VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 7/24/14)—Eighteen American Christian leaders from across the United States, representing diverse religious institutions, have begun studying Judaism in the 13-month Christian Leadership Initiative (CLI) in Israel this week. The intensive educational program, co-sponsored by AJC and the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) is taught by world-class SHI faculty. Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson, executive director of the Ministers Council, ABCUSA, is participating in the highly selective initiative.
“CLI provides open space for Christian leaders and scholars to experience and study Judaism and Israel from a Jewish perspective,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “Interreligious understanding is deepened when Christian influentials engage in Jewish learning in ways that enable them to better understand Jewish texts and traditions.”
“This understanding has taken on new significance in light of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. As an American Baptist, I am wrestling with the complexity of this situation, experienced in the context of interreligious dialog. But my desire is to use this experience to not only inform my faith, but also strengthen my voice as a leader within the American Baptist community,” said Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson, executive director of the Ministers Council, ABCUSA. “American Baptists would embrace the scriptural mandate for justice and advocacy, motivated and demonstrated by the love of Jesus Christ. Therefore, this experience obligates me to use my voice, enriched by this first hand view, to cry violence as needed, to speak peace as demanded, and to seek reconciliation in restorative ways, because I recognize the worth and dignity of every individual.”
“The experience of Christian and Jewish scholars studying texts together is transformational. SHI faculty look forward to welcoming the CLI group every year, because as we teach them, we are pushed to consider deeper questions and different perspectives,” said Dr. Marcie Lenk, Shalom Hartman Institute Co-Director of New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel.
The theme of the opening seminar (July 15 -24), “God and Judaism,” introduces the multifaceted approaches of Jewish doctrine, spirituality, and theology. After returning to the U.S at the end of July, CLI fellows will engage in monthly distance-learning sessions. They will return to Jerusalem in July 2015 for the concluding seminar on Jewish community. With generous support from the Allen H. and Selma W. Berkman Charitable Trust, CLI has been advancing professional development for top leadership of Christian seminaries, denominations, and theological schools since 2008. To date, 41 leaders, representing the full spectrum of Christian denominations in the U.S., have participated in CLI and maintain the connection with peers, faculty, and the institutions through alumni programming.
Fellows in the 2014-2015 CLI cohort are:
Dr. Bogdan G. Bucur, Associate Professor, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA
Rev. Dr. Gay L. Byron, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of New Testament, Howard University School of Divinity, Washington, DC
Dr. Michael J. Chan, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Dr. Andrew R. Davis, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Chestnut Hill, MA
Rev. Dr. Katie Day, The Charles A. Scheiren Professor, Church and Society, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, PA
Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches
Rev. Dr. David Garber, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, GA
Dr. Tommy Givens, Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA
Rev. Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield, II, Professor, Fred. E. Young Chair of Hebrew Bible, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, MO
Dr. Sally Holt, Professor of Religion, Belmont University, Nashville, TN
Rev. Dr. Christine Hong, Associate for Theology/Interfaith, Presbyterian Mission Agency, PCUSA, Louisville, KY
Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson, Executive Director, The Ministers Council – American Baptist Churches USA, Valley Forge, PA
Rev. Belva Brown Jordan, Associate Dean of Curriculum and Assessment/Associate Professor Practice of Ministry, Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA
Dr. Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, Associate Professor of Church History, Seminary of the Southwest, Austin, TX
Dr. F. Javier Orozco, Executive Director of Intercultural and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO
Dr. Brian Rainey, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ
Rev. Dr. Javier A. Viera, Dean and Professor of Ecumenical and Pastoral Theology, Drew University Theological School, Madison, NJ
Rev. Dr. Frank M. Yamada, President and Cyrus McCormick Professor of Bible and Culture, McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL
About Shalom Hartman Institute
Shalom Hartman Institute is a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people and elevates the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world. A leader in sophisticated, ideas-based Jewish education for community leaders and change agents, the Institute is committed to the significance of Jewish ideas, the power of applied scholarship, and the conviction that great teaching contributes to the growth and continual revitalization of the Jewish people. For more information on Shalom Hartman Institute see: www.hartman.org.il or contact Laura Gilinski, Chief Development and Public Relations Officer, at email@example.com or +972-2-567-5333.
AJC (American Jewish Committee) is the global Jewish advocacy organization, with headquarters in New York, 22 regional offices across the United States, and 10 offices around the world, including one in Jerusalem. Founded in 1906, AJC’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world. Contact Kenneth Bandler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.