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‘A Common Word’ in the News

Harvard and Yale Divinity School Scholars Welcome Letter From Muslim Scholars

HARVARD SCHOLARS JOIN YALE DIVINITY SCHOOL COUNTERPARTS IN WELCOMING DOCUMENT FROM MUSLIM COMMUNITY

NEW HAVEN, CT – The leaders of Harvard Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary have joined scholars at Yale Divinity School in endorsing a statement that warmly embraces the open letter A Common Word between Us and You, released worldwide on Oct. 11 and signed by 138 Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals.

The statement released yesterday by the Yale scholars, entitled Loving God and Neighbor Together:  A Christian Response to A Common Word between Us and You (see below) says, “We receive A Common Word as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors.”
The statement was issued by Harold Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School and Lillian Claus Prof of New Testament; Miroslav Volf, director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology; Joseph Cumming, director of the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture; and Emilie M. Townes, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology and president-elect of the American Academy of Religion.

Adding their names to the statement, among others, were Iain Torrance, president of Princeton Theological Seminary, and William A. Graham, dean of Harvard Divinity School. More scholars are expected to endorse the statement as it continues to be circulated at Yale Divinity School and at other academic institutions across the country.

The Loving God and Neighbor Together document says, “A Common Word between Us and You identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism. Jesus Christ’s (Peace Be Upon Him) call to love God and neighbor was rooted in the divine revelation to the people of Israel embodied in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).”

Volf, whose latest book is The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World, said he was “deeply encouraged and challenged” by the open letter, which he called “historic, courageous, and marked by deep insight and generosity of spirit.” The Yale authors praised the depth of A Common Word, particularly the degree to which the signatories identified important common ground between Muslim and Christian communities, in a time when relations between these communities are so often strained.  While the Yale reply acknowledges the undeniable differences between Islam and Christianity, Volf believes that A Common Word “opens new possibilities for dialogue and cooperation between Muslims and Christians.”

A Common Word, endorsers of the Christian response hope, will lead to a new level of open communication and honest cooperation between Muslims and Christians, although much work remains.  The statement concludes, “We are persuaded that our next step should be for our leaders at every level to meet together and begin the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another. It is with humility and hope that we receive your generous letter, and we commit ourselves to labor together in heart, soul, mind and strength for the objectives you so appropriately propose.”

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Yale Divinity School is an interdenominational school of theological education that draws its faculty from the major Christian traditions, preparing students for service in lay and ordained ministries, other professions, and academic careers.  It is one of 11 graduate and professional schools at Yale University.  Each year, some 140 students graduate with one of three degrees offered by the school: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Religion, and Master of Sacred Theology.  The school’s mission statement says, “Yale Divinity School has an enduring commitment to foster the knowledge and love of God through critical engagement with the traditions of the Christian churches in the context of the contemporary world.” http://www.yale.edu/divinity

The mission of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture is “to promote the practice of faith in all spheres of life through theological research and leadership development.” http://www.yale.edu/faith

The goal of the Reconciliation Program is to “promote reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, and between Muslim nations and the West, drawing on the resources of the Abrahamic faiths and the teachings and person of Jesus.” http://www.yale.edu/faith/reconciliation

The Initiative on Religion and Politics at Yale seeks to foster thoughtful activism, enrich scholarly discourse, and deepen public conversation on the place of religion in public life, both nationally and internationally. http://www.yale.edu/religionandpolitics/

see also Divinity scholars respond to Muslims http://www.nhregister.com/site/news.cfm?dept_id=7576&PAG=461&rfi=6&newsid=18910082

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/harvard_and_yale_divinity_school_scholars_welcome_letter_from_muslim_schola/0014790

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