Value added (contributions to the discipline, promotion of research, facilitation of connections)

The Centre is a purely research-driven and interdisciplinary collaboration of McGill's best scholars and research teams in the field of religion. It is independent of any religious and political group or movement and any faith community. It is not defined by any administrative boundary between disciplines or faculties, such as between Arts and Religious Studies, but is dedicated to doing research in areas and intersections between the disciplines and beyond the accepted faculty boundaries.

Its added value, therefore, lies in its innovative, interdisciplinary and independent approach to all the various aspects in the interface between religion, culture and society, as explained above under the descriptions of the axes of research and research projects. The growing interest in religious issues nationally and internationally arises in a complex and culturally plural world. McGill is well placed to provide a leadership role in both academic and public research and dialogue. A Centre will provide significant national and international visibility to this interdisciplinary research and scholarship on religion and its role in society.

The Centre is intended to make a valuable contribution to each faculty that is involved in it. The Centre will bring visibility to McGill's outstanding expertise in the field of religious studies. Without a Centre, that expertise would continue to remain largely untapped. With the presence of a Centre for Research on Religion, the media will know how to contact McGill on religion issues, which they now do only haphazardly. The choice of a generic title for the Centre allows the Centre to remain open and broad in its interests and to make sure that "religion" is always viewed as the basic focus. The Centre will break the isolation of scholars, a particularly common phenomenon in the Humanities, and promote the cross-fertilization of ideas in an inter-disciplinary context.

The Centre will have an administrative role as well. It will maintain a registry of members of the McGill community doing research that in any way touches on religion; granted the necessary resources a Centre will provide administrative assistance with grant applications and grant management; it will assist in the organization of symposia and discussion forums; it will provide a meeting place for exchange among various faculties, as it has already begun doing in its preparatory phase. Furthermore, the Centre will also consolidate linkages with partners in other universities, in governmental, community and non-governmental organizations engaged in the study of or reflection upon the interface between religion and society, and in academic institutions of the various religions of the world, who are involved in, for instance, inter-religious dialogue.

As part of its mission to bring together scholars engaged in research dealing with the subject of religion, the Centre for Research on Religion will continue to organize colloquia for that purpose.

In its preparatory phase, CREOR has held the following highly successful colloquia:

September 6th, 2004
McGill Round Table Discussion of all members of McGill University faculties; Coordinator & Location: Gerbern Oegema, Faculty Club.

November 4th , 2004
Colloquium of members of McGill University and the Université de Montréal dedicated to topics from the field of Biblical and Related Studies (Classics, Old Testament, New Testament, Qumran, Pseudepigrapha, Septuagint); Coordinator & Location: Ian Henderson, Birks Building.

November 8th, 2004
Meetings of members of the McGill Faculties of Medicine and Arts, Education, Law and Religious Studies (see below); Coordinator & Location: Leigh Turner, 3647 Peel Street.

November 11th, 2004
Meetings of members of the McGill Faculties of Medicine and Arts, Education, Law and Religious Studies (discussion of contemporary issues relevant for the interface between Religion and Health, such as stem cell research, health care, aids, pastoral care, education, etc.); Coordinator & Location: Gerbern Oegema, Birks Building.

November 23rd, 2004
Colloquium of members of the Faculties of Religious Studies and Arts working within the fields of Reformation / Renaissance / History / French Literature; Coordinator & Location: Torrance Kirby, Birks Building.

April 26th, 2005
Colloquium of members of the McGill Faculties of Medicine, Education, Arts, Law and Religious working in the interface of Religion and Health (continuation of meetings in November); Coordinator & Location: Gerbern Oegema, Faculty Club.

August 31st-September 2nd 2005
International Conference of the Research Team Reformation / Renaissance with participants from Religious Studies (Church History), Quebec Studies, History and French Languages and Literatures of McGill University and the Universität Zürich; Coordinator & Location: Torrance Kirby, Faculty Club.

September 16th 2005
Colloquium of members of McGill University and the Université de Montréal focusing on Biblical Studies and Archeaology; Coordinator & Location: Gerbern Oegema, Birks Building and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts/Ancient Cultures.

End of September 2005
Colloquium of members of the McGill Faculties of Religious Studies, Law and Arts working on Pluralism and Education within the broader field of Religion and Public Policy; Coordinator & Location: Douglas Farrow; TBA.

September 11th-15th, 2006
International Conference "The World's Religion after 9/11" with one week of key note speakers, simultaneous sessions and workshops and ca. 2.000 representatives from the world's religions to discuss the world five years after 9/11; Coordinator & Location: Arvind Sharma, Palais des Congrès.

Contribution to training (graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, research associates, etc.)

Graduate Students form the heart of every research project, and so too of research centres, as they not only perform most of the actual research but also secure the continuation of research projects, methodologies and schools of thought from one generation to the next. With the Centre for Research on Religion it is no different. The Centre for Research on Religion is, therefore, an important vehicle for transporting knowledge, tools and connections to future generations of students of religion.

As far as the training is concerned, graduate students are involved in most of the research projects, both in individual and team projects. Graduate students will also be represented in the governing structure of the Centre. While small or medium size research projects may not involve more than one or two graduate students each, larger research groups, such as the one on Religion and Health, will involve quite a number of graduate students. At any given time the Centre may thus employ a number of graduate students ranging from 20 to 30, as every one of the presently 21 members will have at least one or two graduate students working with her or him.

Furthermore, due to the interdisciplinary character of the larger research groups as well as that of the Centre as a whole, the work of graduate students at some periods may shift away from individual projects to projects involving multiple forms of interdisciplinary cooperation between the faculties. Such a development is especially important in the Humanities and also marks an overall change in the perception of scholarship away from individual to more group-oriented research.

It is therefore expected that participation in the Centre for Research on Religion will broaden the graduate students' perspective and knowledge of their respective fields and serve to equip them further for their future tasks. The Centre will thus be better able to attract graduate students from outside McGill and will be better prepared to apply for funding. The Centre and its inter-disciplinary activities will provide a highly stimulating learning environment for graduate students from participating faculties. It is therefore also to be expected that this will have positive repercussions on the performance of graduate students and on time-to-graduation rates.

Importance to faculties

Faculty Council approvals were given by the former Faculty of Religious Studies (January 20, 2005), the Faculty of Education (January 21, 2005 and February 4, 2005), the Faculty of Law (January 21, 2005) and the Faculty of Arts (2006). The Faculty of Medicine is supporting the Centre on the level of projects, programs and units. Cooperation with the Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Music is currently being explored.

Cooperation between the former Faculty of Religious Studies and the Faculty of Arts as well as that between the former Faculty of Religious Studies and other faculties is the condition sine qua non of the Centre's mission to promote and foster interdisciplinary research on religion from as many angles and on as many levels as possible.

Importance to McGill University

McGill University is able to play a leading role in Québec and in Canada in the effort to make the interaction between religion, society, and culture more intelligible and to develop concepts for the future. Other such research centers on religion already exist, for example at Harvard University, Princeton University, and Duke University in the United States, and at the Université de Montréal and the University of Victoria in Canada.

As stated above, McGill University is particularly well positioned for forming such a Centre in its midst, given its long history, international reputation, and ongoing contribution to scholarship on the different aspects of religion; most prominently within its Faculties of Arts, Education, Medicine, Law, and, of course, within its former Faculty of Religious Studies. McGill has particular strength in the fields of social and religious change in Canada, focusing on such fields as health care, human rights, minority politics, and public policy, or specializing in areas such as South Asia, Indonesia, East Africa, and the Middle East, or concentrating on specific historical periods.

What kind of centre is CREOR meant to be? There are two kinds of research centres on religion, the one is of a more generic nature, the other is specifically focused on a certain approach, link or aspect. To start with the latter, centres with either one or more of the following expressions in their title - spirituality, theology, health, healing, interfaith, mind-body, humanism, medicine - exist at the following universities: Duke University, Emory University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Indiana State University, University of South Carolina, University of Florida, University of Minnesota, and the University of Virginia.

Centres with a more generic approach, with "Centre", "Religion" and one of either "Study", "Research" or "Advanced" in their titles, and sometimes with an addition, such as "World Religions", "Religion in Canada", "Civic Culture", "Society, "Philosophy", and the like, are found at Harvard University, The University of Chicago, University of Toronto, Princeton University, University of South Carolina and, in the United Kingdom, University of Leeds and University of Cambridge.

Centres outside of North America other than the ones at Leeds and Cambridge are not listed here, firstly because centres from countries other than the English speaking ones or from continents other than North-America neither compete with nor complement the Centre, and secondly, other countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, France and also in part the United Kingdom, have other ways of organizing research, mostly in well-established schools or institutes and societies (CNRS: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; Forschungsinstitute and Gesellschaften, such as the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft).

Relation to other units / research centres at McGill University or elsewhere

Existing collaboration within McGill University includes, on the level of teaching and individual cooperation, members of the Faculties of Arts, Education, Law and Medicine, and on the level of sub-faculty units, the Catholic Studies Program, the Classics Program, the Departments of East-Asian Studies, French Language and Literature, History, Jewish Studies, and Philosophy, the Institute for Islamic Studies, the Institute for the Study of Marriage, Law & Culture (ISMLC), as well as the Biomedical Ethics Unit.

However, on the level of research there is hardly any cooperation, a vision of how to work together in an interdisciplinary way, let alone a central place that directs, coordinates, applies for interdisciplinary projects and develops visions for the future. Therefore, the Centre will unite and coordinate research efforts on the various aspects of religion within the five mentioned faculties.

The Centre will also facilitate the many existing links with Canadian and other universities, such as the ones listed above in which one mentions not only the manifold collaboration within McGill University, but also the cooperation with members from other universities, such as Université de Montréal, Concordia University, York University, Universität Erfurt, Universität Göttingen, Universität Münster, Universität Tübingen, Universität Zürich, Michigan State University, Princeton Theological Seminary, University of New York at Albany, and Yale University.