Monday Morning Insights

Photo of Todd

    United Methodists Start “Multi-Faith” Seminary

    United Methodists Start “Multi-Faith” Seminary

    According to  In a bow to the growing diversity of America's religious landscape, the Claremont School of Theology, a Christian institution with long ties to the Methodist Church, will add clerical training for Muslims and Jews to its curriculum this fall, to become, in a sense, the first truly multi-faith American seminary.

    The transition upends centuries of tradition in which seminaries have hewn not just to single faiths but often to single denominations within those faiths. Eventually, Claremont hopes to add clerical programs for Buddhists and Hindus.



    Is it a money thing to keep the 'seminary' alive?

    Is it a politically correct thing?

    Where is the United Methodist Church in all of this?  (According to Wikipedia, Claremont is one of 13 approved seminaries affiliated with the United Methodist Church... Claremont's website seems to back that up).

    Here's what the Claremont website says about the change:

    Affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Claremont School of Theology has a long history of educating religious leaders. Founded in 1885, the School embraced an ecumenical vision upon its move to Claremont, California, in 1957. Today, it is making a similar adjustment of vision, to meet the cultural and religious demands of a world in transition.

    While maintaining a strong School of Theology to prepare Christian ministers, Claremont is developing other schools to prepare teachers, counselors, scholars and community leaders for the interreligious realities of the 21st Century. We call this plan the University Project.

    Also from the Claremont website:

    We envision a model of theological education in which students are educated rigorously and intensively in their own religious traditions and in contact with the other religious traditions that are thriving throughout our society.  We aim to instill our students with a strong sense of their own religious identities and the integrity of the religious traditions that they represent, while simultaneously teaching them to recognize the legitimacy and integrity of the other religious traditions which they will encounter at Claremont and the world beyond.

    According to Jerry Campbell, President of the school:

    Some times, change seems glacial in its pace.  And at others, it hits like an avalanche.  Today, I am invigorated by the rush of change coming to Claremont, and we're running as fast as we can to keep one step ahead of it all!

    Your thoughts?




    if you want a Globally Recognized Avatar (the images next to your profile) get them here. Once you sign up, your picture will displayed on any website that supports gravitars.

    1. Richard H on Mon, June 14, 2010

      Last I heard the UM University Senate (the body that oversees UM seminaries - though one must take “oversee” fairly loosely in this context) was withholding denominational funds from Claremont, at least partly because of this move. While there are plenty of UMs who would see Claremont’s move as good, I think a majority would still see it as sorely misguided.

    2. Peter Hamm on Mon, June 14, 2010

      Well, if the Bible isn’t really authoritative, and if Jesus isn’t the only way to God, then it makes sense…


    3. Richard H on Mon, June 14, 2010

      That’s right, Peter. That’s why some of us in the UMC are trying to change things, so that events like this at Claremont will not even be considered.

    4. CS on Mon, June 14, 2010

      I’m liking what Todd Friel has to say in this department more and more.  He says, “If there is a UNI- in the name, watch out.”


    5. jerry k on Mon, June 14, 2010

      If I remember right Elijah University, situated on Mount Carmel, did not invite the prophets of Baal to come and set along side and teach their religion.

    6. Heather Truett on Mon, June 14, 2010

      The UMC approved this school before this occurred.  Make no comments on us until we see how the General Conference reacts.

    7. John Leek on Mon, June 14, 2010

      ... what Peter said.

      This makes sense only if you don’t believe the Bible or 2000 years of the Christian faith.

      When affirming all belief trumps teaching right belief it’s clear the institution has run head-first into moral relativism.

      I say funding for seminaries should be tied to students, not institutions.  I know those more orthodox would maintain or increase their funding that way and those running away from orthodox faith would not.

    8. Jeremy Smith on Mon, June 14, 2010

      I’m pretty disappointed that Claremont is addressing a serious topic that no one commented about: inter-faith violence in the developing world. This sort of education could bring about the leaders with multi-faith training that are desperately needed.

      There are people dying from interfaith violence, and all you people talk about is heresy?

    9. Peter Hamm on Mon, June 14, 2010


      I can only speak for myself, but no one here is a big fan of inter-faith violence, which is more often than not inter-racial violence disguised as “faith” violence.

      This doesn’t mean, however, that we throw out our faith. The issue of inter-faith violence has no connection here.

    10. Jeremy Smith on Mon, June 14, 2010

      It has every connection as addressing interfaith conflict is one of its primary goals. One of the profs said “Our goal is not to dilute our faith but rather to be better Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Protestants, Buddhists ... and by being so, together we will tear down walls of hate that seek to separate us”

    11. Peter Hamm on Mon, June 14, 2010


      with all due respect, how does one go about doing that in a seminary setting if you believe, as one who follows Christ and believes the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God, that Jesus is the way, and the only way, to God. Or do you not believe that.

    12. Jeremy Smith on Mon, June 14, 2010


      Why do you assume that being in the presence of people who deny Christ’s salvific power will diminish our own faith? Seminary is a place of learning, and even in a homogenous setting there is a variety of belief. I have studied next to Jews and Muslims without fear of their faith “rubbing off” on me.

      If anything, the standards for seminary should be RAISED not lowered by this move, as the seminary looks for people who are strong in their faith seeking to be molded, not weak ones looking to be justified.

    13. Peter Hamm on Mon, June 14, 2010


      1. I didn’t say that being in the presence of people who deny Christ will diminish our faith. On the contrary, we are called to be there, and I try to be there as often as I can. You are turning this discussion where you think you want it to go, and not addressing my main concern. Let me rephrase.

      You want to teach people the truths of their faith and at the same time, in the same building, in perhaps the same classrooms, the truths of diametrically opposed world religions side by side. It’s a little like Jesus telling followers, “look, I want you to get really good at what you believe right now, and believing in me is really not the point, in fact, you don’t have to”. Jesus said some things that were… uh… not that.

      The idea of a seminary that teaches about the truths of the Bible in the room next to one in which the truths of the Koran or whatever are taught is so preposterous, it’s laughable. (And I bet Muslims would agree with this.)

      It has nothing to do with tolerance, or inter-faith communication, or anything of that sort. It is ludicrous.

      You may succeed in raising the quality of education, I will grant you that, but at what cost? Perhaps the lowering of the value of Jesus as the unique Son of God, in whom, and in whom alone, is found friendship with God.

      So what “religious persuasion” would the seminary say it adheres to?

    14. Lindsay @ on Mon, June 14, 2010

      Richard and Heather,  I’m thankful to hear that UMs don’t necessarily condone this move.

    15. CS on Tue, June 15, 2010


      “It has every connection as addressing interfaith conflict is one of its primary goals. One of the profs said “Our goal is not to dilute our faith but rather to be better Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Protestants, Buddhists ... and by being so, together we will tear down walls of hate that seek to separate us” “

      Here’s what the Bible has to say on this sort of idea:

      “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
      And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)”


    16. Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >

      Post a Comment

    17. (will not be published)

      Remember my personal information

      Notify me of follow-up comments?