Quick Take On State’s Religious Engagement Office

August 23, 2013

CPWR Trustees consider church-state matters serious, especially as these policies can either subsume or enhance interfaith advancement in the United States and by extension, the world. On whether or not the new move by the state department upholds interfaith, CPWR Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees Rob Sellers opines,
“The establishment of a new U.S. State Department “Office of Religious Engagement” and appointment of Shaun Casey, Methodist seminary ethics professor, as director is provoking a lot of mixed reactions. My own feelings are equally conflicting. Certainly, it’s crucial for those responsible for our country’s foreign policy to understand the role religion often plays in shaping the political and cultural ethos of nations around the world. Thus, a government entity whose aim is to enhance our diplomacy in a religiously plural world is a good thing. On the other hand, questions about which religions or religious followers will be “engaged,” as well as about how this new office will follow 1st Amendment provisos, are important ones. Accordingly, this well-intentioned effort guided by a Christian may inadvertently create ill will and be the wrong message for the United States—a nation that claims to practice religious freedom—to send abroad. In this case, the new organization is a bad thing. Whether this government office is a good or bad idea will only be proven in the days and years to come.”
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Dr. Robert P. Sellers is Connally Professor of Missions at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas. In the graduate seminary program, his classes emphasize cross-cultural living, the Global Church, Two-Thirds World and liberation theologies, world religions, and interreligious dialogue. He’s taught in Canada and Mexico, Great Britain, Eastern and Western Europe, Eastern and Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. Along with Muslim and Baptist partners, Rob plans periodic national conferences. He also is active nationally as a member of the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches and internationally through the Baptist-Muslim Relations Commission of the Baptist World Alliance.

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