GACEIR member recounts recent ecumenical and interreligious gatherings
December 26, 2023
As part of my work with the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (GACEIR), I had the opportunity to attend two national meetings over the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends this summer. Not only did I make the acquaintance of many sisters and brothers working to strengthen ties across religious traditions, but I rekindled some longstanding friendships.
I was invited to represent the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the 34th Annual General Synod for the United Church of Christ in Indianapolis, where 2,000 people had gathered for the equivalent of our General Assembly. I sat at a table with representatives of 12 other denominations, all of us given voice and vote. The first night we were on a big stage and had to walk across it as our names were called one at a time. I felt like I was in a beauty pageant! I enjoyed getting to know people from all over the country and world and was invited to many social events for ecumenical brothers and sisters.
Many people mentioned the decline in membership and attendance following the pandemic; many talked of how Christianity would continue in the future but perhaps in homes instead of church buildings. A highlight of the meeting was a sermon given by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber. She recently traveled to Turkey and visited caves with iconic Christian paintings in the mountains where Christians worshiped once other religions became more prominent. She said she wondered if people used to sit in the cave saying, “Remember when this cave was full of young people?” the way Christians do now. A personal highlight was meeting the first Indigenous moderator of the United Church of Canada, the Right Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne. She asked if I could connect her with Indigenous Presbyterians in the United States. I immediately thought of Ruling Elder Elona Street Stewart, who was the first Indigenous moderator of our denomination. They have now connected.
Another summer highlight was attending a seminar put on by the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign combating Islamophobia, which is part of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The campaign spoke at their annual conference, which I had not initially planned to attend this year but was encouraged to go to by the executive director of ISNA.
The 60th Annual Islamic Society of North America Convention was held in Chicago, with me one of over 25,000 people attending. It was amazing when the call to prayer began and people flooded to the prayer hall. There were classes convention-goers could take, a bazaar with 500 vendors, a health fair, a basketball tournament, a movie festival of films made by Muslim artists, convocation speakers and full programming for children, with activities lasting from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Since the society was celebrating its 60th year, all past presidents were invited. This meant I had the chance to catch up with Dr. Sayyid Syeed, who had introduced me to interfaith ministry years before, visited my home town of Redwood Falls, Minnesota for four days in 2016, and spoken at one of our community schools and many other venues. It was a pleasure and an honor to see him again. I also had the opportunity to catch up with many others, as this was my eighth ISNA conference. During most of the conference there were just a couple of Christians present, but on Sunday night ISNA held an interfaith banquet and people from all over attended.
I appreciated the summer’s opportunities to build bridges with people from many different world religions and with ecumenical partners. God’s love abounds!
A slideshow of conference photos by Scott Prouty. Click here to view.
The Rev. Scott Prouty is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, and a member of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations.
Today’s Focus: Rev. Scott Prouty, member of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray
Loving Lord, thank you that in Jesus Christ we are family. Help us never to live only in our own worlds but to seek to walk in partnership with our brothers and sisters around the globe, who have much to teach us about true discipleship. Amen.