In July 2018, the National Council of Churches initiated a national Hindu-Christian Dialogue and a national Buddhist-Christian Dialogue. These new dialogues join the national Jewish-Christian Dialogue and national Muslim-Christian Dialogue that have long been a part of the NCC’s work in interreligious relations and collaboration.
The new dialogues are co-sponsored by The Guibord Center in Los Angeles, California. While national in scope, the dialogues will be based on the west coast. The inaugural sessions of the new dialogues were held at First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, where The Guibord Center has its offices.
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, Associate General Secretary for Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, serves as a co-convener of the new dialogues. “We are very excited to be starting these dialogues. We’ve wanted to do so for a long time, and we are pleased to be able to do so,” said Dr. Kireopoulos. “The dialogues have met with great enthusiasm among our partners, and these initial meetings lived up to these high expectations.”
The Hindu-Christian Dialogue met on July 17, and among the topics discussed were the Hindu understanding of illumination and the Christian understanding of salvation. Presenters included Swami Sarvadevananda of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, Swami Sarvapriyananda of the Vedanta Society of New York, and Rev. Deenabandhu Manchala of the United Church of Christ.
Co-conveners of the Hindu-Christian Dialogue are Dr. Kireopoulos; Swami Sarvadevananda; Dr. Jesudas Athyal of the Mar Thoma Church; Dr. Rini Ghosh of the Vedanta Society of Southern California; and Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord of The Guibord Center. Additional participants in the inaugural dialogue included representatives of diverse Christian and Hindu communities and organizations: American Baptist Churches USA; Episcopal Church; Wesleyan Theological Society; Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch; Church of Christ, Scientist; Brahma Kumaris; Sathya Sai; Ananda LA; Sanatan Dharma Temple; and Bharat Sevasram.
The Buddhist-Christian Dialogue met on July 25, and among the topics on the agenda were the Buddhist understanding of enlightenment and the Christian understanding of the presence of God. Presenters at this meeting included Venerable Dr. Walpola Piyananda of the Sri Lankan Sangha Council of America and Canada, Bishop Kodo Umezu of the Buddhist Churches of America, Bhante Chao Chu of the Los Angeles Buddhist Union, Venerable Youheng of the Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple, and Dr. Don Thorsen of the Wesleyan Theological Society.
Co-conveners of the Buddhist-Christian Dialogue are Dr. Kireopoulos; Ven. Youheng; Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kuan of the United Methodist Church; Dr. Jane Iwamura of the University of the West; Dr. Victor Gabriel of the University of the West; and Rev. Dr. Guibord. Additional participants included representatives of the Presbyterian Church USA; Episcopal Church; Church of Christ, Scientist; and Shambhala Los Angeles.
Also discussed at both dialogues were critical social issues affecting our respective communities in the US and globally. The next sessions of both dialogues will take place in early 2019.