The Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion builds on a long-standing conviction of the Divinity School that the best and most innovative scholarship in religion emerges from sustained dialogue with the world outside the academy. In all of its projects, the Center aims to serve as a robust circulatory system that strengthens, deepens, and extends scholarly inquiry by moving it through the deliberating bodies of the students, faculty, and public.
The Marty Center (familiarly known as the MMC) brings scholarly perspectives to bear on religious questions facing the wider public, while encouraging scholars to situate their academic questions within a broader cultural frame of reference. Through a variety of consultations,conferences, and publications, the MMC supports research pursued by the Divinity School faculty, University of Chicago graduate students, and affiliated scholars from around the world.
The Marty Center is located in the John Nuveen Wing of Swift Hall, the home of the Divinity School. A generous gift from Mrs. Grace Nuveen in honor of her husband, a University of Chicago Trustee and benefactor of the Divinity School, allowed for renovations to create a comfortable research center that includes offices, a small reference library for the use of research fellows, and the Jerald C. Brauer Seminar Room (named in honor of the late Jerald C. Brauer, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity and former dean of the Divinity School).
The Kitagawa Library, named for formed dean Joseph Kitagawa, also serves as a meeting and seminar room.
The vision of establishing an institute for the advanced study of religion at the University of Chicago came from Joseph M. Kitagawa, the Dean of the Divinity School from 1970 to 1980. Martin E. Marty, a historian of modern Christianity, worked closely with Dean Kitagawa to formulate the purposes and operation of the institute within the context of the Divinity School's general mission of teaching and graduate research. The Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion officially opened in October 1979, with Professor Marty as its director. Subsequent directors have been Bernard McGinn (1983-1992), a historian of medieval Christianity; (1992-2000), Frank Reynolds, a historian of religions who specializes in Buddhist studies; W. Clark Gilpin (2001-2004), a historian of American Christianity and theology; Wendy Doniger (2004-2007), a historian of religion who specializes in Hinduism and mythology; and William Schweiker, who works in the field of theological ethics. In 1998, the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion was renamed the Martin Marty Center, to honor its founding director for his singular distinction as historian, author, and commentator on religion and public life.