Multi-Faith Seminary and Chevruta Study

Last years’ announcement of the attempt to create a trilateral seminary that produced ministers, rabbis, and imams has come to be. They plan on working to include Jains also. I do not know how it would work and I have heard that there is a bot of controversy among some of the potential poll of instructors. There are severla similar projects int he works around the US. The Jewish leader of this project Mel Gottlieb is a RIETS musmakh who is the President of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California (AJRCA). Here is an article he just wrote about introducing hevruta study for three faith purposes.

In June of 2010, the three of us, Rev. Jerry Campbell, Imam Jihad Turk and Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, announced an agreement for our respective institutions to co-create the world’s first inter-religious university — a place where rabbis, ministers, imams and other religious leaders would each be educated in their own traditions, side by side, but also with classes in common. The new university would include academic schools for students who wanted to do world-healing work in non-religious fields as well.

The purpose of this new concept was not to water down the beliefs of each of the different traditions, but rather to create understanding, promote mutual respect and learn how to cooperate across religious boundaries to address the world’s greatest problems.

This Sept. 6, 2011, with the help of a $50 million gift from Joan and David Lincoln, our vision is becoming a reality in the form of the launch of Claremont Lincoln University. We are very excited about the history-making potential of this new institution and the caliber of students it is attracting.

About a year ago we committed to meet for chavruta once a month. Chavruta is Hebrew for an engagement to study holy texts. When it’s done between people of different beliefs, it’s a way of getting to know “the other,” rather than accepting stereotypes.

At our most recent meeting, we chose texts that were troublesome from our own scriptures. We explained them to each other in light of scholarship, historical context and spiritual insight. We’ve discovered that the more fundamentalist members of each of our faiths prefer literal interpretations of such texts, often without considering scholarship and context, and use them to create separation rather than inclusion. We disagree with that approach.

For this session, Imam Turk chose a text from the Quran that is often interpreted as meaning that those who don’t believe in Islam cannot obtain salvation.He pointed out, however, that capitalizing the word Islam in this case is a fundamentalist translation. It implies that those who believe the religion of Islam are superior. Other texts in the Quran (such as 2:62) contradict that assumption.

In fact, said Imam Turk, the correct scholarly translation of this text is to spell islam with a lower case “i,” using the word’s literal meaning: submission/yielding (to God). Since Christians, Jews and other spiritual people, as well as Muslims, yield to the Divine, they are all included in the word islam.

Our chavruta, and many such similar groups around the world, prove that people from very different religious traditions can respect, understand and love each other — and hopefully spread that spirit to their communities.
It is not surprising that leaders from countries with high levels of religious violence are among the most enthusiastic voices of praise for this new model for desegregating religious education. If we can make this concept work here in America, there is hope that similar models will work in their countries as well. May it be so.
Read the Rest Here

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