Reverend Alan Race

Reverend Alan Race is the author of two seminal books: Christians and Religious Pluralism, SCM Press, 1983 and 1993 (currently out of print) and Interfaith Encounter: The Twin Tracks of Theology and Dialogue, SCM Press 2001. He is the editor of the internationally acclaimed World Faiths Encounter (now Interreligious Insight), and is frequently invited to speak at international conferences on interfaith issues. He has been involved in adult theological education in Church and University sectors, and is a trustee of the International Interfaith Centre in Oxford.

“To say that ‘dialogue is a whole new way of thinking’ leaves open the question of how to chart the relationships that are implied by such an assessment. Let me express this by way of what I call the Dialogue Grid:

Style of Dialogue—- Goal of Dialogue——Fruit of Dialogue

Process A: ———–Exchange ———- Understanding – ——-Discovery
Process B: ———–Negotiation ——– Tolerance ———— -Acceptance
Process C: ———–Interaction ——— Communion ———- Transformation

The processes of dialogue (A, B, C) lead participants from a first face-to-face encounter through a form of parallel existence between faith-traditions, and finally to a state of mutual involvement and accountability. It is a movement between exchanging information, through the negotiation of samenesses and differences and leading to deeper interaction at personal and institutional levels.

Similarly, the goals of dialogue may differ according to the style being followed. Much of dialogue begins with exchange of information and the clearing away of misunderstanding and stereotypes of the other. Tolerance is reached when the other seems no longer threatening but in some way comparable with one’s own outlook. The goal of communion acknowledges a deeper mutuality that appreciates the other in their strangeness as well as their resonance.

The fruits of dialogue might also develop, from discovery through mutual acceptance towards transformation.

Needless to say, this grid does not intend to define the relationships of dialogue according to rigid rules or along neat tramlines. In reality, dialogical relationships often follow a number of patterns on any one occasion. But the circular movement from first encounter to dialogical consciousness as a way of life is what we are called to embrace along Track Two of interfaith relationships. It involves us in learning about, with and through the other.”