Scriptural Reasoning is a fresh approach to modern day inter-faith dialogue which puts scripture at the heart of the conversation...
Reading, listening to and reflecting on scripture is something many do naturally within their own worshipping communities. Participants in SR are not asked to leave that behind; rather, people of different faiths come together to read and reflect on their scriptures side-by-side.
SR is not about seeking agreement but rather exploring the texts and their possible interpretations across faith boundaries, and learning to ‘disagree better’. The result is often a deeper understanding of others' and one’s own scriptures, as well as the development of strong bonds across faith communities. SR is now practised globally, including in places affected by religion-related tensions and conflict.
How does it work?
1. Participants identify a narrative or theme, perhaps a concern or issue arising from their community or their context.
2. Each faith community selects a short passage from their scripture relating to that theme.
3. Participants meet in small groups and one at a time, each passage of scripture is read out loud to the rest of the group. Others may never have come across it before so they give an 'introduction', explaining a little of its context in the scripture and its importance in the faith tradition.
4. Convened by a facilitator, participants then discuss the passages one at a time- they may begin by asking questions to help them understand it better, or share a reflection or something that particularly strikes them as they hear it. In this way, an open and interactive discussion begins and the participants are able to reflect together on the possible meanings of the text.
What's the outcome?
Learning and understanding- Participants learn more about other faith communities through what is often at their heart- scripture. In addition to a deep inter-faith encounter, SR deepens peoples' understanding of their own scripture and wider tradition. This is because you read your text in the company of someone outside your tradition who may not have read your scripture before, and who sees it through very different lenses to your own. As a result of their questions and reflections, participants' relationships with their own scripture is enriched.
Exploring differences- SR allows us not only to appreciate the many things which we share and have in common, but it also draws on differences and teaches participants to appreciate them. There is no pressure to come to an agreement or consensus, and differences and questions are as welcome as similarities and answers. SR may of course find common ground, but it can also be content to ‘improve the quality of our disagreements’.
Friendships- With time, as relationships between members of the group grow, traditional stereotypes of the ‘other’ are broken down, barriers are dismantled and at best, participants develop lasting friendships underpinned by an appreciation of difference as well as an understanding of common values. Deep and sometimes risky friendships develop across divides. Participants may, together, draw on the wisdom of their different traditions to deal with the practical issues their communities face and their ability to respond together is strengthened.