The centennial gathering of world religions is disrupted by wrangling over divergent beliefs, rights, and practices.

The 6,000 people gathered in Chicago for the Parliament of the World’s Religions discovered the search for religious harmony requires that everyone must read from the same music, which few participants at the event seemed willing to do.

The parliament’s sponsors had hoped to lead the participants to endorse a statement on global ethics. Instead, the parliament disintegrated at times into shouting, argument, and alienation among the 125 religious groups attending the nine-day convocation that ended September 5.

Evangelicals were divided over whether to embrace such interfaith gatherings or to condemn interreligious dialogue outside of missions work. Thus a conference that included Roman Catholics, native Americans, self-described neopagans, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists had few conservative Protestants in place.

The laudable objective of the parliament was to discover ways in which the world’s religious communities could reduce religious violence, improve the quality of life, and protect the environment.

The gathering came 100 years after the first parliament, which featured representatives of 41 denominations and religious traditions gathering at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893. That meeting introduced Victorian-era America to Eastern religions and helped establish Roman Catholicism and Judaism as important American religious movements.

The 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions had a different agenda, one that upset some evangelicals. Hoping to bridge gaps between faiths, the parliament’s governing council released a nine-page manifesto, “A Global Ethic,” calling for a consensus on essential ethical principles. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.