(By our Philadelphia correspondent)
Can there be a fellowship of faiths?
This community is in the midst of one of the most interesting experiments, having for its purpose to answer this question. Like so many other communities, the Philadelphia community is blessed with a number of liberal ministers–using the word liberal in its non-technical ?ense –who should like to hasten the day when religious differences will be oblitsrated. This desire is common to both the Jewish and the Christian elements in the community.
Of late this desire has become articuate. Last year experiments were conducted on a small scale an interdenomnational dinner in Logan and an exchange of visits on the part of rabbi and Christian minister in South West Philalelphia. Both experiments were considered a success. Encouraged by these neighborhood efforts something larger as attempted this year. A city-wide in ardenominational dinner was arranged with the number of those present limited to five hundred, divided between the Jews and Christians. All honors were equally and equitably shared. Approximated our hundred people were present. N##ncerted effort was made to bring the people. Very little advance publicity was given to the event. The Protestan #ishop and the President of the Jewish Board of Ministers each acting on behalf of his respective groups, felicitaed the audience and spoke in glowing terms of the day when man shall hatis fellow man no longer. This dinner, too, was declared a huge success.Simultaneausly there was begun in his city a movement called the Fellowship of Faiths. Its purpose, it was explained, was to bring home to the rest of us the infinite good there is in the religion of some of us. First, there were several meetings among the students of the two universities. University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. For a while everything went along quite smoothly. Rabbis, Protestant preachers and Catholic prelates vied with each other and with representatives of other faiths in declaring their fellowship.
On the surface it seemed as if the great day predicted by the prophets was at hand. To one given to closer scrutiny rumblings were in evidence. In one or two cases these rumblings have already become articulate. Thus a number of rabbis discussing the subject minced no words in characterizing the entire movement as a farce and a sham. One rabbi speaking last week at a public luncheon characterized the Interdenominational Dinner as a “mere gesture” of no valu whatsoever.
The climax, however, came the other day when at a stormy meeting of the Presbytery of Philadelphia the following resolutions were adopted:
“Whereas, it has become a matter of public knowledge that Presbyterian ministers of this Presbytery have lent their names to a movement for fellowship among various religions including Shintoism, Buddhism, .Unitarianism, Ethical Culture, Judaism, Mohammedanism and other non-Christian religions;
“Be it resolved that the Presbytery of Philadelphia go on record as being unalterably opposed to any fellowship that tends to name Christianity as one of many equally good religions; that we re? ffirm our belief that Christianity is a revelation, and so is the full and absolute religion; that the Presbytery hereby enjoins upon its ministers and elders the duty of abstaining from any participation in such meetings and movements.”
The Rev. Dr. William P. Fulton, clerk of the Presbytery made the following statement regarding the resolution:
“The Presbytery of Philadelphia has positively prohibited all clergymen within its jurisdiction from fellow-worshipping with non-Christian religions. If they do they must face the consequences. Christianity cannot accept any other religion as an equal.”
Simultaneously with this declaration there appeared a letter written by a Christian clergyman in one of the neighborhood newspapers condemning in no uncertain terms the Christian participation in the Interdenominational Dinner. At this writing the incident is causing no little discussion in the ranks of the Philadelphia clergy, with the usual echo among some of the laity. Some of the rabbis, though preferring not to be quoted, are not altogether taken aback by this action of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. They are of the belief that the Jews should have taken a similar stand long ago.
What this will lead to, whether these meetings will be abandoned or not; how other parts of the country will react it is too early to predict.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.