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Religious Education Association Records

Call Number: RG 74

Scope and Contents

The archives of the Religious Education Association represented in this record group consist of fifty-five linear feet of material dating from 1902 to 1988. The quantity of documentation available reflects the changing fortunes and activity levels of the REA Correspondence files amidst the designated series are most voluminous for the years 1952 to 1970 when Herman E. Wornom served as general secretary. These files reflect Wornom's style of extraordinary attention to detail involving extensive correspondence with numerous individuals recruited to assist in REA projects. For many years prior to Wornom's administration, the leadership of the REA was more diffused and in flux; this fact is reflected in the much less thorough documentation available for the early time period. Records from the periods before and after the Wornom administration are concentrated in the first four series of the record group. The vast bulk of the series devoted to regional work, research, and religion and higher education reflect the special projects of Wornom in these areas.

The chronologically arranged Organization and Policy Records of Series I provide an overview of the formation and development of the REA. The documentation in this series should be examined in conjunction with the Committee Records of Series II, Secretarial Files of Series III and Meeting Records of Series IV to provide a rounded view of the REA's evolving basic policies and programs. Of particular interest in Series I is material related to an investigation of the REA by the Institute of Social and Religious Research in 1925-1926. The published report and unpublished material gathered as part of this investigation provide significant documentation of the REA's early years.

The Committee Records of Series II contain minutes, reports and correspondence related to the operations of the REA's major administrative committees, its Editorial Committee and numerous short term committees established for specific purposes. Records of other committees such as the Research Committee, Finance Committee and committees to plan for national meetings are located elsewhere.

Records for the following administrative bodies are included in Series II:

  1. Council of Religious Education (1907-1922)
  2. General Committee (1924)
  3. Board of Directors (1925-1982)
  4. Executive Committee (1929-1983)
  5. Nominating Committee (1916-1981)
  6. Editorial Committee (1928-1982)

The Secretarial Files of Series III represent the general office files of the REA's administrative leaders. The files include topically arranged collected material and writings but are primarily correspondence related to the general operations of the REA and its relationships with other organizations and institutions. For the most part, correspondence related to committee nominations or meetings, national conventions, regional work, publication, research, the study of religion in higher education and financial matters is located elsewhere, in Series II and IV through IX.

The Secretarial Files fall into three sections: the pre-Wornom era, the Wornom era, and the Kathan era. The Wornom and Kathan files represent integral files maintained for administrative purposes. The pre-Wornom files are an artificially constructed gathering of materials related to the numerous individuals who were REA leaders and administrators during its first five decades of existence. Material is notably lacking in this Series for the period prior to 1922; earlier correspondence is available amidst the Committee Records of Series II.

The amount of documentation available for Meetings of the REA in Series IV varies widely. In the section dealing with national meetings of the REA, documentation is scarce prior to 1953 and extensive thereafter. The section on regional, co-sponsored or special conferences and meetings largely documents events from the Kathan era. Conferences specifically related to research activity and the study of religion in higher education are documented in Series VII and VIII respectively. Meetings of local REA chapters are documented in Series V.

As reflected in Series V, the stimulation of local REA chapters was a major focus for Herman Wornom as he entered office in 1952. His mentor, Harrison Elliott, had made numerous regional visits in the early 1940s; further plans for such regional work during Elliott's tenure as general secretary were foiled by his untimely death. Regional work reached its height during the years 1965 to 1967 when A. Wilson Cheek served as Associate General Secretary. The "regional round tables" on religion in higher education which were held in five cities during 1955-1956 are documented in Series VIII.

The somewhat haphazard collection of materials in Series VI, Publications, does not accurately reflect the important place of the REA's publications in its overall program. Copies of the Association's journal, Religious Education and other major REA publications are in the Library's catalogued collection. The first publications of the REA, its "Official Bulletins" are located in Series I. Records of the Editorial Committee are in Series II. Extensive materials relating to the planning and production of publications concerning research and religion and higher education are located in Series VII and VIII respectively.

Of interest in Series VI is the complete run of the periodical first called Character. The REA began publishing this periodical in 1934 under the leadership of General Secretary Joseph M. Artman. When Artman left as general secretary in 1935, ownership of the periodical was assigned to him in partial repayment to the REA's indebtedness to him.

Series VII, Research, primarily documents two major REA program initiatives to stimulate and support research in religious education: the Lilly Endowment 5-stage project and the Faith in the Adult Life Cycle project. The Lilly project included a survey of research in religion and character education, a survey of problems in religious education, a series of consultations in 1959, a workshop held at Cornell University during the summer of 1961, and the formation of a Research Department within the REA which administered the Lilly Post-Doctoral Empirical Research Training Fellowships and produced the Research in Religious Development Handbook. The Faith in the Adult Life Cycle project is documented from 1976 through May 1982.

The documentation in Series VIII, Religion and Higher Education, primarily dates from the years 1954 to 1959 and relates to a series of meetings on the role of religion in higher education. The REA sponsored "round tables" in New York, Chicago, and Boston which centered on the theme "The Responsibility of Higher Education for Judeo-Christian Values in American Culture." A Pittsburgh gathering on "Religion and Education for Professional Responsibility" was co-sponsored by the REA. A meeting held in Minneapolis in April 1955 was part of a long-range project, the Planning Commission on the study of the Place of Religion in the Curricula of State Universities, which was sponsored by the REA and the University of Minnesota. Also included in this Series are documentation of non-REA-sponsored conferences and projects on religion in higher education, documentation of religion programs at specific institutions and a number of general articles collected by Herman Wornom.

The Financial and Promotional Records of Series IX date from 1930 to 1980 and are divided into four sections: Financial reports, Committee records, individuals who assisted the REA in raising funds, and foundation and corporate funding sources.


  • 1902-1988


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by the Religious Education Association (REA)


  1. I. Organization and Policy Records
  2. II. Committee Records
  3. III. Secretarial Files
  4. IV. Meetings
  5. V. Regional Work
  6. VI. Publications
  7. VII. Research
  8. VIII. Religion and Higher Education
  9. IX. Financial and Promotional Records
  10. X. Photographs

Related Materials

This collection is supplemented by Record Group No 74A, which brings the organization’s records up to 2004, when it merged with the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education (APRRE). Record Group 154 and RG 154A cover the history of the APRRE from 1970 to 2004.

Other record groups at the Yale Divinity School Library complement the archives of the REA. Most notable are the papers of George Albert Coe (RG 36). According to REA historian Stephen Schmidt, Coe was the dominant intellectual influence on the Association until his death in 1951. Other personal papers of relevance at YDSL are those of Frank Knight Sanders (RG 122), Hugh Hartshorne (RG 30), Charles Reynolds Brown (RG 37), Paul Vieth (RG 59) and Randolph Crump Miller (RG 173). Also of interest in light of the REA's involvement in the study of religion and higher education are documentation related to Yale's Religion in Higher Education program (RG 182), archives of the Danforth Study of Campus Ministries (RG 62), personal papers of Clarence P. Shedd (RG 35) and other record groups.


55 Linear Feet (131 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


These are the official archives of the Religious Education Association (REA). The Religious Education Association was founded in 1903 at a convention in Chicago, which had been convened by the Council of Seventy of the American Institute of Sacred Literature. Its goal has been to promote religious and moral education. The REA has produced many publications and has sponsored conventions and round tables on religion and higher education, as well as a major program of research on religious development. The REA was responsible for forming the National Council on Religion and Public Education.

Biographical / Historical

The call to the founding convention of the Religious Education Association was issued in 1902 by the Council of Seventy, a core group of Biblical scholars and teachers in the American Institute of Sacred Literature. The leader of the group was William Rainey Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago, who was an outstanding Hebrew scholar and editor of the journal, Biblical World. The Convention was held in Chicago on February 10-12, 1903, and among the speakers were George Albert Coe and John Dewey. Frank K. Sanders, Dean of Yale Divinity School, was elected the first President of the Association, and Dr. Harper became chairman of the Executive Board. The REA was incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois for the purpose, "to promote religious and moral education."

Other early conventions were held in Philadelphia (1904), Boston (1905), Rochester, NY (1907), and Washington, D.C. (1908), and bound proceedings were published and widely distributed. The famous three-fold purpose was adopted at the 1905 Convention in Boston: "to inspire the educational forces of our country with the religious ideal; to inspire the religious forces of our country with the educational ideal; and to keep before the public mind the ideal of Religious Education, and the sense of its need and value."

From 1903 to 1906, five Official Bulletins were published, but they were replaced by the journal, Religious Education, which began in April 1906 under the leadership of the organization's first permanent General Secretary, Henry F. Cope. During the first three decades of its life, the Association influenced the religious education movement in many ways, but upon the death of Dr. Cope in 1923, there were those who felt that the REA had accomplished its purpose and should go out of existence. The Institute of Social and Religious Research recommended its continuation as a "professional organization of high value, a forum of free discussion, a meeting place for education of all faiths, a common ground for character education, and an opportunity for pioneer inquiry and experimentation."

Between 1926 and 1934, the Association prospered with increased membership and grants from the Rockefeller and Carnegie funds. The journal became a monthly, a series of monographs was published, annual research conferences were held, and the Association co-sponsored the Character Education Inquiry project. On the initiative of Joseph Artman, General Secretary, a new bi-monthly magazine, Character was launched in 1934. Because the economic depression made it impossible to maintain two publications, no issues of the journal Religious Education were published between June 1934 and July 1935. With the resignation of Dr. Artman in 1935, all rights to the magazine were transferred to him and the journal was resumed under the editorship of Laird Hites and, later, Leonard Stidley.

The Association carried on with volunteer leadership until 1950, when a Mid-Century Expansion Fund raised the budget to call Harrison Elliott as the full-time executive. His sudden death a year later and the death that same year of Dr. Coe, who had been honorary President since 1938, meant the passing of two "giants" of the movement. A new era began with the election of Herman Wornom as General Secretary in 1952. The office was moved from Chicago to New York City; foundation and individual gifts provided a stronger financial base; and the 50th anniversary was celebrated at a convention in 1953 in Pittsburgh. Randolph Crump Miller began a 20-year tenure as editor of the journal. During the 1950s, there was a series of round tables and publications on religion and higher education, and the beginning of a series of well-attended conventions in Chicago. A long-range, five-stage program of research on religious development was funded by the Lilly Endowment. Merton Strommen was called as research director, the Lilly Research Training Fellowships were established, a 12-day workshop was held at Cornell, and the project was completed with the publication in 1971 of the book, Research on Religious Development. Chapters were developed in many cities under the leadership of Dr. Wornom and Wilson Cheek, Associate General Secretary from 1965 to 1967.

Under a new General Secretary, Boardman Kathan, the issue of religion and public education came to the fore. With grants from the Stone and Dodge Foundations, the REA took the leadership in forming the National Council on Religion and Public Education. A special issue of the journal, Religion and Public School Curriculum was edited by Richard Upsher Smith, who served as National Council on Religion and Public Education director. Beginning in 1979, a three-phase project on Faith Development in the Adult Life Cycle was directed by Kenneth Stokes. In 1978, the Association celebrated its 75th anniversary in Chicago and commissioned a book, A History of the Religious Education Association, by Stephen Schmidt, and an anthology of journal articles, Who Are We: The Quest for a Religious Education, edited by John Westerhoff, who had succeeded Dr. Miller as editor of the journal. Biennial conventions were held in cities of the U.S. and Canada in cooperation with the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education.

Although predominantly Protestant in the beginning, the REA now includes Catholic, Jewish and other educators from the United States and Canada in four main categories: clergy, professors and researchers, directors and coordinators of religious education, and teachers in elementary and secondary schools.

Separated Materials

Received with the archives of the REA were documentation related to the National Council on Religion and Public Education (RG 262) and personal papers of the NCRPE executive secretary, Richard U. Smith. Boardman Kathan, General Secretary of the REA from 1970 to 1982, was instrumental in the formation of the NCRPE in 1971 and served on its executive committee for several years. Though distinct from the archives of the REA, the Smith and NCRPE materials are important to an understanding of REA activities throughout the 1970s.

Guide to the Religious Education Association Records
Compiled by Boardman Kathan, Martha Lund Smalley, and Joan R. Duffy
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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