History inspires UCC-related seminary’s new name
Hartford Seminary has a new name, partly inspired by an old one.
To be sure, the new name — Hartford International University for Religion and Peace — is forward-looking. It will “better reflect the expanded, international scope of our rigorous academic programs, research and partnerships,” said university President Joel N. Lohr in an Oct. 13 news release.
And the change is not a first. More than once over its 187-year history, the school has taken on new names as it updated what it taught — and merged with other institutions — to meet changing needs.
‘University of religion’
This latest name incorporates words from that history. The school’s leaders noticed them during a recent two-year mission-planning process.
Lohr described that epiphany in a YouTube video. “Turns out, dating back to the 1920s, and for a few decades after that, we referred to ourselves as a university of religion,” he said. “This actually inspired us to expand our thinking as we look to the future, envisioning a bigger mission that speaks directly to our world today.”
The school aims to be “a global leader in interreligious education, peace studies, and religion research,” the news release said. Part of its “broadened mission” is a new executive and professional education program. Not limited to religious organizations, it offers training to “help leaders understand religious differences and provide training on supporting and accommodating those differences.”
The university also plans a “renewed focus on peace-building, interreligious dialogue, and conflict resolution,” according to its website.
The United Church of Christ has both historical and current connections to the university. Among them:
- Connecticut Congregationalists — predecessors of today’s UCC — started the school in 1834 to train ministers.
- UCC people have been prominent leaders there. The seminary’s UCC and Congregationalist past presidents include well-known church historian Barbara Brown Zikmund (1990-2000) and clergymen such as John Dillenberger (1978-1983), James Gettemy (1958-1976) and Russell Henry Stafford (1945-1958).
- UCC Research Director Erica Dollhopf is on the steering committee of Faith Communities Today, a major arm of the university’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
- The UCC and its local churches are taking part in the Institute’s $5 million study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on congregations.
Hartford is one of eight graduate schools “historically related” to the UCC. The others are Harvard Divinity School, Howard University School of Divinity, Interdenominational Theological Center, Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico, Union Theological Seminary (New York City), Vanderbilt University Divinity School and Yale Divinity School.
More closely related are the six seminaries of the UCC: Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School, Chicago Theological Seminary, Eden Theological Seminary, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Pacific School of Religion and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
At the newly renamed university, “we’re excited about our future because the world today, more than ever before, needs the kind of education we provide,” Lohr said. “The goal we’ve set for ourselves is to show that religion and peace are deeply connected. Or, put another way, there will be no peace in this world until there is understanding among religions.”
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