In 2015, the Henry Luce Foundation awarded Hartford Seminary a four-year grant of $475,000 to hire a scholar with expertise in Christian-Muslim relations from a Christian perspective and to develop an annual conference on topics that involved Christian-Muslim relations.
In 2016, the scholar, Professor David D. Grafton, joined 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. In 2017, Hartford Seminary held its first Luce-Hartford Conference in Christian-Muslim Relations on the topic of the refugee crisis. Subsequent conferences have looked at climate change (2018) and the African American perspective (2019). The 2020 conference will explore “The Agency and Vital Voices of Women.”
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.