By William Wan
A day after his July 4th address to the Islamic Society of North America, evangelical megachurch Pastor Rick Warren was supposed to participate in an interfaith dialogue last night as the annual ISNA convention was winding down. He couldn’t make it but sent a video address to the participants instead.
In it, Warren emphasized the need for action rather than words. “I believe we really have to move past dialogue to deeds,” he said, talking about joint actions religious leaders should take on behalf of the poor, infirm, handicap. “These are not religious problems but human problems,” he said. “My prayer is out of this meeting can come real practical steps.”
Also speaking at the interfaith event were rabbis, Muslim scholars, evangelical and Catholic leaders. Warren’s words, however, were particularly interesting as they came a day after his controversial address to Muslims attending the annual ISNA convention. Even before his address, Warren got heat from some bloggers who saw his ISNA appearance as being overly friendly to extremists.
In his July 4th speech, Warren talked about “the two largest faiths on the planet” — Muslims and Christians — working together to tackle problems of war, poverty, corruption, disease and illiteracy. And his video address last night at the interfaith reception echoed similar themes of partnership and action.
The reception, which was held on the last day of the ISNA convention, is an outgrowth of the interfaith Common Word movement which has been circulating in the Muslim world during the past three years. The message, officially called “A Common Word Between Us and You,” was launched in 2006 in response to a message by Pope Benedict that sparked an effort to talk about common ground between Islam and Christianity.