Academic Programs 

Interfaith Dialogue at Home and Abroad:
Parliament of World Religions  

Fall 2009

This course focuses on ethical issues provoked by the life we lead together. It will examine such questions as how one goes about building bridges from one set of ethical assumptions to another; what must be agreed upon between religious communities in order to live in the same ethical universe, and what they can agree to disagree on; the different conceptions of what the moral responsibility is of one religious community for those within it who are physically distant, and how it views its responsibility for those outside its boundaries. The course will also look at the ethical resources in several religious communities related to central moral issues of our day such as global warming.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Tuesdays, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., on Jan. 27, Feb. 10, March 3, March 31 and April 28
Heidi Hadsell
Professor of Social Ethics
and President of Hartford Seminary

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9502


Christy Lohr
Teaching Assistant



Course Syllabus


Dear Students,

Welcome to this unique learning opportunity!

I will be teaching this course, along with Christy Lohr, who is just finishing her PhD here at Hartford Seminary which has to do with interfaith dialogue and the theology of religions debate, and who has long considerable national and international experience in interfaith organizations and dialogue.

There will be three class sessions before we leave for Melbourne, several sessions in Melbourne together with the other seminaries participating in this Luce funded program, and one final wrap up session back home.

The four class sessions are:

Session I – September 15th - The Theology of Religions

Modern scholarship addresses such questions of a faith tradition’s relationship to people of other faiths through what has come to be known as the “theology of religions” debate, and there is a significant body of literature and research that has gone into thinking about the nature of God in light of meaningful encounters with people of other faiths. The theology of religions debate brings a theological perspective to issues that arise from interacting with the religious other. This involves exploring the intellectual and practical negotiations that are plausible when encountering someone of another religion. Finally, it is also concerned with questions of maintaining religious integrity and identity in the face of religious diversity.

Reading – The Myth of Christian Uniqueness: Toward a Pluralistic Theology of Religions
edited by John Hick and Paul F. Knitter

- read Chapter 5 – The Cross and the Rainbow: Christ in a Multireligious Culture,
Stanley J. Samartha

Assignment - In preparation for this session, please write a five page paper to share, on your theology of religion, however initial or fragmented it may be. Please include careful thought and description of what the sources are that have helped you form this theology.

Session II – October 6th - The Wider Institutional Context of Interfaith Dialogue: National and International

You will receive in session one, some documents from organizations like the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches, and so forth, so that you may begin to map the organizations and the history of interfaith dialogue at the national and international level. For this session you will be asked to do some of your own research to share with the others.

Assignment – This will be given to you at the first session.

Session III – November 17th - Particular Issues in Interfaith Dialogue/ Preparations for the Parliament

Every person who engages in interfaith dialogue discovers that there are elements that he or she find most interesting and would like to pursue further. This session is designed to think about some of these elements before the Parliament begins. Sometimes people are interested in issues such as the role of women in faith communities, or the sticky issue of conversion from one faith to another. Others may be more interested in methodological issues, such as the use of scripture in interfaith dialogue, and still others may be most interested in doing things together such as working on global warming challenges than in always just talking to each other. Please think about your special interests and where and how you might follow up on them at the Parliament.

In the next part of the class, we will look together at the program and the other themes and learning opportunities to prepare for the Parliament. Students will be expected to keep a journal during their time at the Parliament, where they should document some of the more meaningful dialogue experiences.

Assignment - Please bring to this session your statement of one or two of the issues you most want to pursue at the Parliament, and perhaps some initial thoughts of how you might do so.

Session IV – December 15th – Follow-up from the Parliament

In this session we will debrief our experiences at the Parliament and think together about how this experience can be used, shared and drawn upon now that the Parliament is over. We will also begin to assess the impact the experiences at the Parliament had on our theologies of religions and the issues we followed more closely.

Assignment - Following the Parliament experience, students should revisit the theologies of religion paper they prepared for the first class. A revised statement that outlines any changes in perceptions or new insights about dialogue should be submitted at this class


Catherine Cornille, The Impossibility of Inter-Religious Dialogue

Paul Knitter, One Earth, Many Religions

Kenneth Cracknell, In Good and Generous Faith

Other readings (including those from perspectives that are not Christian) will be handed out in class or assigned via our course page on SONISWEB.

The books are available on reserve in the library, and for sale in the bookstore.

Please feel free to get in touch with me via email or by phone via my assistant Mary Zeman. Christy can be reached at


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500