David Kasbow, a proud Detroiter, has been giving back to the city of his birth since the year he graduated from UTS with a Master in Religious Education in 1991. Giving back for Kasbow means what he calls, “restoring the severe brokenness” found there, and his chief restorative instrument is interfaith engagement.

There's a band that's been around since the mid-1960s which recently celebrated their staying power with a farewell performance shown in movie theaters nationwide – perhaps even worldwide – celebrating their 50th anniversary with the well-known catch phrase, “what a long, strange trip it's been.” It's a line, of course, taken from one of their most popular songs.

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On December 4th, students, faculty and administration filled the small conference dining room for a standing room only talk by a leading scholar on the challenge of religious identity and interfaith activity.

The scholar, Dr. Frank Kaufmann, who graduated from UTS and went on to earn his PhD from Vanderbilt University, is a Unificationist has been a leader in interfaith initiatives for over thirty years and serves as editor for the interreligious journal Dialogue and Alliance.

During the lunch seminar, Dr. Kaufmann addressed the “paradox” of proclamation and evangelism, with the affirmation of the validity and integrity of religious traditions other than ones own. Faculty/administration members added experience and wisdom to the very active exchange. Dr. Michael Mickler, Vice President of UTS and Professor of Church History, asked how “Unificationism” fits within the traditional framework in the field of Theology of Religions (exclusivist, inclusive, and pluralism). After some thought, Dr. Kaufmann placed “Unificationism” as an inclusive-pluralism theology.

Reflecting on his visit to UTS, Dr. Kaufmann wrote, “Pioneers and future leaders undergoing seminary education, together with administration and faculty are vigorously engaged in the universal and natural, yet difficult and sometimes scary challenges that arise (or should arise) in all believers as we wrestle with the modern-day pairing of religious identity and interreligious openness. What does it mean to be a fervent believer, and yet to affirm the religious views of others? What is the relationship between proselytizing and conversion, and dialogue and interfaith conferences? This was the stuff of our conversation.”

The event was jointly sponsored by the Theologians Club and the Office of Interfaith Development at UTS. Dr. Kaufmann teaches a pioneer course at UTS called “Foundations of Interfaith Leadership”, which drew students and religious professionals from five major religious traditions and over ten countries to the UTS Barrytown campus in May 2007.

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