Christian Week reports:
"The Christian Church has always existed in a context filled with a wide diversity of religious expressions."
So declares the vision statement explaining why Emmanuel College has begun training leaders for the Muslim faith.
Emmanuel, whose main role has been to train clergy for the United Church of Canada, is one of the schools that make up the Toronto School of Theology at the University of Toronto.
At the end of March, it began offering its first two Islamic courses: 'Islamic Spirituality in a Health Care Setting' and 'The Qur'an in the Canadian Context.' These are continuing education courses, which confer no academic credit. However, students who complete all nine planned continuing education courses will be given a Canadian Certificate in Muslim Studies.
The courses are geared to four groups of people: imams (Muslim clergy) and other leaders in the Muslim community; community workers and Islamic school teachers; people engaged in interfaith dialogue; and people who just want to learn more about Islam.
The courses will help students understand "what it means to be a committed Muslim in the Canadian context," says Emmanuel principal Mark Toulouse. The majority of Muslims in Canada are immigrants—and they struggle with how to relate to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for instance.
Toronto is the most logical place for such a program because it is "the most Muslim city in North America," Toulouse says. Muslims make up more than two per cent of the Canadian population, but five per cent of the population of Toronto. There are 60 mosques in the city.
Read it all here.
In addition to the non-credit certificate in Canadian Muslim Studies, there will be a two-year Masters degree in Pastoral Studies. In the first year, Christian students will study Bible, Theology, Ethics and Church History while Muslim students study the Qur'an, Islamic history, law and theology. Then, in the second year they would take pastoral studies together.There are plans for Emmanuel to hire a full-time Muslim professor and to raise funds for the establishment of a chair in Muslim Studies. The story also reports the following contradictory position:
The first paragraph claims "value neutrality" and a commitment to "university values." But the second paragraph reveals the operative theology presupposed by the college, namely, that "Muslims don't need to become Christians to be faithful to God." This theological position is the real bedrock faith foundation of the program, which must be believed by those who participate in order for the whole program to work. So it is only correct to claim that "no class will set out what you must believe" in the sense that every class presupposes that you believe the "right" way.
Like Emmanuel's other programs, the Islamic studies programs will stress understanding and professional training. The courses will "embrace university values," Toulouse said, and "no class will set out what you must believe."He stressed: "We are not out to make Muslims into Christians." He added that this approach is in keeping with the United Church position that "God is at work in Islam just as God is at work in Christianity" and that "Muslims don't need to become Christians to be faithful to God."
It seems to me that when you give up Scriptural authority and then proceed to making Trinitarian and Christological orthodoxy optional, the Unitarianism that results leads to being unable to distinguish adequately between Christian doctrine and Muslim doctrine. But where is this heading? We may recall the maxim of Richard John Neuhaus that: "Where orthodoxy becomes optional, it eventually will be proscribed."
It is very difficult to see this as anything other than a slow motion capitulation of liberal Protestantism to Islam. Emmanuel College apparently believes that they can make liberals out of Muslims. They had better be right because some of us are thinking that it is more likely that Muslims may end up making Muslims out of liberal Protestants.