The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded Hartford Seminary a four-year grant of $475,000 to hire a scholar with expertise in Christian-Muslim relations from a Christian perspective. This scholar will join the faculty of the Seminary’s Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, the oldest such center of its kind in the United States.
“Hartford Seminary’s longstanding partnership with the Luce Foundation uniquely positions us for work together in the highly innovative and societally necessary focus on Christian-Muslim relations in a rigorous academic environment,” President Heidi Hadsell said. “This work will cement the Seminary’s reputation as an international leader in interfaith education and fulfill the Luce Foundation’s goal to foster international understanding through the lens of American religious life.”
Hartford Seminary developed expertise in Islam and Christian-Muslim relations in the 19th century as a result of the education and training it provided for pastors going into the mission field in Muslim majority cultures and countries. The most prominent faculty member in mission at Hartford Seminary at the turn of the century, and in the first five decades of the 20th century, was Duncan Black Macdonald, a Scottish Presbyterian who became a highly acclaimed scholar of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations.
In the 1970s, the Hartford Seminary Board of Trustees chose to devote faculty, library resources and institutional experience in Islam towards a center of dialogue between Christians and Muslims as well as the study of Islam. The Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations was established at that time and remains at the center of Hartford Seminary’s work in Islam and Christian-Muslim relations, which has become even more critical over time.
In the late 1980s, the seminary hired its first Muslim professor to teach Islam. Today at Hartford Seminary, there are four Muslim faculty members and Muslim students are about 35 percent of the student body. The Seminary’s popular Islamic Chaplaincy Program is the only accredited such program in the United States.