A very brief history of Scriptural Reasoning . . .
Scriptural Reasoning began in the early 1990s when a few Jewish scholars of Rabbinic texts got together with a few Jewish philosophers to read scripture. They had so much fun arguing with each other that they decided to invite a group of Christian theologians to join them. Those two groups enjoyed one-another's company and conversation so much that they decided to invite a group of Muslim scholars to join them. The pleasure increased, friendships grew, and participants had a strong sense that they had stumbled upon something new. They kept meeting, kept reflecting on what they were doing, and out of that practice and reflection "scriptural reasoning" emerged.
Two things were especially exciting about these early meetings. First, participants found that speaking openly about their particular faith commitments sharpened and opened up conversation for other members in the group. This was surprising because most scholars had learned in their academic studies that strong faith commitments were an obstacle to rigorous learning. They were trained to treat the scriptures neutrally and focus exclusively on issues of translation, grammar, and historical context. But by bringing their faith into their study and conversation, by bringing more of themselves, they discovered more in scripture.
Second, participants found that conversation was often most fruitful when they discovered deep disagreements among themselves and let those disagreements be. They felt more keenly the sacredness of their own scriptures as they grew in respect for the scriptures of the other groups. Instead of always seeking consensus, participants found that letting differences be encouraged a deeper mutual understanding and strengthened their friendships.
Since those early meetings, SR groups have flared up and died down again and again in the US, Canada, the UK, and around the world. Two vibrant centers of SR have kept the practice going. One is the Scripture, Interpretation Practice program at the University of Virginia, led by Peter Ochs. And the other is the Cambridge Interfaith Programme led by David Ford at Cambridge University in England.
. . . and the Scriptural Reasoning Network
While enthusiasm for the practice remains strong among the many hundreds of people who have tried Scriptural Reasoning in the past, it is quite scattered. There has never been an organized, effective effort to connect previous participants, support existing Scriptural Reasoning groups, and help create new ones. This is what we are trying to do with the Scriptural Reasoning Network.
Previous efforts toward this end have been made before. About five years ago, a couple dozen religious studies professors, led by Jacob Goodson, began meeting together before the American Academy of Religion conference to share ideas about using Scriptural Reasoning in their scholarly projects and in their classrooms. They formed the Scriptural Reasoning Academic Network. Kevin Seidel and Matthew Vaughan were part of that group.
Around the same time, another contingent of academics, pastors, rabbis, imams, and laypeople, pulled together by Peter Ochs, formed the 1000 Cities Project to promote Scriptural Reasoning outside the academy. Sara Williams, Kevin Seidel, and Michael Bos were part of that group.
While these initiatives were a step in the right direction, their separateness created a needless schism between two communities whose work and thought could greatly serve one another. In 2014, these two networks merged in order to promote Scriptural Reasoning inside and outside the university, forming a new, non-profit organization: the Scriptural Reasoning Network.
For more on the history of Scriptural Reasoning, see Jeffrey W. Bailey's article here or here, published in The Christian Century, Sept 5, 2006. For more on the history and an intro to its theory and practice practice, see David Ford's, "An Interfaith Wisdom," the first chapter of The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning (Blackwell, 2006). For a recent account of the history of SR, in light of SR's adaptation in China, see Peter Ochs's "An Introduction to Scriptural Reasoning: From Practice to Theory" (2012).