I recently finished teaching a course in “Theological Reflection of Ministry/Leadership” for the graduate certificate program in Imam Education by Hartford Seminary and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (Fairfax). The course focused on case studies and theological reflection around the leadership among Imams and other community leaders in various Muslim communities in the Virginia- D.C.-Baltimore region. Not only was I exposed to gifted leaders in the Muslim community, but I was moved by how much we have to learn from each other in the practices of religious leadership. I also learned that they took me more seriously as a Christian pastor and scholar, than some neutral outside educator.
Yesterday, I learned more about the Muslim-Christian Studies program of the Consortium from Dr. Richard Jones, who holds the Al-Alwani Chair and directs that program. Rich just finished a summer intensive at the Graduate School for Islamic and Social Sciences, which had strong participation. Great news that the first Certificate holder comes from the John Leland Center (David Tompkinson), and other students have finished the Certificate from Wesley and the GSISS. These students complete a rigorous set of courses in Bible and/or Qu’ran, introduction to Christianity and/or Islam, required seminars in interreligious dialogue and practical issues of collaboration, and more. They are preparing to enter a world and a society where religious caricatures and bigotry are now a cottage industry, and the need for educated religious leaders in interfaith dialogue and research is paramount.
I applaud these students, and the various faculty–from Wesley, Howard, Catholic U, VTS, Lutheran in Gettysburg, and the Dominican House –who contribute courses toward this work. I invite all member schools to consider more opportunities for Dr. Jones and invited Islamic scholars to teach (usually with Muslim students in the course) on their campuses!