ST. PAUL, Minn., June 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Seminaries traditionally focus on training people who belong to a particular faith group or denomination. United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and other progressive seminaries represent the changing face of faith in America. One of those changes is the number of people who identify with or follow the teachings of more than one religion. A 2014 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute reported that 16% of Americans fall into that category. And nearly a quarter of U.S. marriages are interfaith, leaving no doubt that many Americans are being shaped by multiple religious communities at the same time.
United is a Christian graduate school that welcomes people of all beliefs, including those who embrace religious multiplicity. According to Rev. Dr. Duane Bidwell, author of When One Religion Isn't Enough: The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People, religious multiplicity is "the experience of being shaped by, or maintaining bonds to, more than one spiritual or religious community at the same time."
This spring United invited Bidwell to campus to lead a discussion on his book. The discussion included three panelists from United's faculty: assistant professor of spiritual formation and director of formation Rev. Dr. John Lee, a Presbyterian minister and practicing Buddhist, assistant professor Dr. Ayo Yetunde, also a multifaith Buddhist practitioner, and Dr. Demian Wheeler, assistant professor of philosophical theology and religious studies and director of advanced studies, a Unitarian Universalist.
Yetunde directs United's Interreligious Chaplaincy program, which trains chaplains to provide respectful spiritual care for people of diverse beliefs. The spirit of acceptance present in programs like this may be why United's faculty, staff and student body include several Unitarian Universalists. United's students and alums also include people who identify as Jewish, atheist, and Buddhist.
Wheeler hopes that commitment to religious pluralism, including religious multiplicity, will become more commonplace. He argues that religious multiplicity is not an anomaly, heresy or sign of shallowness but an essential feature of spirituality. "My hope is that our ever-increasing awareness of religious multiplicity ... will help us think more pluralistically about our traditions, our communities of faith and even our conceptions of divine mystery," he said.
More information on United's programs, including its Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry in interreligious chaplaincy, is available at unitedseminary.edu/academics.
SOURCE United Theological Seminary of The Twin Cities