A Public Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 5 September 2007 0 Comments
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This week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
television program Compass, hosted by Geraldine
Doogue, ran a production on Interfaith Ministry. It was based on
a book written by Peter Kirkwood and published by ABC Books in
Sydney, Australia. Now I am reading the book — The
Quiet Revolution
— and it is an inspiring story
indeed. I had never heard of the Parliament of the World's
Religions, so I am moving into a set of stories completely new
to me.

Despite the glamorous report presented through the television
lens, the movement may have much goodwill building to do. Given
that I live in a far-flung part of the world, I feel the need
not to invest too much hope in it yet. On the other hand, this
is no time in the life of the planet to be timid and doubtful.
Perhaps you might comment on the movement and provide some
guidance to those of us unfamiliar with, but not averse to, this


The Parliament of the World's Religions is a reputable
organization, developed by competent people, one of whom is The
Rt. Rev. William Swing, retired Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of
California. Whether it is now or will be an effective
organization is still a question. Only time will tell. The
direction in which it seeks to move is quite obviously the
correct one.

Transcending a cultural faith tradition in the name of a
vision of a world religion is not easy. It demands that all
religious systems sacrifice their claims to possess exclusive
truth or to be the sole pathway to God. It invites people to
live in the insecurity of uncertainty and to embrace the fact
that we are creatures bound by time and space, talking about a
God who is not. True religion is not about possessing the
truth. No religion does that. It is rather an invitation into
a journey that leads one toward the mystery of God. Idolatry is
religion pretending that it has all the answers.

Will the Parliament succeed? All I know is that every new
movement begins with a new idea and a single step. This
organization seeks to bring about a conversation where none has
previously existed. Unless we find a way to transcend tribal
limits and the religious systems (including our own) that have
their origins in tribal thinking, I do not believe that there
will be a realistic hope for the future of humanity. Far too
many human beings have already been killed by others in the name
of their God.

So I support this initiative and I hope others will also.

John Shelby Spong




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