This week, Claremont School of Theology in California announced that a large financial gift will allow them to transform the seminary into an institution that will train Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Last year, Claremont made waves in Christian circles when word broke that it hoped to become a more interfaith educational institution, with backlash from the United Methodist Church, with which it had long been affiliated. Now, a $40 million donation from an Arizona couple will enable them to begin implementing changes in the proposed plan. According to The Los Angeles Times, the new university—which will be called Claremont Lincoln University, in the couple’s honor—will serve as an umbrella for three largely separate programs: the existing program for Christian pastors-in-training, another program for rabbis, and a third for imams. The two new programs will be affiliated with the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, and the Islamic Center of Southern California, respectively. While much of their training will remain distinct, students from all three traditions will come together for certain events or to work together on social issues, such as homelessness. Larry Gordon, of the Times, writes (quoting Jerry Campbell, Claremont’s president):
“It’s important for us that the participating partners maintain their own brands. We are not blending or merging. We are only looking for understanding, respect and the possibility of collaboration,” he said, adding that Buddhist, Hindu and other religions may join later. Campbell said he and the Lincolns want the schools to generate interfaith solutions for such social issues as homelessness.
A plan proposed last year to train Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy in one college upset the United Methodist Church, which has sponsored and provided funding to the seminary since its founding. The tripartite structure was created to quell the controversy; the Christian unit alone will receive money from the church.
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