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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Vocation and qualification for religious leadership

Tonight we hosted a meeting of the East London Three Faiths Forum at St John's Seven Kings. The topic under discussion was vocation and qualification for religious leadership and we heard from Revd Ernie Guest - St Laurence's Church, Barkingside (and Warden of Ordinands for Redbridge); Rabbi David Hulbert - Bet Tikvah Synagogue, Barkingside; and Hajj Mahmoud Attiya - South Woodford Mosque, PhD student.

Rabbi David briefly outlined the development within Judaism from priests and prophets to rabbis. He highlighted Hassidism, the Enlightenment, and gender equality as key developments in understanding of the roles and responsibilities of rabbis. Rabbinic training is five years and the training institutions select those offering to train as rabbis. Rabbis have an employment contract with their synagogue.

Hajj Mahmoud Attiya spoke about the importance of gentle teaching within Islam and respect for People of the Book. He discussed his research exploring ways of transforming those who are radical preachers including the distinction between unchanging laws regarding morality and changing reflecting cultural practices. How these are defined plays a key role in whether a radical or reformist position is taken.

Ernie Guest outlined the criteria used by the Church of England for assessing the calling and vocation of those offering to train as ordinands and the process by which this discernment and selection takes place.

In the discussion which followed we explored ways in which our religious leaders are appointed, our differing approaches to the removal of leaders from post and approaches to gender issues in leadership. In relation to the latter, Dr Mohammed Essam El’Din Fahim argued that the practice of gender separation in Islam was cultural and did not reflect the practice in the time of the Prophet when men and women prayed together.


Youssou N´dour- Li Ma Weesu.

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