Today’s guest blogger is Joshua Stanton. Joshua is the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue™ and a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College. He is the recipient of numerous leadership awards, including the Hyman P. Moldover Scholarship for Communal Service, the Volunteer Hero Award of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and a place within the Fellows Alliance of the Interfaith Youth Core.
We are in the process of building a more pluralistic society. Organizations are sprouting up across the country to improve interactions between members of all religious traditions, and those already established are expanding their operations. Yet a central demographic remains inadequately engaged: present and future clergy and scholars of religion. Despite the admirable efforts of several organizations, notably The Washington Post‘s and Newsweek‘s Forum on Religion, “On Faith”, there is no regular meeting ground for religious leaders to study traditions other than their own and meet colleagues from different denominations. And this is in part our own doing. Religious leaders as a group maintain an instinctive reluctance to do anything that might (theoretically) undermine our own beliefs.
The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue™ is a new organization working to alleviate concerns about religious loyalty and build a sustainable network of inter-religious leaders. It will not ignore the differences between religious communities, nor encourage theologians to compromise their principles. Rather, it will develop a community of religious professionals, academics, and leaders committed to their own traditions but aware of the potential for crosspollination and collaboration across faiths.
The Journal has been more than eight months in the making. This past summer, I found myself in an opportune position. I was a first-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College who had been convinced of the need to help build an inter-religious movement by Paul Sorrentino, Chaplain of Amherst College, and Eboo Patel, Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core. With the notion that religious leaders might gain greatly from regular interactions with colleagues of other denominations, I began sending letters to seminaries, non-profit organizations, and scholarly associations to see if there was interest in an online academic journal tailored specifically to the needs of present and future religious leaders and scholars. In the process, I met Stephanie Hughes, the student body president of Union Theological Seminary, a multi-denominational Protestant institute in New York. Together we set out to build what we hoped would become not only the first peer reviewed electronic journal for religious leaders, but also a virtual inter-religious community.
After working to form an inter-religious (and inter-generational) staff of dedicated students and practicing theologians, we approached top thinkers from different religious traditions to serve as peer reviewers and advisors on our Board of Scholars and Practitioners. These leaders showed no hesitation to promote tolerance and little fear that their work to do so might undermine their personal religious practices. These leaders include Sayyid M. Syeed, Director of Interfaith and Community Alliances at the Islamic Society of North America, Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Director of the Religious Studies Department at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Eboo Patel, Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core, Reginald Broadnax, Dean of Academic Affairs at Hood Theological Seminary, and Robert Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education at the Perkins School of Theology at the Southern Methodist University, among many others.
This March, we formally launched the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue™. Board members are currently reviewing submissions for our Spring 2009 edition. And our website is up and running, with a number of articles already available for readers. The time is now right to invite seminarians, lay leaders, and believers (and those without belief) of all denominations to join our network.
This is not just a call for papers. It is a call to read articles and comment on the discussion boards that we offer. It is a request that you tell us about books you recently published, keep us posted on innovative inter-religious programs, inform us about moments of joy and sadness within your congregations, and help others study your religion so that they may, in turn, gain new insight into their own. Then we will have more than just a readership; we will have a virtual community of inter-religious leaders.