Minutes from the Boston 2013 Meeting

This is a report back to all who potentially see themselves as participating in the Think Tank project.

21 persons gathered for a special task force meeting at the REA meeting in Boston on Saturday, November 9 for a first consideration of establishing the REA Senior Think Tank.

Two projects are envisioned for this year (2013-2014). While they certainly intertwine the focus of the first (1) is that by February 15, 2014 we propose a discrete “list of meta-issues related internally to REA and externally to the field” as the focus of an REA Think Tank. And, the second (2) is that between February 15 and June 15, 2014 we develop structures and protocol for this think tank including:

  • Mission Statement
  • The Think Tank’s Methodology
  • Membership/Organization
  • Means of Dissemination
  • Structure/Budget

In the hour that we had at Boston we did an initial surfacing of these meta-issues:
1. Articulation of the Academic Identity of the field of Religious Education

  • a)      Agreement on the centering principles of a field devoted to religion and education:
  •      i.   Have religion and education, as we have come to understand them, lost their reign as the dominant interpretative perspectives on these two activates and modes of thought?
  • b)      Is religious education being subsumed under practical theology?
  •       i.   Is religious education being subsumed under ‘cultural studies’ (how does religious education as a multi-religious discipline highlight its distinctive features in and across our various religious traditions)?
  • c)      Theology and education needs to be seen as “both/and”
  • d)      Clarifying the focus of the work of REA with religion in contrast to AAR:
  •        i.    If religious education is concerned with BOTH the formation of religious tradition in communities across the passage of time AND the formation of public life the question may be can REA avoid the bifurcation of those concerns as seems to have happened in the rhetoric in AAR?
  • e)      Is the basis of information for doctoral studies in religious education broad enough – the international perspective, interreligious education, the focus on the Earth?
  • f)       The identity of religious education and its connection with community

2. Identifying Religious Education to the Church Community

  • a)      What does the change in name from Christian Education to faith formation indicate?
  •       i.          Perhaps religious educators have abdicated a commitment to education and the transformative function embedded in notions of education.
  • b)      “Religious education” needs a new language for survival

3. Concern for the Future of Religious Education

  • a)      Does the field have a future: “will we be replaced?”
  • b)      That in neither the church nor the Academy is education a part of the language
  • c)      How quickly our predecessors have disappeared from the field.
  • d)      What about the market for our PhD & MA students?
  • e)      Tuition for students vs. the salary they can expect
  • f)       AGPIM (the Catholic Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry) evidences the fragility of programs in religious education, e.g. Boston College ending the MARE.

4. Public Religious Education

  • a)      The U.S. is appallingly ignorant regarding religion.
  • b)      Religion in the public domain (e. g. the community college) – education as “doing or being?”

5. Trends Today

  • a)      A resurgence of a focus on teaching and learning, church and school.
  • b)      Public school education (Newfoundland) – concern for professional development and clarification of the subject area

6. The Embodied Identity of Religious Education in the History of the Folks who have been a part of REA/APRRE for the Last Several Decades

  • a)      Compare our statements of identity of the field we entered 25 to 50 years ago to how we would state that identity today
  • b)      “Conversation” Our ability to loop back to our rich history (e.g., much of this conference is an historical echo of early twentieth century REA topics).
  • c)      “This is my faith family.”

We also identified some tasks:

  1. • Promote our colleagues’ works by public reviews on Amazon.
  2. • A support system for younger writers
  3. • A web connection where we can work with young scholars as they pursue their doctoral work.
  4. • To “tell the truth” about RE – a gift of those with senior status