Partnership Not Dialogue: Lent and Ramadan under the Same Roof

in Ecclesial Practices
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Since January 2011, members of a mosque in Aberdeen, Scotland have been meeting to pray in an Episcopal Church. Based on ethnographic research in both congregations, this paper explores the reasons each community entered into the relationship, the public reaction that erupted when the existence of the arrangement was discovered, and how members of each group describe the benefits of the situation. The essay argues that this relationship is better described as an ‘inter-faith partnership’ rather than an ‘inter-faith dialogue’. Moreover, it is suggested that the relationship was successful largely due to this distinction. The discussion thus challenges the predominance of ‘dialogue’ as the primary model for conceiving interfaith relationships and engagements.

Ecclesial Practices

Journal of Ecclesiology and Ethnography




Kenneth G. MacKendrick, ‘The Public Nature of Critical Discourses on “Religion”’, Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 27 (2015), pp. 122–130; William Arnal & Russell T. McCutcheon, The Sacred Is the Profane (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Jonathan Z. Smith, ‘Religion, religions, religious’, Critical Terms for Religious Studies, (ed.) Mark C. Taylor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 269–284.


David B. Burrell, Towards a Jewish-Christian-Muslim Theology (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011); Francis X. Clooney, Comparative Theology: Deep Learning Across Religious Borders (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).


Samuel P. Huntington, The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996). For critical analysis of this thesis, see: Lavina Rajendram, ‘Does the Clash of Civilisations Paradigm Provide a Persuasive Explanation of International Politics after September 11th?’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs 15.2 (2002), pp. 217–232; Gabriele Marranci,’Multiculturalism, Islam and the Clash of Civilisations Theory’, Culture & Society 5.1 (2004), pp. 105–117; Johan Eriksson & Ludvig Norman, ‘Political utilisation of scholarly ideas: the “clash of civilisations” vs. “Soft Power” in us foreign policy’, Review of International Studies 37 (2011), pp. 417–436; Christopher Craig Brittain, Religion at Ground Zero (New York, ny: Continuum, 2011), pp. 85–111.


Marianne Moyaert, “Interreligious Dialogue,” Understanding Interreligious Relations, (eds.), David Cheetham, Douglas Pratt & David Thomas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 193–217 at p. 202. See also: Thomas Michel, ‘A Variety of Approaches to Interfaith Dialogue’, Pro Dialogo 108 (2001), pp. 342–51.


Jane Idelman Smith, Muslims, Christians, and the challenge of Interfaith Dialogue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 3–21.


Mark Ward, Sr., ‘Managing the Anxiety and Uncertainty of Religious Otherness’, A Communication Perspective on Interfaith Dialogue, ed. Daniel S. Brown, Jr. (Lanham, md: Lexington, 2013), pp. 23–44 at p. 25.


David B. Burrell, ‘Christian-Muslim Dialogue in a World Gone Religiously Awry’, The Muslim World 100 (2010), pp. 414–422 at p. 414.


Ibid., p. 212. Even Paul Weller’s article celebrating Interfaith networks is compelled to acknowledge, ‘generally speaking, these remained somewhat peripheral and tangential to the focus and concerns … of the majority religious groups’; ‘Interreligious Cooperation’, p. 370.


Adrianus Sunarko, ‘Interfaith dialogue and cooperation across faiths: The experience of Indonesia’, Theology Today 72.1 (2016), pp. 46–59 at p. 46.


Will Lyon, ‘Scots Church Sharing Hall with Muslims’, Daily Express 19 March 2013, p. 6.


William H. Harrison, In Praise of Mixed Religion (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014); Henrique Pinto, Foucault, Christianity and Interfaith Dialogue (London: Routledge, 2003); Susie Paulik Babka, ‘Emptiness and Otherness: Negative Theology and the Language of Compassion’, Pathways for Interreligious Dialogue, pp. 65–80.


Lyn Holness, ‘Maria Pontifex: The Virgin Mary as a Bridge Builder in Christian-Muslim Dialogue’, Pathways for Interreligious Dialogue, pp. 141–152.


Stuart Croft, Securitizing Islam: Identity and the Search for Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 200–43.


It is noteworthy that, in March 2015, the invitation by a Church of England priest to a Muslim group to pray in the church met with widespread public criticism. When I asked Father Isaac why the controversy surrounding his church-mosque partnership had died down, while the media frenzy persisted in England, he replied: “One might say they were seeking to make a symbolic political gesture. People have come to see what we are about is to do with much more than that.” See: John Bingham, “Muslim Prayers in a Church of England church’, The Telegraph 15 March 2015; [accessed 6 May 2016].


Andre Möller, Ramadan in Java: the joy and jihad of ritual fasting (Lund: Lund University, 2005); Kazim Ali, Fasting for Ramadan: notes from a spiritual practice (North Adams, ma: Tupelo Press, 2011); John Renard (ed.), Windows on the house of Islam: Muslim sources on spirituality and religious life (Berkeley, ca: University of California Press, 1998).


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