The Society for Scriptural Reasoning (SSR): In 1994, David Ford and Daniel Hardy of Cambridge University and Peter Ochs of the University of Virginia founded the first SR group as the Society for Scriptural Reasoning (SSR). That group met annually in conjunction with the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion, usually gathering Sunday evenings for extended group study of scriptural texts from the three Abrahamic traditions. The initial board of the SSR included Hardy, Ford, Ochs, Jim Fodor, Kris Lindbeck, Peter Ochs, Shaul Magid, Steve Kepnes, Basit Koshul, Bill Elkins, Elliot Wolfson, Willie Young, Robert Cathy (convener). In 2000, Kurt Richardson joined the board as convener. As of 2005, the Board includes Basit Koshul (convener); Daniel Hardy; Steven Kepnes; William Elkins; Kris Lindbeck. The SSR group described its work in this way:
SR brings Christian, Jews, and Muslims together, both in and out of the university, for religious-and-academic study of their scriptural traditions. The goal of the practice is not "interfaith dialogue" for its own sake, but enlisting the resources and teachers of all three Abrahamic traditions to transform the way religion is studied, taught, and researched in our universities and seminaries. SR is offered as an alternative to a modern educational outlook that perceives "scriptural study" to belong exclusively to the "confessional" and thus "subjective" and "private" domain of Western society. One result of this outlook is to define the educationally "public space" of religious studies as religion-and-scripture neutral. Another result is to isolate the "private" spheres of individual religious traditions, both from the public sphere of university studies and from one another. These are, in the opinion of SR scholars, wholly negative results: they deprive each religious tradition of the benefits of both inter-religious fellowship and scholarly self-inspection and they deprive the public spheres of university and polity the benefits of a plurality of wisdom traditions.
The practice of SR presupposes the distinct identities of each tradition and each denomination as a center of worship and practice. But it also offers a way to allow members of the various traditions and denominations to enjoy each other's religious-scriptural face and not just their "naked public" face. In practice, this approach feels natural to religious practitioners who engage in it, but the way to enter this practice is not quite so simple and self-evident as it may appear. It has therefore taken an emergent movement of scholars six years of work to nurture the method of SR and articulate it, in writing, in a series of recent journal essays and forthcoming books. draws Muslim, Jewish, and Christian theologians and text scholars together to study one another's scriptural traditions. Through six years of bi-annual meetings, the Society has developed an identifiable pattern of shared text study as well as of inter-religious theological dialogue. The goal of this dialogue is not "interfaith understanding" for its own sake, but to enlist the resources and teachers of all three Abrahamic traditions to transform the way religion is studied, taught, and researched in our universities and seminaries.
After 2001, the SSR became one of a network of scholarly societies focusing on different but overlapping aspects of the original project, overseen by what was called SSSR: The Societies for Scriptural Reasoning (coordinated by Hardy, Ford, Ochs, Koshul). As of 2005, SSSR coordinates work of the following, active societies.
• The Scriptural Reasoning Theory Group (SRT) is a group of thirty-five Muslim,Jewish, and Christian scholars who meet together each spring for a week of work at Cambridge University and each fall for two to three days of work along side the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. The work of SRT serves as both a laboratory in the fellowship of scriptural reading and reasoning and a time to generate and debate its theory. Founded in 2000, SRT generates hermeneutical and philosophic-theological accounts and theories of the practice of SR. The scholars of SRT also oversee the electronic Journal of Scriptural Reasoning, and they are currently completing several books that introduce the theory and methods of scriptural reasoning to a scholarly audience. "The Tent of Meeting" is a study of scriptural warrants for the unique "space" in which scriptural reasoning scholars gather. "Healing Words: The Song of Songs and the Path of Love" is a commentary on the Biblical Song of Songs and related Qur'anic verses that articulates the relationship between hermeneutics and sociality in scriptural reasoning. "The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning" is a study of scriptural reasoning as a form of philosophical theology.
As of 2005, the membership of SRT includes: Chad C. Pecknold (Cambridge); Daniel W. Hardy (Cambridge); David Ford (Cambridge); Ben Quash (Cambridge); Rachel Muers (Exeter); Peter Ochs (Virginia); Jim Fodor (ST. Bonaventure); Oliver Davies (Kings); Nicholas Adams (Exeter); Steve Kepnes (Colgate); Laurie Zoloth (Northwestern); Basit Koshul (Concordia); Shaul Magid (Indiana); Robert Gibbs (Toronto); Umeyye Isra Yazicioglu (Virginia); Randi Rashkover ( ); Susannah Ticciati (Kings); Diana Lipton (Cambridge); Muhammed Suheyl Umar (Iqbal Academy); Michael Cartwright (Indianapolis); Menachem Fisch (Tel Aviv); Nicholas de Lange (Cambridge); Tim Winter (Cambridge); Annabel Keeler (Cambridge); Edward Kessler (Cambridge); Aref Nayed (Agathon Systems, Dubai/Libya); Gavin Flood (Oxford); William Young; Mike Higton (Exeter); Tim Winter (Cambridge); Janet Soskice (Cambridge); Redha Ameur (Melbourne); Yasmine Mermer (Indiana); Ben Fulford (Cambridge); Martin Kavka (Florida State); Greg Davidson (Cambridge). The founding board of SRT was Hardy, Ford, Ochs. As of 2005, the SRT board members are: Muers, Davies, Adams, Kepnes, Gibbs, Koshul.
• The Scriptural Reasoning Research Group (SRR). SRR was founded in 2003 as Research Group of the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton. This group of eighteen scholars examines medieval Christian, Muslim, and Jewish commentaries from the perspective of the practice of scriptural reasoning. The group's goal is to serve as a bridge between the academy's historical scholarship in medieval religious texts and the interpretive patterns of SR. In fellowship groups of 5-7 members, they read and study passages from each of the three Abrahamic scriptures and then examine and discuss how each given passage is interpreted in medieval sources as well as in the literatures of haddith/tafsir or rabbinic midrash or Patristic exegesis. As a fruit of this study, the group is composing a book on "Scripture, Tradition, and Modernity," with sections on "Community Identity and the Other," on "Spirituality and Social Responsibility: the Case of Poverty," and on "History, Modernity, and the Abrahamic Traditions."
Members of the SRR: Elizabeth Alexander (Virginia); Ann Astell (Purdue); Mohammad Azadpur (San Francisco State); Mehdi Aminrazavi (Mary Washington); Clifton Black (Princeton Seminary); Aryeh Cohen (University of Judaism); Rkia Cornell (Arkansas); Vincent Cornell (Arkansas); Steven Kepnes (Colgate); Kevin Hughes (Villanova); Robert Jenson (CTI); Stacy Johnson, co-chair (Princeton Seminary); Peter Ochs co-chair (Virginia); Rusty Reno (Creighton); Omid Safi (Colgate); Michael Signer (Notre Dame); Kendall Soulen (Wesley Seminary);Umeyye Isra Yazicioglu (Virginia).
• The Scriptural Reasoning Group of the American Academy of Religion (SRG): Beginning in November, 2004, the American Academy of Religion offers two of its annual meeting sessions each year on "Scriptural Reasoning." In its annual call for papers, SRG describes its work this way:
"Scriptural reasoning" is a method of inter-religious scriptural study. Each session includes three papers, one on each of the Abrahamic traditions (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim). Each paper should present in detail a single, brief scriptural passage (drawing on both textual scholarship and the scripture's reception history) and suggest how it addresses the contemporary reader's interest in the theme. One of the two sessions will fit more of the traditional mold of the AAR: featuring three frontal presentations followed by two responses and then audience discussion. The other session will reflect the methods of fellowship-study employed in regional SR groups: three speakers will introduce selected scriptural readings; the entire audience will then divide into three study-groups, each one led by one of the speakers; then at a final plenary the three speakers will offer more focused interpretations, followed by brief plenary discussion. Authors will be asked to submit preliminary drafts in July and to discuss them with one another by email.
For 2004, the Group's sessions were "Poverty and Debt-Release: Scriptural and Social-Scientific Reasonings" and "Learning and Teaching in the Abrahamic Traditions."
For 2005, the themes were "Scripture, Democracy, and Traditions" and "Prophecy Heard and Not Heard."
For 2006, the Group's sessions were "Land, Messianism, and the Other" and "Holiness and Practice" (see the Past Conferences page for more information on all of these sessions).
For 2007, the Group's sessions will be "Pragmatism and Biblical Hermeneutics: A Discussion of the Work of Peter Ochs," "Women Reading Texts on Marriage," and "War and the Text: Reasoning through the Scripture on War, Injustice, and the Limits of the Law" (see the Conferences and Conference Papers page for details of this year's sessions).
The SRG is co-chaired by Scott Bader-Saye and Randi Rashkover. Its steering committee includes Nicholas Adams, Vincent Cornell, Daniel Hardy, Basit Koshul, Steven Kepnes, Susannah Ticciati.
• Society for Scriptural Reasoning at the AAR: With this expansion of new groups, SSR—the title of the founding scriptural reasoning group—now names only a more modest gathering: an annual public meeting of lectures and group study conducted Sunday evenings during the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion. Overseen by a smaller board (including Basit Koshul (convener); Daniel Hardy; Steven Kepnes; William Elkins; Kris Lindbeck) the SSR currently invites the broader public to share in group-study led by one Abrahamic tradition each year (organized in a three year cycle). For 2005, the study will be of Qur'anic texts, led by members of the Society for Qur'anic Reasoning. Subsequent studies will be of New Testament texts, led by member of the Society for Biblical Reasoning and then of the TANAKH (Hebrew Bible), led by members of the Society for Textual Reasoning.
• The Children of Abraham Institute (CHAI) is the theo-political outreach institution of SSSR. Its purpose is to foster local fellowships of scriptural reasoning in colleges and communities in various parts of the United States and the world. These fellowships are each designed to collect from ten to twenty Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scholars, and clergy, students, and/or congregants for regular periods of group study and fellowship. One political hope is that these groups will embody practices of peace among the three Abrahamic faiths and that, as the groups grow in number and ability, their model of peace may achieve some influence. At present, CHAI has initiated fellowship groups in six different universities and four communities in the USA, and in universities in the UK (Cambridge) and South Africa (Cape Town/ Stellenbosch), with plans underway for comparable centers in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Germany, and Brazil. (See the CHAI website for more information.
As of 2005, CHAI groups have appeared in at least the following locations:
- Capetown, South Africa: A fellowship of study among Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religious leaders and scholars, initiated in 2002 and meeting sporadically since then. Contributing organizers at various meetings have included Dr. Michael Benatar (U Of Capetown), Dr. Azila Reisenberger (U Of Capetown), Rev. Robert Vosloo (Stellenbosch), Mohamed Shaheed Mathee (U Of Capetown) and Yusuf Mataar (U Of Capetown), Rabbi Jack Steinhorn, Rabbi Danny Kerbel, Dr. John De Gruchy (U of Capetown), Dr Yehoshua Gitay (U of Capetown), Sefira Gitay (U of Capetown), Dr. Milton Shain (U of Capetown),
- Cambridge University, UK: A fellowship of study among Cambridge graduate and undergraduate students, initiated in 2004 and continued periodically since then. Organizers have included Dr. Chad Pecknold, Dr. Ben Quash, and Sarah Snyder. For information: Chad Pecknold at email@example.com. The student fellowship was stimulated by the on-going meetings of the Society for Biblical Reasoning (http://www.scripturalreasoning.org/).
- The Society for Biblical Reasoning: Initiated in 2001, this is an on-going faculty fellowship for Christian Biblical study and reasoning, based at Cambridge University. Coordinators include Ben Quash, Daniel Hardy, David Ford, and Ben Quash. The group meets regularly.
- The University of Virginia, USA. Beginning in 1998, the University of Virginia has sponsored several activities associated with scriptural reasoning and the Children of Abraham Institute. Among these are: A Graduate Program in "Scripture, Interpretation, and Practice," based in the Department of Religious Studies. This "SIP" program offers a PhD in Abrahamic scriptures and interpretation, featuring the methods of scriptural reasoning as well as related studies in comparative religious practice. Undergraduate courses in the "Abrahamic Traditions" (For information on both programs: contact Peter Ochs at firstname.lastname@example.org or the visit the website). A student Children of Abraham Club. Organized in 2003, this club engages in bi-weekly studies of Abrahamic scriptures, discussions of inter-Abrahamic politics, and related projects. Members of the UVA faculty also hold occasional sessions of study fellowship with Charlottesville-area clergy.
- The University of Indianapolis, USA. Occasional Abrahamic "Trialogues," organized by Dr. Michael Cartwright. (Contact email@example.com).
- Colgate University, USA. Occasional Abrahamic study fellowships, for students and faculty organized by Drs. Steven Kepnes (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Rumee Ahmed (email@example.com).