January 27, 2017—Three faculty from Columbia Theological Seminary will participate in a new initiative called “American Values, Religious Voices.” The project has been described as: a national nonpartisan campaign that brings together 100 scholars from a diverse range of religious traditions to articulate core American values that have grounded our nation in the past and should guide us forward at this time of transition. For the first 100 days of the new administration, the organizers will send a one-page letter, each written by one of the 100 scholars, to President Trump, Vice-President Pence, Cabinet Secretaries, and Members of the House and the Senate. The letters offer insight and inspiration drawn from the collective wisdom of our faith communities and their sacred texts.
Columbia Seminary scholars include Dr. William Brown, the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament; Dr. Raj Nadella, Assistant Professor of New Testament; and Dr. Ryan Bonfiglio, Lecturer in Old Testament. (Editor’s note: We will update this article with links as each of these three letters are posted.)
The full group of 100 scholars come from a range of religious backgrounds: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Sikh. The Christian scholars are Catholic, Evangelical, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Orthodox, Mormon, and Quaker. The Jewish authors come from the Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox Jewish communities. The contributors are rabbis, ministers, a Buddhist nun and a Catholic Sister, ordained clergy and active laypeople in houses of worship nationwide.
When asked what questions will be addressed in the letters, Dr. Bonfiglio responded, “Each one will address a different question. Generally, all of the scholars were asked, ‘What issues animate you at this particular moment in our nation’s history? What passages from your religious tradition have you been thinking about in the wake of the election? How does your religious heritage speak to the matters that concern you most? What message–rooted in the texts you study and teach–would you most like to deliver to our national leaders and to a wider interfaith audience?’ My letter will reflect on ‘Who exactly is our neighbor?’”
“The intersection of politics and faith can be a challenging place,” stated Dr. Bonfiglio reflecting on the importance of the discussion, “but this initiative is thoughtfully designed and may provide an enriching resource for those in our country looking for a higher level of dialogue about such things.”
“This political season has been bruising and vicious, and has uncovered deep cultural divisions,” said Dr. Leanne Van Dyk, President of Columbia Theological Seminary. “I am proud of the many constructive ways our faculty, and even our students, are engaging the culture around them in an effort to transform our communities for God’s purposes.”
Immediately following the Inauguration, a new letter is being posted each day at www.valuesandvoices.com. All of the previous letters will be archived there as well.
Columbia Theological Seminary is “Cultivating faithful leaders for God’s changing world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit www.CTSnet.edu.
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