Today the new University Project announced it’s official name – Claremont Lincoln University. You can read about the background story of the name here.

As a Claremont student, I am invested in the future of the project. I had desired to come to the School of Theology for a while but that was considerably amplified with the announcement of the project [read the Time Magazine article here] to train Imams, Rabbis and Pastors in close quarters and in close contact.

There are two things that I am especially excited about and a third that I am concerned about:

  • There has been a lot of talk around training Imams. I have been following several conversations about the domestic training of those who will serve in U.S. Islamic communities. Historically, the first wave was bringing over foreign trained Imams to serve in the American context. That had inherent limitations. The second wave was to send American candidates for foreign training. The challenge was then to translate the training into a context that was significantly different than the training environment.

Imams in the U.S. are asked to provide services and play roles that are unique to the North American context. Imams are asked – not just to be experts in theology and textual interpretation – but serve as social workers, counselors, and all sorts of other roles that are not traditionally in the job description or accounted for in the training they may receive. The Islamic Center of Southern California and Claremont Lincoln University will address these concerns in a uniquely particular way.

  • Questions about training ministers in a pluralistic environment are deep. My program is in Practical Theology and my hope is to train future ministers. I am often asked  about doing this in an environment where Rabbis and Imams are trained. I think it is important to say that the goal here is not to merge into one religion or do away with difference. As a Christian minister my desire is to prepare future students to serve in an environment that is both diverse and complex. It does us no good to train them for service in an environment that no longer exists. This is the real world and these are our new realities. Ministry training should be calibrated appropriately.

Here is one of my concerns:

In response to the LA Times article, there were several comments. This one caught my attention:

The idea of making the world nicer by accepting all religions equally is bound to fail. People with intellects sophisticated enough to sympathize with the idea are more likely to reject all religions equally. Believers will not reject their holy scriptures which proclaim their way is the only way….. except for the tiny minority of theologians who refuse to take their religion literally and are rejected by the masses they preach down to.

It reminds me that we are not entering this endeavor in a vacuum. We are no longer in a majority position where certain constants can be relied upon. We are in a liquid environment that asks us to navigate shifting currents and changing tides. The tide of public opinion, denominational difference, and sectarian concerns are but three of them.

I am thrilled to be at Claremont at this time. I am intrigued by the road ahead and fascinated by the elaborate challenges that need to be overcome.  I am also greatly encouraged by the ones that have already been overcome.