The Claremont School of Theology has announced plans to add training for Muslim and Jewish clerics to its curriculum this fall, as reported in a Los Angeles Times article entitled, “Claremont Seminary Reaches Beyond Christianity.” This change in the school’s mission comes in an apparent attempt to be on the cutting edge of the future of religious training.
The problem here is that Claremont has historic ties to the United Methodist Church (UMC), which means the UMC has provided them funding for a long time. This is a problem because the United Methodist doctrinal standards affirm that there is one God who exists in three distinct persons and who is revealed in Jesus Christ, on account of whose merit alone, and through faith in him, sinful human beings can be given right standing before God. Furthermore, the mission of the UMC “is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (Book of Discipline ¶ 120). Our theology and mission is distinctly Christian. This move by Claremont thus constitutes a direct falling away from the beliefs and mission of the United Methodist Church.
In response to Claremont’s new direction, the University Senate of the UMC, which oversees all matters relating to denominational approval for seminaries, has suspended denominational funding for Claremont while an investigation is conducted. The article indicates that a report will be available later this month.
If the University Senate were to reinstate funding for Claremont, it would be an outrage. It may very well also be a breaking point in the United Methodist Church. Such a move would demonstrate how far the denominational hierarchy is from the people in the pew. You can rest assured that numerous voices would be calling for the 2012 General Conference to take decisive disciplinary action with regard to the Claremont School of Theology.