The Internationale Gesellschaft für Religionspsychologie (International Association for Psychology of Religion), is a primarily European organization. This association was founded in 1914 in Nuremberg, Germany, and published in that same year the first volume of what should have become a journal: the Archiv für Religionspsychologie (Archives for Psychology of Religion). A number of international scholars, including some from the USA, belonged to the board of both the association and the journal. Essentially, however, the enterprise was the work of one single man, dr. Wilhelm Stählin (1883-1975), a German protestant minister. As Germany went to war during 1914-1918, the interior situation of that country changed dramatically and a next volume (nr. 2/3) of the Archiv was not published until 1921, to be followed by one in 1929. Stählin's interest changed, and in 1927 he was happy to hand over both the Association's and the Archiv's affairs to Werner Gruehn (1887-1961), a lutheran pastor from the Baltic countries, who in later years became a professor of theology at Berlin. In this way, the enterprise kept much of its character of a private affair of a single person. Moreover, Gruehn did not try to open up the Association to the many new directions in psychology that were flourishing before and after the Second World War, but instead remained narrowly focused on the introspective method as developed by his compatriot Oswald Külpe (1862-1915), accepting only this approach as 'real' psychology of religion. Before the War, Gruehn managed to publish two more volumes of the Archiv (nr. 5 and 6), but then things definitively went wrong: in 1945, he had to flee from Berlin, lost his professorial position, and needed to live on a moderate pension in a small town in Germany. In fact, the Association and the Archiv were extinct. In the fifties, Gruehn tried to organize an international congress to revive the Association, but he failed (Nřrager, 2000). At the beginning of the 1960's, however, Wilhelm Keilbach (1908-1982), a professor of Roman Catholic systematic theology who had a strong interest in history of religions, expressed the wish to reactivate the Association. He organized some 'Tagungen', small conferences, to which only a limited number of people were invited, essentially pre-war students and friends of Gruehn, and Keilbach's own priest-students. The papers read at the conferences were printed in the irregularly published Archiv, which now functioned in this way, more as Proceedings than as a journal.
Unfortunately, although people like André Godin, Antoine Vergote and especially Hjalmar Sundén published some articles in the Archiv, the Association after some years ended in a cul-de-sac again. There were only a few professional psychologists involved, most attendees of the conferences had limited training in psychology during their pre-war education as theologians. No efforts were made to broaden up, to professionalize or to modernize the Association's perspective or style.
However, Nils Holm, a historian and psychologist of religion from Finland, who was chosen as its new President in 1995, managed to persuade the 'old' majority within the Board to take in some new persons at a conference he organized in Denmark, 1998. Together with the small number of psychologists of religion on the Board already, these new members are committed to a reorganization of this Europe-based Association, in order to turn it into a scholarly, democratic, and confessionally as well as religiously neutral international platform for the psychology of religion.
At the international conference, held in The Netherlands (September 28-30, 2001) a new board was elected and a new constitution and by-laws decided upon.
The new board consists of:
Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Jacob Belzen (President, Netherlands)
Dr. Sebastian Murken (General Secretary, Germany))
Prof. Dr. Nils Holm (Editor of the Archiv fuer Religionspsychologie, Finland )
Prf. Dr. Susanne Heine (Austria)
Prof. Dr. Dirk Hutsebaut (Belgium)
Prof. Dr. Ralph Hood (USA)
Dr. Hetty Zock (Netherlands)
The next meeting will probably be in August 2003 in Glasgow.
International Association for the Psychology of Religion
General Secretary :
Dr. Sebastian Murken
Psychology of Religion Research Group
University of Trier
55505 Bad Kreuznach
Fax: ++49/6131/ 832661