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American Denominational History

Perspectives on the Past, Prospects for the Future

Edited by Keith Harper, with contributions from Sean Michael Lucas, Paul William

Publication Year: 2008

This work brings various important topics and groups in American religious history the rigor of scholarly assessment of the current literature. The fruitful questions that are posed by the positions and experiences of the various groups are carefully examined. American Denominational History points the way for the next decade of scholarly effort.



Roman Catholics by Amy Koehlinger

Congregationalists by Margaret Bendroth

Presbyterians by Sean Michael Lucas

American Baptists by Keith Harper

Methodists by Jennifer L. Woodruff Tait

Black Protestants by Paul Harvey

Mormons by David J. Whittaker

Pentecostals by Randall J. Stephens

Evangelicals by Barry Hankins    

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This project began when I suggested that The University of Alabama Press consider republishing William Warren Sweet’s four-volume Religion on the American Frontier. Published between 1931 and 1946, this series featured volumes devoted to America’s Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Methodists. My proposal was that The University of Alabama Press secure...

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pp. 1-6

American denominational history. Some may wonder, why bother with the subject? Others may wonder if such a disciplinary creature still exists. Yet in the middle of the twentieth century, the study of denominational history enjoyed an enviable status. William Warren Sweet’s Religion on the American Frontier featured volumes on Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and...

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1. Catholic Distinctiveness and the Challenge of American Denominationalism

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pp. 7-30

The task of contemplating the past, present, and future of denominational scholarship is uniquely challenging for historians of American Catholicism because this approach raises the uncomfortable question of whether Catholicism is properly considered a denomination at all. Of course, upon reflection, this is not such a stretch—Catholicism is one among many varieties of Christianity...

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2. New Directions on the Congregational Way

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pp. 31-49

Whatever happened to the Congregational Way? Just a scant half century ago, the editor of the Religions in America series declared it “fitting” that the heirs of the Puritans should lead the way for the rest. “They were the first in order, and at times you would think that they were the first in color,” he declared with a wry chuckle. Indeed, despite its dwindling numbers, the denomination...

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3. Presbyterians in America: Denominational History and the Quest for Identity

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pp. 50-70

If there is a Protestant denomination that typifies the apparent death of denominational history, it has to be the Presbyterians. Even though the various Presbyterian branches recently noted the three-hundredth anniversary of the first American presbytery, there were no major conferences, commemorative books, or retrospective assessments aside from a single issue of the...

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4. From the Margin to the Middle to Somewhere In Between: An Overview of American Baptist Historiography

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pp. 71-94

“History is a problem for Baptists.” So says J. Gordon Melton in the sixth edition of the Encyclopedia of American Religions, and when the issue is measured by any objective standard, it is apparent he is right. The Handbook of Denominations in the United States lists thirty-one different types of Baptists, while Melton’s Encyclopedia identifies some sixty different North American Baptist groups, not counting the Christian Church and its related traditions,...

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5. “Everything Arose Just as the Occasion Offered”: Defining Methodist Identity through the History of Methodist Polity

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pp. 95-119

One of John Wesley’s favorite ways of justifying Methodist theology was by telling the Methodist story. Beginning with Wesley, this essay addresses that Methodist story, first of all from the inside out.1 What have Methodists, at least the American variety, been telling themselves for the past two hundred and some score years? And how has that story intersected with the mainstream...

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6. Black Protestantism: A Historiographical Appraisal

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pp. 120-145

America once was called the nation with the soul of a church; riffing on that, one scholar has referred to the black church as the “church with the soul of a nation.” Black Protestant parishioners, for example, empowered the civil rights movement, the most important social movement of twentieth-century American history. During the civil rights era—“the King years,” as Taylor...

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7. Mormon Historiography

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pp. 146-172

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized on April 6, 1830. It has grown from six members in an obscure village in western New York to a membership of over 13 million worldwide. By 2005 it was ranked as the fourth largest Christian denomination in America. Joseph Smith Jr. (1805–44) claimed personal visits by God the Father and the Son in the spring...

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8. Interpreting American Pentecostal Origins: Retrospect and Prospect

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pp. 173-195

Pentecostalism is a large, relatively new religious movement that claims hundreds of millions of followers around the globe. Believers speak in unknown tongues, practice healing, and claim a number of gifts of the Spirit.1 Chief denominations include the primarily white Assemblies of God; the largely African American Church of God in Christ; the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World; the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee; and the International...

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9. “We’re All Evangelicals Now”: The Existential and Backward Historiography of Twentieth- Century Evangelicalism

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pp. 196-220

The vast majority of the historiography of twentieth-century American evangelicalism has been produced since 1980, and that historiography has been done backward. Rather than several monographs written on particular aspects of evangelicalism followed by a synthesis that brings the parts together and makes sense of the whole, recent evangelical historiography began...


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pp. 221-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381080
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817355128

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2008