The Building Bridges Seminar: An Exercise in “Relational Theology”

I recently had the opportunity to attend the “Building BridgesSeminar” organized by Georgetown University and chaired by Daniel Madigan with the assistance of Professor David Marshall.  The annual seminar started after 9/11 but has now moved into its twentieth year and has become more about theological discussions between Muslim and Christian scholars than reactions to current political events. Moreover, the seminar is not an analysis of Muslim and Christian societies but rather oriented towards “believing academics” who speak from Muslim and Christian tradition on topics of mutual interest. Finally, it is not a summit of religious leaders seeking to produce a single manifesto of shared beliefs but rather, as the previous chair, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams noted, “improving the quality of our disagreements” such that participants truly understand what each group believes.[1]  As Madigan explains, “the task before us, then, is to make that contention fruitful rather than destructive.”[2]

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