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Rev. John Thomas, UCC General Minister and President, responds to signatories of "A Common Word"

November 20, 2007

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the initiative you took to address the global Christian community through the Muslim leaders' letter. We in the United Church of Christ have taken it very seriously. Our church is particularly eager to develop a process for deepening relationships and strengthening friendships, and making new friends. As we see it, this means theological and textual discussion and dialogue, as well as relational and practical interaction.

We are currently working along the lines you and your Muslim colleagues suggest, and it may be helpful for me to share them with you. I myself have already joined other Christian leaders in responding to the Muslim leaders' letter through the initiative of Yale Divinity School, "Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word Between Us and You.'"

The United Church of Christ affirmed its relationship with the Muslim Community in our 1989 General Synod, and in that context we have been active ecumenically through the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches in the US to participate in Muslim-Christian dialogue. In the US, we are assuming some leadership with the Islamic Society of North America in such an ecumenical dialogue with the US Muslim community that is consistent with the goals and values of the letter you sent. We look forward to the fruits of that dialogue.

In addition, United Church of Christ seminaries have expressed interest in participating in a response to the invitation to deeper relationships.  While we have yet to see what shape that will take, I am sure that it will be thoughtful and positive.

I hope this summary is an indication of the seriousness with which we take relationships with the Muslim community, and that is why we are eager to continue in conversation with you. Some of my colleagues and I have just returned from a visit to Beirut, Lebanon, during which I had an opportunity to engage in conversation Sayyid Hani Fahs, a signatory of the Muslim leaders' letter and member of the Arab Group for Muslim-Christian Dialogue, with which the United Church of Christ engages in partnership. He characterized the letter particularly poignantly as "preparing friends."

Thank you once again for the work that you do, and for the invitation you have made.

In friendship,

Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ 

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