PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Exploratory Sessions
Theme: Chaplaincy Innovation Lab: A Proposal for an Exploratory Unit
Unregistered Participant, Presiding

Winnifred Sullivan’s award-winning book, A Ministry of Presence: Chaplaincy, Spiritual Care, and the Law, started a conversation about chaplains she calls “secular priests” or “ministers without portfolios” who have become, she argues, “strangely necessary figure[s] religiously and legally speaking in negotiating the public life of religion today” (p. 6). She marshals remarkable evidence to show how the law shapes and is shaped by the changing place of chaplains but stops short of considering how and why their places are changing on the ground and what those changes reflect about broader changes in American religious life (Sullivan 2014). We, an interdisciplinary group of twenty scholars that includes social scientists, historians, legal scholars, religious studies scholars and theological educators, aim to pick up the conversation here drawing together historical and ethnographic research about the daily work of chaplains in a range of settings in the United States. We aim to combine solid scholarship with a commitment to the public understanding of religion which, in this case, includes engaging chaplains, chaplaincy educators, and the leaders of professional chaplaincy organizations in our conversation.

Unregistered Participant
Unregistered Participant
Spiritual Care in Transition: A White Paper

This paper, co-authored by several members of the unit, seeks to provide an overview of the state of chaplaincy and spiritual care as a field of intellectual inquiry in the United States drawing on a range of historical and contemporary sources. Topics to be covered include the professional mandate for chaplains by sector, the demographics of chaplaincy and changes over time, training and preparation through accredited and non-accredited means, the work of chaplains, and responses to the challenges of religious diversity and growing numbers of people who are not formally religious in any sense. We situate this review in the context of broad trends in American religious life to highlight what the study of chaplaincy can help scholars of religion consider both theoretically and substantively. The review synthesizes current literature and also draws from interviews with 20 national leaders in professional chaplaincy conducted in 2017. We intend for this document to serve as a jumping off point and focus of discussion for the unit.

Unregistered Participant
Theological Education for Chaplaincy?

This paper will present findings from the first 18 months of a Luce-funded study of the current state of education and training for healthcare chaplaincy. As formal religious affiliation and theological school enrollment in the United States declines, we see evidence of a growing interest in professional religious leadership outside the structures of cohesive religious communities. The most measurable example of this phenomenon is in the field of chaplaincy. We are finding not only that increasing numbers of students are interested in chaplaincy careers and demanding chaplaincy education from theological schools, but that the nature of chaplaincy itself challenges fundamental notions of the nature of religious leadership and the task of theological education.

Unregistered Participant
Prison Chaplains: Regulating Participation in Faith-Based Correctional Facilities

Drawing largely from critical theory, from extensive ethnographic research inside Florida’s FCBIs, and from interviews with FCBI chaplains, the proposed essay will challenge the idea that Florida’s FCBIs are as open and accessible as FCBI administrators suggest. Specifically, the proposed paper will consider the role of the FCBIs’ chaplains who regulate inmate participation and experiences in FCBIs. Chaplains play important roles in FCBIs as they are the senior administrators tasked with tracking inmate participation in the program, with scheduling and organizing the rehabilitative programs, and with creating the dominant culture in FCBIs. Since these chaplains are exclusively conservative Protestants, they create and enforce strict participation requirements that normalize conservative Protestant theologies and that subsequently exclude large groups of inmates from participating in FCBIs.

Unregistered Participant
Serving Seafarers at the Water’s Edge: Code-Switching in the Daily Work of Port Chaplains

This paper offers a brief overview of the history of port chaplaincy in North America and an outline of its present state and activity. It then argues for port chaplaincy as a neglected exemplar of religious work that necessarily embraces the spiritual ambiguity that only now are traditional religious organizations coming to perceive as an existential problem in the American body religious. Finally, while acknowledging the unique professional requirements of port chaplaincy, it shows how even this highly specialized iteration of religious work can point to a shared vision of chaplaincy work across sectors that is well-prepared to face the reality of contemporary belief and affiliation and thus relieve spiritual distress that has persisted despite a national decline in religious affiliation.

Unregistered Participant
Is it the Ministry or the Presence? A Garbage Can Model of Corporate Chaplaincy

This papers challenges prevailing scholarly explanations of corporate chaplaincy as a response to a perceived social problems such as religious pluralism or a secularized workplace. Instead, it employs the “garbage can” theory (Cohen, March, and Olsen, 1972) of decision-making from organizational theory, which states that pre-existing solutions search for problems to which they might be the answer. In this vein, the paper argues that corporate chaplaincy is a supply-side phenomenon specific to the conditions of neoliberalism. Neoliberalization established socioeconomic conditions that produced a supply of potential chaplaincy labor. This paper considers how the presence of this supply of chaplaincy labor encouraged the articulation of “problems” in the workplace that corporate chaplains could therefore resolve.

Unregistered Participant
American Muslim Chaplains and New Forms of Religious Identity in America

As a minority American religion confronted and emboldened by its growing
diversity, American Islam has faced many challenges not the least of which is
how to define religious leadership. The fluidity of Islamic leadership alongside
the racial, ethnic, and religious diversity of American Islam has left the door open
for Muslims to engage in new forms of leadership. The chaplaincy is one of these
forms. As relatively new entrants into the American chaplaincy, Muslims are
finding a site of challenge and creativity within the institutional boundaries of the
chaplaincy and within the institutions that bound its professional practice. This
paper treats the chaplaincy as a site for thinking about how globally relevant
Muslim questions of religious authority and leadership are negotiated, debated,
lived, and transformed in their American context. Drawing on my interviews with
male and female Muslim chaplains, this paper examines the constraints and
opportunities for ritual and theological creativity they encounter in the institutions
where they work.

Unregistered Participant

Winnifred Sullivan will respond to the papers

Unregistered Participant
Security, Conspiracy, and Love: Spiritual Care in an Era of Mass Incarceration

As U.S. prison chaplains perform increasingly administrative functions, their duties have become more deeply implicated in the prison’s security apparatuses. They ensure compliance with religious diet programs, monitor religious gatherings for signs of gang activity, and mete out punishments for rule violations. Complicating a mission to administer to spiritual needs, chaplains and prisoners often regard each other with a degree of circumspection and are attuned to attempts to manipulate or deceive. This paper brings close ethnographic attention relationships between chaplains, prisoners, and religious volunteers, who, given chaplains’ administrative burdens, provide the bulk of spiritual care in prison. I argue that distrust and conspiracy animate the provision of spiritual care in prison, complicating chaplains’ abilities to care while bolstering those of community volunteers. Unaware of the “games” that take place in prison and naïve to concerns about conspiracies, community volunteers are uniquely well-positioned to love and provide spiritual care for prisoners.

Unregistered Participant
RFRA, RLUIPA and Ideological Change in Courts, Correctional Institutions, and Society

The paper will investigate to what extent the enactment and application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
of 2000 (RLUIPA) have given rise to change over time in ideological perspectives about religion, especially minority religions, and about accommodation of, or impediments to, religious liberty rights. To determine the extent of change over time, research will include exploration of courts' reasoning and holdings in federal and state prison religion cases, in state correctional agencies' policies, and among court and correctional agency key actors. This interdisciplinary and multi-methodological research will involve a comprehensive analysis of the impact of RFRA and RLUIPA over time on attitudes and perspectives of courts (reflected in prison religion legal cases), correctional agencies (especially reflected in policies), and key actors (reflected in interviews and professional corrections literature) about religion and those laws. In so doing, this paper will contribute to knowledge about changes in attitudes and assumptions in government institutions about religion generally and religion in its varieties and practices, and what the implications of those changes in attitudes and assumptions are for the larger society. Such knowledge no doubt will intersect with arguments and tensions around social and political change in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, with implications for a possible rearrangement of U.S. understanding of the secular/religious divide legally, politically, and socially. Hence, the research for this paper likely will anticipate a transformative social effect in progress beyond the prison walls, particularly as regards religious minorities.