Starting a Program Unit

What is a Program Unit?

A program unit is a group, led by a steering committee, that conducts a session at the annual meeting which is organized around specific topics or areas of study. The steering committee for the unit determines areas of focus for the session and solicits invited papers and panelists for discussions. A program unit reflects a range of opinion for discussion rather than a particular position to be promoted. Steering committees are broadly representative of the range of viewpoints or methodologies found within the Society, as well as broadly represented across institutional and denominational lines. The tone of the unit is irenic, scholarly, critical thinking, and Christ-like in papers and discussion.

New Units

All units begin as Consultations. A Consultation has a three-year term. After the second year, consultations that want to continue may apply to renew as a study group or section, or disband.

A Consultation is responsible for one session at the Annual Meeting (3 hours and 10 minutes). Generally, Consultations use this session for a slate of invited papers, a panel discussion, or some combination of presentations and discussion.

Responsibility for the Consultation resides with the Consultation’s steering committee. Logistical support is provided by the ETS staff. Policy oversight and counsel is provided by the Program Units Committee chair, the Executive Director, and ultimately the Executive Committee.

The Steering Committee Responsibilities

A Consultation must have a steering committee of three to six ETS members in good standing, including its designated chairperson. Generally, the committee members should include both senior scholars well-published in the consultation’s area of study and junior scholars who might bring fresh perspectives and who can be mentored through the consultation’s work. Typically committee members are all full members. In exceptional cases, there may an associate or Ph.D. student member who is uniquely qualified to serve on a steering committee. If you are considering an associate or Ph.D. student member for your committee, please contact the Program Units Committee chair for guidance on the application. 

Chairperson responsibilities include the following:

  • Leading the committee’s discussion of potential topics and participants
  • Soliciting papers and participants based on the committee’s recommendations
  • Timely submission of session information as directed by the ETS staff
  • Setting general direction and collegial tone for the Consultation
  • Attending the annual chairpersons’ breakfast (always the last day of the annual meeting)
  • Keeping records of unit sessions including:
    • Attendance at the session (per segment and max attendance)
    • List of presentations, presenters, and other participants
    • Evaluative notes regarding the session and its constituent parts


Applications will be judged on the basis of the quality of the application, adherence to consultation guidelines outlined above, level of interest in the topic, and availability of open program unit slots in the annual meeting program

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Application Timeline

  • Applications must be completed by September 30
  • The PUC reviews applications in September and seeks additional information as needed, and agrees on recommendations to be made to the Executive Committee (EC)
  • The PUC submits recommendations to the EC in October
  • The EC discusses and adjudicates applications in November
  • The PUC Chair will notify applicants of the EC decision
  • November – The Newly approved units can meet to discuss a topic and potential participants for next year and begin the process of soliciting participants
  • December thru February – The Steering committee formalizes plans and secures participants for the upcoming annual meeting.
  • The Steering Committee chair submits the session data for the fall meeting as directed by the ETS staff by March 31st