Christian seminary adds training for Muslims, Jews, gets sanctioned
Despite sanctions and flak from conservatives, a Methodist seminary will include religious training for Muslims and Jews to its curriculum this fall.
The Claremont School of Theology was sanctioned by the University Senate (a body which decides whether theological schools are qualified to fall under the Methodist denomination) for “failing to consult fully with United Methodist authorities in a substantial reorientation of the institution’s mission and proposed transformation from a school of theology to a university with schools of ministry,” Christian News Wire said.
Some $800,000 was also withheld (8 percent of its total $10-million funding) by The United Methodist Church’s Ministerial Education Fund upon learning of Claremont’s planned curriculum expansion, Christian News Wire said.
Still, Claremont President Jerry Campbell is proceeding with the new curriculum this fall, the Los Angeles Times said.
In due time, Campbell would like to add training for Hinduism, Buddhism and other faiths, too, Christian News Wire said.
While Campbell said he hopes the University Senate will re-establish funding, he also said the new programs slated for fall will be funded by some $10 million that had already been promised by philanthropists, the Los Angeles Times said.
With the new curriculum Claremont, which affords masters and doctoral programs, will become the first institution to train people of other faiths for careers in their respective faiths, the Los Angeles Times said.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy said, “Claremont’s new interfaith approach seems to undermine the transcendent claims of all faiths, and treat religion as merely a prop for the secular culture’s enchantment with multiculturalism and diversity,” Christian News Wire reported.
Campbell said in a speech prepared for today’s formal announcement, “We want our future religious leaders to understand the landscape in which they will be leading. We want them to be able to see ‘the other’ as neighbor, friend and co-worker. We want to be able to facilitate love among our different traditions in order that we can begin to solve the big problems,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Partner organizations in this project are The Islamic Center of Southern California and the Academy for Jewish Religion-California, the Los Angeles Times said.
The Muslim program will train imams—a first in the country as imams in the U.S. have either been sent to Muslim majority countries for clerical training or they had already been trained in a Muslim country, then emigrated to the U.S., the Los Angeles Times said.
Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, president of the Academy for Jewish Religion California, stressed the importance of students being well grounded in their own faiths and said that such grounding would not be compromised. At the same time he hoped the program would provide important connections between future leaders of differing religions, the Los Angeles Times said.
Stakeholders in the project agreed that quality of training of each faith would be genuine. They do however see possible areas where classes can have students of different faiths together, such as classes in the Hebrew Bible and its canon, the Los Angeles times said.