About Me

My Bethel photoMy name’s Chris Gehrz. I’m professor of history and chair of the Department of History at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I also help direct the Christianity and Western Culture program. While my training is in the history of international relations and 20th century Europe, I teach about everything from human rights to the Reformations. (One of the virtues of teaching in a smaller department in a smaller university. See more on my educational background and what I teach at our department blog.)

Like my teaching portfolio (in large part, because of it), my scholarly interests have also become rather eclectic. Primarily, I research and write about Pietism (I’m co-editor of The Pietist Impulse in Christianity, published by Wipf & Stock), in particular Pietist models of higher education (I’ve edited a book on this topic, published earlier this year by IVP Academic). Meanwhile, developing courses on the two World Wars has sparked an interest in the commemoration of such conflicts; you’ll find posts on that topic here, but also at my photoblog, Memento belli.

I live in Roseville, MN with my wife and two children and attend Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, MN.

You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vitae.

20 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Hi Chris,

    I just left a comment on your Sherlockian post but thought I’d add another one here, not related to Holmes but possibly of interest. As curator of special collections & rare books at the U of M I’m currently involved with a number of activities surrounding the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Here’s the link that describes some of those events: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/lib-web/events/university-libraries-exhibits/400th-anniversary-of-the-king-james-bible.html

    I’m glad Steve Pitts alerted me to your blog. I’ve now subscribed and look forward to your postings. My blog, in case you’re interested, is at: http://umbookworm.blogspot.com/

    My dad was pastor at Excelsior before Steve. My parents alternate their attendance between Salem and Excelsior. I have an MATS from North Park Seminary and have been at “the U” for 14 years. Before that I served 12 years at the Covenant Archivist and director of Archives at North Park. Glen Wiberg is a treasure: he was my pastor (two separate tenures) at North Park.

    With warm holiday wishes,

    Tim J

  2. I knew your name was familiar, Tim! I’ve done a little work in the Covenant Archives, though not as much as I’d like…

    Looking forward to checking out your blog, and to finding a time to tour the Sherlock Holmes collection!

  3. Chris- This morning I stumbled on your blog, which was a nice find. You wrote that you attend an ECC church. Speaking as an observer whose bible study group is dominated by covenant members, my impression is that ECC has drifted far from its pietistic roots. Calvinism is commonly endorsed and even dispensationalism.

    Also, ECC does not seem to respect lay pastors as much as Han Hauge would have liked. Ordination is subject to denominational control and the pastor must attend the official seminary. This does not indicate generosity toward heterodox preachers quite as much as Spener might have liked.

    On the other hand, where else is a pietist to go in most communities? Free Lutheran and Free Methodist churches are remote from most of us. LCMS and WELS strongly oppose pietism, favor instead a strong commitment to the full Book of Concord. ELCA and UMC churches are friendly enough to persons with pietistic leanings but I am not sure what Hauge and Spener would have said about them. What do you think?

    1. Hi Jim! Good to hear from you. I hope it doesn’t sound like a cop-out of an answer, but I think my only adequate response to your first concern about the ECC is to note that it’s very much a “big tent.” A denomination (or maybe better, given the Pietist origins, “movement”) that affirms “freedom in Christ” is bound to have a variety of beliefs and attitudes in its midst. My own experience isn’t like the one you describe, but precisely because the Covenant steadfastly refuses to take a side in debates like those that Calvinists and Arminians have with each other (let alone the still more complicated debates about the End Times), it doesn’t surprise me that you would encounter Covenanters of either stripe. In my own life, I’ve known far more Covenanters who, with Spener, think that such theological kerfuffles tend towards “dead orthodoxy” rather than living faith.

      As to ordination… My understanding (and readers should feel free to correct me) is that pastors who want to be ordained by the Covenant do need to go through a small course of “orientation” through North Park, where I’m sure they would find a more generous orthodoxy than at many other seminaries.

      I do think it’s fair to suggest that the Covenant has become far more institutional than some of the early “Mission Friends” would have liked. At the same time, I think the ECC generally remains true to the ecumenical spirit of acting as “the companion of all that fear Thee,” partnering fairly easily with other churches, denominations, and other organizations for the purposes of evangelism, discipleship, and what we’ve been calling ministries of compassion and justice.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Chris-

    That answer makes sense. Thank you.

    Regarding the recognition of lay pastors (a strong element of historical pietism, both Lutheran and Wesleyan), I think ECC is little more restrictive than they could be. Local churches can designate a person as a lay minister but I do get the impression that lay pastors, regardless of how much they preach, would not be regarded as ‘real pastors’. The local church may not even have elders and so the church may lack a cadre of local leaders whose preaching and teaching of the gospel is just as sound on the core of the gospel as are the opinions of the ordained clergy. The ‘priesthood of all believers’ might have been lost.

    1. You could very likely be right about lay ministry in the ECC, Jim. I don’t know that I’ve known of a lay pastor in a Covenant Church, certainly not like I’ve seen practiced in the various Baptist churches I attended during college and grad school.

      From our Pietist Impulse book, you may be interested in Jonathan Strom’s chapter on the “priesthood of all believers” as it was understood by Spener and later Pietists. I blogged briefly about it at http://pietistschoolman.com/2011/07/28/the-pietist-impulse-germans.

  5. Chris- so good to happen across this blog tonight. Was reading Weborg’s tributary essay (to my late great-uncle Zenos) in “Whatever is Excellent” & thought I’d google him thus finding you! I am Jim’s grandson, a 5th generation Covenant pastor (Associate of Youth and Worship, Turlock Covenant – CA), follower and benefactor of this pietist tradition, and a huge Wilco fan (gonna see them in San Jose next month!).

    Anyway, I look forward to following your posting here & thought I’d say hello.

    Grace & peace!

    -Tim

  6. Chris – Thanks for your series on Pietism and Anabaptism. I am a Goshen College history grad (2008) currently studying at a Mennonite seminary (Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary). My father was raised Church of the Brethren, so I found your article particularly meaningful.

    Do you think that for a Pietistic vision to be successful, it must be rooted in institutional expressions, as the Anabaptist vision was/is?

    1. Thanks, Jeff! It’s a great question. Let me ponder this for a while — it’s something I’ve been touching on in a manuscript for a new article, and I think it might make for a good post.

  7. Hi Chris,

    Glad I found your blog. I classically home educate my children. I must admit I am learning right beside them. It is refreshing to be able to learn about bits of history through your blog and take part on the commentary. Almost feel like I am in college again!

  8. Delighted to stumble onto your blog tonight, Chris. I’m a historian teaching at Ambrose University College (Calgary) and an active Christian in the Christian and Missionary Alliance (but with Mennonite Brethren roots). Like you, I teach a variety of courses in a small college, but my research revolves largely around the German churches in the Third Reich. http://kyletjantzen.wordpress.com if you’re interested.

  9. Hi,

    I am really impressed with your blog post, it is really good and you are maintaining it very well. I would like to submit my post on your blog (as guest post) with my website link. Mostly I create about educational and student related subjects. Please let me know if you are accepting guest posts and I’m ready to discuss my contents with you, I promise you with unique, quality and 100% plagiarism free content. I am looking forward to get your reply.

    Thank You,
    Tanya Schenck

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