CFH 2014: Christian Historians, Social Media, and Institutional Change

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two biennial meetings of the Conference on Faith and History (CFH) that I attended, at Bluffton University in 2008 and Gordon College in 2012. But I’m even more excited to take part in the 2014 meeting this September at Pepperdine University.

And not just because Malibu is a bit more attractive a destination than western Ohio or suburban Boston! The conference theme, “Christian Historians & Their Publics” resonates strongly with my growing interest in thinking about how members of our guild can serve constituencies beyond academe.

Here’s the conference description:

CFH 2014: Christian Historians & Their PublicsContemporary historians have a somewhat complicated relationship with “the public.” We long to have public audiences who will be challenged and shaped by our work, but most of us tend to produce highly specialized scholarship and write primarily for other scholars. When we do address the public, our often myth-busting strategies can come across as patronizing, contemptuous, and even politically motivated. As historians, who are our “publics”? And what responsibilities, if any, do we owe them? Are there public venues for historical understanding that we should be exploring? Does our peculiar identity as Christians have any bearing on the publics we address, what we have to say, or how we say it? Are there Christian ways of thinking about and doing public history? Is there a Christian public for our work as historians?

The full schedule isn’t available yet, but I’m happy to announce that I’ll be participating in two roundtable discussions at CFH 2014:

Christian Historians and Social Media (Friday, Sept. 26th, 2:30pm)

Thanks to my Snelling Ave. neighbor Jonathan Den Hartog for organizing and chairing this session. (Jonathan blogs at Historical Conversations and Religion in American History; follow him on Twitter @JDenHartog1776.) My co-panelists will be Messiah College historian John Fea of The Way in Improvement Leads Home fame (on Twitter @JohnFea1) and Baylor University grad student Paul Putz (who has his own blog and also posts regularly at Religion in American History; he tweets @p_emory).

I’d guess that we’d pick on themes from a similar session on blogging as scholarship at April’s meeting of the Organization of American Historians (also featuring John Fea).

The Role of Historians in Managing Institutional Change (Saturday, Sept. 27th, 8:00am)

Set an alarm, grab a latte, and join us for an early morning discussion of the role that Christian historians play within institutions — especially colleges and universities, churches and denominations — as they go through change of the sort we’ve seen in education and religion in recent years. The session was organized by Sider Institute director Devin Manzullo-Thomas (who blogs about all things Brethren in Christ at The Search for Piety & Obedience). He’ll be joined on the panel by Grace College dean Mark Norris (a.k.a. the boss of Jared Burkholder) and Houghton College president Shirley Mullen (also a past president of CFH, a contributor to our Pietist Impulse in Christianity book, and one of Christianity Today‘s “50 Women You Should Know”).

Thanks to Devin for asking me to play moderator. While I’ll mostly stay out of the way, I should have a few tidbits of my own to contribute. (What we didn’t know when we first pitched this session is that I’d be invited to spend this summer on a “strategic coalition” drafting a ten-year vision plan for Bethel.)

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