Dialogue Speaks Louder as Action: Defining Interreligious Dialogue in Four Stages (by McKenzie Flowers Fergus)

Interreligious dialogue is interpreted differently by governments, civil society, religious communities, and the general public thus the term’s meaning is often misconstrued, and its trajectories limited. To clarify expert opinions on the essence and purpose of interreligious dialogue, this article presents an operational definition by drawing on the 1991 Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue’s categorization of the forms of interreligious dialogue: 1) the dialogue of life, 2) the dialogue of religious experience, 3) the dialogue of theological exchange, and 4) the dialogue of action. This article argues that the four dialogues are stages offering an optimal platform for achieving the objectives of interreligious dialogue and ultimately, furthering the interfaith movement. I expand on interreligious dialogue’s definition, function, and goals through theological reflections, visualization techniques, illustrations, and literary analysis. First, the four dialogues will be defined and examples provided. Second, the definition of a “dialogue of action” will be amended to include its inherent meaning of concrete action. Third, I will provide an example of a thorough and specialized examination of the meaning of interfaith dialogue by expanding on Christian teachings of the term and the four dialogues. To make progress, our social conception must expand to better understand the four stages of interfaith dialogue as components that form the meaning of interreligious dialogue.