The Multi-faith Matters Collaborative Inquiry Team has been awarded a supplemental grant of $45,000 by the Louisville Institute to support the ongoing work of the project entitled Multi-faith Matters: Evangelical Multi-faith Engagement, Purity Concerns, and Persuasive Storytelling. The initial work of the Multi-faith Matters focused on what positive work was being done by evangelical churches in multi-faith engagement. These case study stories can be viewed at www.multifaithmatters.org. The research and reflection our team will build on what was discovered previously. The grant will be administered by the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.
Survey data reveals that most evangelicals have cool feelings about other religions. But in the first phase of grant work our team discovered conservative evangelical churches involved in positive forms of multi-faith engagement that provides strong evidence of warm feelings toward neighbors of other religions. Why do the churches we’ve identified pursue a different approach that embraces love of neighbor and immigrant rather than defensive and confrontational postures? Social psychology reveals that conservatives value purity as a moral foundation, and related to this are concerns for contamination and a feeling of disgust from potential sources of “pollution.” This seems to underlie evangelical concerns about syncretism. The second phase of this project will include two components of research. The first component involves various aspects of social psychology and assessment scales, especially moral psychology related to purity and disgust, as well as a study of conceptual metaphors used to understand those in other religions. The second component is storytelling for social change. These two areas of research will come together to help understand the psychological and theological challenges evangelicals must overcome in multi-faith engagement, and how to make strategic use of stories in order to create a new narrative in this area for evangelicalism. Project outcomes will incorporate the insights of our research.
Our Collaborative Inquiry Team includes the diversity within Evangelicalism and team members come from across the country. The pastoral part of the team is comprised of Carrie Graham, a multi-faith church planter in Austin, Texas; Phil Wyman, pastor of the Gathering in Salem, Massachusetts, and Mark Shetler, pastor of River City Christian in Sacramento, California. The academic part of the team includes Sang-Ehil Han, PhD., Vice President for Academics and Professor of Theology and Spirituality at Pentecostal Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee; Paul Louis Metzger, PhD., Professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University; and John W. Morehead, MA, Custodian of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy.
The Collaborative Inquiry program supports teams of four to six pastors and professors who propose projects to strengthen the life of North American Christian congregations. A maximum award of $45,000 enables each team to spend three years exploring together a question of vital importance to the church. Louisville Institute is funded by the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment and based at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary (Louisville, Kentucky). The Institute's fundamental mission is to enrich the religious life of North American Christians and to encourage the revitalization of their institutions, by bringing together those who lead religious institutions with those who study them, so that the work of each might inform and strengthen the other.