Today at General Assembly, we opened up the terms of reference for the standing committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. In the midst of those discussions, the point was made that nowhere in the mandate of this committee were there any instructions regarding our relationship with the fastest growing belief group in Canadian society – those people who see themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”

I strongly felt that we really could not say that we were engaging in interfaith dialogue if we completely ignored such a large and influential group in Canadian society – even if they are not organized as most religious groups are. (Indeed they fiercely resist any organisation, that’s kind of the point.)

So I proposed an ammendment that would address that important lack.

Spoiler alert for those who are waiting to read it in the minutes, my motion was soundly defeated.

But I did dissent and asked for an opportunity to have my reasons recorded. I would like to share those reasons now.

My Dissent

I wish to record my dissent regarding the defeat of the amendment to the second recommendation of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee report.

In the debate over my amendment, there were certain points that were made that I feel must be answered.

It was said that our discussions with the group of people in Canadian society who see themselves as spiritual but not religious is a matter of evangelism and not interfaith dialogue.

I disagree. This is what was said not too long ago when it came to discussions with Muslims or Buddhists or other religious groups. We have since learned that this was a very flawed approach and that any dialogue must take place in an environment of respect, appreciation and understanding of the beliefs of the other. How can it be any different in our discussions with our “spiritual but not religious” neighbours?

It was said that this committee is only set up to dialogue with organized faith groups and so can do nothing about engaging such a disorganized and uncohesive group.

I would say that, if that is what stands in the way, then it is time to change our approach. Organized religion is quickly going the way of the dodo in Canadian society. If we do not learn how to engage with unorganized faith groups we will be totally cut out of a vital interfaith dialogue before we know it.

It was said that this kind of dialogue is best carried out by individual Christians in our congregations.

I agree. But if that dialogue is to take place with respect and understanding of the belief system of the people we are talking to, the people in our congregations will need much help and guidance. Who will give them that guidance if not Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, then who?

That final question is not rhetorical. I am seeking some guidance.