I was honored this past spring to be elected to the executive board of the Conference on Faith and History, the leading professional society for Christian historians. As luck would have it, my first meeting with that group will take place at the CFH biennial meeting this October 20-22 in Virginia Beach, Virginia — on the other side of the state from where I’m spending my fall sabbatical!
Because I’m trying to focus my sabbatical work on some unrelated book projects, I held off on proposing a CFH paper myself. (I was part of sessions in 2012 and 2014.) But that just frees me up to enjoy hour after hour of what promises to be a terrific conference, whose tentative program was recently released.
The overarching topic (“Christian Historians and the Challenges of Race, Gender, and Identity”) couldn’t be more timely. (I expect the roundtable discussion of Ed Blum’s Reforging the White Republic to draw particularly strong interest.) And the roster of plenary speakers is as impressive as ever: Tommy Kidd, Verónica Gutiérrez, Kate Bowler, and CFH president Jay Green (whose Christian Historiography: Five Rival Versions is also the subject of a roundtable on Friday afternoon).
A few other likely highlights:
• As if it’s not hard enough to wake up and caffeinate before the first full day kicks off at 8:30am, that opening session will force an impossible choice of seven strong panels. Right now I’ve narrowed it down to a roundtable discussion on American identity featuring former CFH president Tracy McKenzie and my institutional neighbor Jonathan Den Hartog, a roundtable on denominational history with heavy hitters like Kidd, Peggy Bendroth, and digital historian Lincoln Mullen, a panel on global Christian identity that includes my Anxious Bench colleague David Swartz, and one on gender and popular culture that includes Hunter Hampton and Paul Putz (with whom I shared a sports history panel last November at Baylor).
• Despite my sloth, The Anxious Bench is well-represented. In addition to David’s paper (on “C. Peter Wagner, Global Encounters, and the Re-Enchantment of the West”), Beth Allison Barr is the program chair, Kristin Kobes DuMez will give a paper on religious biography, and John Turner, Beth, and David will all chair sessions.
• Kristin is also scheduled to take part in a roundtable discussion on teaching women’s history at Christian institutions (organized by recent Bench guest-blogger Andrea Turpin, whose book on women in 19th century Christian higher education is due this fall). It’s one of several sessions on pedagogy, a welcome emphasis of recent CFH meetings.
• Given my earlier criticism of CFH for focusing too heavily on American religious history, I’m especially glad to see so many sessions with partial or full emphasis on transnational, international, or non-American topics. For example, Friday afternoon starts with Gutíerrez’s talk on indigenous Christianity in Mexico, and the concurrent session that follows includes panels on Brazilian evangelicalism and Christian missions and aid work as “transnational forces.”
If you’re interested in attending, click here to register. (The early bird rate of $110 is good through September 1st.)