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Vocational Explorations in a Multi-Faith World:

Cultivating Informed Engagement across Faith Traditions in Undergraduate Education

A NetVUE gathering at Calvin College,
September 20-21, 2013

The Gathering

Private liberal arts education in the United States has its roots in the Christian tradition, which has long been a dominant force in American culture. In the twenty-first century, however, our culture and campuses have become increasingly diversified, in matters of faith as well as ethnicity and race. Technology continues to shrink the distances among globally diverse people, our campuses are attracting students from diverse faith traditions, and our students continue to travel the world for educational purposes, leading to multiple interactions with people of other faith traditions on a daily basis.

This gathering aims to deepen our thinking and engagement with ideas and practices that cultivate students’ ability to communicate, commune, live with, and respectfully interact with people of other faith traditions and identities. Having such abilities is crucial to developing long-term vocational commitments to living with and engaging people of other faith traditions. But forming such identities is a complex and multi-layered task in higher education.

Unfortunately, we are often not as well prepared for inter-faith and inter-religious diversity as we have become adept at meeting other diverse needs. Often there is not an existing robust culture, or comprehensive plan, that enables students, faculty, staff, and administrators to conduct meaningful, informed, and sustained conversations and interactions across faith traditions. Such interactions, however, are essential as we probe vocational practices among undergraduates. We want to develop graduates who are able to bring well-grounded, informed faith and life purposes to bear on these intersections so that they honor the authenticity of others' religious commitments without replacing their own vibrant faith commitments with vague spirituality, with relativism regarding truths central to their own tradition, with a form of tolerance that discourages deep engagement, or with crude, ineffective missionizing. Our students as well as faculty, staff, and administrators need theological, historical, perspectival, and communicative resources to navigate wisely in this world, anchored in (and not merely tethered to) their own faith while knowing how to understand and conduct themselves appropriately with those of other faiths.

This conference will take as its starting point the assumption that the majority of students on our campuses are either Christians or have been influenced by a Christian culture. It will, therefore, focus on helping students, faculty, staff, and administrators who are formed in a Christian cultural milieu to better understand how to interact well with those who come from other faith traditions. It will look at ways to form an institutional culture of thoughtful theological engagement and civil conversations that honors others’ faith commitments while upholding students’ own Christian traditions. Done effectively, this kind of engagement will develop through campus life, classroom curriculum, and off-campus study, as well as endure post-graduation.

Schedule

Friday, 20 September 2013

10:00 – 11:15    Welcome and Case Study #1                        
Please read: Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, "Institutional Etiquette: Structures and Ethos" from No                    Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 82-89 and be prepared to introduce your campus briefly, using this rubric

11:15 – 12:10   Dr. Diane Obenchain: What We Share in Common
                         Presentation with discussion
12:15 – 1:15     Lunch
1:30 – 2:25       Dr. Diane Obenchain: Christian Salt and Leaven
                         Presentation with discussion
2:30 – 3:30       The Imam and the Pastor (a film), and discussion
3:30 – 3:50        Break
4:00 – 5:00        Dr. Bradley Malkovsky: God’s Other Children
                          Presentation with discussion
5:00 – 6:00        Discussion of the Readings
                          Please read the essays available on this website in                           preparation for this discussion.
6:15 – 7:45        Dinner

Saturday, 21 September 2013:

9:00 – 10:15      Case Study #2
10:15 – 10:35    Break
10:40 – 11:45    Moving from Models to Action:
                          A Conversation with Drs. Obenchain and                                      Malkovsky

11:45 – 12:00    Written Evaluation
12:00 – 1:15      Lunch

Speakers

Dr. Diane B. Obenchain is Full Professor of Religious Studies at Calvin College Michigan, having taught the academic study of religion at three major universities in China from 1988-2004 (Peking University 1988-2002; Zhejiang University and Fudan University 2004). A comparative historian of religion, her teaching and research have four foci: 1) the interactive history of human faith and worship from the Neolithic period to the present, 2) East, South, and West Asian traditions, with a focus on the Ru (Confucian) tradition, 3) the multi-disciplined study of religion, and 4) Christian engagement with people of all traditions.

Dr. Obenchain received her doctorate from Harvard University and two Master degrees from Stanford University. As Associate Professor of Religion with tenure at Kenyon College, Ohio, she taught at Waseda University (Tokyo 1987-88) and at National University of Singapore (1990-1993). She was editor/translator for a volume of collected papers on China’s foremost 20th c. philosopher, Feng Youlan; she is co-author of a textbook on the academic study of religion in China (forthcoming); she is Project Co-director for a Small Dictionary for the Study of Religion (in Chinese and English) funded by The Henry Luce Foundation. She joined Max L. Stackhouse, Don Browning and Peter Paris to prepare God and Globalization: Theological Ethics in a Pluralistic World (four volumes).

Dr. Bradley Malkovsky, Professor of Comparative Theology at the University of Notre Dame, holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Universität Tübingen in Germany and has studied Sanskrit and Hindu thought at the University of Poona in Pune, India. He teaches and writes about the doctrinal and spiritual relation of Christianity to other religions, and his principal scholarly specialization is the Hindu-Christian encounter. Dr. Malkovsky is the editor of New Perspectives on Advaita Vedanta (Brill, 2000); The Role of Divine Grace in the Soteriology of Samkaracarya (Brill, 2001); and, God's Other Children: Personal Encounters with Love, Holiness and Faith in Sacred India (2013), which won the Huston Smith Prize. He is presently working on a new book on religious interaction, called Under the Banyan Tree: An Inter-religious Approach to Christian Doctrine and Spirituality. Since 2001 Dr. Malkovsky has been editor of the Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies.

Readings

Scott C. Alexander, “Knowing and Loving Our Neighbors of Other Faiths,” in Dorothy C. Bass and Susan R. Briehl, eds. On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life
(Nashville: Upper Room, 2010), 149-167.       

Goldie Blumenstyk, “Eboo Patel Has a Dream,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (29 April 2013).
                       
Donald De Graaf, “Letters to Students Abroad” (unpublished mss).
                       
Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, "Institutional Etiquette: Structures and Ethos" from No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 82-89
                    
Bradley Malkovsky, “Epilogue: Rethinking Jesus and the World’s Religions” from God’s Other Children: Personal Encounters with Faith, Love, and Holiness in Sacred India (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2013), 267-273.

Paul J. Visser, “Religion in Biblical and Reformed Perspective,” Calvin Theological Journal 44 (2009): 20-27 (the entire article is provided).

Readings will be provided after conference registration is received.

Organizing Committee:
Cheryl Brandsen, Professor of Social Work and Dean, Social Sciences and Contextual Disciplines; NetVUE representative
Susan Felch, Professor of English and Director, Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship
Mwenda Ntarangwi, Professor of Anthropology and Director, International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education (IAPCHE)


A NetVUE gathering at Calvin College, 20-21 September 2013

The Gathering

Private liberal arts education in the United States has its roots in the Christian tradition, which has long been a dominant force in American culture. In the twenty-first century, however, our culture and campuses have become increasingly diversified, in matters of faith as well as ethnicity and race. Technology continues to shrink the distances among globally diverse people, our campuses are attracting students from diverse faith traditions, and our students continue to travel the world for educational purposes, leading to multiple interactions with people of other faith traditions on a daily basis.

This gathering aims to deepen our thinking and engagement with ideas and practices that cultivate students’ ability to communicate, commune, live with, and respectfully interact with people of other faith traditions and identities. Having such abilities is crucial to developing long-term vocational commitments to living with and engaging people of other faith traditions. But forming such identities is a complex and multi-layered task in higher education.

Unfortunately, we are often not as well prepared for inter-faith and inter-religious diversity as we have become adept at meeting other diverse needs. Often there is not an existing robust culture, or comprehensive plan, that enables students, faculty, staff, and administrators to conduct meaningful, informed, and sustained conversations and interactions across faith traditions. Such interactions, however, are essential as we probe vocational practices among undergraduates. We want to develop graduates who are able to bring well-grounded, informed faith and life purposes to bear on these intersections so that they honor the authenticity of others' religious commitments without replacing their own vibrant faith commitments with vague spirituality, with relativism regarding truths central to their own tradition, with a form of tolerance that discourages deep engagement, or with crude, ineffective missionizing. Our students as well as faculty, staff, and administrators need theological, historical, perspectival, and communicative resources to navigate wisely in this world, anchored in (and not merely tethered to) their own faith while knowing how to understand and conduct themselves appropriately with those of other faiths.

This conference will take as its starting point the assumption that the majority of students on our campuses are either Christians or have been influenced by a Christian culture. It will, therefore, focus on helping students, faculty, staff, and administrators who are formed in a Christian cultural milieu to better understand how to interact well with those who come from other faith traditions. It will look at ways to form an institutional culture of thoughtful theological engagement and civil conversations that honors others’ faith commitments while upholding students’ own Christian traditions. Done effectively, this kind of engagement will develop through campus life, classroom curriculum, and off-campus study, as well as endure post-graduation.

Schedule

Friday, 20 September 2013

10:00 – 11:15              Welcome and Case Study #1
                                    Please read: Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, "Institutional                                     Etiquette: Structures and Ethos" from No Longer Invisible: Religion in University                                     Education (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 82-89 and be prepared                                     to introduce your campus briefly, using this rubric

11:15 – 12:10              Dr. Diane Obenchain: What We Share in Common
                                   Presentation with discussion

12:15 – 1:15                Lunch

1:30 – 2:25                  Dr. Diane Obenchain: Christian Salt and Leaven
                                    Presentation with discussion

2:30 – 3:30                  The Imam and the Pastor (a film), followed by discussion

3:30 – 3:50                  Break

4:00 – 5:00                  Dr. Bradley Malkovsky: God’s Other Children
                                    Presentation with discussion

5:00 – 6:00                  Discussion of the Readings
                                    Please read the essays available on this website in preparation for this discussion.

6:15 – 7:45                  Dinner

Saturday, 21 September 2013:

9:00 – 10:15                Case Study #2

10:15 – 10:35              Break

10:40 – 11:45              Moving from Models to Action: A Conversation with Drs. Obenchain and                                     Malkovsky
                                               
11:45 – 12:00              Written Evaluation

12:00 – 1:15                Lunch
 

Speakers

Diane Obenchain, Professor of Religion at Calvin College, received her undergraduate degree from Drew University, two M.A.s from Stanford University, and her Ph.D. in the Comparative History of Religion from Harvard University. Before coming to Calvin in 2005, she taught at Kenyon College and for 16 years at several universities in Asia, including Peking University, the National University of Singapore, Zhejian University, and Fudan University. At Peking University, she established the first program in the academic study of religion. She is an editor of the third volume in the series God and Globalization: Theological Ethics in a Pluralistic World and has published numerous articles and book chapters. In 2009, she presented the Rev. Dr. W. Donald McClure Endowed Lectures at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Bradley Malkovsky, Professor of Comparative Theology at the University of Notre Dame, holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Universität Tübingen in Germany and has studied Sanskrit and Hindu thought at the University of Poona in Pune, India. He teaches and writes about the doctrinal and spiritual relation of Christianity to other religions, and his principal scholarly specialization is the Hindu-Christian encounter. Malkovsky is the editor of New Perspectives on Advaita Vedanta (Brill, 2000); The Role of Divine Grace in the Soteriology of Samkaracarya (Brill, 2001); and, God's Other Children: Personal Encounters with Love, Holiness and Faith in Sacred India (2013), which won the Huston Smith Prize. He is presently working on a new book on religious interaction, called Under the Banyan Tree: An Inter-religious Approach to Christian Doctrine and Spirituality. Since 2001 Malkovsky has been editor of the Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies.


Readings

Scott C. Alexander, “Knowing and Loving Our Neighbors of Other Faiths,” in Dorothy C. Bass and Susan R. Briehl, eds. On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life
(Nashville: Upper Room, 2010), 149-167.       

Goldie Blumenstyk, “Eboo Patel Has a Dream,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (29 April 2013).
                       
Donald De Graaf, “Letters to Students Abroad” (unpublished mss).
                       
Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, "Institutional Etiquette: Structures and Ethos" from No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 82-89
                    
Bradley Malkovsky, “Epilogue: Rethinking Jesus and the World’s Religions” from God’s Other Children: Personal Encounters with Faith, Love, and Holiness in Sacred India (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2013), 267-273.

Paul J. Visser, “Religion in Biblical and Reformed Perspective,” Calvin Theological Journal 44 (2009): 20-27 (the entire article is provided).

Readings will be provided after conference registration is received.

Registration Information

Registration deadline is September 13, 2013

Registration for NetVUE members is $25; for non-NetVUE members, $75.
Registration includes all materials, Friday and Saturday lunches, and Friday dinner, but not accommodations.

Click here to register.

About NetVUE

NetVUE has its roots in the Lilly Endowment’s major initiatives on 88 college and university campuses over the previous decade through its Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV). As Lilly’s direct support of the PTEV effort concluded, The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) was asked by a number of college and university presidents to develop a national campus-supported network to extend and deepen the conversation about vocation. Since the fall of 2009, 174 colleges and universities have joined NetVUE, to foster the theological exploration of vocation in their campus communities. These campuses, most of which are rooted in the liberal arts, represent a range of religiously-affiliated institutions as well as a number of secular institutions. All show a desire to address the theological and intellectual implications of vocation, both in the classroom and in student life. In addition to the NetVUE-sponsored biennial national conference, the network also supports regional and themed gatherings hosted by its members.