“… resources for a modern communal faith, offer new directions for integrating religion and science, and suggest alternatives to market-driven religion. ”
Between 1870 and 1930 a network of liberal activists, ministers, and academics sought to recreate Protestantism for a modern age. It included Washington Gladden and other Social Gospel advocates, liberal ministers like Harry Emerson Fosdick, and numerous scholars including University of Chicago President William Rainey Harper. They wrote for the Christian Century and other liberal journals and rallied around ecumenical organizations like the Federal Council of Churches. But liberals were not alone in their efforts to remake Protestantism. Recent studies have found similar aspirations among fundamentalists. This work has uncovered commonalities that historians of liberalism have been reluctant to acknowledge, and new differences that were previously unnoticed. It has demonstrated that old binaries like modern and anti-modern, progressive and regressive, orthodoxy and heresy conceal more than they reveal and hinder a full accounting for the influence of class, race, and gender in Protestantism. This project will use deep archival research to trace the social and cultural contexts that gave rise to liberal Protestant ideas and practice. Equally important, it will highlight alternate visions of “progressive Christianity” put forward by women, non-white, and non-middle-class actors—often in direct challenge to elite liberal leadership. Ultimately, this project will offer a new framework for understanding American Protestantism, while clarifying and transforming what we think we know about liberal Protestantism in the United States.