Muslim College Takes Over Campus of Lutheran Seminary in Berkeley
The first accredited Muslim college in the United States has purchased a campus in Berkeley, Calif., that once housed a Lutheran seminary. USA Today is reporting that Zaytuna College "paid $10 million for the 10-acre Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary on a hilltop in Berkeley, Calif."
In its mission statement, Zaytuna College declares that it "aims to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society."
Founded in 1996 as Zaytuna Institute:
The institute, through various programs and media, established an international reputation for its efforts to help revive Islam’s educational and intellectual reputation for its advocacy of traditional Muslim education.
In 2004, noting the paucity of religious leaders with the cultural literacy to tend to the spiritual and pastoral needs of American Muslims, Zaytuna Institute launched a pilot seminary program. After the culmination of that program, the Board of Directors of Zaytuna Institute guided the organization through the momentous effort of establishing an accredited Muslim liberal arts college in the United States.
In 2009, Zaytuna College was launched in Berkeley, California, featuring a two-month long Summer Arabic Intensive as its first academic program.
Both the academics and student life are rooted in the Qur'an. Students are encouraged to fast every Tuesday and Thursday. Dorm rooms are separated by gender. Each month, faculty and students gather to read the Qur'an in its entirety. The school's website states that "this practice [of reading the Qur'an] constitutes the spiritual backbone of the College."
In reference to the new campus, the USA Today article explains, "Zaytuna, which has 52 male and female undergraduates enrolled this fall, will move to the seminary grounds in January." The article goes on to say, "It will continue to own three buildings near the Graduate Theological Union, also in Berkeley. Those buildings will be used to develop a graduate-level seminary down the road, said Amna Mirza, a spokesperson."
The Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and is a member of Reconciling in Christ, a Lutheran organization dedicated to the acceptance of LGBT individuals and their families into the ELCA.
Mimicking the slide into irrelevance that plagues all of progressive "Christianity," the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary has dwindled to a handful of students. The declining admissions precipitated PLTS's move to an office building in downtown Berkeley, paving the way for the sale of the ten-acre campus to Zaytuna.
The irony is that Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary is also a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union. "The GTU is a union of schools and programs that, together, represent the world’s major religions in collaboration," according to their website. As stated above, Zaytuna College will now use its other three buildings near the Graduate Theological Union to open a Muslim graduate seminary. Considering Zaytuna's stated mission to be grounded in the teachings of the Qur'an, their forthcoming seminary is most likely going to be at odds with both Reconciling in Christ and the Graduate Theological Union.