More than 50 clergy and leaders of myriad faith communities met for a meal and discussion this morning (Thursday, Feb. 7) at the MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio's first clergy breakfast.
The breakfast, held during World Harmony Week, took place at Monroe Street United Methodist Church and included a presentation by Judy Lee Trautman, co-founder of the multifaith council with her husband, Woody Trautman.
In explaining the mission and the programs of the nonprofit agency, which was founded in 2003, Judy Lee Trautman said the council has representation from more than a dozen faith traditions and is led mostly by lay persons. The council's leadership wants to reach out more to clergy to make them aware and boost their involvement in multifaith efforts, she said.
Citing comments by Dirk Ficca of the Parliament of the World Religions, who spoke at the MultiFaith Council's second annual banquet, Trautman said the goals of multifaith outreaches are “not tolerance but acceptance,” “not unity but harmony,” and “not agreement but convergence.”
It's not very uplifting to say “I tolerate you,” Trautman said, saying that acceptance is more welcoming. At the same time, people don't have to compromise their beliefs or agree on theological matters. The MultiFaith Council stresses that everyone's faith or nonfaith traditions are valued.
She also quoted author Brian McLaren who said in a talk at Sylvania First United Methodist Church last week that people of different religious beliefs “have to figure out how we live in a world with passionate convictions and commitments without blowing each other up.”
Judy Lee Trautman explained that the council uses the term “multifaith” instead of “interfaith” because the popular view of the word interfaith means the “Abrahamic” faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, excluding Buddhism, Hinduism and many other faith traditions.
Among the programs the MultiFaith Council has created are more than 100 educational events; six Habitat for Humanity builds; nine family picnics; more than 60 faith groups' gardening projects that include food and flowers as well as bees, chickens, and tilapia, and nine annual banquets that normally draw more than 300 people. (This year's banquet will be held April 28 at the Franciscan Center in Sylvania.)
One major focus of the council is to earn Toledo an official designation as a “Compassionate Community,” following a global effort by Karen Armstrong to promote and honor compassion — a trait that is foundational for all organized religions.
Joe Zielinski, a longtime board member of the MultiFaith Council, asked clergy at each table to take time for small-group discussions on how the council could provide new programs and reach more people with its multifaith message.