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Multi-faith Events

Multi-faith events acknowledge the presence of different faith groups in the community and provide an opportunity for the Christian faith to be represented in a pluralistic environment.

New Zealand Churches have long operated within a cultural context increasingly secularised but derived from European Christendom, tempered with a growing appreciation of and accommodation to the spirituality of te Ao Maori. With immigration and the resettlement of refugees, New Zealand is also becoming a more multi-cultural, pluralistic society, with a growing diversity of faith communities. There are occasions when peoples of different faiths may be invited to participate in community events. These may be initiated in contexts such as school ceremonies, civic celebrations and in the aftermath of traumatic situations, which provide opportunities for people to acknowledge the spiritual dimension of life.

Definitions

'Multi-faith' events suggest that representatives of diverse faith communities may participate but that the principles of their differing faiths will not be compromised. This statement is not about meetings between different branches of the Christian church or about inter-faith dialogue between the representatives of different religions.

Principles

The Bible provides principles which protect the integrity of the Christian faith while encouraging openness to people of other faith communities.

  • As Salvationists, we testify to the name of Jesus as the way of salvation (Acts 4:12, John 14:6). The centrality of Christ cannot be compromised.
  • The biblical tradition recognises that God is at work in the whole world and in every person and faith tradition. In the Old Testament even pagan rulers are declared God’s servants (John 14:6) and the New Testament expresses God’s intention of gathering all creation into one (Ephesians 1:9-10).
  • Relationships with other faith communities should be characterised by mutual respect (Romans 12:18).  Multi-faith events are not occasions for confrontation or proselytising. Dialogue, involving testimony, is a more appropriate methodology for evangelism.

Practical involvement

The Salvation Army supports co-operation in events which celebrate our shared humanity, such as relief work, community development and civic celebrations. When Salvationists are present at such events they affirm what they believe to be true about God and their relationship with him. They give witness to God’s revelation to the world through Jesus Christ.

Where it is planned to include a religious dimension in a community event, the leaders of the religious groups involved should be responsible for the planning of that involvement rather than leaving it to civic or secular community leaders to decide how it should be done. It should be made plain that statements of faith made represent the convictions of particular groups of people and not statements having the assent of all participants.

Multi-faith events are better held at a 'neutral' venue such as a community facility or in the open air than in a church or other faith-specific location. In a multi-faith event, representatives of each faith can play their parts separately in a segmented programme, each contributing from out of their own faith experience.

However, The Salvation Army does not participate in any form of multi-faith worship where Christian and non-Christian worship is 'blended' and where the distinctive beliefs of Christians would be compromised.

Approved by International Headquarters
August 2005