From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Interfaith relations

From newsservice <newsservice@PCUSA.ORG>
Date Fri, 26 Oct 2007 11:54:42 -0400

You are currently subscribed to the PCUSANEWS

email list of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).


This story online with photos at:

07691 October 26, 2007

Interfaith relations

'Reinterpreting' Christian message in larger religious world broadens self-awareness, PC(U.S.A.) mission co-worker says.

by Toya Richards Hill Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - In Thailand, where about 1 percent of the population is Christian, "reinterpreting" the Christian message in the context of other faiths is essential for growth, said a long-time Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker based there.

That's the chief issue: a re-thinking and a reformulation of the Christian faith and what it means to be Christian in the religiously plural world, said the Rev. John Butt, who has served in Thailand for more than 30 years.

That, then, helps to "deepen and broaden our own understanding of our faith," he said. "Otherwise we don't grow."

Interfaith and inter-religious dialogue has been a hallmark over the years of Butt's work, which has specially centered on understanding between the Buddhist and Christian communities in Thailand. About 94 percent of Thailand's population is Buddhist, followed by 5 percent Muslim and about 1 percent Christian.

Butt and wife Martha are co-workers with the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), and both are actively involved in Payap University, founded by the CCT.

John Butt's work includes teaching theology at the university's McGilvary College of Divinity and serving as senior advisor for the Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace. Martha Butt is senior vice president for international affairs at Payap University.

The couple completes their final term as PC(USA) mission co-workers and retires at the end of the year, although John Butt said they plan to remain in Thailand. "The work will continue," he said.

John Butt is currently taking part in Mission Challenge '07, a month-long effort by the PC(USA)'s Presbyterian World Mission office to spread the denomination's global witness story in at least 144 of the 173 presbyteries in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Butt acknowledged that "reinterpreting" the Christian message in the context of today's religious world is "risky and it's scary, but it's also, I think, necessary."

The point is to build on more solid foundation that is closer to the truth, he said. For example, people should start thinking of terms like Christian, Muslim and Buddhist as adjectives and not nouns, Butt said.

Encountering other religions can help get to the truth, he said.

"We need to learn to respect and appreciate the faiths of our neighbors," and use it as a way of deepening and enriching our own faith, Butt said.

During Mission Challenge '07, John Butt is itinerating in the presbyteries of Huntingdon, Maumee Valley, and Muskingum.


You are currently subscribed to the PCUSANEWS

email list of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

To unsubscribe, send a blank message to

To update your email address, send your old email address and your new one to

For questions or comments, send an email to

To learn more, visit

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 100 Witherspoon Street Louisville, KY 40202 (888) 728-7228

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home