Inaugural Neighborly Faith Conference comes to Wheaton College Nov. 1-2
Christians are called to love all of their neighbors, yet 91% of evangelicals say their current friends are "mostly similar" to them when it comes to religious beliefs. Perhaps this is why 62% of evangelicals recently reported anti-Muslim sentiment in their own communities.
Kevin Singer and Chris Stackaruk, co-founders of Neighborly Faith, met in graduate school at Wheaton College when the events surrounding Dr. Larycia Hawkins unfolded. They saw a campus that struggled to engage questions about religious diversity. They found little interest in their churches to engage people of other faiths. They knew that something had to be done.
Neighborly Faith began as a popular podcast, but has since grown to include a successful fellows program for evangelical students that provides training and seed funding to launch multifaith initiatives on campus. In October 2019, Matthew Henning at the University of Illinois Chicago hosted a lunch for CRU, the evangelical student group he oversees, and the Muslim Student Association. Over 100 students attended and discussed faith questions together.
On Nov. 1-2, Singer and Stackaruk will return to Wheaton College to host the inaugural Neighborly Faith Conference in the college's Billy Graham Center. The conference is free for students and staff at Wheaton and other regional Christian colleges, campus ministries, and church leaders. It is co-sponsored by the Wheaton College Bible and Theology Department, Small Groups and Discipleship Ministries, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
The conference will feature keynote evangelical speakers, such as Matthew Kaemingk, author of "Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear" (2018), winner of the 2019 Book Award of Merit from Christianity Today.
"Neighborly Faith has been helping the evangelical community answer this question: Will we treat our new Muslim neighbors as a problem to be solved, a threat to be neutralized, or a profound and historic opportunity to relearn the hospitality that Christ taught us? Now they are developing young leaders on college campuses who are eager to welcome Muslims as Christ welcomes them. I'm excited to contribute my expertise to the conference," said Matthew Kaemingk, Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Seminary in Houston, Texas.
Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Kristen Deede Johnson of Western Theology Seminary, Matthew Soerens of World Relief, Jennifer McNutt of Wheaton College, Greg Jao of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and Daniel Darling of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will also speak. A full list of speakers and a public schedule is available at Neighborly Faith's website.
Most notably, the conference will welcome Muslims to speak including Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution and contributing writer to The Atlantic; Anwar Khan of Islamic Relief USA; Petra Alsoofy of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; and a panel that will feature Alsoofy and several Muslim students from Benedictine University in Lisle.
"At a time of growing anti-Muslim sentiment, the challenge of Muslim-Christian understanding has never been more urgent. Thankfully, Neighborly Faith's approach is unique in the otherwise staid world of 'interfaith' dialogue -- It doesn't try to dilute its theological commitment to Christ, nor should it. Muslims, likewise, come to the table with their own deep convictions. This opens, rather than closes, the door to a kind of understanding that is more robust, respectful, and grounded. This is what we need now. This is also the future of interfaith, and Neighborly Faith is doing it better than almost anyone else around," says Shadi Hamid, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution and author of "Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World" (2017).
The goal of the conference is to help evangelicals develop a positive public posture toward Muslims that is hospitable, generous, and loving, and to clarify why this posture is faithfully evangelical and Christ-honoring. The conference will explore how this positive public posture relates to religious freedom, immigration, church ministry, Christian higher education, and the common good. Along with sharing a wealth of best practices and trustworthy resources, the conference will help attendees imagine new pathways in their campuses and organizations to support and sustain multifaith engagement.
More information on the conference including registration information can be found at neighborlyfaith.org/conference.