Community Blog The Sacred Work of Interreligious Learning and Leadership
I was recently elected board chair of the Boston Theological Institute (BTI), a position I am honored to hold. The chair rotates among board members, but my election is significant in terms of the change it represents in the mission and direction of the BTI. BTI provides Hebrew College with the opportunity to learn from and contribute to an inter-religious community of institutions that share a common purpose in training the next generation of religious leaders. I have personally been involved and enthralled with interreligious learning since my days as a rabbi and educator in Baltimore more than 20 years ago. With the recent establishment of The Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Interreligious Learning and Leadership, made possible by a generous gift by our trustee Dan Miller in memory of his dear wife and Hebrew College alumna, my personal commitment to this sacred work is matched by the institutional infrastructure and support necessary for Hebrew College to enhance its role as a leader in this field through our participation in BTI as well as a host of other partnerships and initiatives.
The Boston Theological Institute was founded in 1968 as a consortium of Christian theological schools and seminaries in the greater Boston area. After assuming the presidency of Hebrew College, I felt it was important for Hebrew College to become a member of the BTI and join the community of theological schools and seminaries as a peer institution. The establishment of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College presented us with an opportunity to engage other institutions preparing religious leaders and by doing so, advance the sacred work of interreligious learning and leadership.
Our request for membership was not without some controversy given the explicit Christian orientation of the consortium for more than 40 years, but after some intense conversations within the BTI board, the invitation to join was extended and in January of 2011 we officially became a member of the consortium of nine other schools. I like to humorously point out that we “made the minyan!” Thanks to this collaboration, BTI offers cross-registration, shared library privileges, shared field education resources and intra-school programs, and colloquia.
We’re proud to be among the 10 accredited schools in the consortium, the majority of which were founded in the 19th century: Andover Newton Theological School, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Boston College Theology Department, Boston University School of Theology, Episcopal Divinity School, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Harvard Divinity School, Hebrew College, Holy Cross Orthodox School of Theology, and Saint John’s Seminary and Theological Institute. Together, we’re privileged to have:
- 400+ faculty members
- 800+ courses available for cross-registration
- 3,500 students representing 60 religious traditions and 40 countries
- Access to 4,000,000 library books
Subsequent to our joining the BTI, the mission statement of the BTI had to be revised to reflect the new interreligious nature of the consortium. I, together with a number of other board members, drafted a new mission statement that focused on our goals as theological institutions preparing religious leaders and scholars for a pluralistic world.
The BTI mission statement is now:
The Boston Theological Institute is a consortium of ten theological schools and seminaries in the Boston area. It seeks to enrich each member school’s mission, advance intentional collaboration, and share resources in order to advance interreligious and ecumenical learning; to strengthen teaching, learning and research; to maximize the stewardship of resources; and to engage the member schools in building interreligious community.
The BTI is the largest and most robust theological consortium in the country, responding to the dynamic face of religion in the Boston area. In fact, the prospect of a new Muslim seminary joining the consortium is an exciting opportunity to further expand our diversity as we continue to build upon a long tradition of theological training and leadership in the Boston area that stretches back over 200 years and cemented Boston’s reputation as the preeminent center of theological thought in North America. We are blessed to be a part of this diverse and vibrant community of theological institutions. I hope to help the BTI prosper as we grow into our interreligious mission.
Rabbi Daniel Lehmann is President of Hebrew College.