theological education

Close Filter Panel
Cover image

Teaching for a Multifaith World

Book-Review
Fernandez, Eleazar S.
2017
Pickwick Publications
iconTags: inter-religious teaching and learning   |   interfaith teaching and learning   |   multifaith education   |   theological education

Reviewed by: R. Jane Williams
The public arena of the 21st century has become one in which religious intolerance and inflammatory and questionable assertions about religions and specific groups of people are not only acceptable to many persons but are frequently invited and modeled by community leaders at many levels of mainstream American culture. Religious leaders who might model critical public engagement and expose ignorant and dangerous misrepresentations of whole faith communities are rarely represented ...

The public arena of the 21st century has become one in which religious intolerance and inflammatory and questionable assertions about religions and specific groups of people are not only acceptable to many persons but are frequently invited and modeled by community leaders at many levels of mainstream American culture. Religious leaders who might model critical public engagement and expose ignorant and dangerous misrepresentations of whole faith communities are rarely represented in media. Meanwhile, current data suggests that more than 25 percent of married couples in America are interfaith. How do seminaries prepare students to minister in a global society where fear, lies, and misunderstandings are rampant and where interreligious understanding and cooperation are so essential to human survival and community?

Most seminaries have already recognized one basic assertion of this book -- that seminary teaching is not about pouring stable and unchanging religious content into our students. Healthy seminaries of the 21st century are called instead to help students grow deep and secure roots in their faith tradition such that fear of the Other will be replaced by curiosity and engagement while appreciating, practicing, and honoring their own faith identity. Such secure attachment to their faith identities will help students minister in the multifaith contexts they are likely to encounter while offering pastoral care in any community they serve. Fernandez and his colleagues offer thought-provoking, creative chapters on spiritual formation, curriculum development, multifaith pastoral care, and public ministry in the age of terrorism and over-the-top propaganda, lies, and misunderstandings that have created the fear and isolation of American religious and secular culture. 

Teaching in a Multifaith World includes chapters that address seminary education from the perspective of theoretical lectures and models to practical guidelines and principles. For example, in chapter 3, Mary Hess asserts that current students benefit from the almost universal experience of video gaming and are more open to collaborative learning, recognition of human fallibility, and acceptance of change than faculty may believe. Today’s students, she believes, are used to learning from experience, reflection, retrying, and developing skills at noticing differences and similarities that provide clues to choices they need to make. Hess advises faculty to build on these skills by exploring in vivo experiences of relationship with those of other faiths. Multifaith learning need not relativize beliefs as having equal truth but should ground students in humility that enables engagement with other faiths while deepening one’s own religious roots and identity. Helping students explore rather than debate the verity of other faiths decreases the fear that comes from ignorance and diminishes the power of fear-based claims and labels propounded in the public sphere.

Kujawa-Holbrook’s chapter is the capstone of the volume and begins by asserting that “Interreligious learning emanates from the collective belief that we are all, despite our religious differences, part of one human community” (199). She offers aspirational characteristics of healthy religious communities that can be generalized to most congregations. Communities of faith must first be able to sustain relationships of mutual care and respect that embody belief in the dignity of every human being within their own community. Healthy relationships within one’s home community become indicators of healthy relationship potential with those outside one’s own community. Hospitality is not just a welcome sign on the door, but includes an awareness of food choices, timing of Sabbath, and an open-hearted welcome of strangers. The proliferation of multifaith families presents congregations with opportunities for interreligious understanding (as opposed to conversion possibilities) as the presence of such families unearths hitherto unknown varieties of holiday celebrations, birthing and funeral traditions, premarital counseling needs, and a multitude of other learnings.

While many experienced faculty were trained to offer the stable and enduring truths of a given faith perspective, post-modern and post-colonial studies have created recognition of the need for fluency in the changing nature of knowledge and the importance of self-awareness of one’s perspective and experiences such that knowing, honoring, and speaking from one’s specific religious identity involves openness to engagement with others in a spirit of curiosity and respect. Seminaries and their graduates have a role to play in helping to create bridges between different communities (religious and other) rather than walls. Those seminaries moving toward building bridges would do well to assign Teaching in a Multifaith World as required faculty reading.

Change is the constant in theological education, though it may not seem so from some vantage points. Most people in an organization desire a sense of permanence. Given the nature of the day-to-day routine, most people experience on the job, it's not difficult to appreciate they are lulled into a ...

Cover image

Integrating Work in Theological Education

Book-Review
Cahalan, Kathleen A.; Foley, Edward; Mikoski, Gordon S., eds.
2017
Wipf and Stock Publishers
iconTags: curriculum   |   integration   |   theological education

Reviewed by: Jonathan Roach
This intriguing 20-article volume edited by Kathleen Cahalan, Edward Foley, and Gordon Mikoski explores the question of integration in theological education. The editors, who also author multiple articles in this book, divide this text into four sections – schools, curriculums, courses, and frameworks – to engage integration. The authors represent a variety of disciplines in theological education including: practical theology, worship, Christian education, spirituality, ministry, leadership, and church history. In the introduction, ...
This intriguing 20-article volume edited by Kathleen Cahalan, Edward Foley, and Gordon Mikoski explores the question of integration in theological education. The editors, who also author multiple articles in this book, divide this text into four sections – schools, curriculums, courses, and frameworks – to engage integration. The authors represent a variety of disciplines in theological education including: practical theology, worship, Christian education, spirituality, ministry, leadership, and church history. In the introduction, Stephen Graham explains, “this book takes a very broad view of integration, using the term in three ways: making connections between bodies of knowledge, overcoming the divide between theory and practice, and enhancing what is called the ‘professional’ model by integrating intellectual, practical, and moral and professional aspects of theological education” (ix). Cahalan frames this volume with a very personal and robust essay. She writes, “I fear we have left it to the students to connect the dots between study, call, and ministry…the lack of integration in theological education and ministerial practice comes at a high price. It reverberates through the personal, ecclesial, and systemic messes we see every day in the church” (2). She then frames this book with various approaches to integration including: the split between theory and practice, divisions between various branches of theological study, and the integration between the intellectual, practical, and moral/professional domains. In the first section on schools, the authors consider integration across the wider school communities. Foley opens this section by examining the school as an agent in the integrating process. He broadens the concept of school to include formal, informal, and semi-formal education. After chapters on faculty development and renewal processes, Foley returns to provide a case study from Catholic Theological Union and an additional article to sum up this section. He concludes that “these are challenging times, but these challenges are also gifts, and they would be a terrible thing to waste” (71). The second section, on curriculums, addresses the opportunities and problems in the area of integration in theological programs of study. Cahalan begins by exploring the dynamics of seminary curriculum around the concept of integration. She argues that “if faculty want education to be more integrative, they have to do more than rearrange the courses and credits and defend their turf” (75). Then she outlines principles of curricular design to produce integrated learning. Her themes are continued in articles by David Rylaarsdam, who explores overhauling curriculum, Jeffery Jones, who gives special attention to the relationship between field education and the rest of the curriculum, and David Jenkins, who adds the needs of denominations to the mix of curricula drivers. The third section explores integration with courses. Mikoski starts breaking integration down to the course level including engaging the explicit, implicit, and null curriculum. After three well-developed case studies, Jeffery Tribble adds the concept of racial differences and Foley adds the challenge of online classes to the discussion on integration. Finally, in the last section, the three editors engage integration through three lenses: “as models, as practical wisdom, and as theology” (14). All three provide engaging conclusions that should propel readers to action. Although the target audience for this book is theological educators and administrators, this book offers important fodder for independent theologians and leaders of religious communities to consider. In addition to being well-written and clear, a very difficult task for an edited volume, this text unpacks some very complex educational theories and theological issues in accessible non-jargon packed language. Although this text could have benefited by exploring the politics and challenges of change in light of its call for integration, it presents a well-rounded and very worthwhile read. The concept of integration will remain an important topic for faculty, administrators, and religious leaders for years to come, and this book provides a valuable contribution to the discussion.

I wrote a very thoughtful essay about a week ago on teaching social justice as a theological value.  It centered on a chance meeting my spouse and I had with the CEO and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester, Jim Killoran. In that piece, I wanted to make ...

In a low and pensive voice, the young woman student posed her question to the all-women course. Her question sent a gentle shockwave through the room. After some far ranging discussion, my response to her question was this – “Black women all over the world make passionate love all night long, ...