The academic field of interfaith studies continues to grow at a remarkable pace. Colleges and universities are increasingly developing interfaith majors, minors, and certificate programs as faculty robustly engage this topic within academic circles such as the American Academy of Religion. Given the relevance of educating students for civic leadership in a religiously diverse world, scholars from a range of academic disciplines are considering questions of religious diversity and interfaith engagement in their classrooms. As this field becomes more established, key questions and considerations continue to emerge: What makes interfaith studies unique and how does it relate to other fields? What are the core competencies that define the field of interfaith studies? What are rigorous models for teaching and learning about this topic? How might interfaith studies prepare students for a diversity of careers and professions?
In light of the growing interest and ongoing questions, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and California Lutheran University cohosted Interfaith Studies: Curricular Programs and Core Competencies, from March 13-15th, 2016, at California Lutheran University. Made possible by the generous support of the Teagle Foundation, over one hundred and twenty five 2 faculty, staff, administration, and students gathered at the conference to discuss the field of interfaith studies.
As a capstone gathering, the Interfaith Studies conference built off of conversations that took place during the Towards a Field of Interfaith Studies conference in January 2014. Co-hosted by the Of Many Institute at New York University and IFYC, the Towards a Field gathering explored foundational questions regarding the theoretical, pedagogical, and practical implications of this discipline. After the 2014 gathering, IFYC, with funding from the Teagle Foundation, administered grants to 17 campuses to develop or launch course sequences in interfaith studies at their institutions.
The 2016 Interfaith Studies conference featured scholars across the country who are considering, planning, or executing curricular programs in interfaith studies. As such, it showcased the work of the Teagle and IFYC-funded grantees who have already institutionalized models for interfaith engagement in the classroom. In addition to workshops and breakout sessions on a diversity of interfaith topics, the conference included plenary sessions from leading scholars in the field and opportunities for informal networking and resource sharing.
The following report summarizes the rich array of information shared at the conference. It covers the major themes, lessons learned, best practices, common concerns, and outstanding questions from the gathering.