Theta Alpha Kappa was founded by the Religious Studies faculty (with special reference to its chairman at the time, Professor Albert Clark, F.S.C.) at Manhattan College in Riverdale (the Bronx), New York, in 1976 for the purposes of honoring particularly excellent students in the fields of theology and/or religious studies. (A fuller account of these origins can be found on pp. 1–3 of vol. 20, no.1 [Spring 1996] of the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa.)
TAK was more formally constituted as a national honor society when, in February 1976, ten institutions (all connected through the College Theology Society) adopted a Constitution and later that year chartered the first fifteen chapters. In part reflecting the nature of these institutions and their interests within religious studies, the Greek letters theta, alpha, and kappa were chosen to reflect theos, anthropos, and koinonia as their understanding of the primary foci of studies in religion and theology. (This understanding of the society’s name is a part of its history, but is no longer encoded into its defining documents.)
Within the next few years TAK had quickly grown into an independent national honor society with—by the mid 1980s—fifty chapters, status as a nonprofit corporation in New York State (1983), and status as a fully approved member of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS, 1985)—the first and only one of its kind for religious studies and theology within that organization. The latter action clearly established TAK as an academic, educational organization devoted to encouraging and rewarding excellence in the study of religious studies and theology.
In the early 1990s TAK took another large step by becoming a Related Scholarly Organization of the American Academy of Religion (AAR, 1994), and—by the year of its twentieth anniversary year (1996)—had grown to include over 115 chapters representing a full range of diverse institutions offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in these fields of study. By 1998 it had over 130 chapters and had been granted Affiliate Society status on the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion (which later disbanded in 2009). By the end of 1999 it had over 140 chapters, had amended its incorporation papers in preparation for an IRS 501(c) 3 application, and had become tax-exempt (7/23/99). As of Fall 2003 it had over 190 chapters and as of Fall 2011 it had chartered over 290 chapters. The society became an Affiliate Organization of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2016, and by 2020 the number of chapters chartered was more than 350.
Theta Alpha Kappa is the national honor society for religious studies and theology and is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies. Founded in 1976 at Manhattan College, the society has chartered over 350 chapters in institutions ranging from small religiously affiliated colleges and seminaries to large public research universities. Theta Alpha Kappa exists to encourage, recognize, and promote student excellence in the academic study of religion and theology through its local chapters, multiple scholarship opportunities offered by the national organization, publication of student articles in Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa, and other national programs.
TAK is held to high standards in supporting and recognizing these scholarly pursuits by its status as a member society in the ACHS and its affiliations with AAR and SBL, and by its registration as a nonprofit, educational corporation in the State of New York. In each case TAK has committed itself—through its incorporation papers and Constitution—to these purposes and high standards.
Theta Alpha Kappa is governed by a national Board of Directors and—in turn—by a member-approved Constitution that establishes and legitimizes its most fundamental policies and procedures. While the size of this Board is flexible, it currently consists of four officers (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer), five at-large representatives, and a Board-appointed editor of the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa. Officers and representatives are elected from among candidates whose names are put forth and recommended by the Board’s Nominating Committee. The Board regularly solicits nominations to fill these positions from its membership, including chapter representatives. Board members (excluding the editor of JTAK) serve terms of three years and may serve no more than two consecutive terms in the same position. The editor of JTAK serves a five-year term which is renewable by the board.
According to the TAK Constitution (V.4B), the Board of Directors shall meet at least twice a year, with one of those meetings being in conjunction with the AAR-SBL Annual Meeting. At its discretion the Board may empower the Executive Committee to meet in its stead for the second (or other) meeting(s). Any additional or special meetings of the Board may be called by the President, or shall be called by the President upon the written request of any three elected directors. Meetings of the Board or the Executive Committee by conference call or electronic communication are allowed.
The Board of Directors is further organized around its two standing committees—the Executive Committee (officers and JTAK editor) and the Nominating Committee—and its other ad hoc committees as determined necessary by the Board (e.g., a new chapter application/admission committee, a publications committee, a finance committee, etc.). The rights and duties of the two standing committees are found in V.3 of the Constitution; and further reference to the Nominating Committee is found in V.2 of the Constitution and in the “Timeline” section of this document. However, the operations of the Nominating Committee are sufficiently unique and important to warrant special mention here.
Nominating Committee: Four Board-appointed members make up the Nominating Committee: two of the current at-large members of the Board of Directors, the editor of JTAK, and one person outside the Board. The terms of these members (collectively or individually) are determined by the Board, but how the Committee organizes itself is left to its own members (provided the Chair is a current member of the Board of Directors). Very briefly, the Committee’s duties are as follows: (1) with the Board’s help, to facilitate the solicitation of nominations for upcoming vacancies on the Board (a process needing completion before the time of the annual spring Board meeting of the year the candidate would be elected); (2) to review nominees for eligibility; (3) to make recommendations concerning potential candidates (in ranked order or not); (4) to check candidate availability and create a final slate of nominees; (5) to see that the TAK membership is notified of its recommendations; and (6) to see that the recommendations are brought to the Annual Business Meeting for its action.
Insofar as possible, Nominating Committees charged to bring nominations to any given (fall) Annual Business Meeting should be appointed at the previous fall board meeting in order to give them ample time and opportunity to carry out their duties
Awards and Recognitions Committee: While not a constitutionally created committee, this committee’s work is also very important.
This committee will be comprised of the Representatives-at-Large, with the President choosing the chair (ideally, a representative with experience on this committee). The task of the Awards and Recognitions Committee is to oversee all current awards and prizes, and to recommend future awards, changes to existing awards, and new initiatives to recognize the work and service of members and chapter representatives. In particular, the Awards and Recognitions Committee will bring a nomination for the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Award to the spring Board meeting and will select the winners of the Graduate Fellowship Award.
Annual Business Meeting: While information and input into the Board’s activities is regularly solicited from chapters and individual members, the one formal occasion for members to vote on Board recommendations or discuss Board policies and procedures is the Annual Business Meeting of the TAK membership, normally held annually in conjunction with the national joint Annual Meetings of AAR and SBL in late November. All individual members, and especially those members representing local chapters, are encouraged to attend and to take an active role in this governance opportunity. Notification concerning the place, time, and agenda of such meetings is posted on the TAK website one-two months in advance of the annual meeting and is distributed to chapter representatives.
Finances, Dues, and Fees
TAK works within a relatively modest annual budget. The vast bulk of the income is from new chapter charter fees, annual chapter dues, and individual member induction fees (fees and dues structures are described below). Expenses are primarily incurred in the publication of JTAK, office-related expenses related to the work of the officers of the Board, travel expenses for Board members on TAK business, and miscellaneous prizes and awards. TAK is a nonprofit organization, and all Board positions are ordinarily unpaid and monetarily uncompensated, though TAK may provide a modest stipend or payment for a course release to officers as determined by the board, or on a contract basis for persons who undertake certain tasks for the Board (such as a database manager). A treasurer’s report is offered at the Annual Business Meeting for members’ information. TAK became a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 organization, eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, in 1999.
Chapter Fees and Dues: a one-time charter fee of $150 is required of institutions approved by the Board for a new chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa. Subsequently, and starting with the next TAK fiscal year (July 1 to June 30; or the institution’s next academic year) after such chartering has taken place, all chapters are required to pay annual chapter dues based on the size of the institution: $50 (small, total institution enrollments of fewer than 1,700); $75 (medium, enrollments between 1,700 and 4,000); and $100 (large, enrollments over 4,000). As indicated in the Constitution of TAK and in the section below, chapters that fail to pay annual chapter dues may be subject to deactivation.
Payment notices for chapter dues will be sent to Chapter Representatives in the fall of any given fiscal year for payment in that fiscal year. Both the amount and the procedures for collecting such payments are subject to change as determined by the Board.
Individual Member Fees and Dues: The induction fee for new individual members is $30, payable to Theta Alpha Kappa. Procedures for paying induction fees are explained on the TAK website (ThetaAlphaKappa.org). The national TAK induction fee is separate from any induction fee charged by the local chapter for its own purposes (if such a local induction fee is charged at all). Induction fees provide a formal certificate of membership and one full year subscription (usually the academic year subsequent to induction) of Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa. Membership in TAK is permanent and ongoing without a need for any additional membership fees. The TAK national board entrusts the actual induction procedure to local chapters per eligibility according to national criteria.
Board Member Travel Expenses: Within the following limitations or exceptions, Board members will normally be reimbursed in full for travel related to TAK and/or Board of Directors business. Exceptions/limitations include but are not necessarily limited to: (1) personal automobile use will be reimbursed at the current IRS mileage reimbursement rate; (2) reimbursements for the fall Board meeting (held in conjunction with the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting) will be limited to a one-day per diem of $200, and 1/2 of travel expenses if the Board member’s institution will fund the other half. (All travel expenses will be covered if not funded by the home institution or other source.) The treasurer may make decisions about and exceptions to this policy as need arises, but all such decisions and exceptions are subject to Executive Committee or Board approval.
Programs or Activities of the Board
The programs or activities of the Board that most directly relate to fulfilling the purposes of TAK include the following:
- Chartering Chapters: The Board seeks to recruit, charter, and maintain local chapters whose chapter representatives work directly with students and others to encourage and recognize excellence in their studies. Such chapters are authorized to induct individual members (whether students, faculty members, or honorary members) into the national organization. (See below for further information on chapters.)
- Communications/Publications: The Board communicates with the chapter and individual membership in a number of ways, including but not limited to (a) the regular publication and dissemination (to individual members and selected libraries) of the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa, (b) the semi-annual “President’s Newsletter” sent to chapters via chapter representatives, (c) dues notices to chapters via the chapter representative, and (d) periodic requests to chapters and/or individual members for information updates, nominations for positions on the Board, nominations for a variety of awards and prizes (see below), and for help in reviewing submissions for the annual Albert Clark Awards and in assisting students with the submission of articles to the award competition for possible publication in JTAK.
Among these communications, the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa is an important and substantive link between the Board and the active membership (chapters and individuals) since it both disseminates information about Board activities and the scholarly work of members, and receives information about chapter activities and submissions of scholarly work for publication and/or prizes.
- Annual Business Meeting/Reception: TAK holds an Annual Business Meeting of the membership, together with a reception, normally in conjunction with the national joint Annual Meeting of the AAR and SBL. As noted under “governance” above, this is an opportunity for the membership to take an active role in Board matters, and to offer votes and opinions about the operations of TAK. Mechanisms are also in place per V.2C of the Constitution, if attendance at the Annual Business Meeting is not possible, to submit proxy votes for the election of Board members. Voting on matters discussed at this meeting is the privilege of all individual members of TAK.
- Awards and Prizes: The Board sponsors a number of awards and prizes honoring excellence in work related to the purposes of TAK. These awards and prizes include (a) the Albert Clark Awards (established in 1996 to honor our founding president) for outstanding undergraduate and graduate essay/paper (with cash prizes plus promise of publication in JTAK); (b) the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Leadership Award (established in 1990 to honor a former Board member who met an untimely death); (c) the Members of Distinction designation or those who have served at least one full term on the Board of Directors and/or have been selected as recipient of the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Leadership Award; (d) the annual Undergraduate Achievement Awards given to eligible students as nominated by their chapters; and (e) the annual Graduate Fellowship Awards. Separate procedures are in place, outside the purview of this document, for the implementation of these awards and prizes (cf. discussion of the Awards and Recognitions Committee above).
TAK offers certificates of membership for individual inductees, printed charters for new chapters, and miscellaneous honorific regalia such as TAK pins and honor cords. (Further information about such offerings and the ordering process may be found at the TAK website.)
- The Board manages a website at https://thetaalphakappa.org which houses this and other documents, as well as information and forms useful in the operations of the national Society and its local chapters.
- Theta Alpha Kappa seeks to support undergraduate participation in regional meetings of the AAR and SBL by offering, as per interest, funding for sessions or panels related to undergraduate student presentations and related student prizes.
Timeline for Major Board Activity
The Board and Nominating Committee are in the final processes of soliciting the names of possible candidates for Board positions starting July 1 of the following fiscal year, and the Board is similarly in the process of soliciting names of possible candidates for the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Leadership Award.
Applications close for the Albert Clark Awards in January. Applications are reviewed in February, and decisions are announced in March.
The Board President attends the annual meeting of the Association of College Honor Societies.
Applications are solicited for the annual Graduate Fellowship Award.
A spring Board (or Executive Committee) meeting is held, with special concern for the Nominating Committee’s report identifying candidates for Board positions (to be elected at the fall Annual Business Meeting).
The spring issue of JTAK is published.
The recipient of the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Leadership Award chooses a student to receive the Moderator’s Award.
The President’s Newsletter is distributed to Chapter Representatives.
The Awards and Recognitions Committee determines the winners of the Graduate Fellowship Awards.
The Nominating Committee finishes its work in preparation for proposing a slate of candidates to the membership for voting purposes at the Annual Business Meeting.
The fiscal year ends June 30 and the new one begins July 1. New Board terms start July 1.
The editor of JTAK invites submissions of chapter news for the fall issue of the journal, announces the upcoming Albert Clark Awards program, and solicits judges for the Clark Awards.
The Board may hold a summer meeting as needed, normally by teleconference.
The Treasurer sends invoices to chapter representatives for chapter dues for the current fiscal year. The Treasurer also encourages chapter representatives of appropriate chapters to identify students to receive the annual Undergraduate Achievement Award, and to report the decisions and request award checks from the Treasurer anytime during the academic year. Chapter eligibility for the Undergraduate Achievement Award rotates as follows: chapters with numbers ending in 0–4 are eligible to present awards in academic years with fall terms in odd-numbered calendar years; chapters with numbers ending in 5–9 are eligible to present awards in academic years with fall terms in even-numbered calendar years. The chapter representative determines student eligibility.
The President’s Newsletter is distributed and includes information about the fall Annual Business Meeting and reception, the slate of candidates being recommended for Board positions, and (if need be) a call for proxy votes. The newsletter goes to Chapter Representatives, who, in turn, are asked to pass on such news that pertains to the local membership.
The fall issue of JTAK is published.
The fall Board meeting is held, normally in conjuction with the joint Annual Meeting of the AAR and SBL.
The Annual Business Meeting and Reception is held (normally in late November in conjunction with the joint Annual Meeting of the AAR and SBL), with special reference to voting on Board recommendations (such as new officers) and honoring the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Leadership Award winner. The Nominating Committee for the following year is constituted.
The President submits the annual report to ACHS.
Theta Alpha Kappa chapters are found at a wide variety of colleges and universities offering a broad range of courses in the fields of religious studies and theology. Some chapters are hosted by public or nonsectarian private institutions while others are housed in religiously affiliated institutions (including seminaries) for which ministry training may be an important focus. Theta Alpha Kappa heartily welcomes and encourages the formation of chapters in all these settings. While the society recognizes that courses with a vocational ministry focus need not be any less rigorous than others in our fields of study, it is also our commitment that courses with strong textual, historical, and/or theoretical foci lie at the heart of academic studies in religion and theology and should be the basis on which students gain entry into Theta Alpha Kappa. The society’s board carefully considers the presence and centrality of these courses when evaluating applications for new chapters and expects that chapter representatives only count such courses when determining student eligibility for induction.
New and continuing local chapters must conform to the policies and procedures articulated in the TAK Constitution and in this TAK Board of Directors’ statement of procedures and policies. Beyond that, there is considerable latitude in how they are organized, what activities they sponsor, and how they go about their business. The following comments concern the most basic issues and procedures, and chapters representatives may find additional information on the TAK website.
- New Chapter Applications: Persons at eligible institutions who are interested in forming a chapter should contact the Vice President listed on the TAK website for any necessary guidance, and they may also find the new chapter application materials on the TAK website. Key questions related to applications include the nature of the institution and its willingness to support/approve this action, the institution’s accreditation by a standard regional accrediting agency, the adequacy of the program in religion or theology, and the willingness to affirm the national constitition (or develop an alternate set of by-laws that meet the approval of the National Board). Applications must be approved by a 2/3 majority of voting members of the Board of Directors. After payment of the new chapter fee is received by the Treasurer, the President will issue the chapter number and Greek letters for the new chapter. At this point the new chapter may begin inducting members. (Annual chapter dues will be billed beginning the next academic year after the issuance of a new charter.)
- Chapter Organization/Leadership: The broad outlines of TAK’s expectations in this area are found in Article IV of the Constitution, and other suggestions and guidance is available on the TAK website. From the perspective of the Board, the only required leadership position for a chapter is the chapter representative, who must be a faculty member who serves as the official liaison between the local chapter and the national Board. This person, in addition to fulfilling the responsibilities described in IV.2B of the Constitution, is important to the Board in responding to its requests for information, chapter dues, and nominations to fill Board positions, or for other honors, awards, or prizes. (An additional person, such as an academic department administrative assistant, may also be registered to receive information from the Board, but the Chapter Representative remains responsible for all communications.) The Chapter Representative must be an inducted member of TAK and may be inducted alongside the chapter’s student members. The national Board entrusts local chapters to develop their own leadership structures (including student officers) if such is needed in light of their own situations.
- Chapter Activities: The national Constitution addresses those activities that are appropriate for chapters to sponsor, most importantly to include the selection and induction of individual members. (See IV.1; cf. III.1B for information on types of membership available, and the criteria established for each.) Beyond the annual induction ceremony, chapters are free to sponsor (and raise/spend funds relevant to) any number of activities which they may determine as important to the underlying purposes of TAK for supporting and encouraging scholarly, academic studies in these disciplines.
- Chapters in “Good Standing”: The Constitution (III.2B) lists the general criteria chapters must meet in order to remain “active” and/or “in good standing,” and indicates that only those chapters meeting these criteria may continue to induct new members. Beyond that, however, it also leaves to the Board the responsibility for determining if and when chapters have failed to meet these criteria, and how it will respond to such failures. What follows, therefore, is the Board’s policy and procedure for responding to these failures.
Chapters that fail to pay annual dues will no longer be considered active and in good standing. They will be not be able to induct new members or order TAK regalia. Such a chapter may return to good standing by payment of past dues. Chapters that fail to pay annual dues for three consecutive years and/or fail to live up to any other obligations under the Constitution, are subject—by Board action—to “deactivation,” by which they are no longer able to |call themselves a chapter of TAK. Such chapters may “reactivate” only by a new application to the Board for reinstatement—including but not limited to the payment of the lesser of the lapsed dues or a new charter fee. The chapter’s Greek letters and number, once assigned, will not be reassigned to another chapter, and they will be restored upon reactivation.
Chapters concerned about their status may contact the Treasurer, who may also consult with the Vice President. When formal action has been taken by the Board for deactivation or reactivation, the Secretary will provide formal notification to the chapter.
Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology, is a national, not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to serving the interests of our chapters and their membership, the public, and higher education in our country through our several activities, which include gathering and dissemination of relevant data and information in furtherance of our purposes.
It is the long-standing policy of Theta Alpha Kappa to comply fully with all laws and regulations applicable to our activities, including the federal and state antitrust laws, which are intended to protect competition. The antitrust laws prohibit hard-core anticompetitive practices such as price-fixing, market division, and group boycotts, as well as certain other arrangements and transactions that may possibly harm the competitive process. Although our Society’s activities and programs generally do not present antitrust issues, we and our members must be informed about the antitrust laws and be sensitive to any possible antitrust issue or question.
In support of the Theta Alpha Kappa antitrust compliance policy, the following procedures and principles are applicable to the Society and our members: Theta Alpha Kappa meetings are to follow a pre-approved agenda, and meeting minutes will subsequently be prepared and distributed; any antitrust issue or question pertaining to Theta Alpha Kappa or our activities should be directed to the President, for review by counsel if necessary; and Theta Alpha Kappa chapters are encouraged to adopt antitrust guidelines of their own consistent with this Society policy statement.
Although Theta Alpha Kappa serves as a forum for the free and open discussion of diverse opinions, certain topics are inconsistent with our antitrust compliance policy. With respect to membership in ACHS and the related admission requirements, our Constitution sets forth the governing standards and procedures; any actions, understandings, or statements inconsistent with the Constitution are prohibited. More generally, any actions, understandings, or statements arising in the context of Theta Alpha Kappa, which appear to be anti-competitive in purpose or potential effect are inconsistent with Society policy, can be harmful to Theta Alpha Kappa and our members, and are prohibited. Under the antitrust laws relating to “group boycotts,” each member chapter must make its own, unilateral decisions as to the vendors or other entities with which it will do business, and on what terms. Any actions, understandings, or statements inconsistent with this antitrust principle should be avoided. (Adopted April 16, 2011.)
Service Mark Policy
The logo of Theta Alpha Kappa, TAK, and its name “Theta Alpha Kappa, the national honor society for religious studies and theology” is a registered service mark. Chapters are authorized to use the logo and service mark only for official chapter activities—such as on stationery, invitations, or banquet programs for official business. Any other uses, such as use of logo on apparel and other paraphernalia, are usually not permissible. Questions about these uses should be directed to the organization’s president.
Media Policy (including Social Media)
Only the national board is authorized to speak on behalf of TAK as an organization, and we do not assume responsibility for our members’ conduct or comments on social media or elsewhere. While the board recognizes that our society’s membership includes people and academic institutions who espouse a wide range of perspectives on numerous issues, such views should not be assumed to represent those of the honor society as a whole. Instead, our organizational focus as a nonsectarian, nonprofit honor society is to encourage, recognize, and promote student excellence in the academic study of religion and theology through our local chapters, multiple scholarship opportunities offered by the national organization, publication of student articles in Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa, and other national programs. The society is committed—like our partners including the Association of College Honor Societies, American Academy of Religion, and Society of Biblical Literature—to policies of professional conduct and against discrimination and sexual harassment, and such policies appear in our Constitution and the national TAK board’s policies and procedures manual, but we do not typically issue public statements.
About This Document
This document is the policy and procedures statement of the Board of Directors referenced in the national Constitution (V.3C2;V.4A;VIII.3). It is a document designed to describe in greater detail the de facto operations and procedures of the Board as currently in force (and thereby regularly updated). Revisions to this document are maintained by the secretary of the national Board.
These policies and procedures are the purview of the Board, and not subject to membership approval. The edition you are currently reading is dated [[September 26, 2021]].
The original version of this document was created and approved by the Board in the Fall 1997 for implementation in January 1998.