Chaplaincy Program: Overview
AAR-CERP Annual Chaplaincy Conference
Governmental Chaplaincy and Religious Diversity (G-CARD): Toward Best Practices
The American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism (CERP) cosponsor G-CARD training for senior officials who oversee chaplaincy in governmental institutions, including statewide and federal prison chaplaincy directors, senior military chaplains, and those who oversee military chaplaincy endorsements. The training focuses on religions in all their diversity, especially on religions that tend to be less familiar. The conference also provides updates on the law affecting chaplaincy, as well as opportunities for attendees to share best practices across jurisdictions.
Since 2004, G-CARD training has been offered to state and federal correctional institution chaplaincy directors. In 2015, we began to offer programming specifically focused on military chaplaincy, along with our usual programming focused on chaplaincy in correctional settings. Trainings generally take place Friday afternoon and all day Saturday of the conference, which is held in various cities in the United States. In 2016, the conference is in San Antonio, Texas, November 18–19. There is no fee or membership requirement to attend. AAR Annual Conference hotel discounts are available to attendees.
The session topics vary from year to year, based on the needs of those expressing interest in attending. Always included is a basic primer on understanding the legal issues involved in providing religious accommodation and the chaplain’s role in ensuring such accommodation takes place—including an update on recent court decisions. Most of the rest of the program consists of sessions with leading religious studies experts on religious groups the attendees have encountered, but whose practices may not be familiar. In the sessions, attendees learn about adherents’ beliefs, ritual objects, worship space, garments, holidays, literature, dietary or grooming restrictions, and more. Most sessions are about an hour and a half in length and include lots of time for participants’ questions and discussion. Session time is allotted to best practices discussions among the attendees about various religions on topics such as accommodation of religious attire and artifacts/items, diet, and communal rituals, security threat groups or accommodating chaplains’ religious rights. After consulting those interested in attending, a specific agenda is posted on the AAR website in early-to-mid October.
Over the years, more than 30 leading religion scholars and chaplaincy directors from 26 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have participated. Although the sessions’ content is based on academic scholarship, the language used is geared toward anyone, regardless of what post-secondary education an attendee may or may not have. The sessions have received considerable praise from previous G‑CARD participants. Here is a description of the Sponsors and Presiders for 2016.
2016 Overall Chaplaincy Conference Schedule
For topics and speakers, see the Program page.