Volume 16: Issue 4 – October 2013
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Multifaith Education in American Theological Schools: Looking Back, Looking Ahead
The period 2002-2012 saw remarkable developments in multifaith education at American theological schools. Looking ahead, multifaith education in theological schools is poised to enter a new phase of broad engagement and development. This essay focuses on three aspects of the practice of multifaith education in seminaries. It first presents a brief historical overview of the initiatives and institutions that pioneered multifaith education in theological schools. It then summarizes findings from surveys, reports and collegial gatherings about the pedagogy of multifaith education. Finally, eight questions for practitioners of multifaith education seminaries to explore in the future are offered.
Comparative Theological Learning as an Ordinary Part of Theological Education
Francis X. Clooney, SJ
This essay argues, as its title suggests, that learning that is both comparative and theological can be an ordinary — possible, beneficial, even necessary — part of theological education and, like other fields of study, may be incorporated in the curriculum in ways that meet practical curricular needs. Once the professor has undertaken the initial, minimal learning, teaching comparatively can become a natural and integral part of any seminary course. The study of the other is not exotic or in a class by itself; if we can study our own religious tradition today, we can study others as well. The thesis is argued in several parts: 1) interreligious diversity is integral to the context of contemporary faith; 2) comparative theology engages diversity in an intentionally theological way and needs to be distinguished from other disciplines; 3) a comparative theological approach aids in the process of ensuring that attention to diversity is integral to theological education; 4) teaching comparative theology is not different from teaching other forms of theology. None of this, I suggest, requires a liberal or pluralist theological starting point.
Educating Seminarians for Convicted Civility in a Multifaith World
Seminary education is adjusting to the global realities of inter-religious encounter. An increasingly important element of equipping seminarians must be the ability to embrace two dimensions of mature faith; (1) deep convictions related to their own faith, and (2) genuine civility in their engagement with others. The practice of convicted civility is best learned experientially through participative assignments and close contact with people of other faiths. The article explores an approach by which students are encouraged to develop the capacity and skills to both address the faith issues that divide us and to respond to social issues that require the exercise of civility to live together peacefully. The experience of Fuller Seminary, an evangelical, multidenominational, and multiethnic institution provides a context for educating seminarians for convicted civility in a multifaith world.
Being Shaped by the Ritual Practices of Others: a Classroom Reflection
Lisa M. Hess
This reflection offers a glimpse into a Masters' level practical theology course in “wisdom formation” for its potential implications and contributions in multifaith education. Instigated by an unexpected companionship between the two instructors – an eighth-generation rabbi, leader of CLAL (the Center for Learning and Leadership) and a Presbyterian practical theologian in a free-standing United Methodist seminary – this elective course was developed for Christian and Jewish ministry students, though it eventually evolved into a required Masters of Divinity course in theologies of religious pluralism and interreligious/intercultural encounter. The course's structure and implementation are described, followed by difficulties faced and potential implications for multifaith education, specifically those in disciplinary formation, institutional stewardship, and the diverse contexts and questions for teaching and learning.
IN THE CLASSROOM
Intracultural Interreligious Learning: Openings Toward Contextualization
The authors developed and co-taught a course on Korean indigenous spiritualities designed primarily for Korean Christians to reflect on whether such spiritualities might hold resources for their religious lives. Engaging students directly with the spiritual practices, texts and representatives of the traditions, the course encouraged students to voice their understandings of these traditions on their own terms, and the extent to which they might hold resources for Korean Christianity. Starting each class session with pair discussions (in Korean, if desired), and then sharing the pair responses with the larger class for fuller discussion gradually developed intracultural interreligious openness to the Korean indigenous heritage. The two non-Korean students brought ‘outsider’ questions and responses to the conversation. Students reported that the learning experience had been successful and valuable.
Going Places: Travel Seminars as Opportunities for Interfaith Education
Gordon S. Mikoski
Many theological schools use short term travel as a way to foster interfaith education. Due to their experiential, holistic, and intense nature, travel seminars focused on the promotion of interfaith learning can shape a future religious leader’s outlook on religious communities across the course of her entire career. In this article I explore the pedagogical dimensions of travel seminars as a tool for interfaith education through the lens of a travel seminar to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories.
Staying Put: Local Context as Classroom for Multifaith Education
Timur R. Yuskaev
This essay argues that multifaith concerns must become central components of curricula across theological education. It outlines a methodology for such incorporation in a course and for an audience that, at first glance, appears not to lend itself to such an approach, a Hartford Seminary course on Muslim public speaking for Islamic Chaplaincy students. This methodology is based on the model of educational programs developed by the Interfaith Center of New York for local religious leaders and professionals who work with and within religiously diverse settings, such as school teachers, court officials, health care professionals, and social workers. This model of practical multifaith education is based on the local realities of religious diversity that constitutes the context for the work of graduates of theological schools.
Relationship Building through Narrative Sharing: A Retreat for Muslim and Jewish Emerging Religious Leaders
Nancy Fuchs Kreimer
The author and her colleagues planned and led three retreats to build relationships between rabbinical students and Muslim leaders of tomorrow. Narrative Pedagogy served to inform the creation of these immersive experiences. The retreats made use of the shared scriptural traditions around Joseph(Torah) and Yusuf(Qur’an) to build connections based on a common passion for text study. Parallel to the academic exploration of religious and cultural narratives, participants wove connections based on an ethos of appreciative inquiry and the guided sharing of personal stories. Carefully structured exercises provided a container for the growth of understanding and connection.
Meeting the Familiar Yet Strange: Strategies for Introducing American Christians to Jesus and Mary as Muslims Know Them
Lucinda Allen Mosher
Jesus and Mary have been called simultaneously bridge and gulf between two massive, complex religion-communities. In spite of this—and in spite of obvious distinctions between such instructional venues such as a church’s adult education program, a seminary classroom, or a required university theology course—a fairly consistent set of strategies work well when helping Christians understand Jesus and Mary as Muslims known them. Gaining such familiarity is useful preparation for Christians’ eventual appreciative conversation with Muslims.
• A Teaching Tactic For Interfaith Engagement
• Concentric Circles Dialogue Exercise
Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook
• Current Events as Interfaith Engagement Case Studies
• Learning With and From Religious Others
• Human Subjects Research: Lessons about Interreligious Relations beyond the Research Thesis
Paul D. Numrich
• Multifaith/Multicultural Collaborating Groups