I’m honored to announce the publication of a theme issue of The Covenant Quarterly, guest edited by my colleague Christian Collins Winn and myself, that features articles on the historical and contemporary significance of Pietism.
If you’re not familiar with it, The Covenant Quarterly is published by the Evangelical Covenant Church through its seminary, North Park. In addition to fulfilling its primary mission of serving Covenant clergy, over the past few decades the Quarterly been as close to a journal of record for Pietism studies as exists in the English language. It helped sustain a resurgence of that field in this country in the late 1960s and early 1970s, publishing some early work on Pietism by pioneering scholars like Dale Brown and then the proceedings of an October 1975 symposium (“Contemporary Perspectives on Pietism“) that was the most significant US-hosted session on the subject until our 2009 research conference. In this century Covenant Quarterly has already published articles on Pietism by scholars like Jeffrey D. Brown, Mark Granquist, and Jonathan Strom.
Christian and I are grateful to Quarterly editor Paul Koptak for giving us the chance to contribute to that tradition. About half of the issue stems from the colloquium we hosted at Bethel last April: Scot McKnight’s keynote address on Pietism and Anabaptism, and a roundtable discussion of Pietism in five present-day denominations. To those pieces, we added an article by Valerie Cooper exploring Pietism in 19th century African-American history, and my own essay on 20th and 21st century Pietist approaches to cultural engagement and social action.
(Unfortunately, the issue came out too late for one contributor to read it: Fran Monseth passed away this past March.)
The issue (technically, August/November 2012 due to a slight publishing backlog) is not yet available for single-issue purchase, but if you’re interested in ordering a copy or (better yet) subscribing to Covenant Quarterly, contact Luz Pagan at luz.pagan(at)covchurch.org.
As a preview, here’s the table of contents, with sample quotations from each article:
Pietism, Anabaptism, and Conversion: Paradigms for the Contemporary Church
Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary
…revivalists have taken the Pietist emphasis on regeneration, or new birth, and featured it as the focus of evangelism and missionary work. While numbers of converts can be an encouraging feature, when the threshold experience becomes the focus of the evangelist or the missionary or the pastor or the parent, the genius of Pietism is profaned. Pietism was not a conversion movement in the sense of initial decision but an inward renewal movement in the sense of discipleship. Its aim was complete conversion from the inside out.
Equality in an Age of Inequality: Pietism in Nineteenth-Century African American Thought
Valerie Cooper, University of Virginia
African Americans’ interpretation of Pietism and emphasis upon Christian piety may have originated with the concerns of continental Europe, but it was also shaped by their experiences in the Americas. Significant African American thinkers like Frederick Douglass, David Walker, Jarena Lee, Howard Thurman and others argued that true Christian piety had to include justice and mercy toward those the rest of society oppressed. For black Christians, only those who broke out of the culturally-captive Christianity of the US by rejecting racial prejudice and animus were the true Christians.
Missional Pietists: Lessons from Dale W. Brown and Carl H. Lundquist
Christopher Gehrz, Bethel University
This article will suggest that Covenanters and other present-day Pietists take seriously the critique that they risk “other-worldly” orientation, especially as that charge has been levied by Anabaptist and evangelical Christians with whom they otherwise have much in common. But it also argues, with [Covenant president Gary] Walter, that “to move in two directions at one time” is not only possible, but essential. And it seeks to retrieve, from the wider Pietist tradition, resources that may help Covenanters understand what it means simultaneously to cultivate a “deeply personal faith” and “to be deeply engaged with the world.”
Roundtable: Pietism, Contemporary Churches, and a ‘Usable Past’
Ryan Eikenbary-Barber, Bethlehem Covenant Church (Minneapolis, MN)
The Covenant Church is growing and changing. Clergy can be ordained without ever stepping foot on the campus of North Park. Not every congregation sings out of The Covenant Hymnal — or, for that matter, any hymnal. Members at Covenant churches might never hear of Pietism or even our Swedish roots. What continues to unite diverse congregations in enduring friendship is our common sense of mission, our shared confidence in the Word of God, and our devotional walk with Jesus Christ. Because we are sent together, we still have good reason to cling to one another in affection and support.
Francis W. Monseth, Association Free Lutheran Theological Seminary
The best of Pietism urged that a true faith invariably issued in a progressively changed life. Never to achieve perfection in this life, nevertheless, the believer’s life more and more corresponds to the likeness of His Savior. Out of love for the Lord and love for one’s neighbor, a Christian eschews anything that may cause another to stumble and is willing to forego even what may be considered adiaphora in deference to a “weaker brother.” True faith, living faith is dynamic in its effect, the Pietists taught, and will always result in “fruits of the Spirit” that bring glory to God (Galatians 5:6b, 22-23).
Gracia Grindal, Luther Seminary
My own tradition — Norwegian Lutheran Pietism — built vigorous mission-minded churches, eagerly nurtured its young in the faith, and got them excited about their life in Christ, a living, personal Christianity, but since the sixties we have not found a way to pass this tradition on. In the current ELCA the liturgical, confessional, and now politically engaged Lutherans run almost all of the institutions built by the sweat of our pietistic grandparents’ brows. Our grandparents stressed mission, living Christianity, and doing good for the neighbor so much so that this part of the Upper Midwest is groaning under a wealth of institutions to support: hospitals, old peoples’ homes, children’s societies, Bible camps, Bible institutes, colleges, schools, and seminaries, none of which boast, maybe even know, of their Pietist origins.
G. William Carlson, Bethel University
The “irenic spirit” generally provided the framework within which controversial issues were resolved. Even as it has debated inerrancy, women in ministry, eschatology, and open theism, the Baptist General Conference has avoided the splits common to other Baptist heritage communities. The valued phrase was “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in everything charity.”
Devin C. Manzullo-Thomas, Messiah College
Given the historic significance of Pietism to Brethren in Christ spirituality, why do so few contemporary Brethren in Christ see “Pietist” as a definitive descriptor of their religious faith? One possible answer may be that the two traditions most influential among today’s church members—namely, Anabaptism and evangelicalism—have done a better job of making their pasts “usable.”