AAR Wants Return to Joint Meetings with Biblical Scholars

By Dart, John | The Christian Century, June 3, 2008 | Go to article overview
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AAR Wants Return to Joint Meetings with Biblical Scholars


Dart, John, The Christian Century


The annual pre-Thanksgiving joint meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature had a record registration in 2006 of over 11,000, and last year's meeting in San Diego drew about 10,200 scholars, students and publishers.

But the 2007 meeting was to be the last concurrent one for the two organizations except for 2011 in San Francisco. The AAR board had concluded that the meetings were getting too big and were limiting program innovation. Besides, some said, most AAR academicians teach about all kinds of religions, whereas the SBL, with its mixture of seminary scholars and professors at secular universities, focuses on biblical research.

However, acknowledging that the separation was a "contentious subject," the AAR board in April decided that the organization should return to the old arrangement. A major factor was its internal survey of AAR members last year showing that between 70 and 75 percent, depending on the question, wanted to meet with the SBL.

Moreover, the AAR board announced that in scheduling future independent meetings in late October or early November, it encountered "scheduling and logistical problems." An AAR spokesperson said this year's November 1-3 meeting in Chicago was shortened because of Election Day on November 4.

"Members wanting to be with their children around Halloween is a potential problem," she added. Another possible disadvantage was that parts of two weeks in the academic calendar will be affected at the next several AAR meetings, whereas the Saturday-through-Tuesday-meetings before Thanksgiving cause minimal disruption.

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