The Birmingham Diocese is very diverse with people of all the world’s faiths living here. Whilst there are large populations of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus there are also may Jews, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrains and many more besides. For many of us these people are our neighbours, colleagues or friends who we see on a daily basis. Others of us don’t live in multi-faith areas but meet people of different faiths when we are in the city centre or we hear about them in the news. Whatever our situation, living in a religiously diverse society is now a reality, and one which demands that we ask the question ‘What does the Lord require of us?’ Many Christians are grappling with the question of how they live out their faith in a multi-faith situation, sometimes coming up with creative and interesting answers, other times struggling to know what they should do.
As The Church of England in this Diocese we are committed to helping churches discover how God wants them to live out The Gospel in our society, with a church as diverse as the Church of England, there will be many answers to this question and we want to encourage churches to find answers that make sense to them, draw them closer to God’s calling and makes sense to the people they meet. For some their response will be to dialogue and cooperative ways of working, for others it will be in acts of service and self-giving and for others it will include evangelism and the offer to respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ. As we explore these different approaches we encourage churches to try new ways, resource congregations with what they want to do and help all congregations to respond to God’s call to love Him and to love our neighbours whoever they may be.
We work closely with Presence and Engagement (P & E) which is the Church of England’s national programme equipping Christians for mission and ministry in the wonderful diversity of our multi faith society (www.presenceandengagement.org.uk). There is a P & E team in Birmingham made up of lay people and clergy bringing expertise of different faiths, church traditions and models of ministry.
Our work is done, primarily, by tailoring responses to the specific needs of congregations, recognising that each situation brings its own joys, opportunities and challenges. We run some centrally organised courses across the Diocese and often in partnership with colleagues in the Diocese or outside organisations such as The Feast, Near Neighbours or Interserve.
Since 2014 we have developed a dialogue process called the Birmingham Conversations. This brings together a group of approximately 25 people of different faiths who commit to meet once a month for six months to discuss issues relating to faith and society. The aim is not to look for consensus but to find space to discuss issues that are often both controversial and avoided in other dialogue settings. After each series of conversations the findings of the group are made public through reports and art work.
The Director of Interfaith Relations, Canon Dr Andrew Smith, is always happy to come to meet with churches or groups to either offer consultation or to speak with congregations or preach on matters relating to interfaith issues. If you’d like to find out more contact Andrew or fill in the form at the bottom of this page.
For more information about the P & E work across the Diocese and the Birmingham Conversations visit the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre website www.faithfulneighbourhoods.org.uk.
Director of Interfaith Relations
Canon Dr Andrew Smith
T: 0121 426 0426
M: 07702 831090