Time Celebrates Methodist Seminary's Move to Train Imams and Rabbis Too

For centuries, theological seminaries minted trained and licensed ministers of their respective religious traditions. They took seriously their creedal and confessional commitments to their respective faiths and denominations. While comparative theology may have been taught, it was with a view to understand and critically evaluate them as rival truth claims, not equally valid truthful claims. But those dark, backwards days may be behind us if Claremont School of Theology successfully paves the way.

Or at least that's the sentiment conveyed in Time magazine writer Elizabeth Dias's August 22 article, "Training Pastors, Rabbis, and Imams Together."

Dias's 10-paragraph-long August 22 article portrayed Claremont president Jerry Campbell as a "classic American" entrepreneur who took a novel approach to the school's "low enrollment and in-the-red" balance sheet: "end isolated clerical training" by "bring[ing] toegether Claremont, the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) and the Academy for Jewish Religion California."

Of course, religious training deals in matters of eternal verities, not marketplace commodities, so that sort of approach is unwise, religious conservatives would argue. Yet Dias excluded any dissent from her examination into the newly inclusive Methodist seminary. 

Indeed, Dias's word choice in the following passage seems to hint conservative critics are opposed to religious tolerance (emphasis mine):

To be sure, Claremont's push to desegregate religious education has encountered its share of roadblocks. The most notable to date occurred in January when questions about Claremont's commitment to Christian education nearly cost the school its funding and sanction from the United Methodist Church. After a five-month investigation, Campbell prevailed. "We explained clearly to the [Methodist] review team that in fact our United Methodist character continues intact throughout this program," he said. "We intend to be the Christian partner in this endeavor, and so we are not changing our United Methodist character essentially in any way."

But how can a Christian seminary grant divinity degrees to persons of religious traditions that it views as false religions? And if Claremont views other religious traditions as equally valid, wouldn't that by definition be a denial of the truth claims of Christian Scripture, which holds forth Jesus Christ as the only "name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

A thorough religion reporter would explore these questions; sadly Dias failed to do just that.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.