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UMC’s Interfaith Dialogue and Partnerships Can Appeal to Young

Melanie Overton
February 29, 2012

Students from the Wesley Foundation at Mercer University
Students from the Wesley Foundation at Mercer University clean a vacant lot in Nassau, Bahamas during one of their spring break mission trips.

InYou Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church,David Kinnaman identifies young adults’ struggle with “the exclusive nature of Christianity” as one of six themes that describe why 59 percent of the young Christians surveyed disconnected from church life after age 15. Nearly one of three respondents said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an equal number felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.”

The United Methodist Church’s stance on interfaith/interreligious dialogue speaks to this particular source of disconnect for youth and young adults. The Book of Resolutions includes a statement, “Called to Be Neighbors and Witnesses: Guidelines for Interreligious Relationships,” which challenges United Methodists to bear faithful witness to all people while particularly engaging individuals of other faiths as partners in creating human community. The resolution suggests interreligious dialogue as a tool for deepening and extending faith, gaining insight into the wisdom of other traditions, and overcoming fears and misapprehensions. Raised in a society marked by all manner of diversity, today’s youth and young adults are well-equipped for – and devoted to – this work.

UM-related colleges and universities are providing a wealth of opportunities through which students can participate in the work of interfaith dialogue and partnership-building.In fact, more than 10 percent of the U.S. institutions that committed to President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge were related to The United Methodist Church. That’s a powerful response from a group of institutions comprising less than 2 percent of the accredited colleges and universities in the nation. This commitment to interfaith partnerships is merely one modern expression of an educational tradition that has endeavored to avoid narrow sectarianism since its origin at Cokesbury College. After all, when Cokesbury College was founded in 1784, the first two professors were not United Methodists; rather, they were a Quaker and a Catholic!


Melanie B. Overton, Ed.D.
Assistant General Secretary – Schools, Colleges, and Universities

Follow me on Twitter: @MelanieOverton