Quaker Universalist Conversations

The connection between interfaith and intra-faith reconciliation

By Anthony Manousos

There is a deep connection between interfaith and intra-faith reconciliation, as I learned when I went to my first annual meeting of the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC), Section of the Americas, in Philadelphia last week. Founded in the 1930s, with help from Rufus Jones, FWCC is a Quaker service organization that brings together Friends from the different branches of Quakerism world-wide. It encourages intervisitation and organizes local and global events, including Triennials that draw as many as a 1,000 Friends from every continent and theological persuasion.  I went to the FWCC annual meeting in Philadelphia as a representative of Pacific Yearly Meeting.

I felt drawn to FWCC because I have been doing interfaith work for over twenty years and it seemed like a good time to undertake intra-faith work within my own denomination. Since the 1820s, American Quakers have been splitting up until various branches and twigs. Today there are five main branches—-FGC (liberal, unprogrammed), FUM (mainstream Christian, pastor), Conservative (unprogrammed, Christian), EFI (Evangelical Christian), and Independent or Unaffiliated. The branch that I represent—Pacific Yearly Meeting—is unaffiliated and very independent.

When one feels a leading of the Spirit, one is never sure what Spirit has in mind.  I realized that Spirit had led me to the right place when I began to see many parallels between interfaith and intra-faith.  As Friends talked about the challenges of bringing together Friends of very different theological persuasions and cultural expectations, it became clear that the skills one learns as an interfaith activist can also be applied to this situation.

I was also pleased to learn that FWCC had chosen for its speakers for this session David and Linda Wolfe, a pastoral Quaker couple who took part in a Mennonite “Ministry of Reconciliation” in Qom, Iran. Hearing their message, I knew that I had definitely come to the right place: the Wolfes epitomized what I have been sharing among Friends for the past ten years. After spending a year and a half in Qom, the holiest city of Iran, a country demonized by conservatives, they came back to the USA full of fascinating stories, insights, and perhaps most importantly, questions that help humanize Muslims and illuminate Islam, which James Michener called “the world’s most misunderstood religion.”

As I listened to their presentation, I realize that I might have something unique to offer to Friends in Kenya, and could also learn much from the experience of Friends in that region. My training in interfaith work and compassionate listening could be of some use in a country where Muslims comprise 10% of the population, and where blood has been shed and houses of worship destroyed because of interreligious conflict. I would like to go to Kenya to learn what kind of work Friends are doing to alleviate such conflict, and to share with Friends what I have learned from my interfaith ministry of reconciliation.

This is probably a good place to close this blog entry. For those who’d like to find out more about the Wolfe’s experience in Qom, I recommend going to my blog at laquaker.blogspot.com.

Add a Comment