July 12, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 19

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    Schweiker to head Martin Marty Center

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    William Schweiker

    Renowned theological ethicist William Schweiker has been named the new director of the Martin Marty Center, the Divinity School’s institute for advanced research in all fields of religion.

    A Professor of Theological Ethics in the Divinity School and the College, Schweiker began his new role Sunday, July 1, succeeding Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity and the College, who has directed the center for the past three years. In addition to his Martin Marty Center appointment, Schweiker was recently named the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of Theological Ethics in the Divinity School and the College.

    In announcing his directorship, Richard Rosengarten, Dean of the Divinity School, praised Schweiker’s energy and vision for the Martin Marty Center. “I very much look forward to working with Bill to continue to advance the work of the center over the next three years. He has exciting plans for the research agenda of the center, which will unfold over the course of the coming year.”

    Rosengarten also highlighted the accomplishments of Schweiker’s predecessor, Doniger. “Wendy shaped a distinctive intellectual profile for the center’s work, one that focused the question of public religion as a comparative project and that also brought into play classic questions about the heritage of the study of religion in relation to the ‘Chicago School’ of the history of religions, a la Joachim Wach and Mircea Eliade.”

    A faculty member at Chicago since 1989, Schweiker’s scholarship and teaching engage theological and ethical questions attentive to global dynamics, comparative religious ethics, the history of ethics and hermeneutical philosophy.

    His recent books include Power, Value and Conviction: Theological Ethics in the Postmodern Age (1998) and Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics: In the Time of Many Worlds (2004). Schweiker is the chief editor and contributor to A Companion to Religious Ethics (2004), and is currently an editor of The Journal of Religion. An ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, Schweiker is finishing a book on theological humanism.

    Schweiker said he is both excited and honored to assume the directorship of the Martin Marty Center, which hosts a wide array of conferences, international meetings and advanced graduate seminars annually. The center is widely recognized as one of the country’s most innovative venues for the advanced study of religion.

    Schweiker hopes to continue the center’s leadership role in the study of religion by aggressively supporting faculty research and continuing to sponsor Martin Marty Center conferences and publications.

    Schweiker said he also hopes that some of his own research concerns will find expression through the center’s work. “I want to give special attention to the historical and contemporary interactions—contentious, peaceful, concealed and intentional—among religions,” he said. “More specifically, I am engaged in exploring and also advancing forms of religious humanism now arising within various contexts, which aim to address the multiple global challenges people face. I intend to engage in research projects on these global dynamics and interactions with an eye to the role—if any—the religions can play in forging a humane future.”

    The vision of establishing a venue for the advanced study of religions at Chicago came from Joseph Kitagawa, Dean of the Divinity School from 1970 to 1980.

    Martin Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School, worked closely with Dean Kitagawa to formulate the purposes and operation of the center within the context of the Divinity School’s general mission of teaching and graduate research.

    The Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion officially opened in October 1979, with Marty as its director.

    Subsequent directors have been the medieval Christianity historian Bernard McGinn (1983 to 1992), the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School; Buddhist studies expert Frank Reynolds (1992 to 2000), Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School; American Christianity scholar Clark Gilpin (2001 to 2004), Margaret E. Burton Professor in the Divinity School and the College; and Doniger (2004 to 2007).

    In 1998, the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion was renamed the Martin Marty Center to honor its founding director. More information is available at http://marty-center.uchicago.edu.