Huntsville's "Interfaith Mission Service" has been working to bring people of different faiths together for years. Frank Broyles, who has been with the organization for decades, says it's important work.
Broyles is a Christian, a Presbyterian minister, and he says "God is not small, God is huge and wondrous".
Part of Broyles mission is to understand the role God plays in the lives of all worshipers.
"Therefore I must listen to the other, whether it's a fellow Presbyterian, a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim, to hear how is the Holy One speaking to them and how are they understanding what makes sense to them in their lives. Does that mean I switch over to that religion? No, not necessarily, and I have no plans to, you see, and I'm comfortable and deeply rooted in my own. But I am enriched by such conversation," said Broyles.
The religions of the world will never see eye to eye about theology, but according to Broyles, there are many situations where the different faiths can work together to accomplish similar goals.
"No, the Muslim contribution, the Hindu contribution, the Christian contribution needs to be distinct and strong, but there are so many commons, situations where working together in common can achieve break throughs in relationships among the groups and addressing the problem such as poverty, how do you address poverty in the world, clean water,” said Broyles.
“Clean water, there's an enormous number of projects to address the problem of toxic water, that are not just inter-Christian, but interfaith in nature because everyone needs clean water. There's such a problem there we've got to work together,” Broyles added.
Just in terms of sheer numbers, Broyles says there should be common ground for people to find.
“In our world there are one point three million Muslims, approximately. We have 2.2 billion Christians, depending on your data source. We have a billion Hindus, 600 million Buddhists. These are rough estimates; you see what I'm talking about. But the majority of the population of the world, the people are part of some religious tradition. So if that's the case, the majority of the world. Why not find common ground where you can."
Broyles is quick to point out two examples of common ground in the different faiths.
"Two examples. One is what is known as the Golden Rule. The Golden rules which is actually called the ethic of mutual reciprocity…but in all the religions, deep down is the ethic of mutual reciprocity, the honoring of the other in dignity and worth, made in the image and likeness of the Holy One, though people describe the Holy One in various ways,” Broyles said.
“Number two: compassion. Compassion is more than just love, compassion is an ethic, a virtue and a value that is at the core of all of the sacred writings of all the religions. Now what does compassion look like? It looks like Habitat for Humanity, it looks like clean water responses. It looks like coming together at the table to kindly and gently, yet firmly, address one another with compassion” Broyles said.
And that’s what it’s all about for Broyles: compassion.
“So compassion as a core virtue and value, as a sacred principal, is true in all the religions and there's about four other common affirmations that we have found true in all the religions. Now, there's a lot of distinctions. There are huge distinctions and this is what we need not to ignore, because each tradition has it's own voice, it's own set of convictions that are unique," said Broyles.
Interfaith Mission Service is a cooperative of congregations that was begun in the late 1960's. Seven congregations gathered, Christian and Jewish, and the goal was to bring together congregations to be united for service in the community. For almost 45 years, the Interfaith Mission Service has served the community as a cooperative of congregations.
For now, Broyles is working on clearing the first hurdle: building the relationships.
“It always will be, because of fear, mistrust, but also because of concern that when you begin to enter into a deeper dialogue with other religions,” Broyles said. “But the pushback, Steve, is going to be there and we respect that, but we've got to continue the work of challenging the push back to the point of come to the table, even carefully, even reluctantly. Come to the table of dialogue and understanding”