McMURRY ADDS INTERFAITH MINOR
By MARK WATERS
“Shaped by Christian principles, McMurry University challenges students to examine our complex world from multiple perspectives in preparation for lives of leadership, service, and professional success.” This recently revised mission statement is the cornerstone of McMurry’s decision to develop a minor in interfaith studies. I will unpack the intent of the mission statement below to show the connection with interfaith understanding.
“Shaped by Christian principles,” in this context, does not represent an exclusivist view toward people of other religious traditions. Rather, the essential Christian principles expressed here include valuing each student as a unique individual and approaching all religious identities with graciousness and hospitality.
In a posture of graciousness, hospitality, and valuing others, we want to “challenge students to examine our complex world from multiple perspectives.” Living in the contemporary world inevitably involves relating to, doing business with, serving, being served by, and crossing paths with people of varying identities. These identities may be cultural, racial, ethnic, national, religious, gendered, and so on. A college education should prepare students for the real world and, thereby, prepare them to work with all kinds of people. Whether they become teachers, nurses, doctors, coaches, business people, social workers, accountants, or practitioners of any other profession, graduates should be able to understand and navigate human differences. This includes learning to navigate religious differences in order to be prepared “for lives of leadership, service, and professional success.”
As with any curricular change or addition, the interfaith studies minor had to be approved by the Curriculum Committee and the faculty. Approved last spring, this is an 18-hour course of study. Courses are chosen from the following list: Introduction to Christianity, Religions of the World, Dialogue with the Other, Interfaith Leadership, Global Christianity, Native American Spirituality, Power and Religion, Religious Epistemology, and Sociology of Religion. Six of the nine courses had been part of our religion, philosophy, and sociology curricula for many years. With the support of a grant from TMF (formerly Texas Methodist Foundation), we were able to provide stipends for three faculty members to create new courses in their various areas of specialization. The new courses are Global Christianity, Native American Spirituality, and Power and Religion.
The interfaith studies minor is in the newly minted 2018-2019 catalog. This is just one of many steps the university is taking to “challenge students to examine our complex world from multiple perspectives in preparation for lives of leadership, service, and professional success.”
Dr. Mark Waters is Professor of Religion and Director of International Education at McMurry University