The Canadian-American Theological Association (CATA) is a Christian, ecumenical, academic society that finds its primary membership and interest in North America. Our members and Executive Board come from a variety of cultural backgrounds, Christian traditions, and geographical locations. All, however, identify with the Christian faith as outlined in such classic statements as the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed, and seek to contribute to deepening theological reflection and biblical interpretation among Christian scholars, pastors, and theological students, for the sake of the church.
CATA has its origins in CETA, the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association. CETA began in May 1990, when approximately sixty scholars, pastors, and other interested persons met together in Toronto to form a new theological society oriented towards the renewal of theology and the church in Canada.
From the beginning, CETA sought to be a genuinely ecumenical theological society, finding its identity in the broad understanding of British and Canadian evangelicalism which eschewed the infighting and exclusivism endemic to some forms of the evangelical church. CETA has therefore hosted papers and panels by theologians, students, and pastors from diverse Christian perspectives, including Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and a wide variety of Protestant traditions.
CETA also endeavored to be a forum for interdisciplinary theological conversations. Hence, scholars and practitioners from all theological disciplines have been welcomed under the CETA umbrella.
To foster these ecumenical and interdisciplinary goals, CETA sponsored its first academic conference in Kingston, Ontario in May 1991, as part of the Learned Societies of Canada (now known as the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences). Every year since then (in late May or early June) the CETA annual meeting was held in conjunction with the Congress at a different university campus in Canada.
Beginning in 2012 CETA began partnering with a different theological institution each year to offer regional conferences in the Fall, at which theological students and more established academics would present papers on a given theme. The first Fall regional conference (“New Voices in Canadian Evangelical Theology”), held at McMaster Divinity College, was attended by over seventy faculty and graduate students and featured some twenty-five papers and responses. The second CETA regional Fall conference (“New Creation”) took place at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY; attendance at this conference rose to over 120.
Transition to a Bi-National Association
By the Fall of 2015 interest was expressed by CETA members in expanding the name and orientation of the Association to explicitly include all of North America.
It was brought to the attention of the Executive Board that the United States does not have an ecumenical, interdisciplinary theological organization like CETA. The Society of Biblical Literature is not explicitly Christian; the Evangelical Theological Society tends to represent a narrower band of American evangelicalism than CETA; and the Institute for Biblical Research caters to practitioners of biblical studies and associated historical disciplines (to the exclusion of theology, church history, pastoral studies, etc.).
Largely because of this situation, a substantial portion of CETA membership, and even the Executive Board, has come from the United States. The question was whether the Association would explicitly embrace this bi-national identity.
This issue was brought to the table at the Spring 2016 business meeting at the Congress in Calgary. At that meeting a formal proposal to transition into the Canadian-American Theological Association (CATA) was unanimously approved. The website, the constitution, and name of the Association were revised accordingly.
Although the word “Evangelical” no longer appears in the name of the Association (Canadian-American Theological Association it is already a mouthful), we remain fast in our evangelical identity. Just as at the beginning, CATA intends to represent a hospitable and ecumenical evangelical tradition, open to all branches of orthodox Christian faith.
As the Canadian-American Theological Association continues to grow, it plans to nourish its new identity and reach out to constituents in both Canada and the United States, aware of the new and ever present challenges that the academy and church face in the twenty-first century.