The Chronicle of Higher Ed has the story about the spit between AAR and SBL. This will take effect next year. Everyone I spoke with thought that AAR, who initiated this, will be the one to lose the most. What do you all think? We need a poll!
The article is subscription only, but here is the opening:
Split Between Two Academic Organizations Has Religion Scholars Fretting
By JENNIFER HOWARD
As more than 10,000 religion scholars gathered here this past weekend for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, they had schism on their minds.
Not the split between the Catholic and Protestant churches, mind you, but between the two scholarly organizations holding the event. Starting next year, the groups will begin to hold separate annual meetings, in separate cities, on different dates in November. In 2008 the academy’s meeting will be in Chicago, the society’s in Boston.
Members also traded theories about what really motivated the decision, made by the academy’s then-leadership without consulting either the society or its own organization’s membership. Explanations ranged from the logistical (the joint meeting had simply gotten too big) to the conspiratorial.
“Many of us are mystified,” Roy Adams, associate editor of the Adventist Review, said during the question-and-answer period at a special panel devoted to the implications of the split. But another questioner referred listeners to “the folk theory that the AAR is kicking out the theologians in order to legitimate themselves.” Such rumors and speculation reverberated throughout the opening days of the four-day meeting, which ends today.
John R. (Jack) Fitzmier, executive director of the academy, dismissed suggestions that his organization had set out to expel the Bible crowd. “I’m unaware of a desire inside the AAR not to have people who treat the sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity,” he said in an interview.
Mr. Fitzmier inherited the current situation; he joined the organization in 2006. Asked about the motivation for the split, he invoked the historic connection, especially in the North American context, between religious studies and Bible studies. But he underscored how the study of religion has changed.
“Part of what’s going on is that religious studies, apart from faith-based studies, has emerged in a vibrant way,” he said. That has powered a desire “to enhance the independent identity of the AAR.”
From the society’s perspective, the academy’s unilateral decision came as “a big shock,” says Matthew Collins, director of congresses and professions for the society. “The separating of the two meetings has been very acrimonious.”