Study Materials for Religious Education

Section 08: International perspective on religious education, Part B:  Religious education in the USA

This is the second of three sections that try to give some perspective on developments in theory and practice of religious education internationally.  It begins with the viewing of a number of short videos about religious education made by leading international scholars in the field from 13 different countries. It looks at the context and at religious education writers from the United States of America.
It then presents articles from North American scholars for evaluation and it has two work/assessment options.

A unit that extends educators' background in key issues for religious education that helps with the critical evaluation of contemporary theory and practice

As for all sections, view the introductory video. Then listen to the content lecture audio while attending to the main text file on this page. Arrange to have the audio file and the text page open together so you can work your way through both in an integrated fashion.

There is no Introductory video to this section. The combined video introduction to Sections 7, 8 and 9 was included in Section 7

Brief overview of content of this section

This section begins with a tapestry of views about contemporary religious education from 20 international scholars who each made a 5 minute video identifying what they thought were the key issues for religious education in their country at the time. The exercise here is to look at a sample of the videos to see what they thought were the 'big issues' in 2002, and to speculate now as to whether or not those are still issues today -- and to identify what you think are the key issues for religious education today in your particular context.

The section also talks about the context of religious education in the United States and shows how this is very different from that in Australia because it is much more about adults, Christian, Congregational religious education (and its counterparts in Jewish and Muslim traditions). In Australia, there is a much greater emphasis on school religious education – which tends to attract little attention from US scholars. Appreciating this distinction is necessary for looking into the potential relevance of the writings of US scholars for Australian school religious education.

The final part of the section covers articles from North American scholars.

Audio mp3 file lecture of this section
Click for alternative wma streaming audio
2. The audio file lecture
Click the icon to hear or download the mp3 audio lecture file. (30 Minutes)
The audio lecture fills out the content and is complemented by the Section text below. Every now and again you will need to pause the audio and look at the pertinent parts of the text and/or sub-presentations, as suggested.

The written text for this section (Study the text in conjunction with the audio lecture)

A study of the 'big issues' for religious education as proposed by 19 international scholars in religious education from 13 different countries.
Listing of articles by religious education scholars from North America
Alternative Reading that can be used for the assessment task

Comments about the 'big issues' for religious education from leading international scholars in religious education from the UK, USA, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Germany, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Israel and Turkey.

What were in their views the important issues in 2002?

Are these issues still relevant and important today?

What do you think would be the crucial issues for contemporary religious education in your context?

Comments on video from Religious Education scholars from around the world who were attending the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values, at Kristiansand in Norway, July 2002. The scholars responded to the question, "What do you consider to be some of the main issues to be faced in Religious Education in your country?" Click the photographs for viewing their commentaries

Rev. Professor
Jeff Astley


Position in 2002
Director North of England Institute for Christian Education
Honorary Professional Fellow in Practical Theology and Christian Education University of Durham

Trond Enger


Position in 2002
Associate Professor
Ostfold College
School of Education
N-1783 Halden

Rev. Professor
Leslie Francis


Position in 2002
Director of the Welsh National Centre for Religious Education
Normal Site
University of Wales Bangor
Gwynedd LL57 2PX
Wales UK

Professor Dr.
Hans-Gunter Heimbrock


Position in 2002
Prof for Practical Theology and Religious Education
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitat
Gruneburgplatz 1
D-60323 Frankfurt

John Hull RIP

Before his death John was for a long time The Professor of Religious Education
School of Education
The University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT UK

Paul Isaak


Position in 2002
Professor and Head of Dept of Religion and Theology
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Namibia

Robert Jackson


Position in 2002
Professor and Director of
Warwick Religious and Education Research Unit in the Institute of Education University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL UK

Yaacov Katz


Position in 2002
Chair Pedagogic Secretariat
Ministry of Education Israel and Director of Institute of Community Education and Research
School of Education
Bar-Ilan University Israel

Heid Leganger-Krogstad

Position in 2002
Assistant Professor in
Religious Education
Faculty of Education
University of Oslo
PO Box 1099
N-0317 Oslo Norway

Andrew McGrady


Position in 2002
Centre for Research in Religion and Education (CRRE)
Academic Director of ICT
Mater Dei Institute of Education
Dublin Ireland

Professor Dr.
Siebren Miedema


Position in 2002
Hendrik Pierson Professor for Christian Education and Professor for Religious Education Faculty of Theology
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Gabriel Moran


Position in 2002
New York University
Humanities and Social Sciences
Kimball Hall
New York USA

Professor Dr.
Friedrich Schweitzer


Position in 2002
Professor of Religious Education and Practical Theology
Evang-theol. Seminar
University of Tubingen
Liebermeisterstr. 12
727076 Tubingen Germany

Howard Summers


Position in 2002
Education Consultant
P.O. Box 141
Auckland Park
South Africa 2006

Rev. Dr.
Kasonga wa Kasonga


Position in 2002
The African Association
of Christian Churches

Abdullah Sahin


Position in 2002
Doctoral student from Turkey,
Studying at the University of Birmingham UK

Dr.Anta Filipsone and Dr. Dzintra Ilisko

Position in 2002
Dzintra teaches at Daugavpils University, a teacher's college in eastern Latvia while Anta teaches at the University of Latvia in Riga. Both plan to design gender inclusive and religiously diverse programs. At present they are investigating the possibilities for Religious Education in Latvian Schools

Doret J. de Ruyter


Present Position
Senior Researcher
Dept. of Religious Education
University of Glasgow
Scotland UK

Arto Kallioniemi


Present Position
Dept. of Religious Education
University of Helsinki

Listing of articles by religious education scholars in North America

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND CANADA In the USA, most of the focus of Catholic religious education (and other Christian education) is on congregational or community of faith contexts. By comparison, they do not give the same sort of attention to Catholic school religious education as does Australian Catholic RE, although they have developed a lot of book resources over the years. Think then about how US theory of Religious Education (which is about churches) might be applied to Catholic schools in Australia -- there is a need to adjust according to both the school and the national context. Canada is more like Australia where Catholic schools are publicly funded -- what a difference money makes! They have CEOs like Australia and give special attention to school religious education. The academic journal Religious Education is at the core of university level and scholarly levels in religious education in North America. The Journal has been published by the religious education Association since the early part of the 20th century, and is one of the longest continuously published academic journals in education. Looking at the range of titles of articles across any period would give a good picture of the interests and emphases in North American religious education. It is primarily adult and it is primarily about congregational religious education – including religious education in Christian churches, synagogues and mosques.

Michael Warren, 1986, Ministry, Catechesis and Religious Education: Implications for Youth Ministry and Catholic Schools, Catholic School Studies, 59, 2, 45-48. Reproduced with permission.

Michael Warren, 1992, The Problem of Popular Culture, chapter 1 Communications and Cultural Analysis: A Religious View. Bergin and Garvey, Westport Connecticut, pp. 1-19.

Michael Warren
Michael Warren , a scholar who has taught at St John's Catholic University in Jamaica in New York for a number of years, is one of the foremost English speaking writers on youth ministry. This article appears to be one of the best available for clarifying a basic distinction between the ministry term catechesis and the educational term religious education . Michael Warren has given special attention to the potential influence of film television and media generally on the spiritual and moral development of people and how this affects the ministry of the Christian Church.

His critical analysis of culture makes use of the work of the Welsh sociologist Raymond Williams and it also draws on some of the European Marxist thinking such as that of Foucault. Warren writes clearly and argues the case for a critical element in religious education the critical interpretation of cultural meanings and how they are communicated, and how they influence people's thinking and behaviour. See what you make of Warren's writing style. Is it obscure or are the meanings clearly and straight-forwardly expressed.

Mary Boys, 1989, Ways of Knowing, Feminist Perspectives) in Educating in Faith.

Mary Boys
This chapter by Mary Boys (here in two parts) also reflects a feminist perspective. One of the difficulties readers may have with this chapter is the extensive amount of referencing to other theories in psychology, sociology and theology. Sometimes readers can get a little lost in the complexity of the references to other theories.

Gabriel Moran, 1981, What it Means to 'Teach Religion', from Interplay: A Theory of Religion and Education, Winona, St. Mary's Press. Chapter 5, pp 65-78.

Gabriel Moran, Ch. 3 Teaching: From Moral Dilemma to Religious Education in Religious Education as a Second Language.

Book reviews of Moran's book about teaching and about revisiting the writings of his wife Maria Harris.

Gabriel Moran

Gabriel Moran, a United States scholar, is perhaps the grand philosopher of religious education in the English speaking world. He has been writing extensively in this area since his famous books in 1966 Theology of revelation and Catechesis of revelation . A central focus in his analysis is to clarify the meaning of words and use these with great precision, tracking back their meanings etymologically. At first sight this can appear to be pedantic, but, once this approach is appreciated, the wide-ranging and extensive philosophical basis to Moran's writing becomes more evident.

For many years Gabriel Moran has edited a newsletter about an international perspective on religious education called "The alternative". It is a good example of someone who sees that the critical interpretation and evaluation of cultural meanings is a core dimension to contemporary religious education – especially for adults. Below is the website at New York University where copies of all of the Alternative going back as far as 1999 can be downloaded. A quick look at the range of issues addressed in his newsletters show the extraordinary capacity for critical writing that he has maintained since the mid-1960s. Website for the Alternative Religious Education Newsletter.


Maria Harris, 1997, Teaching Ch 2 of Teaching and Religious Imagination, Harper and Row, San Francisco.

Maria Harris RIP
Maria Harris, a United States scholar, wrote extensively about youth and church Ministry as her particular focus in religious education. Her book on Teaching and religious imagination gave special attention to the aesthetic and poetic dimensions. The material should not be thought of as practical rather it is like a theological meditation on the religious significance of teaching.

Thomas Groome, 1980, Shared Christian Praxis. Chapter 9 of Christian Religious Education, Harper and Row, San Francisco.

Thomas Groome
Thomas Groome of Boston College developed the theory of Christian Shared Praxis as a method for adult small group religious education. It was taken up by the Parramatta diocese. It was modified to some extent to try to make it more suitable to Catholic school classrooms. In addition, Groome was offered a contract from a large United States religious text book Company to write material for use in schools within a shared praxis framework. Some of the other Catholic dioceses (notably Wollongong, Canberra and some extent some of the regional Victorian dioceses) also took a special interest in shared Christian praxis.
The literature has some writings that have tried to appraise the appropriateness and the effectiveness of the use of shared praxis in Catholic school religious education. See the Journal of Religious Education 1997, Vol 45, 3. with some evaluative writings on shared Christian Praxis. This chapter is the original presentation of shared praxis by Groome.

Sandra M. Schneiders, Ch 1 Feminism: Women's Fad or Humanity's Future? pp5-36 in Beyond Patching: Faith and Feminism The Catholic Church.

Sandra Schneiders
The article by Sandra Schneiders represents an early and significant attempt to take a feminist perspective on both Church and religious education.
Gloria Durka
The amazing grace of teaching

Gloria Durka
Gloria Durka has been Professor of religious education at Fordham University in New York for many years. She has visited Australia as a guest lecturer. Like Maria Harris, and many other US Catholic religious educators, her focus is often about the theological dimensions to adult religious education. Earlier, she had a special interest in aesthetic dimensions to religious education.

Harold D. Horell, (2004). Fostering hope: Christian Religious Education in a postmodern age (Fordham University Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education). Religious Education , 2004, 99 , 1, 5-22

Harold Horell
Cultural postmodernity This article by Fordham scholar Horell looks at a way of responding positively to the challenges in cultural postmodernity.