We are deeply saddened by recent activities that have damaged interfaith relationships. The murderous assault on the Sikh Temple in South Milwaukee brought this close to home. More recent reactions of Muslim’s to an amateur video from the U.S. defaming Mohammed were inexcusable acts. But this video provoked Muslims in a way similar to which devout Christians might respond to a defaming of Jesus.
As United Methodists, we are called to bring God’s vision of a different kind of world in which people of many faith traditions live together in peace.
As United Methodists, we express that God calls us to work together with all people to overcome injustice. Our Book of Resolutions affirms that our Muslim neighbors are our coworkers in making “God’s justice a reality for all people” (6061, p. 800). All people of faith have sacred traditions. The Qur’an embodies the tradition for our Muslim neighbors.
As United Methodists, we are clear in our faith – the faith of Jesus. We have experienced his transforming presence! Through and in Jesus we experience God’s redeeming love and healing. In Jesus, we are renewed as God’s creation. In Jesus, we have received an authentic life of salvation. Through Jesus, we have learned to say: God is Good!
We need to respect all faith traditions
Some years ago, one of our Bishops, Woody White, delivered a powerful sermon on evangelism, with a powerful sub-theme of respect for people in other faith traditions. “I love chocolate ice cream,” said Bishop White. “I want to let others know what a wonderful thing chocolate is! But I don’t need to put down vanilla or strawberry in order to share my love of chocolate.” Then he continued, “In the same way, I share my love for Jesus! No need to disrespect other faith traditions.”
This insight of Bishop White allows us to be passionate about sharing Jesus without needing to be judgmental about the ways in which others have experienced God in their lives. The Message is read in Sermon on the Mount: “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” (Matthew 5; 9)
Let us welcome strangers
I encourage every congregation in our Conference to develop relationships and create encounters where we may learn from and work with our neighbors who belong to other faith traditions. No matter how others define and practice their faiths, we know we ought to respect and love our neighbors.
We have responsibility to share the Good News that we believe in our holistic witnesses, and embody the unconditional love and compassion of God in Christ Jesus. Let us be a defender of loving relationship with other faiths and welcome strangers among us without restrictions and condition.
Psalmist says, “God’s in charge-always. Zion’s God is God for good!” (Psalm 146:10)
Blessings in Christ,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).