March 4, 2013

Claremont Seminary Responds to IRD on Cross Removal

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Claremont School of Theology has asked that we share its response to John Lomperis’ story about the school’s possibly removing the cross from its chapel:

[Note: the following is a response from Ms. Claudia Pierce, Claremont School of Theology’s Director of Media Relations, to this recent report by IRD’s United Methodist Director John Lomperis]

We regret to say that Mr. Lomperis is mistaken on several issues in his March 2 blog post.  We regret even more that he magnifies the effect of his mistakes by the use of provocative language.  Here are some corrections.

Claremont School of Theology (CST) did not “sell itself for $50 million to a large donor who helped transform it from a Christian seminary into Claremont Lincoln University…”.  Along with partners from other religions, the Christian Seminary co-founded Claremont Lincoln University (a separately incorporated entity) that functions as a consortium among eight religious and ethical traditions.  The purpose of Claremont Lincoln University is to make possible mutual understanding and respect among the participating traditions as well as to create a foundation for collaboration on major problems.

CST has, indeed, remained proudly Methodist and Christian, and its students have overwhelmingly found their Christian faith strengthened as they think through and articulate Christian beliefs in discussions with students from other religious traditions.  In this context, they are being much better prepared to minister in our region, which prefigures what the rest of the US is rapidly becoming:  a mission field where United Methodism can learn to thrive in high density, multicultural and multireligious settings.

CST is not “devoting the resources of the Christian part of the consortium to propping up the others.” In fact, it is making itself more fiscally sustainable by sharing some of the fixed costs of its resources with Claremont Lincoln University and collaborating institutions.  It is a win-win for everyone involved.

The quote from President Campbell was taken out of context.  In the interview cited, he was speaking in the context of the students studying together at Claremont Lincoln, and saying that if the Christians were using that venue to try to evangelize, instead of trying to understand the other and learn to work together – which is the intent of the Claremont Lincoln classes – they had an incorrect perception of what it means to follow Jesus, and of what it means to be peace makers and good neighbors in a pluralistic world.  Outside of that context evangelism is, of course, an important part of Christianity and United Methodism, and our Professor of Evangelism Jack Jackson teaches seminary classes on evangelism and mission that are mandatory for our UMC M.Div. students.

Since CST is sharing physical facilities with its collaborators, we are indeed discussing how to exercise our Christian hospitality to those with whom we share.  This includes offering a new variety of food choices and creating flexible study and worship space that may be arranged to accommodate a variety of religious expressions.  When this discussion is reduced to “taking down the cross,” it misses the point.  The Christian cross is and will continue to be a part of CST’s worship space; but the goal is to be able to easily rearrange the space for use by other traditions.

Surely for the American experiment to succeed, Americans of differing religious viewpoints must learn to live and work together in harmony.  Religion can either continue to be the cause of conflict, or we can work together to make it the foundation for the needed harmony.  We believe that Jesus Christ calls Christians to the latter, being peacemakers and good neighbors.

[Note: to see the response by John Lomperis to this Claremont statement, click here.]


10 Responses to Claremont Seminary Responds to IRD on Cross Removal

  1. One cannot be a good neighbor and hold hands with those who are in darkness. It is one thing to dwell peacefully with others who are not in the faith, it is another thing entirely to join hands with those whose very ideology undermines that same faith.

  2. […] responded with an article that the IRD – graciously, for them – posted on their blog, Juicy […]

  3. The article in the 7/2/10 United Methodist Reporter stated:

    “And Christians who feel they need to evangelize persons of other faiths have ‘an incorrect perception of what it means to follow Jesus,’ Dr. Campbell added.”

    That appeared to be a general sentiment on the part of Dr. Campbell and not strictly limted to a particular context. Did the UM Reporter get that wrong? Is that not the sense of what Dr. Campbell was saying? I am unaware that there was any corrective printed by the UM Reporter. If so please point me in the right direction.

    Is it not correct that Claremont receives 800K from the UM Church? How is that money being allocated? Is it not reasonable to think that training clerics of other faiths will dilute the original mission of Clarmont as a Christian institution? Isn’t it possible to gain quality experience with other faiths apart from in-house training of their clerics?

    Is it also not correct that Claremont has a recent history of financial difficulties and this new model could be see as a possible way to get out of financial trouble, along with the 10 million from the donors?

  4. The purpose of a seminary, I thought, was for studying Christian Theology and how to live a life devoted to serving Christ. I would recommend the folks at Claremont to give up the charade and if they can’t afford to promote the unadulterated faith and doctrine, then they should separate from the UMC. “Come out from among them.” as the Word admonishes us.

  5. They won’t be the first Methodist seminary to remove the cross. Candler School of Theology’s Cannon Chapel has a removable cross so that it can be used for any religion on campus.

  6. […] [Note: within two days of our posting this article, Claremont School of Theology issued a response to this article] […]

  7. Donnie says:

    For what it’s worth, Matt 28:19 is pretty clear about evangelizing to non-Christians.

  8. gregpaley says:

    Whether they remove the cross or not is merely a cosmetic issue. To hire faculty who clearly have no desire to propagate the Christian faith is the real issue, not that the students who choose Claremont were hoodwinked. The obfuscation is the seminary’s response is funny – and disgusting. “Collaborators,” “Christian hospitality,” “variety of religious expressions,” “peacemakers and good neighbors,” “a win-win for everyone involved.” They claim the president was “quoted out of context,” which I think means “IRD quoted him correctly and he doesn’t like having it pointed out.”

    I have no clue if their professor of evangelism teaches the genuine article, but it’s unlikely that even if one professor were faithful to the gospel that he could cancel out the incalculable harm done by the others. Rosemary Ruether alone, with her decades of deconstructing Christianity, is someone any Christianity institution should bar from public speaking. The seminary has no teachers of Old Testament, rather, they teach “Hebrew Bible,” itself a radical departure from Christian tradition. The professor of “spiritual care” boasts of dabbling in Buddhism and in “hybrid religious/spiritual identities.” They can call themselves “Christian” till they are blue in the face.

    Are any of you folks still contributing financially to this denomination? Why? They will not change until the financial plug is pulled.

  9. “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

  10. […] On Monday, we were contacted by Ms. Claudia Pearce, CST’s Director of Media Relations, who asserted that my article was “full of factual errors” and asked us to post a statement she submitted in response. For the sake of respectful and open dialogue, we agreed to her request. […]

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