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James Michael Lee

By Harley Atkinson


Dr. James Michael Lee (1931 - 2004). A Roman Catholic lay educator, Lee is champion and primary shaper of the social-science model of religious education. He was also a university professor, writer, editor, and publisher of scholarly religious education works. Lee was the founder and until his death, CEO of Religious Education Press (REP), a non-profit publishing company devoted exclusively to the production of scholarly books in the field of religious education.


Early Life, Education and Teaching

James Michael Lee was born in 1931 on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel (Sept. 29) in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, NY His parents were James Lee III, a Certified Public Accountant, and Emma Lee, Chairman of the Accounting Department at Bay Ridge High School. He was baptized James Lee on Oct. 25 in his parish church. In 1976 Lee married Marlene Mayr in a small church called St. Adolari located in the Austrian Alps. They have three children: James V, Michael, and Patrick John.

At the age of six, Lee had a profound religious experience, which forever set the axis and direction of his life. As a result of this deep religious experience, Lee offered his life completely to God and to the Lord’s service. At the time he believed that this meant that he should become a priest.

Growing up in Brooklyn had a distinct impact on Lee’s personality and significantly affected his work in religious instruction. The Brooklyn environment stressed uncompromising straightforwardness in communication, and engendered a great deal of healthy ambition in those who grew up there. Brooklynites, especially in Lee’s era, abhorred any sort of sugar-coating, and eagerly offered their views in the knowledge that other Brooklynites are not really offended by highly assertive advocacy of ideas which disagree with their own. Vigorous give-and-take was an essential ingredient of the Brooklyn of Lee’s youth. Thus it is hardly surprising that Lee’s religious instruction writings and nationwide speeches are totally honest and without compromise.

After spending the first three years of elementary education at his parish school, Lee’s parents enrolled him at Coindre Hall, a small boarding school that had just opened at Huntington Harbor on the north shore of New York’s Long Island. The deep and pervasive spirituality of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart who operated Coindre Hall had a major impact on the young Lee, and served to further intensify Lee’s own profound commitment to devote his life to the Lord’s service. The deep personal interest that the Brothers took in each student also exerted a significant impact on Lee. In some ways the personalized attention Lee received planted the early roots of one of his central religious education convictions, that the most important general teaching procedure which every religion teacher should display is to take a personal interest in a learner.

When Lee graduated Coindre Hall, he swept every academic honor the school had to bestow. Lee had always done well academically in elementary school, with his semester grade point average typically falling within the 94%–98% range. But in his eighth grade set of 13 final examinations conducted in those days by New York State, Lee received the highest grade point average he had ever achieved, 99%. Lee could hardly wait to tell this glorious news to his mother. When excitedly, and in a certain sense triumphantly, he told her the news, she immediately reacted in a loving yet idealistic way: “Jimmy, where is the other point?” Indeed, Lee still carries that statement which his mother made on that sunny June afternoon on the Coindre Hall campus as one of his mother’s greatest legacies to him--a legacy which has ever since served as one of his major lodestars in life and in his religious instruction apostolate: never be satisfied until you have attained perfection, and always continue ceaselessly to strive for perfection. For Lee, it is not just a matter of doing his best; it is a matter of doing the best. Lee’s writings can be viewed as a continual and urgent call to all religious educators to unceasingly strive for perfection in their teaching activities.

The first two years of Lee’s secondary school career as a student were spent at Brooklyn Preparatory High School, an academically exclusive school operated by the Jesuits. In his classes, notably in his Religion classes, Lee would sometimes disagree with the teachers. Rather than clamp down on him, his Jesuit teachers applauded and encouraged Lee’s spirited disagreements and gave him “A” grades even though his conclusions often were at sharp variance with their own. What the Jesuits wanted from their students were the thought processes rather than simply the answers, especially the approved answers. The genuine openness to truth and promotion of intellectual diversity by his Jesuit teachers exerted a significant influence on the young Lee, and to a notable degree laid the groundwork for the way Lee has consistently championed diversity of viewpoints throughout his religious education career. For example, as the chairman of the Education Department at the University of Notre Dame he hired faculty whose views disagreed with his; and as the head of Religious Education Press he published (and sometimes even recruited) books from authors whose views were sharply at variance with his own.

Lee spent the last two years of high school at The Venard, a minor (high school) seminary run by the Maryknoll Fathers and located in the picturesque rolling hills near Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. Since elementary school Lee had always wanted to be a priest on the China missions, and the Maryknoll missionary congregation was established early in the 20th century just for that purpose. Several elements of his Venard education influenced Lee, influences, which can be found in his religious instruction writings. Though the intellectual quality of the education at The Venard was not nearly as high as it was in Brooklyn Prep, this academic deficit was more than compensated by the deeply committed, red-hot religion exuded by the priests who taught there. Most of these priests had previously spent time in the China missions, and brought to their classes and to seminary life a burning zeal, an existentially-grounded and nitty-gritty religiosity, and a vision of mission fields white for the harvest. These qualities greatly appealed to Lee who himself had always been a red-hot and highly zealous Catholic. The deep and vibrant liturgical life at The Venard had an enormous effect on Lee, and sowed the seeds for his abiding love and appreciation for the style and substance of the liturgy and paraliturgy and their key role in religious education. As part of the seminary experience, every student had to spend an hour and fifteen minutes a day doing manual labor, a carryover from the Benedictine monastic tradition. Lee and the other seminarians would chop down trees, construct a large outdoor concrete swimming pool, and the like. This presence of a manual labor element in the curriculum had an influence on Lee’s later religious instruction writings in that Lee’s religious instruction theory includes a physical or bodily component as a key substantive content of religious instruction activity.

In the fall of 1949 Lee continued his seminary education with the Maryknoll Fathers by enrolling in Maryknoll Junior College situated in the pines near Lakewood, NJ. The intellectual caliber of instruction at Lakewood was very good, and for the first time in his life Lee really opened up to a rich appreciation of and deep involvement in the intellectual life. Lee’s Latin professor was the brilliant linguist, Father Everett Briggs, who for the first time gave Lee an inner resonance with Latin.

While a freshman and sophomore at Lakewood, Lee sometimes associated with James DeFino, an older seminarian from Manhattan who was highly sympathetic to socialism and to the Catholic labor movement. Before entering Lakewood, DeFino had been involved in The Catholic Worker movement in the Bowery. The Catholic Worker stressed radical social justice, total pacifism, and voluntary poverty, long before most Christian churches became partisans of these essential Christian qualities. During the summers, and during other vacations, Lee worked part-time with Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker doing odd jobs throughout much of the building, feeding the alcoholics and the destitute (”ambassadors of Christ,” Dorothy Day called them), and the like. He regularly attended the Friday night sessions at the Catholic Worker, at which famous intellectuals like Jacques Maritain the celebrated neo-Thomist philosopher, well-known radical political thinkers like Gary Davis the mundialist, social revolutionary activists like Ammon Hennacy the anarchist, and sweepingly idealistic theologians like John Hugo the pacifist, presented formal lectures to the regular staff, the volunteers, and especially to the ambassadors.

At the end of his freshman year at Lakewood, a major event occurred in Lee’s life which would radically change him. Lee often has referred to this event as the second most important and transformational educational experience in his life (the first was his profound religious experience when he was six years old.). Pope Pius XII had proclaimed 1950 as an official Holy Year, and Lee’s mother proposed that she and he go to Rome. As long as they were there, his mother thought, they might as well make the classical Grand Tour of Europe. Lee planned the highly cultural-religious two month trip which included intensive touring not only of the Rome but of Naples, Florence, Venice, Lucerne, Paris, London, and Lisbon, but also to expressly religious sites such as the Oberammagau Passion Play, Assisi, Lourdes, Fatima, and the Vatican. The exposure to Europe in all its splendor and culture opened Lee’s eyes to the dazzling work of human achievement in its many forms. The glorious masterpieces of art, the magnificent castles which breathed history from every stone, the incomparable cathedrals and small gems of churches which encapsulated a variety of deep spiritualities, the sumptuous cuisine prepared exquisitely and served in a truly artistic manner by the waiters, the burnished woods of the great hotels, and especially noteworthy the lifestyles and thought patterns of persons in various European countries—all made a tremendously deep impression on the culture-hungry Lee.

In 1949, the year in which Lee graduated from high school at The Venard and entered Maryknoll Junior College Seminary at Lakewood, the Communists under Mao Tse-Tung conquered China and banned Christianity. Lee remained with Maryknoll until June 1951 in hopes that Mao’s regime would fall, and that the mission fields would reopen. When it became evident that the Mao regime would remain, the Maryknoll Fathers abandoned their emphasis on the China missions, and turned their primary attention to the South American mission fields, and to Africa as well. Lee’s dream was to be a missioner to China. Now that this dream was shattered, he left Maryknoll and entered the diocesan seminary operated by his native Brooklyn diocese, the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, which was located at Lloyd’s Harbor near Huntington on Long Island, a few scant miles from Coindre Hall. Lee was thoroughly disillusioned by his experience at Huntington.

With one notable exception, the intellectual caliber of the instruction was far lower than it was at Lakewood. The exception was Father Francis X. Glimm. He taught Lee and his classmates Latin and later Patristics. The way Glimm taught Latin immeasurably deepened the profound reverence that Lee had for this ancient language, a reverence he had first acquired from Father Everett Briggs at Lakewood. Each of Glimm’s Patristics classes was a pure gem of outstanding and very pastorally-valenced scholarship. Lee has often said that Glimm was one of the finest scholars he ever had as a teacher. Glimm, together with some of Lee’s classmates like Edward Mahoney (who later became one of the country’s premier philosophical scholars of the Renaissance) kept the lamp of learning burning bright in Lee’s heart and mind during his years at Huntington. Exposure to Glimm’s titanic erudition has served to influence the tone and caliber of Lee’s writings down to the present.

Possibly the most abiding influence which Huntington exerted on Lee was his exposure to the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Lee became a Thomist—and later in life a somewhat modified Thomist, but one definitely in the spirit of St. Thomas. Four aspects of Aquinas’s philosophy and theology profoundly impacted Lee and can be readily detected in Lee’s religious instruction writings. First, Aquinas was a conscious and comprehensive system builder. Lee has consciously endeavored to build a comprehensive macrotheoretical system of religious instruction. No other religious education writer has ever made this attempt. Second, Aquinas was a great scholar, and Lee has tried to bring superb scholarship to his religious instruction writings. Third, Aquinas did not just present his own views, but also adduced the arguments of the finest intellectual adversaries he could find, after which he forthrightly refuted their positions. Lee has done the same in his writings. Fourth, Aquinas was decidedly prophetic in that he went counter the prevailing theological and ecclesiastical Establishment of his day by basing his system on Aristotle rather than the ecclesiastically and academically approved Plato. Lee’s religious instruction writings are similarly prophetic in that they go counter to the prevailing religious education and ecclesiastical Establishment by basing his macrotheory on social science rather than on theology.

At the end of his first two years at Huntington Lee was slated to graduate with his classmates and receive his Bachelor’s degree with a major in Philosophy. All of a sudden, one of the faculty told him that in order to graduate he would have to take a year of Greek, which he could do by enrolling in a special summer course offered by the diocesan college seminary. Lee’s classmates told him that this particular Greek course was a waste of time and that the teacher was terrible. Instead, Lee went to Europe and thus did not receive his Bachelor’s degree.

During his three years at Huntington, Lee anguished over whether or not he wished to become a priest. His whole life had been targeted unequivocally to this goal. Lee loved the vocation of being a priest, but he had severe reservations about the priesthood as it was then institutionalized in Brooklyn and in the official church at large. He was in a soul-searing quandary about what to do. Finally, in the spring of 1954 he decided not to accept tonsure, the first formal canonical step on the way to becoming a priest. On the day he left the seminary he told a faculty member of his anguish. The faculty member, a canon lawyer, told Lee not to think at all of the priesthood until five years had elapsed.

In September Lee enrolled in St. John’s University College, then located in Brooklyn, because it was near, not expensive, and had a ratio of two female students to every one male student. (Lee had attended all-male schools for the previous twelve years.) His year at St. John’s was a very happy one for him. Students were friendly and professors enjoyed vigorous give-and-take discussions and occasional disagreements from informed students.

Lee did well academically at St. John’s, ranking among the top ten seniors on the Dean’s List (the only male to do so). He graduated in June 1955. When he left Huntington, he had decided to become a high school history teacher, and on the basis of his very high college academic achievement, was admitted in the summer of 1955 into the highly selective Department of Political Science at Columbia University, with a major in American History. At that time, Columbia’s American History Program was the finest in the nation. Lee took courses taught by truly outstanding scholars; persons like Jacques Barzun in historiography, Dumas Malone in the Old South, and Richard Morris in Colonial history. Morris became Lee’s academic advisor. Lee also took courses outside of the American History program such as the one taught by Elias Bickermann, the great historian of the ancient world, and Garrett Mattingly, the superb historian of Britain who was writing his classic book on the Spanish Armada at the time Lee was taking his course. The highlight of Lee’s Master’s program was the course on Jewish history he took with Salo Baron, possibly the finest scholar Lee ever had as a teacher. Sitting at the feet of such incomparable scholars as he had at Columbia made an indelible impression on Lee, and showed him that superlative scholarship is the hallmark of a true university professor. This strong devotion to scholarship, which he learned at Columbia’s Graduate Faculty of Political Science, is readily manifest in Lee’s writings in religious instruction. In May 1956 he received his Master’s degree.

A month later, Lee enrolled in Teachers College and began taking courses there. Teachers College, Columbia, had for decades been regarded as America’s most important graduate school in Education. However, there was considerable anti-Catholicism and age-ism in Teachers College in those days, and Lee, who was both Catholic and one of the youngest students in his field ever to have received his doctorate there, was not well accepted on both counts. Though his experience at Teachers College was not of the highest academic caliber, its most lasting impact on Lee’s future career as a religious educator was its pervasive emphasis on educational reform. This emphasis fit in well with Lee’s prophetic bent, and further stimulated his desire to work ceaselessly to renew and in some cases reform all kinds of education under Catholic auspices.

Following his graduation in 1955 from St. John’s, Lee got a job teaching in a Brooklyn secondary school. Lee was fortunate in that this was one of the finest secondary schools of its type in all of Brooklyn. Most of his students were Jewish. The four years he spent teaching adolescents exerted a significant impact on Lee, an impact that was to later reflect itself in his religious instruction writings. When Lee began his secondary school teaching career, he based his teaching on a philosophical/theological macrotheory of instruction. It did not take long for Lee to discover that this macrotheory simply did not work. This was especially true of the one “hoodlum class” which Lee taught daily each semester. After carefully examining the instructional dynamics taking place in the classroom, he jettisoned totally the philosophical/theological macrotheory of teaching and adopted the social-science macrotheory because this macrotheory was able to explain, predict, and verify teaching activity. Lee’s wholehearted adoption of the social-science approach to religious instruction, an approach which he pioneered, can be traced to his experience in that Brooklyn secondary school, an experience given some theoretical and research grounding by the courses he took at Teachers College, especially those offered by Florence Stratemeyer and Lawrence Cremin.

Lee was a witty, academically demanding, and highly popular teacher at the Brooklyn secondary school. At the end of his third year there, a group of his students reportedly wrote and recorded the popular song “Mr. Lee” which became the fifth-best selling recording in the United States during summer of 1958. Lee has often stated that his four years at that secondary school were the most purely enjoyable years he ever had in his entire teaching career.

In May he accepted an offer to teach at St. Joseph’s College, a women’s college situated in West Hartford, Connecticut. Three years at St. Joseph’s College represented a major turnaround for Lee, and radically affected both the direction of his life as a Christian, and his life as a faculty member in higher education. Prior to teaching at St. Joseph’s, Lee had been very conservative religiously, echoing the highly conservative religious mentality of his native Brooklyn diocese. But now for the first time Lee saw religious conservatism lived out in a total community. He found that this form of religiosity had a strong orientation to be anti-human, a closed mentality, opposed to any questioning of current ecclesiastical discipline, and generally intolerant—though the nuns themselves were pleasant and friendly to him. As a result, Lee swerved 180 degrees and became a religious liberal. He remained a religious liberal until the early 1970s, when he saw Catholic liberalism run amok and degenerate into spaciness, intolerance, and religious coolness. He then became a Catholic middle-of-the-roader religiously, where he remains today.

In May of 1958 Lee received his doctorate from Columbia University at the age of 26. His dissertation topic was Commencement Activities in Secondary Schools. As a congratulatory present for attaining his degree, Lee’s mother gave him a two-month intensive cultural and religious tour of Italy. This trip, added on to his previous two trips to Europe, cemented Lee’s desire to spend as much time as he could in foreign lands to broaden and deepen his religious and cultural horizon. Beginning with his late twenties, Lee spent considerable time almost every year in various parts of Europe. The influence of these cultural and religious sojourns can be seen in his religious instruction writings.

Lee had wished to devote his life to religious education. However, the theology espoused by the institutional Catholic church at the time, a view endorsed by liberal and of course by conservative theologians of the era, was that being a scholar or a professor specializing in religious education was off limits to all laypersons, however competent or zealous. Religious education was a ministry reserved to the clergy. Faced with this prohibition, Lee decided to do the next best thing that he could do for the cause of Catholic religious education was to specialize in Catholic schooling.

Lee wished to make a major impact on upgrading the academic and religious quality of Catholic schooling in America, both of which he thought were sorely in need of improvement at that time. But he soon discovered that Catholic school administrators and teachers really did not read much, if any, first-class professional literature in Education. Therefore Lee decided against writing monographs, which in all probability would not be read, but rather a college textbook on Catholic secondary schools which would be used in Catholic colleges to prepare high school teachers. Because it was a textbook, he knew it would have to be read carefully by the students, some of whom would someday become teachers and administrators in Catholic secondary education. This textbook forecasted features which came to characterize all Lee’s books: long (it was over 600 printed pages), very scholarly, a meshing of theory and practice, multidisciplinary, infused with red-hot religiosity, and prophetic. Very importantly for understanding Lee’s future writings in religious instruction per se, this book profoundly deepened Lee’s commitment to the social-science approach to teaching. The extensive research involved in preparing this book showed him at an even deeper level that philosophically, theologically, psychologically, sociologically, and pedagogically, the social-science approach in marked contrast to the theological approach to religious instruction, was the only truly fruitful one for teachers of all areas, including religion. Lee’s future writing in religious instruction found its initial and abiding ecology in that book.

During his first year of teaching at St. Joseph’s, Lee visited Fordham University and sat in on a course taught by Dietrich von Hildebrand, world-famous philosopher from Germany, who placed considerable emphasis on the affective and intuitional realms of the human person. But he was influenced even more by the Philosophy course taught by Robert Pollock, a maverick philosopher who was also a highly creative and provocative thinker. It was Pollock who first introduced Lee to the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the very profound French thinker who had died in New York just a few years earlier. Reading Teilhard was one of the most intellectually exhilarating and gratifying experiences of Lee’s life not only because of the magnificent depth and vision and majesty of his thought, but because Teilhard vindicated and expanded so many of the philosophical, theological, and scientific principles that Lee had espoused for years and for which he was roundly criticized by his professors at Huntington and at Teachers College.

June 1959 was the fifth anniversary of Lee’ s departure from the major seminary at Huntington. For those five years, he did what the Huntington faculty member told him the morning he left: to avoid thinking seriously about wanting to be a priest. But as the fifth anniversary approached, Lee began to debate within himself about whether to return to the seminary. His heart told him that he should be a priest. At the suggestion of the graduate philosophy student whom he was then dating, he saw Philip O’Neill, a Jesuit who taught psychology at Fordham. At length and with passion Lee told the Jesuit psychologist the background, the issue, and his great anguish. When Lee had finished, O’Neill asked him directly but empathically: “Do you think that you could do more good for the church as a priest or as a layman?” Lee was taken aback at this question. After no more than a few seconds, Lee responded: “As a layman.” “Well then,” O’Neill stated, ‘I guess that solves that.” ”I guess it does,” Lee answered. The interview was over. A heavy load was lifted from Lee’s heart. He never again looked back. The course of his own educational apostolate for the church was set forever.

In February of 1962 Lee received a letter from the Education Department at the University of Notre Dame asking him whether he would be interested in teaching there. Lee was deeply moved by what he saw and with whom he talked at Notre Dame. He accepted the call to teach at Notre Dame because that institution had always had a prophetic axis vis-à-vis the Catholic church, because it was a genuine repository of full academic freedom, because Father Louis Putz was a faculty member there (Putz was a priest who was one of the nation’s greatest champions of the laity), because it had a University Press, because it had a wonderful university art gallery, and because it was the finest Catholic university in the world.

Notre Dame, with its vigorous national and international orientation, its prophetic cast, and its lived commitment to an expansive sort of Catholicism, provided an ideal growth-oriented cultural and educational ecology for Lee’s own vision and ambitions. Lee was very appreciative of Notre Dame, and gave his life unreservedly to it. He loved Notre Dame with all his heart. In turn, Notre Dame was good to him for many years. In recognition of his substantial research productivity, Notre Dame promoted Lee to the rank of [Full] Professor in May of 1968. At the age of 36, he was at the time the youngest [Full] Professor in the Entire College of Arts and Letters.

In 1965 Lee published his second major book. This book dealt with seminary education. He had come to realize that the most important factor standing in the way of molar improvement of Catholic elementary and secondary schools was the clergy. If priests were to be genuinely pro-education and lead it dynamically, the institution, which formed them, had to change. Lee, who edited this large book and wrote four of its chapters, recruited as contributors persons who were outstanding scholars in various fields, and who also had a prophetic edge. The book caused a sensation when it was issued. Seminary rectors vehemently denounced it. Newsweek magazine did a big story on it. Of all Lee’s books, this one had the most immediate, most widespread, and most noticeable impact. Many persons afterward told Lee that this book helped to dramatically reform seminary education not only in the United States but also abroad.

That same year, the Notre Dame administration strongly urged Lee to become chairman of the Education Department. Lee twice declined its entreaties because he felt he was more useful to the church as a scholar writing prophetically-oriented books and major articles than as an administrator. On the third time, Lee told Father John Walsh, the vice-president, that he would accept the chairmanship only on two conditions: that he would have total authority to do whatever he thought best, and that he would start a religious education program. Walsh agreed. Lee accepted the chairmanship. Walsh kept his promise.

Lee immediately set about in trying to make the Education Department the most influential academic engine in the nation for training Catholic elementary and secondary school leaders. He placed major emphasis on building up both the Administration and the Guidance/Counseling programs. He established a Ph.D. program in both areas, and worked vigorously to recruit the best faculty and students he could find. He also inaugurated the Graduate Program in Religious Education which formally began in 1967. In 1971, he resigned the chairmanship of the Education Department in order to devote his entire energies to teaching and research in religious instruction, as well as to coordinating the Graduate program in Religious Education.

In the 10 years of its existence, the Notre Dame Graduate Program in Religious Education was one of the best, and probably the most exciting, religious education program in any Catholic and possibly even in any Christian university in the United States. A greater percentage of the students in that program who received their Ph.D. degree subsequently wrote more books than was true on a per capita basis of the Ph.D. graduates of any other Notre Dame department or program.

In 1970 Lee finished writing the first volume in his monumental trilogy on religious instruction. Published in the spring of 1971 while Lee was living in Vienna on a full year’s sabbatical, The Shape of Religious Instruction caused an instant sensation—some would say tremors—in the religious education world. It was in this lengthy scholarly book that Lee set forth the basic rationale and contours of the social-science approach to religious instruction. This macrotheory was and still is the only major molar challenge to the theological approach to religious instruction ever published. Another major contribution of the book is that it was the first major religious education book ever published in America which was truly ecumenical in that it commingled the views and positions of Protestant and Catholic religious educators all together.

The second volume in Lee’s comprehensive and systematic trilogy on religious instruction, The Flow of Religious Instruction, dealt with the structural content of religion teaching. The third volume, The Content of Religious Instruction treated at length the substantive content of religion teaching.

In 1976, the Notre Dame administration decided to close the entire Department of Education for financial reasons, effective in June, 1977. The abrupt and forced closing of the Graduate Program in Religious Education was one of the three greatest shocks, which Lee ever experienced. For Lee, Notre Dame was inseparable from his own existence as a person and as a professor and he had given his entire heart and self without reserve to Notre Dame.

In July 1977 Lee accepted a position as Professor of Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He had intended to stay there only for three years, or until a suitable university Ph.D. position in religious education opened elsewhere. After two years, Lee and his wife decided to remain at UAB, largely because the university administration was good to him in many respects. Lee teaches courses in the philosophy and history of education at UAB.

James Michael Lee’s contributions to the field of religious education are not confined to his scholarly books and articles, but also include Religious Education Press. This publishing company has been the only corporate endeavor in the entire history of book publishing in the United States to be devoted exclusively to the production of serious, significant, and scholarly books in religious education, and in areas very closely connected and thus supportive of the field of religious education. With the help of a friend, Lee established Religious Education Press in 1974.

Lee actively recruited most of REP’s books. He always tried to publish books on important theoretical and practical topics, which render significant assistance to religious educators. REP authors included many of the best specialists in the field. Ecumenical in tone and scope, REP authors came from a wide variety of faith traditions.

Less than a month before the onset of the third millennium, REP’s Board of Directors decided, for financial reasons, to cease publication of any books not already in production. The title, authorship, and publication date of REP’s last book are a fitting memorial to REP and what it stood for. The title is Forging a Better Religious Education in the Third Millennium. Its twelve authors come from the whole spectrum of Christian faith groups. Every one of these contributors are among the most important and influential religious educationists of their era.

Lee has been a member of the Religious Education Association since the mid 1960s. Three times during those years he has served six-year terms on the Board of Directors. Since 2000, he has been working closely with REA President Ronald Hecker Cram to jump-start the largest and most sweeping revitalization of the REA in the entire history of that illustrious organization. He has been a member of the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education (APRRE) since its founding, and has attended more annual conventions of this association than almost any other member. In the early 1990s he joined the North American Professors of Christian Education (NAPCE), the Evangelical Protestant professional group, as its first, and up to now, its only Catholic member. He is listed in Who’s Who in America (since 1970), Who’s Who in the World (since 1974), and Who’s Who in Religion (since 1975).

Dr. Lee's passion and unstinting committment to religious education was such that he vowed before the Lord never to retire from writing serious, scholorly, significant, and prophetic books in religious education. Lee lived up to his promise, but in God's sovereignty his untimely death on July 19, 2004 as a result of a car accident, brought a closure to his endeavors. However, the legacy of his work as editor, prolific author, and publisher will continue on in the works he influenced and lives he impacted.

Works Cited

All information in this article is adapted from unpublished autobiographical notes of Dr. Lee provided for this project.

Contributions to Christian Education

While Lee has been a prolific writer of scholarly books and articles related to theory and practice of religious instruction, he is best known for his social-science model of religious education. The model is most clearly set forth in an exhaustive trilogy of books consisting of The Shape of Religious Instruction (1971) which sets forth his rationale for the model; The Flow of Religious Instruction (1973) which surveys research related to the teaching-learning process; and The Content of Religious Instruction (1985), which addresses the substantive content of religious education. Harold Burgess describes the model a “the first consciously comprehensive model of religious instruction ever proposed” (p. 188).

The model emerged out of a concern that religious education paid too little attention to the findings of social science and was linked inappropriately to theology. Lee’s anticipation was that his initial book of the trilogy would provide a theoretical and practical basis that was “nutritive of a fundamental redirection in the enterprise of religious instruction” (1971). The focal point of the book is that religious instruction is a process that finds its roots in social science rather than some form of theology. As such “the social-science approach regards religious instruction as basically a mode of the teaching-learning process rather than an outgrowth of theology” (p. 2). The model is based on the assumption that religious learning is no different from any other type of learning. Religious education employs the same theories, concepts, laws, and procedures derived from social-science studies that apply to general education. It is through the social sciences that religious education is best understood and teaching techniques are developed.

While Lee believes that theology is important to religious education, he argues that it cannot provide objective verification of the validity of religious instruction techniques (p. 128). In this manner he reacts to most Catholic and Protestant religious educators who have viewed theology as playing the normative role in the teaching-learning process. For example, he responds with particular contempt to the 20th century Christian educator and theologian James Smart who called for a return to an establishment of theological benchmarks against which every dimension of Christian education can be measured (1973, p. 31).

What, then, is the role of theology in religious education? Lee insists that his social-science view in no way implies an anti-theological view or that theology is unimportant in the task of religious education. He describes his position in this manner: “My own position is that although theology does indeed serves as a kind of norm for religious instruction, it is by no means the exclusive or even the primary norm. To hold, as does Smart, that theology is normative over such obvious social-science sectors as the learning process is as theologically nonsensical as it is imperialistic. In terms of the many and appropriate theological product and process contents, theology surely exercises a kind of normative function. But this normative function, vital and indispensable though it is, is not the only major normative function in the work of religious instruction. What I am suggesting, therefore, is that theology does not have the normative function in religious instruction. Rather, it plays a normative role, a role which it shares with other key variables involved in the total process of religious instruction. These other key variables include such important factors as personality development, for example” (1971, p. 245-6). In other words, while the traditional view sees religious or Christian education as a theological discipline informed by the social sciences, Lee’s social-science view regards religious education as informed by theology.

Kenneth Gangel and Warren Benson feel Lee has “jettisoned a serious commitment to Scripture” (1983, p. 326) and Benson insists that “Theology, rather than educational philosophy, must control Christian education … For example, how we understand theology proper (the person and nature of God) and human nature are theological constructs that give shape, definition, and texture to all of Christian education” (2001, pp. 33-4).

However, fellow Evangelical Ted Ward clearly reflects the influence of Lee’s social-science method: “In education, theory provides a basis for judgment about what is appropriate and inappropriate for learning. The Bible is not a book of scientific theory. Its purposes are quite different: The Bible is God’s major means of revealing the being and the activities of God as creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the universe. It provides the authoritative means for human beings to know God. But it presumes that God’s created universe will be studied in its own terms and that the findings from evidences in any and all particulars in that universe will be understood in light of the creational presuppositions and godly values revealed in the Bible … The Christian criteria for theory demand that all inferences about the nature of things be drawn with careful respect for the natural evidences. Further, the interpretative function within theory-building must be thoughtfully informed by data about God’s purposes and values as revealed in the Bible” (1995, p.10).

Perry Downs values the contributions of the social sciences but fears that psychology has become the primary foundation of Christian education at the expense of theological soundness. He offers, in his own terms, a modest corrective: “I use psychology and learning theories as important sources of information, but always in conversation with theology. I do not want either the social sciences or theology to stand alone—both must be valued, but the Bible must remain as the final arbiter. Special revelation must always take precedence over general revelation” (1994, pp. 7-8).

Lee’s contributions to the field are many. His monumental baseline trilogy in religious instruction is the most outstanding single scholarly endeavor by one person ever published in the field of religious education. He has published a greater number of genuinely scholarly books and articles than anyone else in the history of religious education. He was the first to introduce in a systematic and comprehensive fashion a macrotheory of religious education. He pioneered the social-science approach to religious education. Since the late 1980s other serious religious education writers have taken up his emphasis on the centrality of the teaching act in the work of religious instruction. He has written, and continues to write on a whole host of interrelated religious education topics. His work as in various capacities in running Religious Education Press has been acknowledged as an outstanding contribution to the field. His book on Catholic seminary education was definitely an important catalyst in the dynamic renewal of seminary education which began in the mid and late 1960s.

Concerning Lee’s scholarly contribution to the field of religious education, D. Campbell Wyckoff offers these words: “Serious religious educators have rightly complained that there are too few substantial, scholarly books in the field. A few authors and publishers have sought to correct the situation—no one more than James Michael Lee, who himself combines the roles of author, editor, and publisher” (1985, p. 72). Finally, Michael Merry aptly affirms Lee as one who “is pioneering work that has never been done before him. His work is highly original, deeply researched, and steeped in decades of teaching experience” (2000, p. 101).

It is probably safe to say that there is scarcely a religious educator since 1971 who has not been influenced in one way or another by Lee. Since his first book on religious instruction was published in 1971, most thoughtful religious education monographs have followed Lee’s total ecumenical flavor. Since 1971, there has been a notable increase in the scholarly tone and content in religious education works, something that Lee himself has pioneered.

Works Cited

  • Benson, W. S. Philosophical foundations of Christian education. In M. J. Anthony (Ed.), Introducing Christian education (pp. 26-34). Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • Burgess, H. (1996). Models of religious education. Wheaton: Victor.
  • Downs, P. G. (1994). Teaching for spiritual growth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Gangel, K. O. & W. S. Benson. (1983). Christian Education: Its history and philosophy. Chicago: Moody.
  • Lee, J. M. (1971). The shape of religious education. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • ____ (1973). The flow of religious education. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • Merry, M. (2000). Social-science theory in religious education according to James Michael Lee. St Vladmir’s Theological Quarterly, 44 (1), 83-102.
  • Ward, T. (1995). Forward. In J. C. Wilhoit & John M. Dettoni (Eds.), Nurture that is Christian (pp. 7-18). Wheaton: Victor.
  • Wycoff, C. D. (1985). The content of religious instruction, [Review of the book Content of religious instruction]. Christian Education Journal, VI (2), 72-3.



  • (Ed). (2000). Forging a better future religious education in the third millennium. Birmingham. Religious Education Press.
  • (1999). The sacrament of teaching, vol. 1. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (Ed.). (1990). Handbook of faith. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1990). The delivery of religious education in the sea services (senior author). United States Government, Department of the Navy.
  • (Ed.). (1985). The spirituality of the religious educator. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1985). The content of religious instruction. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (Ed.) (1977). The religious education we need. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1973). The flow of religious education. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1971). The shape of religious instruction. Mishawaka, IN: Religious Education Press.
  • (Ed.). (1970). Toward a future for religious education. Dayton, OH: Pflaum.
  • (1968). The purpose of Catholic schooling. Dayton, OH: Pflaum.
  • (Ed.). (1967). Catholic education in the western world. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • (Ed.). (1966). Readings in guidance and counseling. New York: Sheed and Ward.
  • (1966). Guidance and counseling in schools. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • (Ed.). (1965). Seminary education in a time of change. Notre Dame, IN: Fides.
  • (1963). Principles and methods of secondary education. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Contributions to Books

  • (2000). Introduction. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), Forging a better religious education in the third millennium (pp. 1-28). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (2000). Vision, prophecy, and forging the future. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), Forging a better religious education in the third millennium (pp. 243-267). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1997). Curriculum and multicultural religious education (co-author). In B. Wilkerson (Ed.), Multicultural religious education (pp. 323-91). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1995). Religious instruction and religious experience. In R. W. Hood (Ed.), Handbook of religious experience (pp. 535-67). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1992). Compassion in religious instruction. In G. L. Sapp (Ed.), Compassionate ministry (pp. 171-216). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1992). The contribution of Kalevi Tamminen to youth religious education. Institute of Practical Theology, University of Helsinki (Ed), Religious development (pp. 63-9). Helsinki: The Institute.
  • (1992). Religious education volunteers are very special. In D. Ratcliff and B. J. Neff (Eds.), The complete guide to religious education volunteers (pp. 30-48). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1991). The context of morality and religion. In K. Walsh (Ed.), Discipline for Character Development (pp. 139-213. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1991). Procedures in the religious education of adolescents. In D. Ratcliff and J. A. Davies (Eds.), Handbook of youth ministry (pp. 214-58). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1990). Introduction. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), Handbook of faith (pp. vii-xii). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1990). Facilitating growth in faith through religious instruction. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), Handbook of faith (pp. 264-302). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1988). How to teach: Foundations, processes, procedures. In D. Ratcliff (Ed.) Handbook of preschool religious education (pp. 152-223). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1988). The blessings of religious pluralism. In N. H. Thompson (Ed.), Religious pluralism and religious education (pp. 57-124). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1988). Catechesis sometimes, religious instruction aways. In M. Mary (Ed.), Does the church really want religious education? (pp. 32-66). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1986). CCD Renewal. In D. C. Wycoff (Ed.), Renewing the Sunday school and the CCD (pp. 211-44). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1986). Toward a new era: A blueprint for positive action. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), The religious education we need (pp. 112-155). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1985). Introduction. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), The spirituality of the religious educator (pp. 1-4). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1985). Lifework spirituality and the religious educator. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), The spirituality of the religious educator (pp. 7-42). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1984). John Dewey and the Church, some points of contact. In H. O. Thompson (Ed.), Unity in diversity (pp. 371-93). Rose of Sharon Press.
  • (1983). Religious education and the Bible: A religious educationist’s view. In J. S. Marino (Ed.), Biblical themes in religious education (pp. 1-61). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1983). To basically change fundamental theory and practice. In M. Mayr (Ed.), Modern masters of religious education (pp. 254-323). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1982). Discipline in a moral and religious key. In K. Walsh (Ed.), Developmental discipline (pp. 149-242). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1982). The authentic source of religious instruction. In N. H. Thompson (Ed.), Religious education and theology (pp. 100-97). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1980). Christian religious education and moral development. In B. Munsey (Ed.), Moral development, moral education, and Kohlberg (pp. 326-55). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1978). Key issues in the development of a workable foundation for religious education. In P. O’Hare (Ed.), Foundations of religious education (pp. 40-63). Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
  • (1978). Process and content in religious instruction. In K. B. Cully and I. V. Cully (Eds.), Process and relationship: Issues in theology, philosophy, and religious education (pp. 22-30). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1977). Introduction. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), The religious education we need (pp. 1-8) Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • (1976). Roman Catholic religious education. In M. J. Taylor (Ed.), Foundations for Christian education in an era of change (pp. 242-58). Nashville: Abingdon.
  • (1971). Foreword. In J. M. Lee and P. C. Rooney (Eds.), Toward a future for religious education (pp. 1-4). Dayton, OH: Pflaum.
  • (1971). The teaching of religion. In J. M. Lee and P. C. Rooney (Eds.), Toward a future for religious education (pp. 55-92). Dayton, OH: Pflaum.
  • (1970). American Catholic education. In K. B. Cully (Ed.), Does the Church know how to teach? An ecumenical inquiry (pp. 3-21). New York: Macmillan.
  • (1970). Layhood as vocation and career. In W. E. Bartlett (Ed.), Evolving religious careers (pp. 144-163). Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
  • (1967). The parish and the Catholic school. In M. Bordelon (Ed.), The parish in a time of change (pp. 42-67). Notre Dame, IN: Fides.
  • (1967). Preface. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), Catholic education in the Western world (pp. vii-ix). Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • (1967). Catholic education in the United States. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), Catholic education in the Western world (pp. 253-311). Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • (1967). Appendix.. In J. M. Lee (Ed.), Catholic education in the Western world (pp. 315-8). Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • (1966). Guidance in Catholic high schools: Research data in the last decade. In J. M. Lee and N. J. Pallone (Eds.), Readings in guidance and counseling (pp. 521-8). New York: Sheed and Ward.
  • (1965). Counseling and discipline: Another view. In W. J. Kolesnik and E. J. Power (Eds.), Catholic education (pp. 114-0). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • (1965). Overview of educational problems in seminaries II. In J. M. Lee and L. J. Putz (Eds.) Seminary education in a time of change (pp. 118-69). Notre Dame, ID: Fides.
  • (1965). Personnel and guidance services in the seminary. In J. M. Lee and L. J. Putz (Eds.), Seminary education in a time of change (pp. 286-327). Notre Dame, ID: Fides.
  • (1965). Curriculum and teaching in seminary education. In J. M. Lee and L. J. Putz (Eds.), Seminary education in a time of change (pp. 353-404). Notre Dame, ID: Fides.


  • (1987, March). Forward to the basics. Catechist, 20, 50-6.
  • (1987, March). Teaching Christian attitudes. Catechist, 20, 44-5.
  • (1987, February). Teach us to pray. Catechist, 20, 24-6.
  • (1986, November-December). Improving the quality of your discipline. Catechist, 20, 50-1.
  • (1982, July-August). Response to Dwayne E. Huebner. Religious Education, 77, 383-95.
  • (1982, Spring). Religion and public schools: A pluralistic view. California Journal of Teacher Education, 9, 1-30.
  • (1981, December). Training religious educators: Part II. Modern Ministries, II, 26-31.
  • (1981, November). Training religious educators: Part I. Modern Ministries, II, 12-14, 29.
  • (1973, Fall). Religious education and the Catholic university. Notre Dame Journal of Education, 6, 276-83.
  • (1973, April). Religious education in Europe. Overview, 7, special report n.p.
  • (1972, October). Religious education’s future. National Catholic Reporter, 10-1.
  • (1972, September-October). Hope in instructional practice. Religious Education, 67, 347-68.
  • (1972, Summer) Prediction in religious instruction. The Living Light, 9, 43-54.
  • (1972, Spring). Three approaches to preparing professional religious educators: The religious instruction program at Notre Dame. The Living Light, 6, 22-5.
  • (1971, Spring). Toward a dialogue in religious instruction. The Living Light, 8, 105-21.
  • (1970, Winter). Behavioral objectives in religious instruction. The Living Light, 8, 12-9.
  • (1969, November). Social science catechetics. Today’s Catholic Teacher, 22-7.
  • (1969, October). The thrust of the three strategies in religious education. Today’s Catholic Teacher, 14-9.
  • (1969, September). The third strategy: A behavioral approach to religious education. Today’s Catholic Teacher, 10-2, 41-7.
  • (1969, April). Notes toward developing a training program for religion teachers. Privately printed by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, United States Conference of Bishops, 1-25.
  • (1968, December). Diocesan religion programs: A national survey. Catholic Educational Review, 66, 553-65.
  • (1968, Fall). New directions in articulation. National Catholic Guidance Conference Journal, 13, 44-53.
  • (1968, May). The new style of catechetics in the USA Herder Correspondence, 5, 141-45.
  • (1968, April 13). Catholic education: The winds of change. Ave Maria, 107, 7-9, 29-31.
  • (1968, March). Religious instruction: What is it? Discovery, 1, 103.
  • (1967, December). A university at the service of Catholic schools. Catholic Educator, 38, 35-41.
  • (1967, November). America’s Catholic schools. Herder Correspondence, 4, 319-24.
  • (1966, Winter), Objectives of the Roman Catholic seminary. Theological Education, 2, 95-101.
  • (1966, March 28). Parental responsibility for religious vocations. Ave Maria, 103, 95-101.
  • (1965, Winter). Guidance in Catholic high schools: Research data in the last decade. National Catholic Guidance Conference Journal, 9, 109-17.
  • (1962, January). Notes toward lay spirituality. Review for Religious, 22, 42-7.
  • (1961, November). A proposed program for activating the professor of education. The Clearing House, 34, 169-72.
  • (1961, October). Professional criticism of Catholic high schools. Catholic World, 103, 7-121.
  • (1961, May) Catholic women’s colleges and social life. Catholic Educational Review, 59, 323-37.
  • (1959, December). A new role for the high school. Bulletin of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, 43, 102-5.
  • (1959, November). National heritage program in a Brooklyn high school. The School Executive, 89, 72-4.
  • (1959, May). The place of science in the high school curriculum. Catholic Educational Review, 57, 302-7.
  • (1959, March). Jargon, stereotypes, and plain talk. The Clearing House, 33, 390-2.


  • (speaker). (1999) The social-science approach to religious instruction [video]. Birmingham: Religious Education Press. (Series of two 90-minute color videotapes).


  • (1972). (speaker). How to be a better religion teacher. Thomas More Association.
  • (1972). (speaker). Teaching Christian attitudes. Thomas More Association.
  • (1973). (speaker). Forward together: A preparation program for religious educators [cassette]. Thomas More Association. (Series of eight 30-minute audiotapes).

Reviews of Books by James Michael Lee

  • Brown, G. (1993). Spirituality of the religious educator [Review of the book Spirituality of the religious educator]. Church Teachers, 20 (Jan), 151.
  • Cram, R. H. (2000). Sacrament of teaching, [Review of the book Sacrament of teaching]. Religious Education, 95 (3), 343-6.
  • Wilson, F. K. (1985). The content of religious instruction [Review of the book The content of religious instruction]. Review, 13 (Winter), 301-3.
  • Oppewall, D. (1978). Religious education we need, [Review of the book Religious education we need]. Christian Scholar’s Review, 8 (4), 353-4.
  • Steinsaltz, A. (1991). Handbook of faith, [Review of the book Handbook of faith], International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 1 (1), 69.
  • Wycoff, C. D. (1985). The content of religious instruction, [Review of the book Content of religious instruction]. Christian Education Journal, VI (2), 72-3.

Dissertations and Articles on the Writings of James Michael Lee

  • Baatuma, W. (1986). An integrative approach to teaching-learning processes derived from the theories of Randolph Crump Miller and James Michael Lee (Doctoral dissertation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1986). Dissertation Abstracts International, AAT 8609083.
  • Coughlin, K. (1981). Religious education in everyday life (Doctoral dissertation, Graduate Theological Union, 1981). Dissertation Abstracts International, AAT 8120785.
  • Merry, M. (2000). Social-science theory in religious education according to James Michael Lee. St Vladmir’s Theological Quarterly, 44 (1), 83-102.
  • Thompson, N. (1978). Current issues in religious education. Religious Education, 73, 611-626.

Excerpts from Publications

(1971). The shape of religious education. Mishawaka, IN: Religious Education Press.

Lee distinguishes religious instruction as a mode of social science rather than a form of theology: “The social-science approach regards religious instruction as basically a mode of the teaching-learning process rather that an outgrowth of theology. By this I mean that the central task of religious instruction becomes the conscious and deliberative facilitation of specified behavioral goals. Theology quite obviously plays a necessary and indispensable role in religious instruction. However, it is theology, which is being inserted into the social-science approach, not vice versa. In other words, theology operates according to its nature and as such functions within the broad parameters of the teaching-learning dynamic, much as confirmation works within the broad parameters of the confirmand’s physiopsychological personality structure” (pp. 2-3). His definition of learning: “Simply defined, learning is a change or modification in behavior. The task of religious instruction is to facilitate learning in the individual. How then does the teacher truly know when and what the individual has learned? Only by observing a change or modification in the behavior of an individual along the lines which the teacher was attempting to facilitate. Change in overt behavior is relatively simple to assess” (p. 55).

(1973). The flow of religious education. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.

On the nature of teaching: “The teaching process, whether it be the teaching of religion or the teaching of any other area of human activity, is a generalized process of effecting behavioral change in the learner. Teaching is teaching regardless of the setting in which this process is being carried out. Religious instruction is fully religious instruction whether it takes place in a formal or informal setting, whether it takes place in a school setting, a home, a church, a restaurant, or a youth club” (pp. 5-6).

(1985). The content of religious instruction. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.

The contrast between religion and theology: “Theology is the speculative science investigating the nature and workings of God. Religion, on the other hand, comprises a lifestyle, a total way of life engaging the whole person. Religion is often cast into institutional form, though such a form is not intrinsically necessary for its existence. As a science, theology can be put into books. As a lifestyle, religion cannot be put into books; only the history of religion or a description of religious experiences can be put into books. Theology is abstract, while religion is concrete. As a general rule, theology is objective whereas religion is both subjective and objective” (p. 7).


(1971). The shape of religious education. Mishawaka, IN: Religious Education Press.

The central point of this book is that religious instruction is a mode of the social sciences, rather than a form of theology.

(1973). The flow of religious education. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.

The second book of Lee’s trilogy on religious instruction deals with the structural content of religious teaching; that is, the form and manner of successful teaching practices in the realm of religion.

(1985). The content of religious instruction. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.

In the third book of his trilogy, Lee deals with the various dimensions of substantive content of religious instruction: product, process, cognitive, affective, verbal, nonverbal, unconscious, and lifestyle.

(1999). The sacrament of teaching. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.

This book is a call to religious educators to pursue outstanding competence in every aspect of their teaching activity, regardless of setting, audience, or circumstance.

Author Information

Harley Atkinson

Harley Atkinson serves as Associate Professor of Christian Education at Toccoa Falls College, Toccoa Falls, Georgia.