In our first year of reporting West Seattle news full time via WSB, we received a calendar announcement from First Lutheran Church of West Seattle Pastor Ron Marshall, about a class he had been teaching for years:
Not a class about the Bible, nor anything related to his denomination. It’s a class about Islam’s holy book, the Quran (or Koran).
As far as Rev. Marshall knows – and, he says, others have researched to verify this – he’s the only Christian minister in the U.S. regularly teaching a course on the Quran.
So we interviewed him about it in 2008, and since then, we’ve included the quarterly announcements in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar. With nine years having passed – and Islam remaining much-discussed – we decided to talk with him again before the next four-session class begins July 6th (one week from next Thursday). First, here’s the entirety of our half-hour interview, recorded on video, unedited:
As Rev. Marshall explains, this is a class he’s taught for 14 years now, in this format – he first took an interest in Islam in the ’80s, but getting people interested in a class didn’t happen until after 9/11, and since 2003, he has taught it quarterly. It’s now a four-Thursday format, usually taught four times a year, 7-9 pm each session, this time starting July 6th, $50 for the course, which includes a book and handouts.
He clarifies that he doesn’t promote the Quran’s message – “I’m a Christian minister” – but neither does he “bash the Quran.” The point of the class is to “compare and contrast between the Bible and the Quran … we’re on a fact-finding mission.” Questions explored include whether one part of the Quran means that it is intended to replace the Bible – scholars disagree, and it leads to “spirited discussions” in his classes, says Rev. Marshall. The class uses one of three authorized English translations of the Quran. The class is not “what (he) thinks about the Quran” – he points to “this is what the best Muslim teachers say the Quran is saying.”
He summarizes, “I want to try to provide a way to appreciatively, kindly, rationally approach a book that you may not like. Is there a way to do that? … I don’t think we have many models for this today.”
MORE INFO … is on his church’s website. He says the class has been taken by people aged 12 to 90+, and the students teach him as well as vice versa. “I have never taught the class without learning something.”
P.S. For groups interested in an abbreviated version, you can contact him about setting up an all-in-one-day course, as long as you have at least 20 people (who will be charged $20 each) – he’s done this all around Puget Sound.