01: The religion department at the University of Virginia (UVA) is unique for its blending of religious studies with theology that stresses specific faith traditions.
The standard religion programs have emphasized the attempt to find common elements through the dispassionate and comparative study of the world’s religions. In contrast, UVA embraces a new “postmodern” approach, hiring scholars who work out of particular theological traditions and then bringing them together for larger conversations. In 1999, the department hired John Milbank, the leader of “radical orthodoxy,” a new movement that seeks a renewal of theology’s role in a “post-enlightenment” society.
The department is also engaged in a “Project on Lived Theology,” which seeks to connect theological writing and research with the everyday practices and patterns of particular religious communities.
(Source: Re:generation Quarterly, Summer)
02: Mars Hill Graduate School in the Seattle area seeks to create a new breed of clergy and church worker in tune with contemporary culture.
The school, affiliated with the evangelical Western Seminary in Portland, Ore., places a major emphasis on interaction and learning from the unchurched, “postmodern” seekers, who are legion in the Seattle area. The seminary offers classes to 202 students on everything from youth ministry to psychopathology and publishes the Mars Hill Review (http://www.marshillforum.org), a 5,000 circulation journal that seeks a dialogue with non-Christians.
(Source: Washington Times, Aug. 3)
03: The formation and growth of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is one sign of the concern that has spread among conservative religious groups that their freedoms are being curtailed on U.S. campuses.
Since it started in 1998, FIRE has been inundated with requests to help students and leaders of campus organizations involved in conflicts with administrators over issues of the freedom of religion and association. The foundation has recently started a Center for Religious Freedom on Campus to serve as a legal network and resource center to battle what organizers sees as the “selective repression” of religion and conservatives that pervades modern higher education.
The foundation gained nationwide publicity when it successfully defended a Christian student group that was banned from the Tufts University campus after it had denied a position of leadership to a homosexual. For its first project, the center, which has already received a multiyear grant from the John Templeton Foundation, plans to distribute a guide detailing the rights of students and on-campus religious groups.
(Source: Washington Times, Aug. 21)
04: Al-Fatiha began four years ago, but the gay Muslim group has mushroomed with the help of the Internet.
Al-Fatiha grew out of an e-mail discussion group in 1997 and now has nine chapters in the U.S., the UK and Canada and claims to have reached more than 2,000 Muslims worldwide. Founder Faisal Alam says he hopes the group opens up a conversation with Orthodox Muslims on the topic of homosexuality. The decentralized nature of Islam in the U.S. makes it likely that most Muslims don’t know of Al-Fatiha’s existence, a fact that may be beneficial to the group in the long run.
“The fact that it is not debated allows the informal practice to continue more than if it were debated,” says Abdullahi An-Na’im, a professor at Emory University.
(Source: Sequoia, Summer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, undated)