Typologies of Interfaith Education
Hosted by The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School & Interfaith Youth Core
Funded by The Henry Luce Foundation
The Martin Marty Center is excited to host this symposium in collaboration with Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), Chicago. It will consist of an opening plenary, led jointly by David Nirenberg, Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School, and Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core, followed by four interactive panels on relevant themes related to interfaith education. Typologies of Interfaith Education neatly aligns with the Luce Foundation Theology program’s aim to advance understanding of religion and theology. The project strives for greater communication between administrators, student, and scholars from different seminaries and universities, bridging their religious and political divides, by bringing them together for the purpose of developing a more integrated and responsive public approach to interfaith education.
January 11-21, 2021
David Nirenberg, PhD, Dean of the Divinity School, The University of Chicago
Author of numerous books on the history of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian relations, Dr. David Nirenberg currently serves as the Dean of the Divinity School and Executive Vice-Provost of the University of Chicago. He is the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought, Department of History; the former Dean of the Social Sciences Division and Founding Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago
Eboo Patel, PhD, Founder and President, Interfaith Youth Core
Dr. Eboo Patel is the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a non-profit organization working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm in America. He is a respected leader on national issues of religious diversity, civic engagement, and the intersection of racial equity and interfaith cooperation. He is the author of four books and dozens of articles, and is a frequent keynote speaker at colleges and universities, philanthropic convenings, and civic gatherings, both in person and virtually. He served on President Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council.
The standards operative in biblical scholarship seem to be widely shared between liberal and conservative scholars in the field. If there are divides, that is because the Bible is not easily isolable as a mere object of study. For many believers the Bible provides the basis for normative, doctrinal truth, while for others it offers spiritual direction. Biblical scholars may fall into one of these categories, but they may also see the Bible as a collection of religious texts from the past with which they have no specific affinity. Depending on institutional context but also personal commitment, biblical scholars may follow their scholarly instincts or carry out their work in service of a larger institutional or religious goal. This panel discusses the extent to which biblical scholars see their work as academic, in what sense they do so (in the philological-historical tradition or drawing on a wider array of disciplines) and whether it matters for their work to consider the Bible nourished by a (their own?) religious tradition, given that their work informs that same tradition.
Joel N. Lohr, PhD, President, Hartford Seminary
Joel N. Lohr, PhD, is the President of Hartford Seminary, a leading interfaith graduate school. He is an award-winning author, scholar of religion, and passionate leader in interreligious relations and higher education. His teaching and research has focused on the Bible, specifically the Torah/Pentateuch, as well as Jewish-Christian relations and dialogue, Interreligious Dialogue, and Leadership in Higher Education. He has published ten books, with both academic and popular publishers.
Richard Newton, PhD, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Alabama
Richard Newton is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. His research focuses on the critical comparative study of “scriptures,” the New Testament in Western Imagination, African American intellectual history, and pedagogy in religious studies. In addition to an array of book chapters and online essays, Dr. Newton has published in the Journal of Biblical Literature and Method & Theory in the Study of Religion among other scholarly journals. His recent book, Identifying Roots: Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures (Equinox 2020), casts Alex Haley’s Roots as a case study in the dynamics of scriptures and identity politics, with critical implications for the study of race, religion, and media. Newton is editor of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion and founding curator of the online social media professional development network, Sowing the Seed: Fruitful Conversations in Religion, Culture, and Teaching (SowingTheSeed.org).
Adele Reinhartz, PhD, Professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa
Adele Reinhartz, PhD (McMaster University, 1983) is Professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, in Canada. She is the author of numerous articles and books, including Cast Out of the Covenant: Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John (2018); Befriending the Beloved Disciple: A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John (2001), Jesus of Hollywood (2007), and Bible and Cinema: An Introduction (2013). She has also edited several collections, including The Gospel of John and Jewish-Christian Relations (2018). Adele was the General Editor of The Journal of Biblical Literature from 2012-2018 and served as the President of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2020. She was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2005 and to the American Academy of Jewish Research in 2014.
Ross Wagner, PhD, Associate Professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School
J. Ross Wagner is Associate Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School. Specializing in Paul’s letters and in Septuagint studies, he seeks to contribute to the recovery of theological exegesis through careful investigation of the ways scriptural interpretation shaped early Jewish and Christian communities. His publications include Heralds of the Good News: Paul and Isaiah in Concert in the Letter to the Romans (2002), Between Gospel and Election: Explorations in the Interpretation of Romans 9–11 (coedited with Florian Wilk, 2010), and Reading the Sealed Book: Old Greek Isaiah and the Problem of Septuagint Hermeneutics (2013). Wagner has been a Humboldt Research Fellow at the Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen, Germany and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany, and he spent 2009-10 as a member in residence at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, NJ. He serves as an ordained minister in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Erin Walsh, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago Divinity School
Erin Galgay Walsh (PhD Duke University, 2019) studies ancient and late antique Christianity with a focus on Syriac language and literature. Her current research focuses on the reception of biblical literature and the growth of asceticism within the eastern Roman and Persian Empires. She teaches a variety of courses covering topics in topics in biblical and early Christian literature, the history of Biblical interpretation, Syriac Christianity, embodied practices, religious poetry, and multilingualism in the late antique and early Byzantine east. She is an affiliated faculty member with the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago. During the 2018-2019 academic year, she was a Junior Fellow in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University. Professor Walsh also serves as the Executive Editor for Christianity at Ancient Jew Review, a non-profit web journal devoted to the interdisciplinary study of ancient Judaism.
Moral formation is an important goal of all religious and theological education. But what it exactly entails and how it is affected by pluralism is a different matter. This panel of ethicists focuses on how interfaith education can be taught in such a way that it strengthens moral formation, treating such questions as whether one’s own tradition should take priority, how to avoid religious relativism and which moral topics lend themselves best for interfaith discussion. Since the discussion takes place on Martin Luther King Day and after a particularly contentious election season, it will be important to reflect on the meaning of Dr King for the contemporary discussion of pluralism, diversity, and moral formation.
Nichole Flores, PhD, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Dr. Nichole M. Flores is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. She studies ethical contributions of Catholic and Latinx theologies to democracy and public life. Dr. Flores has published essays in several academic journals, including the Journal of Religious Ethics and the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics. Her first book, The Aesthetics of Solidarity: Our Lady of Guadalupe and American Democracy will be available from Georgetown University Press in July 2021. She is also a contributing author on the masthead at America: The Jesuit Review of Faith & Culture. In 2015, Dr. Flores was honored with the Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award for best essay in academic theology by a junior scholar from the Catholic Theological Society of America. Dr. Flores earned an A.B. in government from Smith College, an M.Div. from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in theological ethics from Boston College.
Hille Haker, PhD, Richard McCormick S.J. Endowed Chair of Catholic Moral Theology, Loyola University Chicago
Hille Haker, Ph.D., holds the Richard McCormick S.J. Endowed Chair of Catholic Moral Theology at Loyola University Chicago. Her research focuses on the foundations of ethics, moral identity, literary & narrative ethics, social and political ethics, bioethics, and feminist ethics. Prior to joining Loyola University Chicago, Dr. Haker was Chair of Moral Theology and Social Ethics in the Catholic Theology Department of Frankfurt University (2005 to 2009), Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Harvard Divinity School (2003 to 2005), and Heisenberg Research Scholar (2002–2003). She holds a Ph.D (1998) and Habilitation (2002) in Christian Theological Ethics from the University of Tübingen, Germany. Her recent book are Towards a Critical Political Ethics. Catholic Ethics and Social Challenges 2020, and an edited volume Unaccompanied Migrant Children. Social, Legal, and Ethical Perspectives 2019 (with Molly Greening).
Rabbi Rachel S. Mikva, PhD, Herman E. Schaalman Professor in Jewish Studies, Chicago Theological Seminary
Rabbi Dr. Rachel S. Mikva serves as the Herman E. Schaalman Professor in Jewish Studies and Senior Faculty Fellow of the InterReligious Institute at Chicago Theological Seminary. The Institute and the Seminary work at the cutting edge of theological education, training religious leaders who can build bridges across cultural and religious difference for the critical work of social transformation. With a passion for justice and academic expertise in the history of scriptural interpretation, Rabbi Mikva's courses and publications address a range of Jewish and Interreligious Studies, with a special interest in the intersections of sacred texts, culture and ethics. Her most recent book is Dangerous Religious Ideas: The Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Beacon, 2020), and she is working on a textbook for graduate and undergraduate students, Interreligious Studies: An Introduction, to be published by Cambridge University Press.
Aristotle Papanikolaou, PhD, Archbishop Demetrios Chair of Orthodox Theology and Culture, Fordham University
Aristotle Papanikolaou is professor of theology, the Archbishop Demetrios Chair of Orthodox Theology and Culture, and the Co-Director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University. He is also Senior Fellow at the Emory University Center for the Study of Law and Religion. In 2012, he received the Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in the Humanities. Among his numerous publications, he is the author of Being with God: Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Communion, and The Mystical as Political: Democracy and Non-Radical Orthodoxy. He is also co-editor of Political Theologies in Orthodox Christianity, Fundamentalism or Tradition: Christianity after Secularism, Christianity, Democracy and the Shadow of Constantine (Winner of 2017 Alpha Sigma Nu Award in Theology), Orthodox Constructions of the West, Orthodox Readings of Augustine, and Thinking Through Faith: New Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars. He enjoys Russian literature, Byzantine and Greek music, and is a bit of a foodie.
William Schweiker, PhD, Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Chicago
William Schweiker is the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chicago. He holds degrees from Simpson College (BA), Duke University Divinity School (MDiv) and the University of Chicago (PhD) and an Honorary Doctorate from Uppsala University. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, Religious Ethics: Meaning and Method (2020); Dust That Breathes: Christian Faith and the New Humanisms (2010), and Religion and the Human Future: An Essay on Theological Humanism (2008) as well as many articles and edited volumes. Professor Schweiker’s work engages theological ethical questions attentive to global dynamics, comparative ethics, and developments in moral and political philosophy. Besides teaching at Chicago, Schweiker has been guest professor at Uppsala University, the University of Heidelberg, Peking and Fudan Universities, and in South Africa. He is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church.
This panel will consist of deans and presidents representing a range of seminaries and divinity schools reflecting on how their institutions have traditionally understood interfaith education within the broader curriculum, and how that approach might be shifting in light of the changing realities that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. Has the shift to online education caused deeper polarization within seminary and divinity education, or does it perhaps allow for greater exchange between student populations that would not otherwise interact? This panel will engage senior administrators on how they understand the role of interfaith education at their institutions, past, present, and future.
Steed Davidson, Phd, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary
Dr. Steed Vernyl Davidson serves as the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, USA. He is also the Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and teaches courses that critically examine the Bible and its production through several generations in ways to understand the challenges for contemporary interpretation.
Davidson, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, earned a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. He received a S.T.M. from Boston University, a M.A. from the University of the West Indies, a Diploma of Ministerial Studies from the United Theological College of the West Indies, and a B.A. from the University of the West Indies.
A member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Davidson serves as the General Editor of Semeia Studies. In addition, he Co-chairs the steering committee of the Reading/Writing Jeremiah and the Bible and Empire unit of the International SBL. His other professional memberships include the Society for the Study of Black Religions. He also serves on the editorial boards of Biblical Interpretation and Black Theology: An International Journal. Davidson is an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church (New York Annual Conference).
Richard Mouw, PhD, President Emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary, Senior Research Fellow in Christianity and Politics at Calvin University.
Richard Mouw was a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary for thirty-five years. During that time he served for two decades as the school's president. Prior to joining the Fuller faculty in 1985, he taught in the Philosophy Department at Calvin College for seventeen years. After retiring from Fuller in 2020, Mouw was appointed Senior Research Fellow in Christianity and Politics at Calvin University.
A graduate of Houghton College, Mouw studied at Western Theological Seminary and earned a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Alberta. His PhD in philosophy is from the University of Chicago. Mouw is the author of 20 books, and has received several awards, including Princeton Theological Seminary’s 2007 Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life, and the Shalom Award for Interfaith Cooperation from the American Jewish Committee. He served as president of the Association of Theological Schools, and co-chaired for six years the official Reformed-Catholic Dialogue.
Marianne Moyaert, PhD, Professor and Chair of Comparative Theology and the Hermeneutics of Interreligious Dialogue at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Marianne Moyaert is Professor and Chair of Comparative Theology and the Hermeneutics of Interreligious Dialogue at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam where she teaches mixed-faith classrooms. She recently obtained a five-year research grant to explore further the way mixed Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim marriages ritualize their daily lives. She has authored two books, including Fragile Identities: Towards a Theology of Interreligious Hospitality (2011), and has edited five others, including Interreligious Relations and the Negotiation of Ritual Boundaries(2019). In addition, she has published over fifty articles, approximately half of which appeared in peer-reviewed journals, in both English and Dutch. These have treated a wide range of topics relating to interfaith pedagogy, interreligious dialogue, hermeneutics, and comparative theology.
Elías Ortega, PhD, President and Professor of Religion Ethics, and Leadership at Meadville Lombard Theological School
Dr. Elías Ortega has committed his life to building organizational systems in which people, especially those underrepresented in our society, can thrive. He uses the lenses of religious ethics, spirituality, and theological reflection to foster change in higher education, non-profit organizations, and religious institutions. Currently, the President and Professor of Religion Ethics, and Leadership at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, Dr. Ortega led cultural and institutional changes at the Unitarian Universalist Association through a three-year assessment of the barriers that maintain racial exclusion practices inequality in the organization that resulted in recommendations for equitable practices and policies. He has also provided strategic planning and program support to community organizations, including the New Jersey Parent Caucus, a mental health and juvenile justice advocacy group, the Sila Maria Calderon Foundation, and the Drew Freedom School Initiative, a social justice program that provides non-violence resistance and community organizing.
Dr. Ortega’s work in change management is grounded in his teaching and research in Religious Ethics, Africana Studies, Latinx Cultural Studies, and Social Movements at Drew University Theological School, Princeton University, and Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Dr. Elías Ortega received his Ph.D. and M.Div from Princeton Theological Seminary. He also holds a B.A. in Communications Arts & Sciences and Philosophy and Religion from Calvin College.
Rabbi Or Rose, Founding Director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College.
Rabbi Or Rose is the Founding Director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College. Previously, he served as a founding faculty member and associate dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. He has taught for the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, The Wexner Graduate Fellowship, and in a variety of other academic, religious, and civic contexts throughout North America and in Israel. Recent publications include: Words To Live By: Sacred Sources for Interreligious Engagement (co-editor, Orbis) and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: Essential Teachings (co-editor, Orbis). He is the creator of Hebrew College’s scriptural commentary blog Seventy Faces of Torah, curator of the web-based project PsalmSeason, and co-publisher of the Journal of Interreligious Studies.
Najeeba Syeed, JD, Associate Professor, Muslim and Interreligious Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary and director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding
Najeeba Syeed is Associate Professor, Muslim and Interreligious Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary and director of the Center for Global Peacebuilding. She is recognized as a leader in peacebuilding and social justice based research and twice received the Jon Anson Ford Award for reducing violence in schools and in the area of interracial gang conflicts and was named Southern California Mediation Association’s “Peacemaker of the Year” in 2007. She has chaired national conferences on Muslim and Interfaith Peacebuilding, served as a mediator in many cases, started restorative justice mediation programs in many institutions including University of Southern California and several middle and high schools. Schools have reported a drop in disciplinary referrals and violence. Her track record as a peacemaker and critical peace researcher has made her a sought-out advisor and she has served as an on the ground peace interventionist in conflicts around the globe. Syeed’s peace and justice work has been the subject of news reports and documentaries as well such as this film which aired on NBC “Waging Peace: Muslim and Christian Alternatives.”
This panel will consist of current students at, and recent graduates from, seminaries and divinity schools who have expressed scholarly interest in interfaith and/or interreligious studies. These young scholars will reflect on how they conceive of “interfaith education,” both in terms of the training they received at their institution, as well as the field they hope to shape through their careers.
Rachel A. Heath, PhD Candidate, Vanderbilt University
Rachel A. Heath is a PhD candidate and a Theology and Practice Fellow at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests center on the intersections of multiple religious belonging, theologies of multiplicity, queer and feminist theories, and interfaith praxis in U.S. contexts. Prior to doctoral studies, she worked in multifaith chaplaincy at the University of Chicago and served on the executive committee for the National Association of College and University Chaplains (NACUC). She currently sits on the leadership council for the newly emerging Association for Interreligious/Interfaith Studies (AIIS) and on the Board of Advisors for the Journal of Interreligious Studies. She holds an M.A. in Religious Studies from Vanderbilt University, M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and a certificate in Religion and the Arts through the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. In May 2020, she ran her first ultramarathon through the rolling hills of rural Tennessee.
Harmeet Kaur Kamboj, STM Candidate, Union Theological Seminary
Harmeet Kaur Kamboj is a Sikh American interfaith organizer, writer, educator, and the editor of Faith in Full Color. They are a candidate for the Master of Sacred Theology (STM) degree at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Harmeet’s scholarship centers the experiences of marginalized communities of faith in the United States and the ways that these communities organize politically. Their public writing has been featured in the Religion News Service, Sojourners, and Interfaith America. Prior to pursuing an STM, Harmeet worked at America Indivisible, the Public Religion Research Institute, and the Campaign for Youth Justice. They hold a Master of Arts degree from Union Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the College of William & Mary. Harmeet teaches South Asian folk and classical dance to youth of all ages at Moksha Arts in New York City.
Casey Jones, MA Candidate, University of California at Santa Barbara
Casey is a Fellow with Jubilee Year Los Angeles, an Episcopal Service Corps program where he serves as a fulltime volunteer with the Saint Joseph Center (SJC). At the SJC, Casey works with individuals and families experiencing homelessness who have histories of mental illness and substance abuse. Prior to his current work, Casey pursued a terminal masters in religious studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara while serving as the Assistant Campus Missioner at St. Michael’s University Church and Episcopal Campus Ministry in Isla Vista, CA. Casey is an Interfaith Youth Core alumnus; he has been a Better Together Coach, an Interfaith Leadership Institute Alumni Trainer, and most recently an Interfaith Innovation Fellow with the organization. Casey completed his bachelor’s degree in English at Morehouse College. His scholarly interests include Black Christians and Black Christianities on social media, Black interfaith and ecumenical engagement, and definitions of Black church.
Viraj Patel, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago
Viraj Patel is a third-year Ph.D. student at this University of Chicago studying in the History of Religions committee. He uses the tools of the history of religions to examine what norms undergird disciplinary boundaries between religious and theological studies. Viraj was the first Hindu to enroll in the U of C's M.Div. program, which became multi-religious about nine years ago. Viraj had to work with faculty to adapt the program's curriculum for non-Abrahamic traditions. Based on that work, he was invited to be a founding member of the Multifaith Working Group at Chicago, which has redesigned the M.Div. curriculum for multifaith engagement over the past four years. Viraj has published on theological anthropology in the Bhagavad Gita and, separately, on caring for Hindus in palliative care medicine.
Amar D. Peterman, MDiv Candidate, Princeton Theological Seminary
Amar D. Peterman is a writer, speaker, and emerging historian. He is a Fellow and featured writer at Ideos, and his work has been published in The Christian Century, Christianity Today, Sojourners, and more. A graduate student at Princeton Theological Seminary, Amar’s research focuses on American religious history. He has won numerous grants and awards for his work in racial justice, peacebuilding, and multifaith engagement. He has also worked alongside organizations such as Neighborly Faith, the Aspen Institute, and the Interfaith Youth Core, as well as leading scholars in the fields of religious pluralism and American history.
Anand Venkatkrishnan, PhD, The University of Chicago Divinity School
Anand Venkatkrishnan is an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is an intellectual historian of religion in South Asia. His book in progress, Love in the Time of Scholarship: The Bhāgavata Purāṇa in Indian Intellectual History, examines the relationship of bhakti, religion as lived affect, with philosophy as intellectual practice. It shows how Sanskrit scholars in early modern India allowed personal religious commitments to feature in and reshape their scholastic writing, a genre that was generally impervious to everyday life. It also demonstrates how vernacular ways of knowing pushed through the glass ceiling of Sanskrit intellectuality. Anand's second project, titled Left-Hand Practice, concerns a group of loosely affiliated religious intellectuals in the 20th century who had significant ties with the Indian political left. Each, in their own way, articulated a critique of modernist, bourgeois Hinduism.