The department serves as an academic resource to Calgary and area religious communities. In cooperation with these communities two chairs were established: the Chair of Christian Thought in 1985 and the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies in 1988.
The Chair of Christian Thought began through the cooperative efforts of Calgary's Christian denominations, individuals, corporations and other interested groups. The first chairholder was Gordon Harland (1986-1987), followed by Alan Sell (1988-1992). Dr. Douglas Shantz has been chairholder since 1999.
The Numata Chair was first held by Dr. Akira Yuyama, who facilitated a one time contribution from the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai (Buddhist Propagation Association), Tokyo. The Honpa Buddhist Church of Alberta also contributed to the initial endowment, and these contributions were matched (doubly) by the government of Alberta to secure the Chair for the University of Calgary and the department of Religious Studies.