SLO church lectures meant to widen the understanding of world’s great religions

There is no shortage of organized religions in the world, and the adherents of many of them don’t know much about the tenets of the other faiths.

Hoping to close that gap of misunderstanding locally, Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church in San Luis Obispo is inviting the public to a six-week series of lectures starting in January that will explore Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity.

“I think there’s wallbuilding and angry speak coming from some Christians today that is really not helpful and not our type of Christianity here at Mt. Carmel,” Mt. Carmel pastor Marjorie Funk-Pihl said.

“We’re interested in having an interfaith dialogue, and understanding where other people are coming from and what they believe in,” she said.

The series begins 10 a.m. Jan. 6 at the church at 17021 Fredericks St., and will continue for six Sundays.

Each week, a religious exper t will address key components of his or her faith and answer questions from the audience. The forums are designed to create more unity in our local community, Funk-Pihl said.

“The series is going to be ver y focused,” said Sozan Peter Schellinsensei, a Mt. Carmel parishioner and one of the speakers. “We’re going to be asking specific questions to each speaker.”

“For example, we’re having a Muslim woman talk about the role of women in Islam, so the idea that floats around in the Western world that women are denigrated in the Islamic faith can hopefully be erased in people’s minds,” he said.

“Some people will probably be offended,” he added. “But I think more people will walk away informed and able to answer questions in everyday conversation.”

Scheduled speakers are:

Jan. 6: Tony Criscuolo will explain the Vedic traditions that the Western world lumps together and calls Hinduism.

Jan. 13: Cal Poly religious studies professor Stephen Lloyd Moffett will dissect the Filioque Crisis, which split Christians into Catholic and Orthodox churches in 1054.

Jan. 20: Rabbi Linda Bertenthal will discuss the Torah and the written tradition in Judaism.

Jan. 27: Deborah Wilhelm from the Diocese of Monterey will talk about Mar y’s place in Catholic theology and the role of women in the Catholic Church.

Feb. 3: Naiyerah Kolkailah, president of the Islamic Society of SLO County, will explain why the Quran contains more scripture about Jesus’ infancy and his mother, Mar y, than the New Testament. She will also talk about how Mary serves as a role model for Muslim women.

Feb. 10: Sozan Peter Schellin-sensei will talk about Zen Buddhism.

For more information, contact Heather Ross at info@mtcarmelslo.org   or 544-2133.