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Luce Grant to Train Theology Faculty about Religious Pluralism

September 10, 2008

Contact: Steve Herrick

The American Academy of Religion has been awarded a three-year $400,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to deliver summer seminars on religious pluralism to graduate theology faculty. The seminars will provide insight into how America's religious leaders can best be trained to interact with today's increasingly religiously diverse society.

Incorporating various religious perspectives — including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim — the program will train 50 theology faculty from across North America. The program will introduce them to current research and teaching resources for understanding pluralism theologically and support their engagement in related research, teaching, and writing.

"The point of the seminars," said AAR Executive Director John R. Fitzmier, "is that religious leaders need to be able to answer, 'What is the meaning of my neighbor's faith for mine?'" The seminars will equip those who teach future religious leaders—their professors—with the latest research on religious pluralism.

John J. Thatamanil, assistant professor of theology at Vanderbilt University, who directs the project, pointed out that religious leaders often face issues such as "how to officiate at interreligious weddings and how to support the educational needs of children of religiously mixed households."

Carey J. Gifford, AAR director of theological programs, added that military, prison, and hospital chaplains "also have a pressing need for this kind of training, since they address religious needs of individuals from dozens of different faiths."

Twenty-five participants will enter the program in 2009, followed by another 25 in 2010. Each group will spend a week in New York City the first summer, followed by a week in Chicago the next summer. The cities were chosen for their rich religious heritage.

To be assured of consideration, applications for the first group must be received by December 5, 2008. Applicants will be notified by mid-January, 2009. Further information can be found at To apply, one must be a member of the AAR, and be a faculty member in a theological school, an undergraduate department of theology or religious studies, or in an institution which trains religious leaders.

Founded in 1909, the AAR is the world's largest association of scholars of religion. The AAR promotes research and teaching about religion in academia, while neither endorsing nor rejecting any religious belief or practice. The nonprofit organization is based at Emory University.

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