Seminary Establishes New Chair in Abrahamic Partnerships

Hartford Seminary has establishedan endowed faculty chair in Abrahamic Partnerships that will further enhance the Seminary?s national prominence in multifaith education.

The focus of the chair will be on the history and the practice of Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations.

The lead gift for the chair, of $500,000, was made by the Prior Family Foundation.

Cornelius B. Prior, Jr., chairman of Atlantic Tele-Network Inc., headquartered in Beverly, MA, is the grantor of the Prior Family Foundation. Trudie J. Prior, president and general manager of Coral World Ocean Park in St. Thomas, V.I., is trustee. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Hartford Seminary. They are pictured at left with Van McMurtry, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Heidi Hadsell, Seminary President.

Other significant donations came from the estate of The Revs. Jane and William Inderstrodt, Lynn and John Fulkerson, and an anonymous gift made by a member of the Seminary Board of Trustees.

Hadsell said, ?I am profoundly appreciative of the generosity of Neil and Trudie Prior and the other donors for their commitment to interfaith education. We live in troubling times, and it is so important that Hartford Seminary continue its work in Abrahamic dialogue and understanding. These gifts will help make this possible.?

At a reception Sunday evening, Hadsell announced that the first occupant of the chair in Abrahamic Partnerships will be Professor Yehezkel Landau, Faculty Associate in Interfaith Relations. In 2002, Hartford Seminary hired Landau, an Israeli-American citizen, interfaith educator, and religious peace activist to augment its program in Abrahamic religions. “Yehezkel has committed a lifetime to building such partnerships and I know he will continue to do that faithfully and creatively, now from this distinguished chair,” Hadsell told the audience.

Sunday evening, the Seminary also presented a panel discussion reflecting on how the Abrahamic Partnerships Chair will support both academic preparation for religious leadership and the practice of that leadership. Video

In her remarksopening the conversation, Hadsell said, “Not only those preparing for religious leadership, but faithful people in general, need the kind of engagement that is embodied in the workwe expect this faculty position to carry out, and that such a position is now permanently endowed means that this Seminary’s commitment to Abrahamic partnerships will be steady, and consistent, and visible from now on.”

Speaking at the panel discussion were Landau,Najib Awad, Associate Professor of Christian Theology, and Mahmoud Ayoub, Faculty Associate in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations.

Offering responses were Hartford Seminary alumnus and Trustee Salahuddin Muhammad, a Doctor of Ministry graduate, recipient of the Seminary?s Islamic Chaplaincy Certificate and chaplain; Anne Rapkin, a Master of Arts student; and Linda Spiers, a Doctor of Ministry student and pastor.

(Above, left to rightare Awad, Ayoub, Rapkin and Marty Budd, moderator and Trustee. Below, left to right, areSpiers, Muhammad and Landau. Awad, Ayoub and Landau appeared on the Where We Live radio program on Connecticut Public Radio discussing Interfaith Understanding. Listen here.)

The faculty and students discussed how their knowledge of the Abrahamic faiths and the relationships among the faiths shape their work in their own communities.

The establishment of the Abrahamic Partnerships Chair is a clear sign of the Seminary?s commitment to Christian-Muslim-Jewish leadership formation at the heart of the school?s mission.

Central to the Seminary?s work in Abrahamic Partnerships is its Building Abrahamic Partnerships (BAP) program. Building on its strengths as an interfaith, dialogical school of practical theology, Hartford Seminary designed this program, led by Landau, to be a resource for Jews, Christians, and Muslims who seek a solid foundation in interfaith ministry. It is an eight-day intensive immersion in interfaith dialogue and understanding, meeting once a year in June.

BAP and the Abrahamic Partnerships Chair are further evidence of Hartford Seminary?s pioneering approach to theological education. The Seminary offers the only accredited program to educate Muslim chaplains and has developed plans to offer certificates for imams and Muslim community leaders and for chaplains serving in multifaith contexts.

The creation of the chair, and the gift of the Priors, has been recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative. The mission of the William J. Clinton Foundation, and the goal of the initiative, is to increase the benefits and reduce the burdens of global interdependence; to make a world of more partners and fewer enemies; and to give more people the tools they need to build a better future. One of the areas of focus is mitigating religious and ethnic conflict.

About Cornelius and Trudie Prior

Cornelius Prior practiced law and investment banking in New York City before co-founding Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN) in 1987. He is the chairman of ATN, a public telecommunications industry holding company and the chairman of Caribbean ? Central American Action (CCAA), a not-for-profit organization promoting investment in the Caribbean. He graduated from Holy Cross College and currently serves as a member of its President?s Advisory Council.

His law degree came from Harvard Law School, followed by graduate work at the University of SŠo Paulo Law School as a Fulbright Scholar.

Trudie Prior practiced law in Washington, D.C., before becoming president of Coral World Ocean Park. She is a former President of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas and currently serves as a member of the Board.

About Building Abrahamic Partnerships

Hartford Seminary has offered Building Abrahamic Partnerships 14 times over the past eight years. Participants learn about the tenets and practices of the three faiths, study texts from their respective scriptures together, attend worship at a mosque, synagogue, and church, and acquire pastoral skills useful in interfaith ministry.

Combining the academic and the experiential, the course includes ample time for socializing over meals and during breaks. This team-taught program is a resource for religious leaders who are grounded in their own traditions while open to the faith orientations of other communities.

The goals of the course include:

  • Educating participants about the beliefs and practices of the three Abrahamic traditions
  • Creating a supportive learning community in which clergy, lay ministers, religious educators, and chaplains can forge mutually beneficial relationships across communal boundaries
  • Helping participants acquire pastoral skills useful in interfaith ministry
  • Developing leadership strategies for promoting interfaith relations in our pluralistic society

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