Interfaith Profile: Interfaith Scholars’ Colloquy

At the Interfaith Scholars’ Colloquy, interfaith dialogue is serious business. According to its mission statement, it is “a peer group of professional colleagues active in academics and scholarship who gather monthly in a semi-formal setting to explore and share themes and research of interest to the membership.  The hallmarks of these discussions are: originality, candor, mutual criticism, religious focus.” Themes discussed by the Scholars’ Colloquy are along the lines of the 2012 – 2013 theme “Religious Leadership in an Urban Setting.”

The roots of the ISC were in a group formed in 1985 by several organizations, including Marygrove, Ecumenical Theological Center (later = Seminary), the School for Ministry (now defunct), and the Episcopal diocese’s Whitaker School of Theology. The goal was a regular series of interfaith dialogs along two lines, one for clergy and professionals, the other for laity, under the auspices of the Michigan Round Table for Community and Justice (now Diversity and Inclusion).

A sub group of the laity, composed of teachers, college and university professors, diverse research personnel, and independent scholars in diverse disciplines decided to “spin off” from the main laity series after about three years. This group expressed a serious and pervasive interest in religious experience and the role of religion in human affairs.

The group came to be seen as the third leg of this effort, the Scholars’ Dialog.  The meetings circulated among host institutions but eventually settled at Marygrove as the ideally central venue.

This group remained under the umbrella of the Michigan Round Table until sometime around 2009, when the Round Table changed its focus and the group became an independent entity.

Meanwhile the Marygrove Religious Studies department received a private grant to support the Interfaith Scholars group, which was then renamed the Interfaith Scholars’ Colloquy (ISC).

The ISC created their own mission statement, the heart of which is “The Colloquy provides a unique occasion for genuine religious discourse; it seeks to model intellectual discipline coupled with religious understanding.  It seeks to demonstrate authentic interfaith dialog in an atmosphere both critical and respectful.”

The ISC has thrived, and today still meets on the second Tuesday of each month September through June. Its mailing list contains approximately 60 members, including virtually every higher education institution in the region.  Membership and attendance is open by invitation or sponsorship by current members. The ISC is currently sponsored by Marygrove College and is celebrating its 27th year of continuous service.