First Muslim college in US buys Lutheran seminary campus in Berkeley

Zaytuna College bought the old Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., pictured here.

(RNS) — A Muslim liberal arts college that offers subjects such as Islamic law alongside courses in math and philosophy has bought a former seminary campus for its undergraduate program.

Zaytuna College, the nation’s first accredited Muslim college, paid $10 million for the 10-acre Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary on a hilltop in Berkeley. The college, whose name means “olive tree” in Arabic, integrates Islam with the Western canon.

Zaytuna, which has 52 male and female undergraduates enrolled this fall, will move to the seminary grounds in January. 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 seminary Zaytuna bought is one of seven in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Pacific Lutheran, which is part of California Lutheran University, moved to an office building in downtown Berkeley this summer.

Spokeswoman Karin Grennan said admissions at the seminary have fallen off but it also wanted to be able to provide its graduate students opportunities to work with social service agencies and develop urban ministries near downtown Berkeley.

Pacific Lutheran has 49 students enrolled in various degree programs. It had occupied the hilltop campus, with six buildings, for 64 years.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, an influential Islamic scholar, founded the Zaytuna Institute in 1996, and it evolved into the college. He is now its president.

Zaytuna is seeking to partner with the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of research centers and seminaries in Berkeley.

The new campus, which includes a cathedral along with offices, classrooms and scenic gardens, also has a dormitory. Tuition is $19,000 a year, and housing is an additional $10,000.

About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.


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  • I’m sure that it has a chapel or church building, but the ELCA doesn’t have cathedrals, so I wonder why the author thinks this former seminary campus has one.

  • Probably a simple semantical error, though one would think a managing editor would be more thorough and precise.

  • The ELCA abandoned Christianity a long time ago and worships homo-eroticism, now it is bankrupt. Who wants to go to a so-called “church” that mocks Christian families and publicly promotes immorality. The Muslims can have it, no more homo-eroticism on this former ELCA campus.

  • This is a pivotal day in the history of the U.S., the Constitution is all but dead and the final blow comes “out of Berkeley” from a poem written ten years ago.

  • Luther & Turks….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.1.217….0.r686c7Eq3A8

    “Luther had argued against resisting the Turks, whom he presented as a scourge intentionally sent by God to sinning Christians, and that resisting it would have been equivalent to resisting the will of God”

    500 years

  • So, what’s news here, Yonat Shimron? Surely it isn’t this:

    That while “admissions at the [Pacific Lutheran Theological] seminary have fallen off”, the opposite is happening at “the Zaytuna Institute”, which has “evolved into … the nation’s first accredited Muslim college … offer[ing] … Islamic law alongside … math and philosophy”, in “partner[ship] with the Graduate Theological Union”.

    But it’s this rather that’s really news to me:

    That “Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, an influential Islamic scholar, … is now [Zaytuna College’s] president”!

    OK Wikipedia & Patheos, work with me here. Tell me something I don’t know about this Irish-Scottish-Greek Greek Orthodox-turned-Muslim guy. Let’s start with, Is he cool or is he controversial?

    Well, “in the April 2016 issue of Dabiq Magazine, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared him a murtadd (or apostate).” After “condemning Qatar during the 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis … Yusuf and other scholars” have been called “puppets of the United Arab Emirates”. In fact, Muslims have been “calling him anything from a ‘Sufi innovator’ to a ‘Westernized sell out.'” His comment of “reservations about the Black Lives Movement (BLM)” has “created an immediate furor and tweet storm … over … nominally stereotypical characterization of black communities.”

  • Oh I get it. “Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary” = “Luther”. “Muslim college” = “Turks”.

    There’s a word for this. It’s not “Nice”.

  • But these Muslims are in partnership with Graduate Theological Union whose Christianity you didn’t condemn. Which is to say, You don’t know what’s going on here in Berkeley.

  • Thanks for reply.

    Don’t think Luther would be happy with that equation.

    It might represent another type of “replacement theology” See this comment and others here

    Could you clarify “It’s not ‘Nice'”?

  • The census of accreditation in America has now become a game played on motley fools [Evangelical Lutheran Church America]. Muslims have no intent to assimilate into America’s education system or open their doors of academics to non-muslims. Surely the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are faulty representatives of true Christianity, but yielding to allow an enemy of Christianity advance over them for profit [selling their seminary property] proves the ELCA overall is a failed mockery of Christianity. On the other hand the city of Berkeley California will easily become the center of muslim terrorist academic elites, which in turn will turn upon Berkeley’s homosexual and retarded transgender groups as more muslims gather into Berkeley neighborhoods. Liberalism has opened the door of diminishing returns on freedom and free speech. In other words, “the muslims have come home to Berkeley to roost.”
    Dr BearClayborn -Political Psychiatrist ACB Newspaper International