Press Release: April 26, 2015
Sixth Annual Muslim-Christian Dialogue of the United States - "The Word"
St Catherine University, St Paul, Minnesota, April 23-25, 2015
By Imam Mustapha Elturk
A group of Muslim and Christian clergy, religious scholars, and leaders from across the United States met at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota to discuss “The Word of God.”
The dialogue between Muslims and Christians began in 2010. The aim is to find common grounds and work together for the betterment of our communities, country, and ultimately, world.
The conference was organized by the “Muslim-Christian Dialogue of the United States” founded by the co-chairs, Dr. Irfan Khan (Muslim) of Chicago, Director and Founder of the Association for Qur'anic Understanding (AQU) and Mr. Bonn Clayton of Minneapolis, leader of many interfaith and ecumenical groups locally, nationally, and worldwide.
Other participants included Fr. Joseph Antypas of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Troy, Michigan, representing the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America; Mr. Kim Gustafson, Founder and CEO of Restore! International, Inc. and professor at the Master’s Institute Seminary, representing the National Association of Evangelicals; Imam Mustapha Elturk, Imam and President of the Islamic Organization of North America (IONA) headquartered in Warren, Michigan; Mr. Naeem Baig, President of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA); Dr. Bob Brenneman, a Middle East specialist and Professor of Intercultural Studies & Languages at North Central University in Minneapolis, representing the Pentecostal tradition; Dr. David Penchansky, Professor at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota, Department of Theology, representing the Catholic tradition; Dr. Michael Trice, Assistant Dean of Ecumenical & Interreligious Dialogue and Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics and Constructive Theology at Seattle University, representing the National Council of Churches; and Sheikh Abdur Rahman Khan, Chairman of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Shari'ah Council.
This Conference commenced on Thursday, April 23, and concluded on Saturday, April 25. The participants spent the first two days deliberating on three papers presented by Mr. Kim Gustafson, “The Word of God in the Old and New Testaments,” followed by Sheikh Abdur Rahman, “The Word in Islam,” and Dr. Irfan Khan, “The Qur’anic Concept of Revealed Guidance in Divine Words.”
The presentations generated an open and frank discussion. Mr. Gustafson explains in his paper the two guiding lines of evidence, Internal and External, for validating the inspiration of Scripture. He shared a couple of passages regarding the process of inspiration, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16), and “…Men moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God.” (2 Peter, 1:20-21). He also discussed the three determining truths set forth by John in his Gospel concerning the Logos.
Sheikh Abdur Rahman Khan in his paper explained that Islam is a continuation of the message received by previous prophets, such as Noah, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus. He asserted, while citing verses from the Qur’an, that the Qur’an is from God and that it is His speech and that “Its spiritual message includes practical injunctions aimed at the general welfare of individuals, society, and the environment in which we live.” He also addressed the infallibility of God’s final message (the Qur’an), as well as the open challenge therein to produce the like of it.
According to Dr. Khan, “The Divine guidance in the world of persons has two modes: 1) the revealed guidance and 2) innate guidance.” He further explains, “revealed guidance itself has two modes: a) the messengers of God receive the Divine Guidance in God’s own Words, and b) the messengers of God explain the Revealed Guidance in Divine Words in their own language and through their own practical example.”
All three presenters supported their papers by citing the Holy Qur’an and Bible. The presentations generated healthy discussion that included praises and critiques. In the third and final day the group managed to converge around 16 points. They are,
We agree that God reveals the Divine word and will in Scripture.
Our Scriptures are the foundational instrument for our knowledge of God.
Our Scriptures teach the Oneness of God.
Our Scriptures proclaim that the Cosmos declares the Glory of God.
Our Scriptures guide our relations with our fellow human beings and all of creation.
Our Scriptures are the center of all theological discussion.
Our Scriptures exercise authority over the life of the believer.
A primary theme of our Scriptures is the guidance of humankind.
Our Scriptures compel us to promote the good and to struggle against evil.
We repudiate any use of Scriptures for the promotion of violence.
We agree that any interpretation of our Scriptures requires an understanding of their historical context.
Our Scriptures call us to love God and neighbor and therefore Muslims and Christians are called to develop trusting relationships with, and understanding of, one another.
Our Scriptures call for us to promote and establish a just and peaceful society.
While we have different concepts from our Scriptures, we both acknowledge that Jesus is considered as the Word of God.
Our Scriptures teach the return of Jesus Christ.
Our Scriptures attest to our accountability to God, which will affect our life in the hereafter.
Next year’s conference will be hosted by Imam Elturk at IONA’s campus in Warren, Michigan. The theme is “Violence and Eschatology.”
IONA’s mission is to transform its members and help transform the surrounding communities to righteous, God-fearing people, who collectively strive for the highest moral standard and constantly seek forgiveness from our Creator to earn His pleasure. We seek His compassion and mercy in this life and in the hereafter. We rejuvenate our soul through internal struggle and spiritual exercise in worship of our creator God. The strength of our belief in God gives us the courage to establish good and forbid evil, thus promoting a system of justice for all mankind.