By Andrew Kille
FROM THE EDITOR
With this issue, we welcome the Graduate Theological Union community to The Interfaith Observer. This edition brings together the richness of the GTU with its strong commitment to education in a diverse ecumenical and interfaith context that has developed over 50 years, with the electronic journal that has emerged more recently covering the many dimensions of the interfaith encounter. With more than 300 contributors to date, TIO offers thoughtful reflection, news of local, regional, and global interfaith events, and articles on the personalities, organizations, and key events that have made up the history the interfaith movement.
Crossroads seems a particularly apt name for this edition. From its founding in 1962 as a collaborative effort of Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian seminaries, the Graduate Theological Union has celebrated the surprises, richness, and deep relationships that often emerge at the intersections of our respective life journeys. Without losing the distinctiveness of our own path, we discover new insight, understanding, and appreciation of our shared humanity in creative engagement and dialogue with those whose journeys may begin or ultimately lead somewhere else.
“Being at a crossroads” is also how we describe those moments in life when we are faced with an important choice that will affect our future. Our world today finds itself at a crossroads, having to recognize that religion has a profound impact on individuals and societies and represents a powerful source of motivation for both creative and destructive actions. What role can religious leaders, scholars, and activists play in moving the encounter between religions towards cooperation, respect, and understanding?
GTU President Riess Potterveld has suggested that the GTU motto “where religion meets the world” might better be stated “where religion engages the world.” Long gone is the ideal of the scholar in the ivory tower, pursuing truth untouched by the world outside. Today’s scholars are engaged scholars, seeking to understand the world in which they live and finding ways to move back into the community with action informed by reflection. At the crossroads, we do not merely stand by as disinterested observers; we engage, connect, interact, and learn from others who are on similar journeys.
My involvement in interfaith activities was deeply shaped by my own time at the GTU. An M.Div. student at the American Baptist Seminary of the West in the early 1970s, I had the great privilege of studying contemporary Judaism with Rabbi David Winston at the newly formed Center for Judaic Studies. That class led me to further studies with the Hillel Rabbi at UC Berkeley, and to a lifelong commitment to interreligious dialogue. When I returned for doctoral studies fifteen years later, I found that the interreligious horizons of the GTU had expanded, as had my own. Now I am delighted to have a part of this next step as the Editor for the GTU edition of The Interfaith Observer.
In Crossroads, we plan to focus on what’s happening in and around the GTU, with news, people, and events reflecting the many facets of the interreligious encounter. We also welcome your contributions. If you have something you’d like to contribute to either Crossroads or The Interfaith Observer, you can find more information about doing so in TIO editor Paul Chaffee’s welcoming note. And please visit to TIO's website!
We welcome your suggestions; let us know how we’re doing. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
D. Andrew Kille