Mutual irradiation : a Quaker view of ecumenism

by Douglas V. Steere

Other authorsDouglas V. Steere
Pamphlet, 1971



Call number

CP 175/1


[Wallingford, Pa., Pendle Hill Publications, 1971]

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In this very interesting and still relevant pamphlet, Steere explores the promise of what he called the new ecumenism of the encounter of the great world religions. He saw it as a challenging gift of God, and that Quakers have a unique task in the process. The challenge is to embrace and not erase
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the very special spiritual witness of the various religious groups, so that the fresh, unique witness of each group may be kept. They mutually irradiate, and neither undermine nor get undermined by each other; they each flourish more from their contact and appreciation. He called this functional ecumenism, to ask continually: What is the Holy Spirit saying to me, as a person in my religious tradition, in the witness of these other religions?
Steere's understanding of ecumenism and the relations among different religions can contribute helpfully to Quaker (and anybody's) discernment of who Quakers are and can be in the world's religious spectrum. His view is neither Christian exclusivism nor universalist exclusivism. Steere, a scholar of Quakerism and religion, has studied Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, finding that they each provided a new level of understanding to the Christian life of the Spirit. This rich "irradiation" of his own Quaker Christian tradition was repeated with his experience with Roman Catholicism as an observer at the Vatican Council II, and with interreligious colloquia that he himself organized.
This pamphlet, which is Steere's English version of the 1968 Richard Cary Lecture for German Yearly Meeting, is remarkably articulate about subtle motivations and distinctions. It derives from his own experiences, but is completely relevant to current questions.
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Call number

CP 175/1


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