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Hospitality, Service, Proclamation, by Tom Wilson 

12 July 2019

This interfaith advice could be even better, says Philip Lewis

THIS fine book should become the go-to text for its target audience: ordinands and those preparing to minister in religiously diverse communities.

The title of the book captures the ethos that informs its five substantive chapters. These address, in turn, Why, Who, When, and How to engage in interfaith practice and dialogue. A further chapter on “What does the Bible say?” provides suggestive exegesis of five OT and five NT readings, including John 14.6.

The book is worth buying for its indispensable appendix alone. This provides an annotated selection of key texts, including novels, to orientate the newcomer in his or her engagement with particular faith communities in Britain today (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Paganism).

Throughout, the book is enlivened by examples drawn from Dr Wilson’s ten years of experience as an Anglican priest in inner-city areas, latterly as director of St Philip’s Centre in Leicester. He does not pretend that interfaith relations are always easy, nor gloss over tensions between hospitality, service, and proclamation; but, time and again, he illustrates how the questions and practice of other faiths have challenged and enriched his own unapologetically, evangelical faith.

The work is testimony to two generations of Anglican endeavour in this field, which has seen the creation of a national network of interfaith specialists. They have resourced parishes and church leaders, creating an unrivalled network of local, contextual knowledge which has fed into a range of national initiatives, some bilateral, such as the Christian Muslim Forum and Hindu-Christian Forum, as well as Presence and Engagement which seeks to address the full range of faiths. The author has been personally involved in many of these developments and flags up their activities, publications and websites throughout the book.

One quibble. There is an informative discussion of the familiar typology — pluralist, inclusivist and exclusivist — developed to reflect upon the salvific status of other religions. The categories are explored through the writings of 12 theologians drawn from a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, and Pentecostal. But for some reason this is included in the chapter “Who engages in interfaith relations?”

For a second edition, the inclusion of two additional appendices would enhance its value: one to discuss how female clergy might navigate relations with faiths whose religious leadership remains male, and where relationships admit to little gender mixing; and another, to reflect on the role and functions of religious specialists in other faiths. Too often, the default position is to assume, for example, that an imam is a vicar with a turban.

Dr Philip Lewis is a consultant on Islam and Christian-Muslim relations, advised bishops of Bradford for some three decades, and taught in Peace Studies at Bradford University.

Hospitality, Service, Proclamation: Interfaith engagement as Christian discipleship
Tom Wilson
SCM Press £19.99
CT Bookshop special price £15

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