, Armenians, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Russians. My ministry as a spiritual care provider serves to meet the spiritual needs on the basis of different faiths and religious background of patients and their families. Among them are Catholics, Protestant Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus. Being a Presbyterian chaplain, I listen to their spiritual status and coordinate with local religious and faith leaders if requested by them. Prayers and resources from different faiths as well as interfaith services are vehicles that meet the needs of patients and their families as well as employees. Chaplaincy is a very rewarding ministry of interfaith relationship that expands God’s world by listening to others in different religions.


Shin-Hwa Park (M.Div., 1979)
Los Angeles, California



Since my arrival in Brazil in 1949 I have included ecumenical activities in my ministry: founding an ecumenical community center in a city of shacks; cooperation with Catholics in struggles for land reform; participation in the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (CONIC), which is made up of seven churches, including Roman Catholic. Recent campaigns have been: “Human Dignity and Peace,” and “Happy Are Those Who Build Peace.” We have participated in a national referendum for the disarmament of the population, as well as solidarity among all people, overcoming violence with love and justice.


Jon Lawrence Miller (b 1948)
Brasilia, Brazil



With a traditional education in biblical studies, I taught the Bible with passion at a seminary in New York City and at a Presbyterian college in Tennessee. After a midlife crisis, I had to abandon my love of teaching. I spent three years in cognitive and clinical therapy, through which I enhanced my understanding of my feelings. Eventually I became a pastoral psychotherapist.


For the next quarter of a century, I listened to anguished cries from agnostics, Christians, Jews, and Muslims. I listened and responded, drawing on the wisdom of Jesus Christ, the teacher, and on my training in Freudian psychoanalysis. One of my last patients, a defrocked minister, was a victim of bipolar illness. He had divorced, lived in isolation, and was unemployed. Medicine and therapy calmed his mania and elevated his black moods. Now he is happily married. He is counseling adolescents in a Florida detention center. The irony is that I myself have the same brain dysfunction. I am grateful to have been a witness to the healing power of Christ in this man’s life and in my own.


Donald M. Stine (M.Div., 1956; Ph.D., 1964)
Prescott Valley, Arizona



During the past five years, I have been involved in my church’s commission on “service and witness,” where we financially support secondary and high school students from economically unfortunate families. This is more of “evangelism.” As to the “interfaith relationships between communities of faith,” we provide free medical services for members of the community at large Christians and Muslims. We visit villages where we have Christians (usually minority) and call anyone who is sick to come. It is more of “doing” dialogue. Our church members give weekly donations, earmarked for the commission activities.


Nico Likumahuwa (T 1983) MATS
Salatiga, Indonesia



I am serving as a Lilly Resident Minister in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Within the first week of work, I received a letter from a group called The Interfaith Roundtable of Washtenaw County. The letter explained the group, and invited me to a lunch meeting. This group was composed of every religion I have ever heard of, including Hindu, Baha’i, Church of Scientology, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and a few others. This group meets monthly to discuss issues of common concern, including dialogue about war/peace issues.


From the first meeting, (which was well attended) I learned about an interfaith theater troupe that was forming. Having an interest in interfaith dialogue (it was part of my undergraduate degree) and knowing the influence interfaith dialogue can have on youth, I become involved. I am now part of the leadership for this theater troupe. The group will be composed of 10 youth who will engage in dialogue. From their conversation and with the help of a playwright from the University of Michigan, the group will craft a script. The play will then be performed by a troupe of five youth from various religions backgrounds in different congregations and communities around the area.


M. Amanda Adams (M.Div., 2005)
Ann Arbor, Michigan



I spent the first two weeks of February 2005 in Hyderabad, India. I was supposed to be there on business but I was determined to experience as much of this culturally and religiously diverse area as possible. The people of the Hyderabad-Secunderabad area are about one-quarter Muslim, the largest such population that far south in India.


My company’s site manager was Muslim, most of the staff Hindu, and the supervisor I worked with most closely was a Catholic from Goa who worships at St. Mary’s Church in Secunderabad. The entire atmosphere was very cooperative, upbeat, and optimistic. My hotel room looked out over Hyderabad’s central lake, which has a large Buddhist statue of recent vintage, my first and last sight of each day.


I learned that there was a major Buddhist excavation 150 km south of Hyderabad associated with the sage Nagarjuna, inventor of the zero and an early semiotician. I got a car and driver through the hotel to make a Saturday trek south that proved to be a bit more arduous than expected. The land south of the city is drought-stricken and sparsely populated. One passes a number of religious shrines, schools, and retreats, the most imposing of which was the large grey stone sanctuary of the Baptist Mission Hyderabad.


Nagarjuna’s hill is now an island in the midst of a man-made lake, and accessed by the usual long flight of Buddhist stone steps. My feet are not as good as they once were and I had to lean on the shoulder of my small but doughty driver all the way up and down the steps. I lived in Germany and Japan as a child and have traveled a good bit since, but experiencing the wonderful cooperation and warm-heartedness of the various peoples of Hyderabad was a humbling and uplifting experience.


Kenneth S. Gallagher (M.Div., 1973)
Conshohocken, Pennsylvania



This year at Thanksgiving, Lake Shore Baptist held a Thanksgiving service with Congregation Agudath Jacob, a local Jewish congregation. In planning the service we included traditional Thanksgiving hymns, a prayer from the Jewish prayerbook, and Psalms with particular significance to both congregations. The service was held at Lake Shore and followed by an informal reception to get better acquainted. We planned the service to fit our church’s liturgy primarily while the rabbi gave the sermon. Next year we will hold the service at Agudath Jacob, centered primarily on their liturgy, and I will preach for the service.


Dorisanne Cooper (M.Div., 1996)
Waco, Texas



While a student in the Class of 1996 working toward an M.Div. after 30 years in the advertising business, I was recruited to become chief executive officer of ACTS Retirement-Life communities, the nations largest faith-based builder/owner/manager of retirement communities. While its 7,500 residents and 5,500 employees come from many faith traditions, we were able to transition all 17 chaplains to full-time roles, enabling them to minister through worship services, Bible studies, and visitation to the residents, while also being available for employee spiritual needs.


George Gunn Jr. (M.Div., 1996)
Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania



Following graduation from PTS with an M.Div. in 2005, I began a year-long residency in clinical pastoral education within the Department of Spiritual Care at Harborview University of Washington Medical Centers in Seattle, Washington. Our program offers patients, families, staff, and students the opportunity to embrace the spiritual component of health, illness, trauma, and death. We recognize a diversity of cultures and spiritual needs by the ecumenical nature of our ministry, and by our partnerships with the greater faith community. With empathy and compassion we foster a supportive learning environment, and serve as a tangible spiritual presence representative of God’s healing, hope, and forgiveness.


Susan Montoya-Sledge (M.Div., 2005)
Seattle, Washington



I am a retired PCUSA pastor living on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York. The Religion Department here sponsors the Abrahamic Initiative, which brings speakers and discussion leaders from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Daily worship services are ecumenical, as are the evening song services, and afternoon discussions. They have an excellent web site.


Nelson O. Horne, (M.Div., 1952; D.Min., 1984)
Chautauqua, New York



I had finished the third Sunday services in a “hostile fire zone,” and the airmen were filing out of the tent. I noticed that one young woman hung back, and when it was just the two of us, she smiled and said, “Chaplain, thank you for letting me be here today and I hope it was okay that I took communion.” I smiled and asked, “Is there a reason why it might not be okay?” She paused for a moment and said, “I’m Jewish.” Then she looked up at me and said, “But chaplain, I have felt so alone and it was just so important to me to be around people who believe.”


John Groth (M.Div., 1984; Th.M., 1996)
Dover, Delaware



The Ozone Park Presbyterian Church is composed largely of Indo-Caribbeans, Asian Indians who originally came to Trinidad and Guyana as indentured workers. Their families are universally religiously diverse, composed of Hindus, Christians, and Muslims, and they coexist without rancor or debate. True religion is about what binds us together, and is evidenced by love. No religion has cornered the market on this value. True love makes dialogue unnecessary.


Richie Kusterbeck (M.Div., 1986)
Ozone Park, New York



Following Vatican Council II, Nicola Fusco (who was a personal friend of John Paul 23rd, and attended the council) invited me to speak to the local Dioceses’ Commission on Unity in response to the new spirit of ecumenicity the council inspired. That contact led to a friendship and to the adventure of a number of interfaith experiences. He invited me to participate in the first interfaith wedding at his church. On another occasion, I participated in the baptism of a child whose parents were Catholic and Protestant. He also invited me to speak to His Holy Name Society on Palm Sunday morning. When I was president of the local clergy group, we shared in a number of interfaith efforts. Perhaps the most exciting was setting up an interfaith memorial service at the high school at the time of John Kennedy’s assassination. This service included portions of the Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish funeral traditions. This took place when I was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.


Roger Ruhman (M.Div., 1958; Th.M., 1970)
Metamora, Illinois



The World Council of Churches (WCC) sponsored a “critical moment in interreligious dialogue” conference at its offices in Geneva, Switzerland, in June 2005. Hosted by the moderator of the central committee, Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, the conference welcomed religious leaders, including administrators, academics, ascetics, and humanitarian and human rights workers from one of the widest ranges of faiths ever assembled at such a meeting. The stated goal was to review, analyze, and assess the global experience of interreligious dialogue and collaboration in recent years. A report, with recommendations for future action, will be delivered to the 9th Assembly of the WCC when it meets in February 2006 at Porto Alegre, Brazil.


The following is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for the WCC Public Information Team at the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Athens last May. I think it is spot-on regarding the WCC’s current, delicate approach to interfaith matters.


Michael Kinnamon Interview


Ecumenical theologian surveys the CWME


“An ecumenical movement that doesn’t involve conversations between people who disagree would not be an ecumenical movement,” remarked Michael Kinnamon in an interview at the conference on world mission and evangelism (CWME). The author of The Vision of the Ecumenical Movement—And how It Has Been Impoverished By Its Friends (Chalice Press, 2003) is not reluctant to disagree even with friends and colleagues in the search for truth and Christian unity.


Dr. Kinnamon, a minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is professor of mission, peace, and ecumenical studies at Eden Theological Seminary in suburban Saint Louis, Missouri. He has served on the staff of the WCC’s Faith and Order commission as well as on many national and international church committees and task groups.


Expanding participation


Kinnamon has been pleased that the Athens mission conference is taking the risk of including a broader range of church traditions than have pat conferences. Even so, he notes that the involvement of increased numbers of Catholics and Pentecostals, as well as Protestants and Orthodox, comes at a certain cost.


“With the phenomena of fragmentation and globalization, the growing reality confronting churches in mission is a religious pluralism that has itself become global,” explains Kinnamon. “This means that the great question for us is that of inter-religious dialogue, yet the interfaith dimension of mission is noticeable by its absence from the agenda of this conference. Partly, this is simply because one conference can’t deal with everything. But expanding participation on the part of Christian traditions may also make some issues more difficulty to deal with.”


He continued, “As an ecumenist, I want to say an emphatic Yes! to expanding participation in the movement. But we should recognize that it does complicate things. For the moment, we continue to accept the two main assertions on interfaith relations formulated in the San Antonio mission conference in 1989: We know that we can place no limits on the extent of God’s grace, but at the same time we know that we are called as Christians to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” Kinnamon expresses the hope that, “as the relationship matures” among traditions represented at this conference, a new conversation may begin examining “the place of faiths other than Christianity in God’s plan for salvation.”


Theodore A. Gill Jr. (M.Div., 1975)
Geneva, Switzerland



Providence Health System, a ministry of the Catholic Church based in Seattle, has developed a ministry leadership formation program to prepare leaders to serve in the Catholic healthcare ministry. Its goal is to engage executives in understanding, verbalizing, and operationalizing the faith commitments and implications of the organization’s sponsors while respecting their own integrity as persons who may not be Catholic or even Christian. The program is offered in three stages: Orientation and Basic Formation, which are courses taken in the first year of hire or promotion, and Advanced, which is a three year course, ideally taken in second through fourth years after hire or promotion.


Jan Heller (M.Div., 1981)
Seattle, Washington



On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the Babylon (New York) Clergy Cluster hosted an interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service at St. Joseph Church. I found this opportunity to work with the local clergy and musicians in shaping the order for worship for evening prayer, including the Jewish music director of Christ Episcopal Church both challenging and satisfying. Choirs from eight congregations provided more than 100 choristers for a collaborative, non-competitive program, while choir directors served as instrumental soloists and accompanists. Since individual outreach offices had already provided Thanksgiving baskets to their needy families, the financial offering received that evening was distributed among all local food banks and soup kitchens.


Chris Heller (D.Min., 1998)
Babylon, New York



We live at Rydal Park, Philadelphia’s largest life-care retirement community. Among our nearly 500 residents, the Christian majority represent multiple Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox denominations. The largest interfaith minority represent several of the Jewish traditions.


Weekly Sunday afternoon worship is conducted by our staff chaplain and frequent visiting clergy. Monthly sabbath services are led by neighboring rabbis, monthly mass by a nearby Catholic priest, and occasional Episcopal Eucharist by a nearby priest. A rich interfaith dialogue, particularly with our large Jewish minority, is a fascinating experience here at Rydal!


Edward O. Poole (Th.M., 1959)
Rydal, Pennsylvania



Central Presbyterian Church (Montclair, New Jersey) held a six-week series of adult education classes that discussed the Presbyterian tradition of recognizing other religions with honor and respect, reviewed a history of modern Israel, and studied the proposal for selective phased divestment. Additionally, Central met with three other Presbyterian churches in Montclair (Grace, Trinity, Upper Montclair) at cluster gatherings planned by the Presbytery of Newark’s Moderator’s Work Group on the Middle East. The first of the three forums examined how the PCUSA arrived at its historic vote in 2004. Panelists with Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian representation led the second conversation. The historical, biblical, and political components of Christian Zionism were examined at the third forum.


Laurie McNeill (M.Div., 1988)
Montclair, New Jersey



I have just been one year at this new call, the Church of Christ Uniting (a joint Methodist and Presbyterian congregation), so my example is from a previous call in the community of Springfield, Ohio. A similar group“Faith Speaking” just had their initial covenant ceremony, but has not yet had action here in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.


Justice, Action, and Mercy (J.A.M.) of Clark County in Ohio is an interfaith organization dedicated to working for justice. It is part of a larger national organization, D.AR.T., that trains religions congregations in direct action in their local communities.


J.A.M. was organized in 2000, with an initial 12 congregations that covenanted together. In addition to Christians who were American Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran denominations, Muslim and Jewish congregations were also a part of our organization. This was especially meaningful after 9/11 when we were already a covenant community that could talk together about our differences and similarities, and make a common witness for peace and reconciliation in the city of Springfield, Ohio.


Direct action groups begin with local congregations. A series of one-on-one meetings are held within the church membership and the local community leaders where issues of concern for families, churches, and the larger community are raised. This leads to understanding and a sense of shared values. From that level, concerns are taken to a joint meeting where issues are open for discussion. The larger group of congregations has a rally where one or two issues are “voted” as the primary concerns for that year. Then educational task forces are assigned to each issue. Civic, religious, and educational leaders in the community are interviewed about their perspectives on the issue. “Best practices” are researched in other cities and communities to see how the problem has been dealt with in other places (there is no need to reinvent the wheel). Once the issue is narrowed down, solutions are suggested, as well as local leaders “targeted” as those who can make a real difference in that area, such as the school board, the mayor, and business owners. Then a rally is called for with those leaders and congregational members so that the issue may be raised and addressed. Congregations covenant with one another to turn out members as a source of political power, indicating that these solutions have broad-based support in the larger community. J.A.M. representatives and community leaders then hold one another accountable to fulfill promises made to address and correct the issues presented.


In the five years that I was on the J.A.M. board, the last year as president, we covered many issues in our local community. A partnership was formed between Head Start and the school board so that four new preschool classes were started in our city schools. Bus schedules were extended to evening hours and routes added from the city to the mall and local restaurants so more local workers could have access to jobs. A “hot spot” campaign was effective in targeting drug centers and forming a partnership with local law enforcement to police the areas identified by local residents, effectively cleaning up some neighborhoods. These are just a few of the needs and concerns that were addressed by congregations coming together as a faith community to work for Justice, Action, and Mercy in Clark County.


Carol Ann Fleming (M.Div., 1980)
Kingston, Pennsylvania



We have a Buddhist named Mark who “belongs” to our church. In November, Mark led an Adult Education Forum. He sees many similarities between the two faiths, particularly in Christ’s teachings on compassion. In his view, what makes a true Buddhist or a true Christian is not what they say they believe, but what they do because they believe. If we could actually live what Buddha and Christ taught, then the world would know peace a teaching from both faiths. It was very inspiring for us Christians to have a Buddhist brother to call us to talk the talk together.


Reverend Linda Lane-Bortell (M.Div., 1992)
Terra Linda, California