The mood of the first class of UTS at the Clinton Maryland satellite center was upbeat and veering toward the heights of optimism at its first convocation on Monday, Sept. 28th. The celebration began with prayer of blessing offered by Bishop David Billings, presiding Bishop, United Fellowship of Churches International and UTS Board of Trustees member.

The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) provides an overview of enrollment, students, faculty, and finances at member schools. Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) is not yet a member of ATS, but our presidents and administrative staff have been welcomed at several ATS conferences over the last 15 years.

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On December 4th, students, faculty and administration filled the small conference dining room for a standing room only talk by a leading scholar on the challenge of religious identity and interfaith activity.

The scholar, Dr. Frank Kaufmann, who graduated from UTS and went on to earn his PhD from Vanderbilt University, is a Unificationist has been a leader in interfaith initiatives for over thirty years and serves as editor for the interreligious journal Dialogue and Alliance.

During the lunch seminar, Dr. Kaufmann addressed the “paradox” of proclamation and evangelism, with the affirmation of the validity and integrity of religious traditions other than ones own. Faculty/administration members added experience and wisdom to the very active exchange. Dr. Michael Mickler, Vice President of UTS and Professor of Church History, asked how “Unificationism” fits within the traditional framework in the field of Theology of Religions (exclusivist, inclusive, and pluralism). After some thought, Dr. Kaufmann placed “Unificationism” as an inclusive-pluralism theology.

Reflecting on his visit to UTS, Dr. Kaufmann wrote, “Pioneers and future leaders undergoing seminary education, together with administration and faculty are vigorously engaged in the universal and natural, yet difficult and sometimes scary challenges that arise (or should arise) in all believers as we wrestle with the modern-day pairing of religious identity and interreligious openness. What does it mean to be a fervent believer, and yet to affirm the religious views of others? What is the relationship between proselytizing and conversion, and dialogue and interfaith conferences? This was the stuff of our conversation.”

The event was jointly sponsored by the Theologians Club and the Office of Interfaith Development at UTS. Dr. Kaufmann teaches a pioneer course at UTS called “Foundations of Interfaith Leadership”, which drew students and religious professionals from five major religious traditions and over ten countries to the UTS Barrytown campus in May 2007.

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