Material History of American Religion Project

James Hudnut-Beumler

An Economic History of American Religion

Scholars have paid so little attention to how people founded, financed, and sustained their churches and their ministries, Hudnut-Beumler argues, that what history we do have distorts our common understanding of our organized church life. To correct these distortions, he proposes to write a non-reductive economic history of religion in the United States from the colonial period to the present. Instead of a single chronological narrative, each chapter will follow a theme through the history of American religion: clergy salaries, church architecture, the development of church-related non-profit organizations, vocations, religious artifacts, and church fund-raising schemes. Some chapters will be more theological in nature, reflecting on how different religious traditions have thought about money and the religious marketplace. Throughout, Hudnut-Beumler hopes to recover forgotten portions of religious communities' pasts which can illumine, correct, and inspire their contemporary practices. An example of Hudnut-Beumler's work is an essay on the design and location of American church buildings.

Most recently the author of Generous Saints: Congregations Rethinking Ethics and Money (Alban Institute, 1999), James Hudnut-Beumler is Dean and Ann Potter Wilson Professor of American Religious History at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University. Until the summer of 2000 he was Dean and Executive Vice-President of Columbia Theological Seminary. Hudnut-Beumler is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and holds the Ph.D. in religion from Princeton University (1989). His previous book is Looking for God in the Suburbs, a history of American religion in the 1950s and 1960s, published by Rutgers University Press. Other publications include articles on church and state in American history, the public church, religious giving and philanthropy and theological education.

Divinity School
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tennessee 37240
615 343 3961

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