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Summer Seminars on Theologies of Religious Pluralism and Comparative Theology Cohort Three

Funded by The Henry Luce Foundation and sponsored by the American Academy of Religion and its Theological Education Steering Committee

These weeklong seminars will provide training to theological education faculty who are often preparing students for future religious leadership and ministry. The Theological Education Steering Committee invites applications from theological educators interested in pursuing these questions. The seminars will help address the question of religious diversity as a question of faith, that is to say, as a properly theological question: What is the meaning of my neighbor's faith for mine? While we expect that the bulk of the applicants will come from seminaries and divinity schools, we also welcome theological educators who teach in theology and religious studies departments.

Cohort Three

May 30-June 7, 2012, Georgia Tech Conference Center, Atlanta
November 16, 2012, at the Annual Meeting, Chicago
May 29-June 5, 2013, Georgia Tech Conference Center, Atlanta

Cohort Three will be composed of 18 participants and 7 instructors and will meet for a weeklong event the first summer, then a one-day event the following fall at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, followed by another week-long event the next summer. The seminars are designed for those relatively new to the theologies of religious pluralism and comparative theology, allowing them to learn from scholars and advance their understanding. The result of the summer seminars will be to increase the number of theological educators who can teach in the areas of theologies of religious pluralism and comparative theology in a variety of institutions in which theological education takes place.

All accepted applicants will be awarded a cash stipend of $500, plus the grant will cover most of their expenses incurred in their participation in the seminars (i.e., airfare, hotel, meals). To be assured of consideration, applications must be received by January 16, 2012. Applicants will be notified by late March 2012.

The goals of these summer seminars are to provide theological educators with the following:

  • Substantive introduction to the best in current scholarship and teaching resources in the areas of theologies of religious pluralism and comparative theology
  • The opportunity to engage in an interreligious conversation about the meaning of religious diversity
  • The opportunity to bring their own specific areas of research expertise into conversation with theologies of religious pluralism and comparative theology
  • Support in developing teaching resources, syllabi, and other programming appropriate to the particular needs of their home institutions
  • The opportunity to disseminate their learning by means of publication or other appropriate media
  • A cohort of scholar-teachers who can support each other in their own ongoing scholarly and teaching development in the areas of theologies of religious pluralism and comparative theology

Cohort Three Instructors

John J. Thatamanil, Associate Professor of Theology and World Religions, Union Theological Seminary, New York. He has taught a wide variety of courses in the areas of comparative theology, theologies of religious pluralism, Hindu–Christian dialogue, Buddhist–Christian dialogue, the theology of Paul Tillich, process theology, and Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality. Thatamanil seeks to revive in his work a commitment to speculative reflection as found in the work of Paul Tillich and Alfred North Whitehead. He is on the hunt for a viable “process Tillichianism.” Thatamanil’s first book, The Immanent Divine: God, Creation, and the Human Predicament: An East-West Conversation (Fortress Press, 2006) provides the foundation for a nondualist Christian theology worked out through a conversation between Paul Tillich and Sankara, the master teacher of the Hindu tradition of Advaita Vedanta, and is an exercise in constructive comparative theology. Thatamanil is currently at work on his second book, tentatively entitled Religious Diversity After “Religion”: Rethinking Theologies of Religious Pluralism (Fordham University Press). He is a past president of the North American Paul Tillich Society and is Chair of the AAR’s Theological Education Steering Committee.

Francis X. Clooney, S. J., Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology, Harvard Divinity School. Clooney is one of the founding figures of comparative theology in its contemporary form. He is the author of numerous books, including Theology After Vedanta: An Experiment in Comparative Theology (SUNY Press, 1993); Hindu God, Christian God: How Reason Helps to Break Down the Boundaries Between Religions (Oxford University Press, 2001); Divine Mother, Blessed Mother: Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary (Oxford University Press, 2005); Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God (Georgetown University Press, 2008); The Truth, the Way, the Life: Christian Commentary on the Three Holy Mantras of the Srivaisnava Hindus (Leuven: Peeters Publishing, 2008); and Comparative Theology: Deep Learning across Religious Borders (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). Clooney recently edited The New Comparative Theology: Voices from the Next Generation (Continuum, 2010). His current major project, tentatively titled “A God Real Enough to Be Absent,” is an exercise in dramatic theology, exploring the absence of God in accord with the Biblical Song of Songs and the Hindu Holy Word of Mouth (Tiruvaymoli). In July 2010, Clooney was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. Since 2010, he has also served as the director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School.

S. Mark Heim, Samuel Abbot Professor of Christian Theology, Andover Newton Theological School. Mark Heim is the author of several books on Christian approaches to theologies of religious pluralism. Among these, two have been recognized as foundational offerings that have changed the very terms of conversation within the field — Salvations: Truth and Difference in Religion (Orbis, 1995) and The Depth of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends (Eerdmans, 2000). He is also the editor of Grounds for Understanding: Ecumenical Resources for Responses to Religious Diversity (Eerdmans, 1998). In addition, Heim is the author of Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross (Eerdmans, 2006) and is currently at work on a project on atonement in cross religious perspective.

John Makransky, Associate Professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, Boston College, and Senior Faculty Advisor, Centre for Buddhist Studies, Kathmandu University, Nepal. Makransky is the founding co-Chair of the Buddhist Critical–Constructive Reflection Group in the American Academy of Religion and a board member of the Buddhist–Christian Studies Society. His articles on comparative theology and theology of religions from a Buddhist perspective include “Thoughts on Why, How, and What Buddhists Can Learn from Christian Theologians,” Journal of Buddhist–Christian Studies (2011); “Buddhist Inclusivism: Reflections Toward a Contemporary Buddhist Theology of Religions” in Buddhist Attitudes to Other Religions, ed. P. Schimidt-Leukel (EOS-Verlag, 2008); “Buddha and Christ as Mediations of Ultimate Reality: A Mahayana Buddhist Perspective,” in Buddhism and Christianity in Dialogue, ed. P. Schimidt-Leukel (SCM, 2005); “Buddhist Analogues of Sin and Grace: A Dialogue with Augustine,” in Studies in Interreligious Dialogue (2005); and “Buddhist Perspectives on Truth in Other Religions: Past and Present” in Theological Studies Journal (2003). Makransky’s Buddhist theological books include Awakening through Love (Wisdom Publications, 2007) and Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars (coedited with Roger Jackson, Routledge-Curzon, 2000).

Anant Rambachan, Professor and Chair of Religion, Saint Olaf College. Rambachan’s monographs include Accomplishing the Accomplished: The Vedas as a Source of Valid Knowledge in Sankara (University of Hawai’i Press, 1991); The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda’s Reinterpretation of the Authority of the Vedas (University of Hawai’i Press, 1994); and most recently, The Advaita Worldview: God, World, and Humanity (SUNY Press, 2006). Rambachan has a forthcoming book entitled Not-Two: The Liberative Teachings of Advaita (SUNY Press).

Devorah Schoenfeld, Assistant Professor of Theology (Judaism), Loyola University, Chicago. She is the author of the forthcoming Isaac on Jewish and Christian Altars: The Near-Sacrifice of Isaac in Rashi and in the Glossa Ordinaria (Fordham, 2012) and is currently working on a history of the literal sense of scripture. Schoenfeld participated in Cohort I of the Luce/AAR Summer Seminars on Comparative Theology and Theologies of Religion Pluralism. She is past president of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the American Academy of Religion.

Najeeba Syeed-Miller, Assistant Professor of Interreligious Education, Claremont School of Theology, and founder/director, Center for Global Peacebuilding, Claremont. She is recognized as a leader in peacebuilding and twice received the Jon Anson Ford Award from the L.A. County Human Relations Department for reducing violence between ethnic groups and was named Southern California Mediation Association’s “Peacemaker of the Year” in 2007. Syeed-Miller’s research and practice have focused on mediation between law enforcement, communities, and intersections of Islamic family law and U.S. courts. Along with her colleagues, she has developed training modules in Islamic conflict resolution and mediation, which have been presented at Harvard Law School and other national convenings. She has lectured all over the world on Abrahamic peacebuilding and served as an advisor to local and federal agencies on interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Most recently, Syeed-Miller was part of a White House convening on interfaith cooperation in the university setting. She is a leader in the development of the multifaith Claremont Lincoln University, a graduate consortium of Muslim, Jain, Christian, and Jewish partners. She was instrumental in developing a Master’s degree program in interreligious studies and religious leadership in Muslim contexts. Syeed-Miller was born in Kashmir and immigrated to the United States as a child.


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