What is an Interfaith Minister?

What is an Interfaith Minister? February 5, 2018

In a one-sentence definition, an Interfaith Minister is someone who has studied all of the world’s religions and has decided that it does not go against his or her conscience to serve them all in some capacity.

I am an Interfaith Minister. Since the title is relatively new, allow me to flesh out three ways in which my colleagues and I can be of service.

Harmony and Dialogue

Each Interfaith Minister has cultivated a deep respect for the world’s wisdom traditions. As such, we are in a unique position to facilitate dialogue and promote harmony.

As I have written about before, harmony exists on a gradient scale. An Interfaith Minister can help with everything from ceasing hostilities to facilitating a deep dive into religious experiences to generate a sense of connectedness.

Pope Francis worded it beautifully when he said:

“…the purpose of dialogue is not to achieve homogenized unity, but to move humbly, with respect, toward a community and a world where the differences are not threatening, but enriching and therefore cannot be manipulated by those who want to sow fear, hatred and violence.”

Intermarriage and Non-Denominational Weddings

In my seminary, being able to conduct weddings was one of the primary reasons many people had for getting ordained as Interfaith Ministers.

We live in a diverse world where mixed marriages are increasingly common. Interfaith Ministers bring a unique skill set to the table in such circumstances, honoring traditions from all faiths with reverence.

There is also a growing number of people who stand outside of organized religion (in fact, it is the fastest growing group of people in the USA). I am working with one such couple that is getting married in the fall and our goal is to create a marriage ceremony that is unique to them while also honoring the religion of their parents.

Whether a couple is trying to honor both faiths equally, honor their family background, create a spiritual but nonreligious ceremony or wants the ceremony devoid of religion and spirituality altogether (yes, the interfaith approach also includes atheists and agnostics), then an Interfaith Minister can help in more ways than one.

Interspiritual Explorations

While the interfaith movement is adamant in its insistence that the goal is not to create a unity of belief but rather harmony between religions, there are those among us (me included) that are interested in interspiritual explorations—looking at the few but very important experiences and concepts that most (if not all) faiths have in common.

In my book, titled Experifaith: At the Heart of Every Religion, I make the case that the experiential realm of spirituality (often referred to as mysticism) is not similar between traditions because all religious stories are the same, but because we, human beings, are much the same.

Of course, in order to be able to explore other faith traditions, one must invest time in practicing ones own tradition. That part is non-negotiable. You cannot go to a cultural sharing of recipes without being able to cook. People would quickly see through that façade. That is why, when working with individuals, I first encourage them to get in touch with the spiritual (personal) practices of their own religion or tradition before investing time and energy in other traditions.

Having said that, I also work with people who label themselves spiritual but nonreligious, and in that case, we use the interlocking foundations from spiritual traditions to create a coherent philosophy that doesn’t leave wide philosophical gaps. The outcome isn’t merely a reflection of personal likes and dislikes but rather a complete spiritual approach built on a strong foundation.

There Is More

These three areas of (1) fostering harmony and facilitating dialogue, (2) performing interfaith or non-denominational weddings, and (3) guiding people through interspiritual explorations, only scratch the surface of what Interfaith Ministers do and will do in our society going forward. It is a growing and evolving field.

If you are an Interfaith/Interspiritual Minister, please share your emphasis, expertise, and experiences in the comment section.

Gudjon Bergmann
Interfaith Minister and Author

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p.s. If you are interested in learning more about the Experifaith model and how it can help with dialogue facilitation, harmony, and interspiritual explorations, click here.

p.s.s. Also, feel free to contact me if you would like me to minister at your wedding.

Picture: Pixabay.com CC0 License

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