A More Plural Union

By Simran Jeet Singh 
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A Zen Buddhist priest and a Muslima scholar of Islam walk into a seminary and propose new M.Div. programs not tied to Christian ministry.   
To those unfamiliar with Union Theological Seminary, this might sound like the setup to a bad punchline for religion nerds. But those who know Union’s history of being at the cutting edge of social change might be more inclined to believe that, of all places, Union would be one of the first major seminaries in the U.S. to open its doors to new programs devoted to non-Christian communities. 
And those people would be right.  
Union proudly boasts two newly-minted programs that fit this description: Islam and Interreligious Engagement (IIE), designed and directed by assistant professor Jerusha Rhodes, and Buddhism and Interreligious Engagement (BIE), founded and led by assistant professor Greg Snyder. Both are attracting students of diverse backgrounds, offering unprecedented depth in different traditions, and doing all of this with an eye towards what it means to deal with the disparities we encounter in the world around us.   
For an institution to invest its resources in such programs at a time when provincialism and ethno-nationalism are building political momentum around the world is no accident. Union is putting its money where its mouth is, staking its claim with values of pluralism and inclusiveness.  
If silence is complicity, then what Union is doing is the opposite. And just a few years into the experiment, the institution is already witnessing positive results.  


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