Saturday, February 02, 2008

Food, Fellowship & Faith Dialogue Dinners

Formal dialogues have been taking place between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints for some time now, both in private academic forums as well as public events. I believe these activities and venues are important and that they should continue. I also believe that other forms of dialogue need to take place, and that perhaps the most promising venue for understanding is in our neighborhoods. I have been amazed in Utah as at times I have seen LDS wards meeting for services each Sunday right next to traditional Christian churches, and yet each religious community rarely acknowledges the existence of the other, let alone attempts to engage in dialogue.

We are experimenting with a process that we hope will address this situation. This coming weekend we will be hosting what we hope will be the first of many potluck gatherings that will include a small number of Latter-day Saints from my neighborhood, as well as traditional Christians. This will not be a place for proselytizing by either religious community, and it will be constructed as a safe space for the development of relationships and understanding. The first meeting is designed to bring us together around food and fellowship, and members of each religious community will have an opportunity to share their testimony and faith story. We hope to build on this with future gatherings as we build relationships and feel more comfortable talking about issues of faith.

Perhaps our small gathering will serve as a model for dialogical dinners that can be replicated in other neighborhoods.

7 comments:

Matt Stone said...

May your gatherings be blessed!

Anonymous said...

Dear John,

I have read your post, "Food, Fellowship, & Faith Dialogue Dinners" carefully, and offer the following questions for your consideration:

1. In light of 2 Timothy 4:1-2 and Acts 10:42, how do you justify not "proselytizing" or witnessing to Mormons when the opportunity presents itself?

2. In light of Amos 3:3; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 5:11; and 2 Corinthians 6:14, how do you justify bringing Christians together in "fellowship" with Mormons?

3. In light of Acts 20:27-31; Galatians 2:4-5; and 2 John 1:9-10, how do you justify providing Mormons "an opportunity to share their testimony and faith story" within earshot of Christians, some of whom may be innocent and unwary of the vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity?

Thank you, John. I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely in Christ,
Bud Press, Director
Christian Research Service
www.christianresearchservice.com
Jude 3

John W. Morehead said...

Bud, in answer to your questions:

1. I distinguish between proselytyzing and the sharing of the faith (evangelism or witness). These dialogue dinners will be an opportunity primarily for understanding, but members of both religious comminities will have the opportunity to respectfully share their faith if opportunities arise.

2. A closer reading of the totality of the New Testament indicates that relationships, even friendships, are appropriate between traditional Christians and those of other faith and non-faith positions. This is distinguished from a context of common Christian fellowship.

3. The traditional Christians who will be involved in this event are mature in their faith.

Having answered your questions and demonstrated that their is nothing improper or unbiblical about this upcoming dialogue dinner, I would invite you to move beyond critique and your emphasis on defending the faith to incarnational ministry amidst the lives and subcultures of others.

Anonymous said...

Dear John:

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I had hoped you would take the time to provide (or demonstrate) Scriptural references to your answers, especially in reply #2 and your final paragraph.

Concerning your final paragraph, for me to "move beyond critique" and "emphasis on defending the faith" would involve my downplaying or denying the clear-cut commands of Scripture, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:12; and Jude 3. And I won't do that.

The gospel is offensive to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Peter 2:7-8). Reaching out in compassion, love, and truth to precious souls for whom Jesus Christ died for, sharing the gospel, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting--whether it is convenient or inconvenient--is what God calls Christians to do (2 Timothy 4:1-2). But I will do that.

Thank you, John, for allowing me to comment on your blog.

Sincerely in Christ,
Bud Press

John W. Morehead said...

Bud, you missed the point of my invitation. I recognize that the New Testament includes an emphasis on sound teaching, and a warning within the church about false teaching and problematic praxis in the Christian life. That is not an issue. However, when this is the only or primary emphasis, and this is then used as some kind of template for engaging those in new religions, it results in a heresy hunting mentality. And while the gospel is indeed offensive at times, we don't have to add to this difficulty by being offensive ourselves. Therefore, I asked you to consider not only being concerned within the church for doctrinal purity, but also to consider an incarnational form of ministry within the lives and subcultures of others. You will recall that Christ not only excoriated the religious teachers of his own religious tradition but also fellowshiped with and invested in those marginalized peoples in order for them to consdering following his pathway. If we are to truly follow the example of Jesus we must do the same.

As to Scriptural discussion of my views, I wrote an entire blog post that did exactly this and which engages one of the Scripture references you cited. See the post above this one. It might be helpful to read my blog more completely and thoroughly rather than only to find the specific topics and perspectives you disagree with. It appears as if your heresy hunting approach to new religions has also been extended to the blog of an evangelical. That's a pity.

Ross Anderson said...

John,

I'm encouraged to see you put your ideas into practice. I think this strategy is the right approach to interfaith dialogue. It seems to fit in well with biblical passages such as 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 and9:19-22. I'll be very interested to learn more about how things go for you as you engage your neighbors.

John W. Morehead said...

Ross, thanks for your encouragement and support on this, and for providing Scripture references supporting this approach. I hope this is successful and that it might serve as a model for other such dialogical dinners in Utah and beyond.

As to putting ideas to practice, sometimes observers assume that I offer theological theory without practical application in praxis. This dinner represents yet another example of the practical outworking of my ideas in the Evangleical-LDS context. I also engaged Pagans in dialogue, and have worked with others to promote their work in context of interreligious engagement with new religions. My work has always included a combination of fresh theological reflection coupled with its outworking in praxis, and I hope readers can examine these things to consider the lessons they provide in their own contexts.