California Seminary to Be Part of First Inter-Religious University

Claremont Lincoln, dubbed by some as “the world’s first inter-religious university,” is in the process of adding more religious programs to its list of schools.

Claremont School of Theology’s Director of Public Relations Claudia Pearce said Monday that it is part of the school’s “new model.”

“Claremont Lincoln University has a new collaboration with two Jain organizations, and the University is currently expanding course offerings among Christian, Jewish and Islamic partners,” said Pearce.

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“We think the best way to solve global problems is for all parties to be invited to the table – believers and non-believers alike – and for ‘us vs. them’ attitudes to be put aside in order to focus on the world’s most intransigent problems including poverty and violence, especially religious violence.”

Even with Claremont Lincoln's increased focus on interfaith cooperation, which includes having a secular humanist program, Pearce said that evangelism is still a focus of the Claremont School of Theology curriculum.

“It’s important to distinguish between Claremont Lincoln and the individual religious schools here. In particular, Claremont School of Theology will continue to include evangelism in its curriculum,” said Pearce.

“However, when our Christian students take classes with the other faiths through Claremont Lincoln, they are instructed to refrain from proselytizing during class discussions so they can focus on solving problems in a collaborative manner rather than arguing doctrines.”

Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, believes that Claremont Lincoln’s interfaith atmosphere is nevertheless problematic for Christians.

“It's distressing that Claremont School of Theology has become an interfaith school, despite its status as one of the United Methodist Church's official 13 seminaries and its receipt of nearly $1 million annually from the UMC,” said Tooley.

“Claremont's original purpose was to train Methodist clergy in how to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Christ is no longer the center of Claremont's purpose, it should end its affiliation with the UMC.”

But Pearce clarified that Claremont School of Theology is still a Christian seminary and the interfaith component is optional for ministry students. Claremont Lincoln is the university that houses a Jewish rabbinical school, Claremont School of Theology, and a Muslim school.

And while Pearce believes the various religious schools are beneficial for Christian students, Tooley said their “new model” has contributed to the decline of UMC in the West Coast.

“Without being firmly rooted in Christianity and Wesleyan beliefs, it's clear there are no outer spiritual boundaries for Claremont,” said Tooley.

“Thanks partly to Claremont, United Methodism on the West Coast has become increasingly radicalized and inconsequential, having lost about 50 percent of its membership.”

The Claremont School of Theology was founded in 1885 as Maclay College of Theology in San Fernando, California. Its present name came when the school moved to Claremont, Calif., in 1957.

Due in part to declining enrollment, Claremont decided to merge with other California theology schools, namely the Academy for Jewish Religion and the Islamic Center of Southern California, thus creating Claremont Lincoln.

The name Claremont Lincoln is a combination of the name of the theology school and the last name of a trustee who donated $50 million to the interfaith project.

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