Frequently Asked Questions

What is the REA?

The Religious Education Association is the world’s oldest and largest association of scholars and researchers in the field of religious education. It is a nonprofit member association, serving as a professional and learned society for scholars and researchers involved in the field of religious education. It has several hundred members, most of whom are from North America, with a scattering of members worldwide. REA members are university and college professors, independent scholars, secondary teachers, clergy, church educators, curriculum developers, judicatory executives, seminarians, graduate students, and interested lay-people. REA members come from multiple faith traditions, and no tradition, and study a very diverse array of religious traditions.

The REA was founded in 1903 by William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago, with the support of the Council of Seventy, a learned society of biblical scholars. The keynote speaker at its first convention was John Dewey. In its early years the Association was organized into several groups: Council of religious education, Universities and colleges, Theological seminaries, Churches and pastors, Sunday schools, Secondary public schools, Elementary public schools, Private schools, Teacher-training, Christian associations, Young people’s societies, the Home, Libraries, the Press, Correspondence instructions, Summer assemblies, Religious art and Music. In 1906 the Association began to publish the journal Religious Education under the editorship of Henry Cope. In 1953 the Association marked its 50th anniversary with a three day meeting at the University of Pittsburgh that brought together more than 2500 Christian and Jewish educators from the US and Canada. In 1973 the Association began awarding the William Harper Rainey award to distinguished educators. In 1975, the Association held a major national colloquy on civil religion at which scholars Robert Bellah, Vine DeLoria, Jr., and Michael Novak spoke. In 1992 the Association began awarding the Herman E. Wornom award to distinguished institutions. Yale University holds the archives of the Religious Education Association and its predecessor bodies.

Why does it have such a long formal name?

In 2003 the REA merged with the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education. In order to preserve some sense of the two organizations, “APPRRE” was added to “REA” – with an additional “p” to denote professors and practitioners

What was APRRE?

The Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education was formed in 1970 from an earlier section of the National Council of Churches. For many years REA and APRRE would meet following each other in the same city on a biannual basis.

Is REA a scholarly society? An association of practitioners? A group engaged in proselytism?

Certainly it is the first two – and certainly it is NOT and never has been the last. As times change, and people’s ability to afford to come to an annual meeting has waned, we have had fewer and fewer practitioners. Most scholars on the faculties of institutions have official faculty development funds that enable some travel. Scholars also have a need to develop and share research regularly. In later years REA has shifted more and more towards the scholarly end of the spectrum. But even with that shift, the association has a clear commitment to practice, to making its scholarship accessible, and to learning with the communities in which its research originated.

Does the REA have any connection with the American Academy of Religion?

The REA is officially a “related scholarly organization” to the AAR, and as such holds at least one session each year at the AAR meeting. Many REA members are active in AAR.

Where can I find out more information about REA?

The best place to start is at the association’s website: religiouseducation.net. There is also a Wikipedia entry, and a book was published in 1983 which traced its history (Schmidt, Stephen, History of the Religious Education Association. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press, 1983). Of course, the best place to find out more is by coming to one of our annual meetings.

What kind of benefits does membership bring?

Membership brings instant access to the journal Religious Education, including all of its archives. There are also travel grants available to students for the annual meeting, and we publish a book series (Horizons) which is always seeking excellent scholarly monographs.

How do I join REA?

You can join online at our website – we have a secure process which works uses both PayPal and Stripe (which accept credit card payments). Joining online gives you immediate access to the journal. You can also wire payments to our Executive Secretary, Lucinda Huffaker. Our membership fee structure exists on a sliding scale, which relies on the integrity of members to choose the appropriate fee.

What happens if I can’t remember my password?

Simply use the email you originally joined with, and request a new password.

How can I ask questions of other members?

There are several ways to do this. One is to come to our annual meeting and ask people directly. Another is to pose a question to members via our quarterly newsletter. Yet another is to post something on our facebook page and by tweeting it to us. There is, however, no guarantee that any of these routes will elicit an answer. We are a diverse and far flung group of people, and people answer as they feel moved to do so.

How do I get access to the journal, Religious Education?

Join the organization. Many libraries also keep the journal.

What is the connection between the journal and the association?

The journal has been a part of REA nearly from the association’s founding. Members of the association serve on its Editorial Board, and the association pays the salary of the editor and review editor of the journal. That being said, papers are accepted for the journal using a double-blind peer review process, and regardless of membership in the association.

What is the eREACH?

eREACH is the association’s quarterly newsletter, which is sent out via email and is downloadable from the association’s website as a pdf. The newsletter began as “REACH” which stands for the “Religious Education Association Clearing House.” Now it is eREACH because it is done completely in electronic format. The newsletter contains information about members (publications and career transitions), highlights programs in religious education, and points to resources in the field. The newsletter also carries pertinent information about annual meetings.

What kinds of social media is REA present in?

REA maintains at least some presence in facebook, twitter, and vimeo [note: include icons to direct links when this posted online]. Our website includes a news blog to which you can subscribe using RSS. This is a relatively new arena for REA, and thus we are always eager to learn and grow there.

How can I get more involved with REA?

People become involved with the REA in a number of ways, but often the first step is coming to an annual meeting. There you will find a session early in the weekend entitled “All about REA” — this is a great first orientation. Board members will be wearing name tags with colored ribbons — please stop them and ask them to tell you why they love REA! If you’d like to step into deeper involvement, look for the various communities of practice and working groups. These are groups of people coming together to work on specific ideas or within specific contexts. They always welcome new participants, and often work on projects between annual meetings. If you are a student, you have a Board representative dedicated to supporting students in the association, and there are special events for students during the annual meeting. Once you’re more familiar with our organization, if you are interested in leadership opportunities speak with someone on the nominations committee. This is the group which creates a slate of officers to stand for election each year during the annual business meeting. You can also nominate yourself, or someone else, from the floor during the business meeting. Still have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact our executive secretary, Lucinda Huffaker, or our networking coordinator, Mary Hess.

Who gets to serve on the Board of Directors?

Members of the Board of Directors are elected for three year terms. Their names are most often introduced on a slate prepared for the business meeting (held during the annual meeting) by the nominating committee. Nominations may also be made from the floor of the business meeting. People normally serve for no more than two consecutive terms.

What kinds of programs exist to do doctoral study in religious education?

There are many different kinds of programs. We maintain a list that is as current as we can make it, at our association website.

The scholarly field is in a state of some transition, however, so there are people studying questions of interest to this field in programs that are not formally listed as religious education. An example would be a fascinating dissertation published in 2014 on churches in the online environment SecondLife, which was written in the program on the history and philosophy of science at Georgia Tech. The field of religious education is broad, interdisciplinary and international in scope. Because of this nature, it tends to be more of a synthetic than analytic practice.

I want to submit a paper proposal for next year’s meeting, how do I do that?

Follow the instructions on the website for that particular year. It is an electronic process requiring an abstract, outline and brief bibliography. Deadlines for submission are usually in early May, with acceptances of papers send out in mid-June, and final papers due in mid-September.

What is the difference between a “RIG,” a workshop, a colloquium, and a poster presentation?

A “RIG” is a research interest group paper, which is a finished paper of publishable quality that is presented and discussed among a group of conference participants.

A “colloquium” showcases emerging research, research-in-progress that may lead to a publishable paper, or current practices and programs that are presented to and discussed among a group of conference participants. Since this format is less formal than the presentation of a paper, conference participants come to hear a presentation and then are led in discussion.

A “workshop” is a highly interactive session that is facilitated, providing conference participants with scholarly and practical resources or approaches for practices of religious education. These sessions may increase awareness or enhance performance of specific religious education practices. The contexts for these practices may include faith communities, classrooms, or other settings.

A “poster presentation” is a presentation using words, graphs, charts and/or tables on a poster (space 90 cm wide and 120 cm high) for display and discussion during a particular time slot at the conference. Posters may use digital media presented on the author’s own laptop. Such a presentation allows the author to meet and speak informally with interested participants pertaining to research done, still continuing, or in preparation, thus stimulating the exchange of ideas and networking opportunities. This format offers an opportunity for both established and newer researchers.

What if I want to propose a panel of papers all connected to each other?

There is no formal way to propose such a thing, but the conference program committee may contact people based on their proposals to develop what have been called “roundtables” in the past.

What is a work group?

Work groups are members who agree to collaborate together on specific issues over a period of several years. They meet as part of the Annual Meeting, but they also conduct their work in a variety of ways during the year.  Presenters for the Work Group sessions at the Annual Meeting are chosen by each group or by conveners of the sessions.  New Work Groups may be initiated by request of members. Current work groups are listed on the association website.

What is a standing committee?

Standing committees are organized to help the REA sustain its focus on three major contexts for religious education, as delineated in the three committee titles:

  • Religious Education in Academic Disciplines & Institutions
  • Religious Education in Faith Communities
  • Religious Education in Public Life and the Global Community

Each Standing Committee has a chair who serves on the Board, and as many other members as are appropriate to the task (these are designated as such by the Board through its nominating committee).

The Standing Committees promote the effective functioning of the Association through their input on specific foci. Standing Committees may also organize national or regional events apart from the annual meeting.

What are the demographics of the association?

The association has roughly 350 active members, who come from more than 20 different countries, although the REA has always had a predominately North American membership. We are seeking to diversify, and in 2014 our president was a European, and another European will be president in 2017. Our members come from a vast array of Christian faiths, as well as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and more. We also welcome members who are interested in questions of religious education but who do not hold any specifically religious views themselves.

What do members do with degrees in religious education?

What an interesting question! People in our field hold myriad different kinds of positions. Some are faculty in universities, seminaries, and other institutions of higher education. Some are full time staff in national religious organizations. Others are consultants, filmmakers, chaplains, priests and pastors, high school teachers, writers, and so on. The field of religious education is capacious enough that many, many people claim it as part of their identity.