American Academy of Religion

February 2007 e-Bulletin



A Message from the Executive Director




Greetings from the AAR!  The official tallies are in, and I am pleased to report that our joint Annual Meeting in Washington with the SBL was a resounding success.  We exceeded our projection of 11,000 registrants.  The makeup of the meeting, in terms of membership in AAR and SBL, was as follows:


AAR members – 5,437 (49.5%)

SBL members – 3,484 (31.6%)

Joint members – 956 (8.6%)

Non-member registrants – 1,117 (10.1%)


Nearly one-third of the AAR and SBL registrants were students (2,837), whose attendance was up a full 18% from 2005.  With an increase in the number of registrants came a growth in program offerings as well.  Together, the AAR and SBL hosted a total of 1,165 sessions and forums, an increase of 13% from 2005.  747 job candidates registered at EIS, and 179 companies occupied 379 booths in the exhibit hall. 


Our online satisfaction survey, completed by more than 1,200 of you, suggested a very high level of satisfaction with the meeting.  I am particularly grateful to those of you who used the “Comments” section of the survey.  We sifted these reactions (we got it all – carefully crafted arguments, quick and witty squibs, high praise, and angry grousing) and organized them in an attempt to learn more about your experience.  Almost half of the 1,100 bits of reaction we collated had to do with four topics.  Allow me a brief word about each one, listed by decibel level, highest to lowest.


  1. The Program Book.  A couple of years back we stopped putting room assignments in the Program Book.  Why?  The Program Book is sent to the printer in late summer, long before we can accurately make all the room assignments.  The last time we put room assignments in the Program Book there were hundreds of changes by November, and you justly complained.  Our solution?  Publish the Program Book without the room assignments and distribute At A Glance, with the room assignments, at the meeting.  This good idea, we confess, is not working well.  Our Annual Meeting team, ably led by Aislinn Jones, is at work on constructive alternatives.  We hope to do better next year.


  1. The Location.  You expressed a high level of satisfaction with D.C. as a meeting venue and you liked the Convention Center very much, with one exception …


  1. The availability of reasonably priced food.  Our staff was particularly disappointed in this element of the D.C. experience.  Months in advance of the meeting our staff urged the hotels and the Convention Center to prepare food – quick lunches and grab-and-go alternatives – for our members.  This request was received and, we think, not acted on appropriately.  There were insufficient venues close to and in the Center, and the one we banked on – adjacent to exhibit hall – closed inexplicably, was understaffed, and was under supplied.  We complained vociferously to our planning partners by Saturday, but with little relief.  Your dissatisfaction, and ours, has been duly noted and will be raised in the planning for the San Diego meeting.


  1. The quality of the program.  Again, your reactions were mixed.  You made many positive comments about the sessions – the mix of topics, the quality of presentations, and the level of intellectual stimulation.  But many of you, too many of you I think, expressed concerns about these same qualities.  Ironically, the Academy’s Program Committee sensed some of this, too.  In our December meeting, well before we had assessed the survey, the Committee voted to do a full review of the AAR Annual Meeting Program, with an eye to coverage, participation, quality, and the like.  In this, I suppose, we were ahead of the curve.  To this end, the Program Committee has agreed to convene both before and after the Annual Meeting next fall. 


I hope this quick review of the meeting will prove helpful to you.  We had a very successful event, I judge.  And we can do even better.  The Board and the Executive Staff are committed to improving your Academy and your Annual Meeting, and I am ready to do what it takes to support their aspirations.  Give me a call or drop me a note if you have questions, concerns, or ideas. 


This issue of the Academy’s e-Bulletin contains news and resources that you will find helpful, including a link to our Call for Papers, information on how you can participate in our newly funded initiative, “The Religion Major and Liberal Education,” news on regional gatherings, a call for nominations for our Excellence in Teaching Award, and the announcement of winners of our several member contests.


I hope your semester is off to a good start. 


With every good wish, I remain




Jack Fitzmier

Executive Director



Call for Papers


The 2007 Call for Papers is online at  Proposals may be submitted through the online paper/panel proposal (OP3) system at or use the participant forms for surface mail, fax, and e-mail.  Please note and use the appropriate method of submission each program unit prefers. The deadline for all proposal submissions is March 1.  (You can log in to use this page, using your surname, "Gray," and member ID, "Z28679.")


Seed Grants


Seed Grants available for departments to examine “The Religion Major and Liberal Education”: In conjunction with a grant from the Teagle Foundation to study the nature of the religion major and its role within a larger liberal education, the AAR is soliciting proposals from individual departments and programs to consider the religion major in their local contexts.  The intent is to award a total of 10 grants at $500 each. To apply, see The deadline is April 15.




Wildcard session on “The Religion Major and Liberal Education”: Don’t miss the opportunity to submit a proposal to the special session at the 2007 Annual Meeting ( Papers for this special session – part of an AAR/Teagle Foundation initiative – will discuss challenges to the major and successful responses.


Regional Meetings


Meetings of the ten AAR regions occur in the spring. Check for details. All AAR members are welcome to participate in any region's activities.




·        Congratulations to four AAR members for winning a complimentary one-year membership to the American Academy of Religion.  Their names were picked in the daily drawing at the AAR Booth at the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.:

William Lawhead, University of Mississippi

Nimi Wariboko, Princeton Theological Seminary

Don Thorsen, Azusa Pacific University

Elizabeth Gilson Aaron, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Remember to stop by the AAR Booth at the Annual Meeting in San Diego for your chance to win a free membership.

·        Winners announced for 2007 Annual Meeting lodging: Congratulations to Francis Berna (LaSalle University), Sandra Avila (Florida International University), and S. Brian Stratton (Alma College), winners of free hotel rooms for this year's Annual Meeting in San Diego as part of our membership renewal random draw.  Members joining or renewing online for 2007 prior to October 15, 2006, were eligible.


Teaching Award


Nominate a colleague for the AAR’s Excellence in Teaching Award: The AAR’s Committee on Teaching and Learning accepts nominees for its annual award, which recognizes the importance of teaching and honors outstanding teaching in the field. The deadline for nominating someone is January 10. See details at


Your Membership Status


Your Membership Status. Your membership is current for 2007. Thank you. Membership resources are available at