About Me

My Bethel photoMy name’s Chris Gehrz. I’m professor 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 sports to war. (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.)

But much as I love teaching, I also enjoy writing for wider audiences. After writing for six years at the Patheos history blog, The Anxious Bench, I now write a newsletter at Substack that comes out four times a week. My most recent books are Charles Lindbergh: A Religious Biography of America’s Most Infamous Pilot (Eerdmans, 2021) and Faith and History (Baylor University Press, 2020), a devotional I edited with Beth Allison Barr.

That devotional is one example of how I try to use my gifts and training as a historian to serve the church. In addition, I’ve written or edited three books about the Christian renewal movement known as Pietism, including my book with Evangelical Covenant pastor Mark Pattie, The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity (IVP Academic, 2017). I’m also a regular speaker at churches and Christian colleges; email me if you’d like to schedule a talk or class.

Finally, my experience leading travel courses with undergraduates got me interested in doing something similar with other ages. My Pietist Schoolman Travel company offers occasional historical tours of Europe — including one in June 2023 on “Christianity and German Culture.”

30 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 https://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!


  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

  10. Stumbled onto your site. Nothing new. Claims of a more perfected faith than that of those hypocritical rubes, the Evangelicals.
    Then I see Donald Trump, Mike Pence and anyone who may not loathe them portrayed as an 87 on the IQ scale.
    Jesus? Relationship? Shelter in the time of storm?
    No. Just another social gospel parading as ‘you can count on us!’
    So sad. So very, very sad. Nothing but more words meant to further an agenda.

  11. I am wondering if you can read old German books or know someone who can. I have a book of my great great grandfathers that I think concerns pietist communities of 1819 and 1850 in Germany that followed a Michael Hahn. It was published in 1877 in Stuttgart. I believe the author is Die Heransgeber. If it would be of any interest to you I would be happy to send it to you, with the understanding that I would like it returned in a few months. It has my grandfather’s signature inside.

  12. Chris, Greetings!!!!…..I looked for you at Wally Pratt’s memorial service and then called your house…..Hope all is well…….It would be fun to see you sometime……..greetings to your parents…As you may know I do Warner Sallman “stuff”…i.e. the famous “Head of Christ”…..Presently we have an exhibit at The Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas…..it has been there since Summer and I will take it down January 30th. It was at the Billy Graham Center on the Wheaton campus for 14 months and other places too. Would Bethel have any interest??? or ???? You can see our web site…. http://www.sallmanart.org …. and I can send you some information too…….on line….Hope to hear from you……Thanks much!!! and God’s best to you……… LeRoy Carlson (Cottage Grove)

  13. Tim, thanks for the interesting article about the average Christian college president. Earlier this month, I spent some very worthwhile time with many of these presidents at the CCCU New President’s Institute. They are all above-average. By the way, you can add two women presidents to your spreadsheet: Dr. Marjory Kerr at Booth University College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and myself, Dr. Patricia Harris at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, MI. Thanks for your work.

    1. Hi Patricia – Thanks for leaving the note. As noted in the post, I only looked at institutions that came up on the CCCU’s online list of governing members and collaborative partners. Chris

  14. Your blog was how I found out that Kim Weaver Olson passed away. I worked with her in Bolivia and another MCC volunteer forwarded it to me this morning. The content was terrible but your words were beautiful. Thank you.-Tricia Friesen Reed

  15. Chris,
    Thanks for your blog! It was recommended from Paul Koptak at North Park Theological Seminary as part of the spiritual direction certificate program. I am part of Cohort 16 and looking forward to Paul’s class this Saturday on Pietism and Spiritual Direction. Then I read your “About Me” and was very interested to learn of your interest in the spirituality of Charles Lindbergh. I’ve been a Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh buff for decades. I grew up in Little Falls, MN. As a boy, Charles Lindbergh helped put up my grandparents silo (we have a photo – hard to tell, but it’s him). I’ve read many (not all) of the Lindberg’s books and some biographies and have thought a good deal about his and Anne’s spirituality. More recent revelations of his life have been… stunning.

  16. Bethel dad here … really appreciate your well-written blog 9/11/2020 about first two weeks of this COVID fall semester. Very comforting and encouraging to a parent whose son is 250 miles away. Couldn’t be more pleased with Bethel as a quality educational institution for my son. His experience there is outstanding. Every interaction we have with staff and faculty leaves us impressed (of course when we’re allowed safely on campus!). We were encouraged by the summer updates that were tailored for parents, of which you participated. Thank you for what you do every day. May God bless your passionate teaching and your ministry to young people.

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