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As this news report from PBS shows, Claremont Lincoln University, a graduate school in California, is the first in the United States to bring together Christians, Jews and Muslims in the same classrooms to educate the future leaders of churches, synagogues and mosques. Claremont Lincoln is actually the creation of a much older institution, United Methodist-affiliated Claremont School of Theology, founded in 1885.  It partnered with Southern California’s Academy of Jewish Religion and the Islamic Center of Southern California to form this new school. Students attending this school can get master’s degrees in divinity, rabbinic studies and Muslim counseling. You can watch the report here.   hmmmm… thoughts? Todd

Current Events
Megachurch pastor Phil Hotsenpiller and his wife, Tammy, invited their Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist neighbors over to their Southern California home for an interfaith, multicultural meal. But not just any meal: This one was being filmed as a pilot for a reality TV show based on Tammy Hotsenpiller’s book, “Taste of Humanity” – which she described as an attempt to “bring cultures together through cuisine.” “I had everyone bring something from their country,” Tammy Hotsenpiller recalled, “and I thought, ‘Well what is America known for? I mean, apple pie and hot dogs.’ So I brought apple pie and hot dogs. We did a hot dog bar with all the condiments and everything else.” Their neighbors hadn’t gotten together in 20 years. “And the first thing [our guests] asked was, ‘Was it kosher? Are they beef? Are they pork?’ “So it gave us an opportunity to talk about their conviction and why they don’t eat pork and what that means, and it really opened up some great opportunities of dialogue and conversation – just really over cuisine – all of us sitting down and talking about what our beliefs are.” The Hotsenpillers won’t say which networks they’re pitching the reality show to. Ashley Williams, who has worked as a segment producer for ABC’s “The Bachelor,” filmed the pilot. In 30 minute episodes, the Hotsenpilles say, the program would showcase dinners held in the homes of people from neighborhoods across America. via Hot dogs, apple pie and religion: Pastor pitches reality food show – CNN Belief Blog – Blogs. What do you think?  Good idea for a reality tv show, or horrible?

Bob Roberts is the Senior Pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, TX.  He’s doing something that many evangelical pastors would not dare to do… hosting a multi-faith forum in his church. OK.  Stop. You’re judging. This isn’t a forum where everyone gets together to find common ground and leave singing Kumbayah. Here’s how Bob describes the first ever “Global Faith Forum”:

In this time of tension between faiths, this Global Faith Forum comes as such an important time, for Christians and Muslims and Jews and other faiths to be respectful of one another’s faith and yet allow one another to hold on to their faith convictions in contrast to some other inter-faith conversations where genuine differences are glossed over. While there may be misunderstandings, that’s all the more reason it is so importance to be engaging in conversation with other faiths in this day and age and this Global Faith Forum is hosting that conversation.

Bob continues:

No one believes in the Great Commission more than I – it is what I have given m life to.  Do we realize how our rhetoric, attitude, and actions are in direct conflict with the Great Commission?  It is not 1985 anymore – that was the beginning of a major global shift in every way.

Twenty-five years ago, when we started NorthWood Church where I pastor, God gave me a verse that we would be a global church – but I really didn’t know what that meant and less about how to live that out.  God knew.  He knew all the changes coming to the world, he knew we would all be connected, he knew all the things back then I’ve been learning the past two decades.  In his own way, he was preparing me and NorthWood and the churches we start in the US for this adventure and it’s been a grand adventure. first started as a couple of my friends who were non-Christians were going to come to visit me and my church because they had “never met an evangelical” like me.  I told them there were many, they just didn’t hear from them as much.  They wanted to visit the church where all these people were that were doing all these amazing things in Vietnam and even other places.  A couple of non-Christian friends had come and they were telling the others, and several were wanting to come.  I also asked them if they could come in our missions month in November for our church and they agreed. I’m always asked by pastors to take them on trips with me to meet global pastors and other world leaders that are non-Christians – so I thought here would be a good chance to let them meet them.  So I asked my friends if they would be willing to meet with several young pastors that would be starting new churches and young pastors that led influential mega-churches in the US.  They agreed.  Then many of my friends began to talk among themselves and my secular non-Chrisian friends were asking if they could come also.  So I went back to my initial friends and said what if we have a in Dallas and lets invite several people – we’d all have to volunteer to speak because I don’t have the money!  They knew a lot of the humanitarian work I’ve done, so they agreed to do it – maybe as some payback.  The rest is history.  The speakers are Vietnamese, European, American, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, Men and Women almost everything!  Over half of the speakers are not Christian – but they are my friends.  The Christian speakers and panelist are young church planters, young influential leading pastors, Christian statesmen like Os Guinness and Ray Bakke.  Global business leaders like Al Weiss, Diplomats like Prince Turqi – Al – Faisal of Saudi Arabia and Ambassador Le Cong Phuong of Vietnam, pastors Vance Pittman, Mark Demoss, Kevin Cox and others will be speaking. What are we trying to do?  Expose evangelicals to the world and instead of listening to emotional rhetoric, let them listen for themselves to global leaders how they think, what the world is like, and how evangelicals can have a voice.  How do hold on to our faith, not compromise – yet treat others with respect and build long term relationships. So… there you have it. Bob is having conversations that not many of us are having.  Important conversations.  Conversations that the church needs to be having (in my opinion). Check out the Global Faith Forum for more information.  You can also check out Bob’s blog here. Todd

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. Huh? Why? 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? Todd