Goal of dialogue to ‘deepen understanding’ of one another, says speaker

By Rico De Silva
Catholic News Service

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) — A speaker told participants at the 2015 National Workshop on Christian Unity in Charlotte that a lack of unity "seriously undermines Christian witness in the world from a Muslim perspective, and it’s ever present in our dialogue with Islam."

Sandra Keating, who spoke during an April 21 plenary session, gave a talk on "’Nostra Aetate’ and Christian Witness: What 50 Years Has Taught Us About Visible Unity."

Keating is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic-Muslim dialogue group, and she also is a consultor on the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims.

She spoke to close to 100 Christian leaders representing several denominations and from different parts of the United States about the state of Christian and Muslim relations and the current dialogue between the two faiths.

"I want to strongly affirm your mission: It is an extremely important thing in the modern world for us to work towards visible unity. … We see it with Islam quite regularly: Muslims pointing to divisions among Christians as a sign that Christianity is either dying, or not protected or chosen by God," she said.

If Christians and Muslims are to find any common ground, she said, Christians first have to build closer relationships with each other.

Keating’s address was just one held at the 2015 National Workshop on Christian Unity, a four-day conference held April 20-23 in Charlotte, sponsored by the National Ecumenical Officers Association. The conference, established in 1963 by Catholics, has its roots in the ecumenical efforts sparked by the Second Vatican Council.

Participants at the conference came from a variety of Christian faiths and included Amy-Jill Levine, a New Testament and Jewish studies professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee; James E. Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society; and Msgr. Paul McPartlan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster, England, and professor of systematic theology and ecumenism at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

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