Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
The Call for Papers for the spring 2015 meeting of the American Society of Church History is now live (check it out here). The theme, “Contact and Exchange among Religious Groups,” looks to be quite promising, but I was particularly intrigued by this line in the CFP: “Given the location of this meeting in Minneapolis, we also encourage papers addressing contact among religious groups in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest…” Obviously Minnesota is not the focus of the meeting. But it was nice to see the astute conference organizers recognize the rich possibilities for exploring interaction among religious groups provided by Minnesota-based (and Midwest-based) studies.
As I have written elsewhere, there has been a movement afoot recently to reinvigorate the Midwest as a subject of academic inquiry. Among the relevant developments: the creation of the Midwestern History Working Group, the launch of a book series devoted to the Midwest from the University of Iowa Press, and the creation of a new journal, the Middle West Review. Given those advancements, I’m sure that the ASCH’s recent CFP will be greeted with enthusiasm by scholars interested in promoting the study of the Midwest, and it should provide a forum for interesting new scholarship on religion in the region.
But what about older scholarship? More specifically, what older scholarship has made it onto the pages of Church History? Out of curiosity, I decided to look through Church History’s online archives to see how often “Minnesota” or the “Midwest” was the featured place of study for an article. I found three relatively recent pieces:
“This essay blends two areas of theoretical concern. The first area is the debate over the extent and nature of feminization of nineteenth-century religion. The second arises from recent emphasis on the role of the laity in the church and a rediscovery of the meaning of such phrases as ‘the priesthood of all believers’ and ‘lay ministry,’ which spring from an emphasis on the church as the body of Christ….By looking at the actual experience of a parish, it is possible to regain a sense of the role of the laity and to see in what ways women, as part of the laity, shaped the religious parameters of a community….All Saints Parish in Northfield, Minnesota provides the scholar with an opportunity to consider the feminization of religion in a tangible form by studying a single congregation from a neglected denomination in a neglected region.”
“It has become almost a commonplace among historians of fundamentalism to assert the central role played by Bible institutes in the survival and growth of this religion movement. But the thesis has not been tested, for there have been no case studies dealing with the work of Bible institutes at the grass-roots level. This article is a start toward filling this void. The focus is Northwest Bible and Missionary Training School of Minneapolis and its role in the upper Midwest in the second quarter of the twentieth century.”
“With the [U.S.-Dakota War of 1862] as a lens for exploring religious change, this essay offers new possibilities for understanding the violent conflict in the lives of Protestants who articulated the emerging idea of manifest destiny and the dynamics of religious modification in Native American communities who engaged in war in an effort to protect their way of life. Just as much as we need to understand the religious worldviews that came in contact on the frontier, we must also understand how participants understood episodes of violence within their frameworks for interpreting divine and human powers at play in the world.”
Hopefully those who make the trek to Minneapolis in April will get a preview of new Minnesota-related (or Midwest-related) research that will follow in the footsteps of the articles listed above, eventually finding a place within the pages of Church History.