Elon faculty participate in Henry Luce Foundation project on public religion scholarship

Multi-institutional grant aims to re-imagine the relationship between religious studies and the public square.

Under a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, religious studies faculty members Brian Pennington, Andrew Monteith and Pamela Winfield have been engaged with a team of scholars to study the relationship between academic religious studies programs, higher education, and the public square.

Housed at Appalachian State University under the direction of Professor Sandie Gravett and supported by Elon’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, the project has sponsored a series of consultations bringing together 10 faculty from colleges and universities with non-sectarian undergraduate religious studies programs from across the country. Their goal is to envision a future for teaching and scholarship in the academic study of religion that prioritizes communication with public audiences about issues of public concern.

The team presented its first round of findings at the November 2020 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion meeting. Project members are now developing peer-reviewed publications mapping the media environment in which scholars with public voices work and outlining the need for non-theologically driven, publicly focused work by scholars in religious studies.

CSRCS Director Brian Pennington says the project will wrap up the current phase of its work and open discussions with the Luce Foundation about next steps. “Understanding how scholars do or don’t function currently as public intellectuals is the first step towards a set of proposals that will make the important work of those scholars more accessible and relevant to our life as a nation.”