A Brief History of the ISSRNC

Since the early 1990s, scholars have discussed the formation of a scholarly society to facilitate regular, interdisciplinary communication, discussion, and research into the relationships between people, their religious beliefs and practices, environments, and cultures.

Beginning in 2005 faculty and students in the Graduate Program in Religion and Nature at the University of Florida initiated an open invitation to scholars interested in forming an interdisciplinary society. The process led to the formation of the ISSRNC. (See March 2005 newsletter for more information about the initial invitation and process.)

Encouraged by strong initial interest, Bron Taylor (University of Florida, USA) and Kristina Tiedje (University of Lyon 2, France) convened a planning meeting for Cocoa Beach (Florida) in September 2005. An international group of scholars developed and endorsed draft bylaws for governing the new organization. Participants selected an interim board of directors to plan an inaugural conference, apply for a tax-exempt, charitable/educational organization status with the United States Internal Revenue Service, and organize a democratic election process. On 28 December 2005 the draft Constitution and Bylaws were adopted by the interim executive board to govern the ISSRNC until elections were completed. (See October 2005 newsletter, vol. 1, #1, for details on the Cocoa Beach meeting.) Additional briefings and conversations were held with scholars attending the American Academy of Religion and American Anthropological Association meetings later that fall.

Six months after the initial planning meeting in April 2006, the inaugural conference “Exploring Religion, Nature, & Culture,” was held at the University of Florida. A great success, the event drew more than 150 presenters and 200 registrants from over two dozen nations, and included keynote presentations from Carolyn Merchant and Stephen Kellert. The event is described in the ISSRNC’s June 2006 newsletter, vol. 1, #2 with further details below. The quality and range of scholarship is clear from the final conference Program.

Well attended, the 2006 conference provided the critical mass of scholars necessary to form a successful formal organization. The first Board of Directors were elected in September 2006. (See the ISSRNC’s November 2006 newsletter, vol. 1, #3, for details about the election and future plans.) ISSRNC members hail from over two dozen nations, and officers were elected from Norway, France, the Netherlands, and the United States. With the election process complete, the Constitution and Bylaws governing the ISSRNC were formally established.In October 2006 the ISSRNC appointed Dr. Terry Terhaar as part-time, Executive Director. The ISSRNC also received its official approval from the US Internal Revenue Service as a tax exempt charitable organization. Remarkably, only fifteen months after the decision to establish the organization, the ISSRNC could boast of 116 members in good standing.

In 2007, building on this initial momentum, the ISSRNC determined that a second conference “The Re-Enchantment of Nature across Disciplines: Critical Intersections of Science, Ethics, and Metaphysics,”would be held in Morelia, Mexico, during January 2008. The Board of Directors established a strong team of scholars and institutions to host the event, negotiated an agreement to co-sponsor the conference with the Society for the Anthropology of Religion, and submitted grants in an effort to ensure financial assistance for under-funded scholars. Again, the final conference program was testimony of the event’s quality.

The ISSRNC has continued to grow and expand, as can be seen in the many conferences and activities that the ISSRNC has been a part of since then.

For further information about the ISSRNC’s formative years see its newsletters.

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