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interreligious studies

Interreligious Perspectives at GTU

As the Graduate Theological Union moves to include representatives of more of the world’s great religious traditions, the framing of issues from an interreligious perspective is already common in the research and writing of students in the masters and doctorate degree programs. Students today, while fixed often in particular religious traditions, also desire to explore how some of the same theological, ethical, historical, and cultural issues are dealt with by other religious traditions and movements. Here are just a few examples of recent master’s level students who engaged in interreligious research and comparative analysis. Miriam Attia’s MA dissertation was entitled “Ethical Concerns in Jewish and Christian Theologies of Suffering” and tackled a subject that tests and challenges all theological and wisdom traditions with the question: “how does one explain the existence of evil in a world influenced or controlled by the Sacred (theodicy)?”

New Options for Interreligious Studies

The GTU is a great place to study different religious traditions. Resources abound for students interested in Christianity (Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox), Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, and now Hinduism and Sikhism. But in today’s increasingly pluralistic world, many students come to the GTU not to study any single tradition but to explore the connections between two or more of them. Students may be interested in Muslim-Jewish relations, or Buddhist-Christian dialogue, or the history of interaction between Hinduism and Sikhism. Or they want to learn how different religious traditions address a critical contemporary issue such as climate change or religious violence.

Seminaries Buzzing with Interfaith Studies

Most of the several hundred seminary campuses crisscrossing Canada and the United States were developed by individual religious traditions. They wanted to ensure a steady, dependable source of new leaders for their denomination’s congregations. Over the decades most of these seminaries developed similar curricula – ancient languages, scripture, history, theology, ethics, pastoral care, and the liturgy, policies, and history of each school’s particular tradition. This shared curriculum, though, did little to connect the different traditions to each other. In most of these schools, memory, vision, values, and institutional structures all come through the lens of a particular tradition.