Tagged: religion and social science
Histories of American sociology generally acknowledge, to varying degrees, Christian involvement in the development of the field. Much of this attention, however, underemphasizes two highly influential movements in early-twentieth-century Christian thought, the social gospel movement (1870s–1920s) and the rise of the global ecumenical movement (beginning in 1910). One under-researched, yet particularly revealing example of the impact of these movements is the Institute of Social and Religious Research (“the Institute”; 1921–1934), founded in 1921 under the leadership of global Christian leader John R. Mott and funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The Institute was comprised of Christian social scientific researchers who promoted interdenominational cooperation by engaging in scientific inquiry regarding the structure, current status, and functions of religious institutions and life in the United States. The Institute strived to maintain a high level of academic rigor while also retaining a religious motivation that included service to others, a classic struggle in the early history of American sociology.
The publications produced by the Institute were groundbreaking in their applications of social scientific methods to the study of religion in the United States, most notable of which included Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd’s highly generative and controversial Middletown study. In an overview of the largely unexplored tenure of the Institute, this paper brings together important trends in the early twentieth century to provide a unique perspective on the historical and theological contexts for the development of American sociology as an academic discipline.
To learn more, see “The Social Gospel, Ecumenical Movement, and Christian Sociology: The Institute of Social and Religious Research” (June 2014) by Gina Zurlo, a CGCM student associate, in the online version of The American Sociologist. Boston University students can access the journal through JStor and other hosts, and the article will appear in print version in 2015.
Despite distress about mainline decline and the rise of the “Nones”, church planting in North America is booming. According Warren Bird and Ed Stetzer, these new church starts are even outpacing closures. This presentation will discuss the patterns in mission and spirituality among new churches started in Seattle, Washington since 2001. As the largest city in a region distinctive for its weak religious institutions and a preponderance of “Nones”—Seattle is near the front of national “post-Christian” trends. As such, missiologists and practioners interested in the North American context can learn much from the forms of ecclesial mission and spirituality taking root in Seattle soil. Analysis of surveys from more than half of the 100+ new Seattle churches has revealed four dominant patterns in spirituality, eight salient mission priorities, five key identity features, and four paradigmatic combinations of these which serve to lay out the diverse field and invite missiological imagination.
CGCM Student associate Christopher B. James presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Missiology in St. Paul, Minnesota. His presentation was titled “Patterns in Mission and Spirituality Among New Churches in Seattle” and highlights some of the early findings of his dissertation research.
You can learn more about his research by reading “Ecclesial Pioneers in the Pacific Northwest“, published online via Christ & Cascadia, a new online journal for practical and theological engagement with Cascadian culture and ministry. You can also explore his research site (www.newseattlechurches.com) which features a map of new churches and follow the project on Twitter (www.twitter.com/newSEAchurches).
Christopher B. James is a PhD Candidate in Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology with training from Fuller Theological Seminary, Wheaton College, and the Renovaré Institute. You can connect with Christopher and explore his work via Academia, www.jesusdust.com, and @chrisbjames.
Doctoral student Gina Zurlo has recently given several papers and lectures at social science conferences. In August, she presented a paper at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in New York City, titled, “Christian Sociology in Transition: The Institute of Social and Religious Research,” which discussed an early phase of American sociology and its intersections with the social gospel and ecumenical movements in the early 20th century. She also gave a paper at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion annual meeting in Boston on the development and use of demographic databases.