By Sam Muyskens
Five experienced interfaith executives were invited to the White House by the staff of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Rev. Sam Muyskens and three others from Houston, Austin, and Philadelphia were able to attend. On November 4, 2009, the four met with the specific purpose of sharing the effective traits of the “Dialogue in Action” model of interfaith understanding. All four cities have dynamic organizations that practice the Dialogue in Action methodology in their ministry. Inter-Faith Ministries-Wichita has practiced the model for well over thirty years. Dialogue in Action is a methodology that retains at the core of all it does “inter-religious understanding”. Effective Dialogue in Action models demonstrate a unique understanding and respect for all faith traditions within every aspect of its ministry. From decision making and planning to the actual “doing” of ministry.
During our four hours together we shared with the White House staff programmatic models that demonstrated the methodology of “Dialogue in Action”. The staff demonstrated interest in programs that effectively involve persons from diverse faith traditions. Programs such as the “Amazing Faiths Project” in Houston, the GoZones! and Benefit Bank projects of Wichita, and the Community Center for Austin’s refugee population are only a few Dialogue in Action models of interest.
As organizations like Global Faith In Action and Inter-Faith Ministries explores programmatic areas to develop, it might be helpful to know what four focus areas President Obama has assigned the White House Faith-Based Initiative. The four focus areas are: (1) economic recovery, (2) increasing the presence of fathers within the home – healthy families, (3) reducing the need for abortions, and (4) increasing the level of inter-religious understanding within our nation and abroad. Arie Alexander, Director of the White House Faith-Based Initiative office requested us to send him “dialogue in action” models that address the four focus areas.
The White House staff is planning a June 2010 conference and is looking for best practice models. There is an underlying felt need for effective interfaith organizations in our world today. Now, is an opportune time for interfaith organizations to grow and expand their vision – particularly organizations that are committed to the Dialogue in Action model?