Claremont's Multi-Faith Project

United Methodists are currently somewhat abuzz over the decision of Claremont School of Theology (UMC) to launch their new "Multi-Faith" project. This endeavor which has now received the belated nod from the denominational University Senate, will seek to provide clerical training for persons who are entering ministry in a variety of religious expressions. These offerings will initially target Christian, Jewish, and Muslim candidates for ministry. According to the July 9 "United Methodist Reporter", Claremont's "University Project" will seek to expand to include Buddhist and Hindu options. Predictably, this has raised concerns from United Methodists who question whether it constitutes a loss of clear focus upon the historic mission of the educational efforts of United Methodist seminaries.

Could all of this be the breeding ground for a tempest in a teapot? How big a deal is the so called University Project? Perhaps the answer could be in the details. Details are admittedly scarce at this point, but here are some ruminations for those who like to engage in "could be's".

The Claremont program could be fairly benign if it emphasizes understanding and dialogue between the clergy of various living world religions. In such a context, one could benefit from exposure to the actual practitioners of a religion as ideas are explored, practices are examined, and strengths and weaknesses are highlighted. One could conceivably obtain the benefits of both faith confirmation and corrective in light of the insights brought to bear by other traditions.

On the other hand, there could be problems. One might discover that the emphasis is upon a leveling of the theological field. The goal in such a circumstance could be to create a worldview in which there is no clear superiority of one faith over another. In such a setting, the clerical candidate would find it expedient to not emphasize any ascendancy of their particular faith over an alternate system. It could be considered boorish to affirm that one's faith tradition expresses a unique truth claim. Evangelicals of any faith tradition could quickly discover that she or he is the "odd man out". Such possibilities could be experienced either because the institutional mission statement for the program mandates it, or as any post-seminarian knows, the various instructors for the courses or seminars carry their philosophical baggage into the session expectations.

It remains to be seen how this will play out for Claremont, but it will doubtless be interesting. For those who find Claremont's experiment to be unsettling, let me offer a word of comfort. The program is not likely to be a really big deal. I may be wrong, but I suspect the persons who will be drawn to this program will be few. Anyone who is passionate about their faith is not likely to be enthusiastic about doing their core study for ministry in a setting that appears to minimize the rich distinctive of their faith. Further, the more evangelical one is, the less comfortable will be any setting in which bedrock beliefs and core values are perceived to be repressed.

All of this remains to be determined as the program plays out, but it could be that the multi-faith educational program at Claremont will simply be one more reason for seminarian's to attend some alternate institution.



I have just finished reviewing the materials from two or three disaster response agencies regarding the Haiti situation. The graphic descriptions along with the startling photos serve to bring home in a powerful way just how important various matters are. I am feeling reinvigorated to step up and make a difference for these people.

We will doubtless be hearing of opportunities to give of our resources and even our
physical presence in the weeks to come, and I know that we will respond in a good manner. But, I also am freshly aware of the spiritual lesson that I bring away from crisis. I like most people have those moments in life when things just get my goat. A decision is made. An action is implemented. A comment is uttered. And, I lose it. I come unglued. That issue, for the moment, is the biggest thing in
the universe. I am tempted (if only in private) to go on a rant about how unhappy I am. I can wax eloquent about how unjust, unwise, or downright bone-headed the decision, action, or comment was. For that brief moment, the issue of my consternation is the most horrible offense against God and the universe that has ever occurred. I never stop to think about God's words to Jonah, "Do you do well to be angry?"

However, I was stopped by the Haiti reports. The stuff I get upset over--the substance of my passionate crusades truly becomes trivial when I see broken bodies and children suffering from thirst.
The words sobered and embarrassed come to me as I think about how I am tempted whine over my difficult struggles while events like Haiti play out. How about you?

Do you ever feel that way? How does the substance of your passionate crusades look on around our world? Here is an idea for the new year. Every time I am tempted to engage in hand wringing over some issue of my difficult life, I will do my best to remember to stop and compare my stuff with those
events that will doubtless be playing out around me. Maybe I will whine a little less and work a little more.

Want to join me?

Poland Music Trip