Mar 27 2010

Reflections on Parliament of Religions – Melbourne Dec. 2009.

Published by under Talks

Reflections on Parliament of Religions – Melbourne Dec. 2009.

– Rod Mitchell


– Newington. Teaching religious studies – Came across Kung book on Ethics which had come out of the 1993 – 2nd – Parliament of World Religions called: “Yes to a Global Ethic”
– 10 Years in Sydney (Parramatta and diversity of cultures mixing and mingling)
– Two visits to Korea and the experiencing of totally different cultures.
– Wilber material putting emphasis on development – and a “Spirit in Action”


In a sermon I gave at Knox Church on the Sunday before I left for Melbourne I presented three tests for assessing the value of the Parliament.

So how will I be evaluating this Parliament?

Tests of Outcome from Parliament:

1. You have a child that you love dearly – they are a faithful member of your church. They fall in love and marry a person of a different culture and religion.  Your new daughter-in-law or son-in-law is a faithful Hindu/Muslim/Buddhist.  So the question becomes: is your own Christian faith strong enough or elastic enough or deep and broad enough to be able to love and learn from your new son-in-law/daughter-in-law?   Allowing the presence and possibility of God to come more fully to earth? It’s not just about living so that we tolerate each other; but rather how do we work together, love and learn from each other?  As to make a more creative, compassionate, just and peaceful world?  If I can discover any hint from the Parliament on how to do just that, I will be delighted…

2. “Hope arouses as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.” [Rev. William Sloane Coffin].   If I can come away from the Parliament with a sense or with a concrete awareness that there are practical ways of making a difference in our world today, and that the Christian Faith has a contributing role to play, I will be delighted…

3. “Hope is hearing the melody of the future.”  If I can come away hearing a new tune, a tune of God as the ‘Spirit-In-Action’.  This Spirit transforming our world, evolving our world, inviting us to participate in caring creatively for this world, I will be delighted beyond my wildest dreams…

So let me briefly give you a sample of the rich learnings that might fulfil and respond to the test above.

My initial feeling was one of disappointment, reading a Christian Bishop’s welcoming letter to the Parliament.  It used very Christian in-house language that was exclusive and domineering.  I was left wondering where the vision was that was bigger than our own entrenched positions.  Was there a more common language, a language that did justice to our own religious tradition but also allowed room for encouraging something fresh and new to emerge in the exchanges between religions?

From the very opening Plenary Session a common echo was stated, we live in a world that faces huge and revolutionary problems.  These problems could not be resolved by any one religious tradition, or any one powerful Government.   These problems would require the best from all of the human family working creatively together – then there might be some light at the end of the tunnel.   In response to this call many in the question time were asking how we handle our sense of paralysis in the face of such large and intractable issues. Where do we get the power to do anything that will make a difference?

Against this backdrop of enormous issues facing our global, interdependent world, one of the early  sessions declared that if progress was to be made on these big world issues, we in the religious communities need to become ‘bi-lingual’.  We need to have our religious language for communicating in-house but we also need to develop a language of caring, sharing and co-operation between participating interest groups.  This will need to be a public language that stimulates, excites and motivates people into action.

This was the first significant comment that really caught my ear. What was meant by this bi-lingual language of caring and compassion?  It needed a lot more filling out… but it was a start.

Sunday presented me with two seminars that I found mind blowing; in fact the stimulating content of the seminars meant that I had difficulty getting my mind focused on the final few days.

The first seminar was entitled “Changing the World from the Inside-Out.  Evolutionary Spirituality and it’s relation to Mystical tradition,” run by Andrew Cohen.

Andrew quickly said he was not going to concentrate on exploring the many issues that were part of our global world.  He was challenging us to explore the framework and mindset that would give the possibility of our world being more than just a place of survival.  He maintained that while the impulse to survive is built into the human DNA, we as human beings need to tap into the “impulse to evolve”.  To become more is a different impulse from that to survive.  War and destruction taps into the survival impulse, into those patterns so often driven by fear.  We need to connect into a source that is more powerful and passionately motivating than the problems and issues we face in the world.

This means we need to get back to the timeless creative energy that is the “Yes” before the ‘Big Bang’. That “Yes” has continued to participate in the evolution of the world.  Our purpose is to respond and reflect a living relationship to this creative life source.  When we do we will be participating in the process to bring into being that which is new that has not yet emerged. We will be instruments in partnership with the Evolutionary Spirit of the Living God.

This approach is part of the bi-lingual language that is needed to make a real transformative difference in our world while treasuring the unique contribution of all other parts of the creation.  Each part of creation has a unique role to play in the unfolding drama of this global world.  This evolutionary impulse is forward looking, seeking to participate in the emerging new.  If the evolutionary impulse is driving us this will mean we can fearlessly collaborate with ‘other.’  Awakening to ‘evolutionary impulse’ you discover a part of yourself that is good and that seeks the good in others.  A fearless strength will be discovered where you will desire to want to make the world a better place. This evolutionary spiritual impulse is merely the place where the two words, ‘transformation’ and ‘dialogue’ begin to have a fuller and more powerful set of meanings.

The other seminar that touched me deeply was entitled, “The Digital Revolution in the Age of Religious Pluralism.”

Here the three presenters Leo Bruinick, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield and Rabbi Irwin Kula, declared that the web revolution was much bigger than the book revolution of the 1600s.  We were informed that the fourth largest community of people in the world was the internet.  Its power for good and evil was immense thus the presenters encouraged all people of ‘good will’ need to consider participating in this very public conversation. We need to learn a language that is emotionally engaging and that will touch people at a deep level.  This medium has no geographic boundaries, age is irrelevant and its political impact is unparalleled.

This will dictate all sorts of new religious experiences. Denominations as we have known them will become less fixed, with the variety being expressed in utterly new ways. Technology will be focused on getting a job done rather than on correctly held beliefs. Thus it raises the question for religions, about the job that needs to be done in our world and the type of people and communities we want to be a part of.  New styles of ‘belonging’ will emerge; a new song in a new land will be available to the human global family.

Final Comments:

In the final session, every tradition represented at the gathering, gave a final blessing to the Parliament. The Christian blessing delivered by a Bishop, had all the heavy tones of a sermon with exclusive Christian language as its delivery vehicle. The Parliament was silent and shocked. When the indigenous people made a number of requests of the Parliament, the one that asked the Christian communities to stop destroying native people’s cultures and religions received a spontaneous applause that seemed to go on for some time. I was shocked by the depth of feeling being expressed.

In the final closing farewell it became embarrassingly obvious to me that we as people who honour the Christian faith as our primary source of identity and strength have a lot of work to do on learning how to be bi-lingual.

Resources from Web:

Very good site with free audio presentations of leading Evolutionary Spirituality thinkers:


Andrew Cohen; Barbara Hubbard; Brian Swimme; Carter Phipps;

Coney Barlow; Craig Hamilton; Craig Terry; Don Beck;

Eliz Sotouris; Gordon Kaufman; Jean Houston; Ken Wilber;

Marilyn Schlitz; Michael Murphy; Sally Kempton; Terry Pattern

– Rev. Dr. Rod Mitchell  Phone (03) 477-3700


No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply