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is an expert in Islamic and Christian thought, known for his work with Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders and scholars around the world, promoting mutual understanding and reconciliation among Abrahamic faith communities. He serves as Research Faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary and as Director of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Initiative between Fuller and Al-Azhar Al-Sharīf, and he is International Director of Doulos Community, a small Christian NGO. He is also known for his past work at Yale University. His work is rooted in his personal faith in Jesus Christ and in Jesus’ message of love.
Born and raised in New York City, he was not raised as a Christian, and most of his childhood friends were Jewish. For more about how he became a follower of Jesus, see here.
As a young man, he lived 15 years in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, where he and his wife raised their children in one of the nation’s poorest urban neighborhoods and were deeply affected by the love and hospitality of their neighbors. During these 15 years he directed Doulos Community’s humanitarian program in nutrition, public health, agriculture, literacy, microcredit, schools for poor children, vocational training and business skills training for the unemployed, and occasionally emergency relief. Their largest program provided food and health education to 30,000 malnourished children and mothers. He also served as President of the national Federation of NGOs in Mauritania. He continues today to oversee small community development projects in Mauritania.
Through his work at Yale University 2006-2022 he became known internationally for his work with senior Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders and scholars around the world. He was one of the main architects of the “Yale Response” to the Common Word initiative, and he organized the first major Common Word conference, bringing together top-tier Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders from around the world to meet at Yale. He spoke several times at the annual Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue – more than once as a keynote speaker. During these years, Doulos Community also gradually broadened its work from its humanitarian program in Mauritania to include promoting Muslim-Christian and Muslim-Christian-Jewish understanding around the world. At Yale, he served in a variety of positions, including as Director of the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, as an Instructor teaching courses at Yale Divinity School, and as Pastor of the International Church at Yale.
Languages, Teaching, and Media Interviews
A fluent Arabic-speaker who works regularly in more than 10 languages, Dr. Cumming has given lectures in Arabic at Al-Azhar University, at the shrines of Ḥusayn and ʿAbbās in Karbalāʾ, and at other Islamic institutions, and he has taught courses at Yale Divinity School, as well as at several Evangelical theological institutions. He has been interviewed in Arabic on Al-Jazeera and other Arab television networks, in English on American and Canadian television, and in French and German by European and African news media.
Al-Azhar and Fuller Seminary
Since 2022 he has been Director of a new Muslim-Christian Dialogue initiative at Fuller Theological Seminary. He resides half-time in Dearborn, Michigan, and half-time in Cairo, Egypt, where he is establishing a groundbreaking academic exchange program between Al-Azhar and Fuller enabling Christian seminarians to take courses on Islam at Al-Azhar and potentially enabling Al-Azhar scholars to visit Fuller to learn about the Christian faith. He also teaches courses at Fuller on practical aspects of ministry in Muslim-majority contexts.
Education and Ordination
He holds an AB degree in Religion from Princeton University, an M.Div. (concentration: Cross-Cultural Studies) from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies (double concentration in both Islamic Studies and Christian Theology) from Yale University. He is an ordained Christian minister (Assemblies of God).
He has been married since 1984 to his wife Michele, who is a public-health nurse, a licensed Assemblies of God minister, and a doctoral candidate at Fuller Seminary writing her dissertation on the role of hospitality in Muslim-Christian relations. They are parents of twins – a son and daughter (graduates of Columbia University in New York and Princeton University, respectively) – who have blessed them with three grandchildren.