For clarity, we prefer to use the broader category “significant professional activity” to define standards for scholarly engagement in order to reflect the criterion for evaluation of faculty as defined in the Faculty Handbook. Scholarly research and writing is one aspect of professional activity, but not the only one, and certainly, in the field of religion, not the only important one. “Scholarship” in religion is based on original research and writing, and includes presentation of that research in journals and books and classrooms, at conferences and invited speaking opportunities, in critical textual editing and translation, and through applied research and public programs. Other significant professional activity includes work with professional societies; service as a referee, reviewer, evaluator, or editor; sharing research with a wider community (forums, workshops); and expanding one’s ability to do original research (e.g., new research language acquisition). We see three overlapping categories within an active research program: original research; scholarly activity and public scholarship; and professional development. Original research is the foundation for the other two, and a sine qua non of professional activity.
Scholarly activity and public scholarship:
The most prestigious form of peer review is that by major academic publishers and refereed journals in the field. Unlike many disciplines, the field of religion has no universally accepted hierarchy of professional journals. There are many specialized journals; selection for these journals in the sub-disciplines of religion is as prestigious as for the journals published by the umbrella societies of the AAR and SBL. Acceptance rates for journals and conferences in religion vary widely. A second layer of peer review includes competitively selected papers for regional, national, and international conferences. A third form of peer review is invitation, because of reputation or expertise, to present lectures, workshops, or panel discussions, or to serve as a moderator, respondent, or evaluator at professional or interdisciplinary gatherings.
Part of the answer to this question is to recognize that an active research program is itself intellectually stimulating, and that the connection between research and teaching may lie more in the intellectual stimulation itself rather than in specific content connected to use in classes. Much of what we do is more technical and not appropriate for undergraduate students. The fact of being engaged in the process of inquiry and collaboration bears fruit in the excitement and engagement with learning that can translate into enthusiasm and depth in the classroom. Another part of the answer is to value research that appropriately can be connected to courses as part of the legitimate professional and scholarly program of the faculty. Research that is geared more toward development of expertise in a new area or depth or breadth in aspects of courses already taught may benefit both faculty and students. More broadly, creating an environment of teacher-scholars that encourages faculty to conduct research that excites them is essential. This involves providing support in terms of time, funding, and discussion among colleagues. In addition, in some cases, faculty may involve students in some aspects of their research, providing the possibility of a mentoring relationship between faculty and student. The department should encourage the development of collaborative projects with students and/or colleagues that may bear fruit in public presentation or publication.
Acceptance rates for journals and conference papers vary widely, as does the availability of venues for the various research sub-fields in religion. It would be counterproductive to our attempts to balance research and teaching, and to value both, to set a standard for the number of publications or presentations expected at each level of review, beyond the minimum expectation that, indeed, some publication is expected and some form of peer review of that work required for tenure and promotion. That said, what may be appropriately expected and encouraged is an on-going research program that results in some written publication and some peer or publicly reviewed product (lecture, manuscript, panel invitation, etc.), at a frequency that demonstrates a continuing scholarly interest and to an increasing breadth of audience. This may be geographical breadth, moving from regional to national; disciplinary breadth, moving from small or narrowly defined professional society to larger, more inclusive society; or applied or interdisciplinary breadth, moving from specialized research to broader application or collaboration on cross-disciplinary concerns, such as pedagogy, peace or justice or environmental issues, or denominational or interfaith leadership.
Third-year review (minimum expectation):
Tenure (minimum expectation):
Not required, but enhancements:
To summarize expectations concerning “achievement” in scholarship: We expect faculty in religion to be involved in original research, to seek active engagement with professional colleagues, and to have some affirmation of that work. Beyond these general expectations, the department intends the greatest degree of flexibility to allow faculty members to shape their own research and activity.
Religion is an integrative discipline, one that intersects naturally with the various disciplines of the liberal arts. As such, it has much to contribute both to the liberal arts and to the mission of a college of the church, and it depends for its integrity on reaching beyond mere specialized inquiry. There are at least four areas in which scholarship in religion can thrive particularly in a liberal arts college of the church. These may, in fact, be distinctive contributions of a place like Luther College to the larger communities of religion and society.
Scholarship for church (or religious community):
Faith and learning:
Scholars of religion will choose their emphases differently. Some will devote their energies to traditional forms of scholarly inquiry and publication. Others will commit their energies to more synthetic, interdisciplinary, or pedagogical forms of scholarship. In a liberal arts college of the church, both should be valued, and the college should seek to maintain some balance of these interests and activities among its faculty in religion.