Catholic Theological
Society of America

Convention Structure

At its June 2008 convention, the CTSA inaugurated a new convention structure.  This new convention structure was prompted by several needs:

  • to resolve the recurring problem of insufficient convention space for programmatic needs;
  • to encourage the engagement of a broad range of theological styles and sensibilities in convention sessions through the vetting of paper proposals; and
  • to increase the quality of interactions at the annual convention.

In spring 2011, an ad hoc committee evaluated the response of the CTSA membership to the new structure, and reported to the Board that the vast majority of the members judged the new convention structure positively.  The Board will continue to monitor the effectiveness of our convention structure in consultation with the CTSA membership.

Session Types
There are four types of sessions with presentations initiated by the membership:

  • Topic Sessions
  • Interest Groups
  • Consultations
  • Selected Sessions

Moreover, there are two other session types: four plenary sessions (including the Presidential address) and as many as four “Invited Sessions,” which are organized by the President-Elect.

Topic Sessions
The Topic Sessions are as follows. Topic Sessions designated as “2” will oversee two session “slots” at the convention:

  • “Anthropology”
  • “Bioethics/Healthcare”
  • “Catholic Social Thought”
  • “Catholicity and Mission”
  • “Christ”
  • “Church/Ecumenism”
  • “Comparative Theology”
  • “Creation/Eschatology”
  • “Fundamental Theology/Method”
  • “God/Trinity”
  • “Historical Theology” (2)
  • “Liturgy/Sacraments”
  • “Moral Theology” (2)
  • “Practical Theology”
  • “Spirituality”
  • “Theology and Science”

This structure presupposes that any Topic Session may offer papers different in theological style and method. For example, a Topic Session on “God” might offer papers entitled “Secondary Causality as Analogical Action in Aquinas,” “Trinitarian Difference in von Balthasar’s Theology,” and “A Womanist Understanding of Divine Empathy.” Topic Sessions would thus be a place to encounter the latest research of members across a variety of theological approaches, as well as to appreciate the unity-in-difference of the theological tradition and of the CTSA. 

Each of these Topic Sessions will be administered by a three-person team, with members serving three-year, staggered terms. During the third year of his or her term, each team member will serve as “coordinator” and lead the team’s work. Incoming Topic Session coordinators will participate in the annual Sunday morning Conveners’ Breakfast at the convention.

The administrative team will publish a “call for papers” on the CTSA website and will choose the best proposals for presentation at the convention. If there are not sufficient paper proposals of quality, the coordinator, after consultation with the administrative team, may invite one presenter of his or her choosing. Deadlines have been arranged so that if there is a surplus of quality proposals in a given year, those not chosen by the administrative team can be re-crafted and submitted to the President-Elect for consideration as a “Selected Session.”

No member of the Society may serve simultaneously on more than one Topic Session administrative team and no member can serve on one of these teams and be the coordinator for an Interest Group. Annually, the three-person administrative team will invite a new member to replace its outgoing member, with an eye toward ensuring diversity of all sorts on the team. 

The Board will respond on an ad hoc basis to any problems as they arise. All Topic Sessions are subject to a formal review by the Board every five years.

Interest Groups
The purpose of the Interest Group is to offer meeting time and space at the annual convention to members of the Society who are engaged in a focused, scholarly project or who would like to learn about a new theological area.  Interest Groups allow new areas of attention to surface at the convention. See Proposing a New Interest Group.

Interest Groups will be constituted for three-year terms without the expectation of renewal. There will be a maximum of nine interest groups in existence at any one time, with staggered terms.

Interest Groups do not constitute a “farm system” for Topic Sessions.  Interest Groups are approved by the Board, whose criteria for approving a new Interest Group will be minimal and three-fold: a critical mass of scholars dedicated to a particular theological interest, the absence of redundancy with respect to current convention structures, and the availability of convention space. In most cases, a critical mass of scholars will number 8-10 persons. A smaller number of persons may constitute an Interest Group if the Board judges their interest to contribute to the Society in a special way. Each Interest Group will meet once during the annual convention. A single person may coordinate the Interest Group for its three-year term. Interest Group coordinators will participate in the annual Sunday morning Conveners’ Breakfast at the convention.

No Interest Group may replicate the Topic Session rubrics. For example, there may not be an Interest Group on “Christology,” though there may be an Interest Group on “Cappadocian Christology as a Contemporary Theological Resource.” Even though Interest Groups are rarely renewed, the end of an Interest Group’s term might not mean the end of convention activity on the Group’s area of interest and/or methodology. For example, the “Interest Group on Cappadocian Christology as a Contemporary Theological Resource” may end after three years, and, through the requisite approval process and space permitting, be followed by the “Interest Group on the Theological Orations of Gregory Nazianzus.” And of course, papers on Cappadocian Christology can be submitted to the Topic Sessions on “Christ,” “Anthropology,” or any other pertinent Topic Session rubric.

The purpose of the Consultation is to offer meeting time and space at the annual convention to a considerable number of members who share an interest in the Consultation’s focus and/or to members who share a scholarly interest of extraordinary value to the Society. Consultations are established and sustained solely on the basis of the Board’s decision and continue as long as interest in them remains. Consultations meet once during the annual convention.

There are seven Consultations:

  • Consultation on Asian/Asian-American Theology
  • Consultation on Black Catholic Theology
  • Consultation on Christianity and Judaism
  • Consultation on Hispanic Latino/a Theology
  • Rahner Consultation
  • von Balthasar Consultation
  • Women’s Consultation on Constructive Theology.

Consultation coordinators will participate in the annual Sunday morning Conveners’ Breakfast at the convention. All Consultations are subject to a formal review by the Board every five years.

Selected Sessions
The purpose of the Selected Session is to allow CTSA members to define, organize, and propose an ad hoc session for offering at the annual convention. The President-Elect issues a call for Selected Session proposals to the membership, and the Program Committee of the Board chooses the best proposals from the submissions.  There will be at least seven Selected Sessions at each convention.

Previous Convention Structure (prior to 2008 Convention)

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