Buddhist-Christian Studies is one of four society journals currently published by University of Hawai`i Press. The journal started here in Honolulu as the product of the 1980 East-West Religions Project conference titled “A Buddhist-Christian Conference on the Future of Humanity,” and it was first edited by UH professor emeritus David W. Chappell. We asked current co-editors Thomas Cattoi and Carol Anderson to share more about the society and the journal’s focus.
First, what is the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies?
The Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies was founded in 1987 in order to continue interactions between Buddhist and Christian scholars and practitioners that began at several large international meetings in the early 1980s. In 1980 and again in 1984 two major international conferences were held at the University of Hawai’i, which led to the establishment of the “Cobb-Abe International Theological Encounter.” The latter was founded by process theologian John B. Cobb, Jr., and Kyoto-school philosopher Masao Abe; for the following twenty years (1984-2004), the Cobb-Abe group continued to meet every eighteen months to discuss issues connected with Buddhist-Christian dialogue.
In 1987, another large international conference on Buddhist-Christian interchange was held at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. At that meeting, a small group of scholars and practitioners decided to establish a society that could meet annually in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion (AAR). This led to the birth of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies. The Society is independent of the AAR and controls its own program, rather than being a section of the AAR. Most members are scholars and graduate students in the field of Buddhist-Christian studies, but membership is open to all.
Has Buddhist-Christian Studies changed over the years?
The first issue of the journal was published in 1981. Its content and orientation reflects the evolution of the field over the last few decades, which was influenced by the quick expansion of Buddhist and Asian studies in English-language universities, as well as the growing interest in interreligious dialogue in different Christian communities.
What makes a good interreligious dialogue?
This is an interesting question! Every person engaged in interreligious dialogue will give you a different answer. For me (Cattoi), interreligious dialogue requires the ability to be conversant in two different religious traditions, remaining grounded in one’s own while also engaging the other with integrity. This means that one should be open to points of contact between two traditions, while also acknowledging the presence of irreducible differences.