Religion Professors Repairing Their Rift over Annual Meetings

By Dart, John | The Christian Century, December 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

Religion Professors Repairing Their Rift over Annual Meetings


Dart, John, The Christian Century


Separate fall meetings for the nation's two largest organizations of religion professors--a showcase of religious studies research and expertise--may last only three years if negotiations under way bear fruit.

The American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, whose concurrent annual meetings in recent years have assembled some 10,000 academics, graduate students and publishers, held their meetings separately this November after decades of collaboration.

The AAR, whose members teach a broad range of religious subjects, including biblical and theological topics, in 2003 decided without consulting the SBL to sever ties with its longtime academic associate. Among the reasons for the split, AAR leaders said, was the fact that the growing size of the annual meeting was inhibiting its expansion into new topics.

The unilateral break led to a drawn-out controversy. But bowing to a solid majority of AAR members who objected, the AAR board of directors now hopes to adjust hotel contracts so the two organizations can convene in the same city at the same time.

The two groups will meet separately in 2009 and 2010 but are trying to arrange a common book exhibit and a central job interview center in San Francisco in 2011 when they both meet for their customary pre-Thanksgiving sessions.

Beyond that, the AAR is seeking to get out of its 2012 contractual agreement for early November in Atlanta and join the SBL in Chicago later in the month, according to John Fitzmier, who became AAR's executive director two years ago.

"That's going to take some doing," said Fitzmier in an interview November 2 during the AAR meeting in Chicago. The penalties for backing out of the Atlanta contract are considerable, he said.

The AAR has no contract obligations for 2013, so Fitzmier has talked with Kent Richards, the SBL executive director, about meeting jointly with the biblical scholars, who have hotel reservations in Baltimore.

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