About REA

History of the Religious Education Association

The Religious Education Association (REA) was founded in 1903 by William Rainey Harper, the first President of the University of Chicago. That year, hundreds of outstanding religious and educational leaders from the United States and Canada converged on Chicago for the first convention, which featured speakers such as John Dewey and George Albert Coe. This was the first of many meetings that helped shape the objectives and strategies of the REA.

Throughout its century-long existence, REA has supported research into moral and religious development in many ways, including conferences, workshops, and in-depth studies. This support, with its emphasis on high quality publications, gives REA a leading role in the field.

REA is rich with diversity; its membership includes those from the Baha’i, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and other traditions involved in all aspects of religious education.

REA Historical Dateline

  • 1903: REA founded in Chicago
  • 1906: REA Journal first published
  • 1920s: REA helps to launched “Character and Education Inquiry” by Hugh Hartshorne and Mark May
  • 1934: Character first published
  • 1950s: REA Roundtables on religious and higher education
  • 1950s-1960s: REA Five-Step research program, funded by the Lilly Endowment results in publication of Research on Religious Development, edited by Merton Strommen
  • 1978: REA celebrates 75th anniversary and commissions the book A History of the Religious Education Association.
  • 1980: Faith Development in the Adult Life Cycle initiated
  • 2003: Celebration of REA’s 100th anniversary and reorganization

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