It sounds like the opening line of a joke, but it's not. Facing declining enrollment, Claremont Colleges Graduate School of Theology in California is now claiming to train and prepare new leaders with a vision of blending divergent world religions.
For background, read Methodist Seminary Trains Pluralistic Clergy
-- From "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly Listings" Washington Post 10/21/11
Multi_Faith Theological Education — At the Claremont Colleges in California, the Graduate School of Theology has created Claremont Lincoln University, the first multi-faith theological school of its kind. As Saul Gonzalez reports, the new and controversial graduate university is teaching and will grant degrees to students who want to become Christian ministers, Jewish rabbis or Muslim imams, and it plans to include Hindus, Sikhs and others, as well.
From "Multifaith Theological Education" by Saul Gonzalez, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, PBS 10/21/11
SAUL GONZALEZ, correspondent: . . . California’s Claremont Lincoln University, which describes itself as America’s first interreligious school of theology, one that will train pastors, rabbis, and eventually Muslim imams all on one campus. The school’s philosophy was captured in the opening remarks of Muslim-American religious scholar Najeeba Syeed-Miller, a professor at Claremont Lincoln.
PROFESSOR NAJEEBA SYEED-MILLER: The diversity of humankind is not a curse from God. It is a sign of God’s creation, and the beauty of humanity is in our very differences.
GONZALEZ: What do you hope to accomplish here at Claremont Lincoln? What’s the grand vision?
PHILIP CLAYTON (Provost, Claremont Lincoln University): You have to get beyond the point of people defining their religions by the traditional walls. . . . When you train rabbis in one school, pastors in another, imams in another, you put them out into communities they create an “us versus them” mentality. What if we do something that’s never been done before? Let’s train them in the same classroom. Let’s let them work out their differences in their day-to-day education. When they go out into their communities you won’t find them doing the “us versus them,” but, we hope, the “we.” What that would [do] for the face of religion in America would be staggering.
GONZALEZ: Claremont Lincoln is actually the creation of a much older institution, United Methodist-affiliated Claremont School of Theology, founded in 1885. It partnered with southern California’s Academy of Jewish Religion and the Islamic Center of Southern California to form this new school. Students attending this school can get master’s degrees in divinity, rabbinic studies, and Muslim counseling.
GONZALEZ: Beyond America’s changing religious landscape, there’s another reason why Claremont went multifaith: survival. Like other schools of theology and seminaries during these tough economic times, this campus faced a declining enrollment and a tightening budget. Allowing students from other faiths to train here is one way to keep the lights on and the doors open.
CLAYTON: This is an extremely hard time for American theological schools. We could go on with a dwindling number of Methodists students, but we decided we wanted to be ahead of the curve. . . . we had a 45-year history of being edgy. We were always sort of pushing the envelope, and so we decided we would push the envelope on this one.
To read the entire interview transcript above, CLICK HERE.
From "Donation spurs multifaith university in Claremont" posted at The Christian Century 5/25/11
Looking to support "tolerance and respect among religions," a United Methodist couple has upped its total donation to $50 million to launch a multifaith university that will educate professional leaders for churches, synagogues and mosques while providing those future clergy with insights into interreligious issues.
The Methodist-affiliated Claremont School of Theology announced May 16 that philanthropists David and Joan Lincoln, who earlier donated $10 million, would be honored in the institution's name—Claremont Lincoln University—as classes begin this fall. Only the seminary will receive money from United Methodist agencies.
A week before the university announcement was made, the New York Times reported that Pitzer College, one of the seven Claremont colleges within walking distance of the seminary, will offer a major in secularism this fall. The new department of secular studies is headed by sociologist Phil Zuckerman, who has written extensively on secularism.
To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.
From "Pastors and Rabbis and Imams" by Libby A. Nelson, Inside Higher Ed 10/25/11
Like everything about the newly established university, the vision is ecumenical and ambitious.
As the United States becomes more religiously diverse, with more interfaith marriages and families, the demand for ministers and religious counselors who are comfortable in that atmosphere is "off the charts, no question," says Philip Clayton, Claremont Lincoln's provost.
"Drawing on the wealth of interreligious partnerships is one of the most crucial things that we need to learn for the coming decades," Clayton says. "Frankly, without that resource, I don't think human civilization is going to make it."
"The majority of Methodists embrace the interreligious project as long as the Methodist members participate as Christians in interreligious dialogue,” Clayton says.
To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.
From "The Amazing Technicolor Multifaith Theology School" by Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 6/11/10
This move by the Claremont School of Theology illustrates what happens when churches and denominations allow their institutions to embrace theological liberalism. . . . The leftward march of liberal Protestantism is hardly news, but on occasion a development arises that serves as something of a parable of that trajectory.
Liberal Protestantism long ago grew embarrassed by the exclusive claims of biblical Christianity and the historic Christian faith. Adopting pluralist and inclusivist reconstructions of the faith, liberal theologians and theological schools have been pressing the margins for over a century now. Given that trajectory, a multifaith theological seminary was an inevitability — the only question was when and where it would happen.
Mark Tooley, President of The Institute on Religion and Democracy, said that the school’s action meant that it “seems to be moving away from its responsibility to the United Methodist Church.” He added: “It almost seems that they’re trying to fulfill the stereotype that many in the church have of liberal Methodism on the West Coast.”
In a subsequent interview, Tooley, a United Methodist, pointed out that the United Methodist Church has lost nearly half of its membership on the West Coast.
To read the entire opinion column above, CLICK HERE.