Interfaith Foundations

Our Origins

ChI was envisioned by clergy from a variety of faith traditions who saw a need for deeper Interfaith dialogue, and for building bridges of understanding across religious divides to bring peace and understanding to today's world.

Founded by Rev. Dr. Gina Rose Halpern in 1999, ChI's curriculum reflects and responds to the changing climate of religious and spiritual life within the United States, as documented by The Pluralism Project of Harvard Divinity School.

Statistics from sources such as the National Survey of Religious Identification, the American Religious Identification Survey, and the Gallup Poll 2002 demonstrate that almost half of adults residing in the United States are not affiliated with organized religion. In addition, a third of the surveyed population describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious" and almost 10% regard themselves as “neither spiritual nor religious.”

Recognizing the need for religiously and spiritually inclusive educational and theological programs that prepare clergy to serve people of all faith traditions as well as those of no faith tradition, The Chaplaincy Institute / The ChI Interfaith Community was founded by Rev. Gina Rose Halpern, Rev. Jeremy Taylor, and Rabbi Michael Ziegler who shared a vision of an inclusive Interfaith seminary promoting peace and understanding for our world today.

The Chaplaincy Institute was the fruit of that vision.  It was founded in 1999 by a group of clergy and teachers representing a variety of religious traditions and spiritual paths:

Our faculty hold degrees from a number of theological seminaries and progressive learning institutions:

  • California Institute of Integral Studies
  • Holy Names University
  • Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Naropa University
  • Pacific School of Religion


Interfaith & InterSpiritual as Valid Perspectives

ChI holds a vision of peace and connection between all religions & spiritual paths.  The term “Interfaith”, conventionally refers to personal beliefs and interpersonal activities that involve dialogue, understanding and appreciation of different religions, rather than synthesizing new beliefs.  One may remain devoted to a single faith tradition and belief system, and remain willing to serve others with differing beliefs and practices.

The term “InterSpiritual”, coined by Brother Wayne Teasdale in his book The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions in 1999, transcends the realm of beliefs and ideas and moves deeper into the realm of shared spiritual truth.  One may define a spiritual path that is informed and served by the wisdom of many religious or mystical traditions, with a spiritual “home” that defies any singular thread.

At ChI, both Interfaith and InterSpiritual are recognized as valid perspectives of a spiritual path and expression in service. We honor the term “Interfaith” as a vision and theology that embraces the universal truths in the world's spiritual traditions and honors the beautiful diversity in human experience, along with our essential unity.  It acknowledges the dignity and unique spiritual path of each individual as an intrinsic human right.  By honoring the diversity in creation and human experience, along with our essential unity, Interfaith practitioners affirm the Divine that is too big to be contained solely within any one religion, word or context. 


Head, Heart & Hands:  Integral Engagement

Interfaith encounters at ChI take place via three integral levels of engagement:  the Head, Heart, and Hands of Interfaith.

Head: We intellectually study the theological issues raised by this encounter.

Heart: We engage in spiritual practices (rituals, contemplative practices, forms of worship, etc.) from and with various traditions.

Hands: We work in the world offering service to people, groups and all beings in need, through peaceful action for healing and social transformation.

Each of these three approaches are essential to an Interfaith understanding, and all three interact and influence one another. For example, having a deeply heart-felt encounter with someone from another tradition may raise theological questions that need to be engaged. Service work or social engagement can lead to a deeper engagement with spiritual practice to sustain and empower one’s work. Theological inquiry can lead to a desire to explore spiritual practices in order to better understand the experiences or levels of realization those practices may offer.  This integrated approach to engagement promotes a deeper level of connection and understanding, and is embedded in the curriculum of our Seminary, and reflected by the many faces and paths of service in our Community.





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