Worthy-of-the-Calling-COVERWorthy of the Calling: Biographies of Paul & Lela Swalm Hostetler, Harvey and Erma Heise Sider, and Luke Jr. and Doris Bowman Keefer (with Beth Hostetler Mark and AnnaRuth Sider Osborne)

This edited volume collects biographies of three twentieth century leaders of the North American Brethren in Christ Church, a denomination rooted in the Anabaptist, Pietist, holiness, and evangelical traditions. Taken together, the biographies explore the experiences of Brethren in Christ couples engaged in pastoral ministry, missionary work, church administration, and theological education.

For a review of the book, see John Hawbaker’s review in Brethren in Christ History and Life.

Articles & Book Reviews

My scholarship has appeared in a number of academic journals, including Church History, Fides et Historia, Mennonite Quarterly Review, Brethren in Christ History and Life, The Conrad Grebel Review, The Covenant Quarterly, and more.

For a complete list of my publications, check out my curriculum vitae.

Current Projects

Dissertation — “Exhibiting Evangelicalism: Commemoration, Conservative Christianity, and Religion’s Presence of the Past.” “Exhibiting Evangelicalism” is a history of evangelical Protestant historical museums in the United States. It details how, beginning in the 1940s and continuing into the twenty-first century, evangelicals developed practices for preserving and interpreting the past in public and deployed those practices toward varying theological, cultural, and political ends—an approach I term “evangelical heritage.”

Amid the boom in church attendance and religious affiliation after World War II, conservative Protestants deployed evangelical heritage to forge what they termed “neo-evangelicalism,” a rebranding of the old-time religion for postwar society. They also engaged evangelical heritage in their crusade to “win America for Christ,” convinced that an encounter with their tradition’s proud past could entice outsiders to convert to Christian faith. These elements never fully disappeared from the function of evangelical heritage; even so, evangelical heritage did change over time. During the national bicentennial, for instance, evangelical heritage became a means by which neo-evangelicals, internally divided over matters of faith and politics, could project a united front by mapping their proud past onto the nation’s history. Such optimism did not last long: As the national consensus about the past shattered in the 1970s and 1980s, evangelical heritage morphed yet again. By the twenty-first century it had become a vehicle for nostalgia, immersing visitors in a mythic past that offered an imagined sense of comfort and reassurance amid evangelicals’ perceived loss of political and social influence.

Evangelical heritage did not develop and evolve in a vacuum. From the start, it existed within broader patterns of historical commemoration. In the postwar era, for instance, experiments in evangelical heritage intersected and overlapped with discourses and practices among bureaucrats, business leaders, social reformers, heritage professionals, and others regarding historic preservation, urban renewal, and the political purposes of civic memory. As public history emerged as a discrete profession by the 1970s, purveyors of evangelical heritage attended its educational institutions, joined its guilds, and circulated within its networks. They also adopted and adapted some of the profession’s intellectual trends, most notably what one scholar has termed the profession’s “affective turn,” the use of experiential, affective, and immersive techniques to build visitors’ historical knowledge. As that trend became subject to intense internecine debate among public historians in the 1980s and 1990s, some evangelical commemorators turned toward the theme park as a new model for their engagement with the past. By the turn of the twenty-first century, evangelicals’ investment in the experience economy was all but complete. New endeavors in evangelical heritage were all but disconnected from the mainstream of public history discourse, even as evangelical commemorators continued to claim intellectual respectability by describing their sites as “museums.”

Book Project — Storyteller: The Life and Times of E. Morris Sider. This book is a biography of one of the most important scholars of the Brethren in Christ tradition whose work as a historian, college professor, editor, and public intellectual has significantly deepened the denomination’s engagement with and knowledge of its past. Under contract with the Brethren in Christ Historical Society.

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