On Wednesday, November 8, Dr. Tom Walsh, Secretary General of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), engaged members of the UTS Board, faculty, staff and student body in a conversation on the future of seminary education and the quest for world peace. The UPF is dedicated to building bridges among religions, races and nations.
Dr. Walsh, a graduate of UTS (’79) and Vanderbilt Graduate School of Religion (’85), shared that the UPF strives to bring people together under a banner of theism, affirmation of spiritual reality, family, character, dialogue and service. It sponsors conferences, peace missions such as to the Middle East, publishes the World & I: Innovative Approaches to Peace, and works with NGOs and leaders worldwide through its "Ambassadors for Peace" initiative. It is a member of the ECOSOC of the United Nations.
Dr. Walsh presented compelling ideas concerning directions UTS might consider for curriculum and program development. He identified three important program areas. One was “inter-religious leadership.” This would include courses in Unification theology, religion and world affairs, and world religions. A second was study of marriage and the family, including sociology of marriage and family, sociology of religion, counseling, coaching and other methods to strengthen families. The third was “religion, peace and international relations,” or “religion and world affairs.” This would prepare students in the areas of religion and conflict resolution, inter-religious cooperation and peace, and innovative approaches to peace.
A lively discussion ensued. Dr. Mark King enjoined Dr. Walsh to consider the vital role of religious education for bringing people and cultures to a deeper understanding of the resources for peace in their own faith tradition. Dr. Wilson pointed Dr. Walsh to recent developments in the UTS curriculum that move in the direction he suggested. It was agreed that UTS would do well to explore ways to publicize to the UPF constituency the availability of such courses, and even develop a program to serve that market. The conversation went on to discuss the goals and methodology of UPF, to the benefit of all.