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God's Ambassadors: A History of the Christian Clergy in America (Pulpit & Pew) Hardcover – September 25, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: Pulpit & Pew
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; First Edition edition (September 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802803814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802803818
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,143,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While the roles of American clergy have changed over the past 400 years, this thorough account argues that the narrative of decline is unwarranted: in congregational leadership... the clergy have as much authority now as they did in the 17th century. According to Holifield, professor of American church history at Candler School of Theology, the gospel is both world denying and world affirming, which means that clergy stand in an irreducibly paradoxical relation to American culture. After summarizing the roots of Christian ministry from the first century through the Reformation, Holifield traces the shifts in authority from the American colonies through 2005. Using parallel chapters covering Protestant and Catholic issues, he weaves in portrayals of African-American clergy and the contested place of women in the ministry. Topics include the trend toward an educated clergy and their ongoing professionalization; the populist revival, which valued religious enthusiasm over theological accomplishment; increasing tensions between liberal and conservative Christianities; the social gospel; the changing role of the laity; and the impact of Vatican II. Holifield's section on clergy from 1970 to the present is tantalizingly brief but incisive. Full of detailed research, this balanced historical study is clear, well-organized and perceptive. (Oct.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Speed Learn on November 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What do Tammy Faye Baker, Pat Robertson, and Jesse Jackson have in common? They are cultural icons that Professor Holifield's masterful study puts into an entertaining and historically useful context. Americans have been worried about the decline of Christianity and the loss of respect for clergy since the Pilgrims disembarked from the Mayflower. Dr. Holifield's lucid discussion allows us to see the sweep of American history, and his incisive consideration of the eternal paradox --how to be in the world but not of the world--that clergy face makes that history come to life. This book will be useful not only to readers interested in Christian clergy but also to any reader who wonders how it is possible to juggle American identity with religious commitments that transcend national boundaries. This is MUST READING as we head into Election Year 2008.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ryan on November 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Most of us are aware that ministers, priests, and rabbis play an important role in contemporary American political and cultural life. But few of us understand how that role has changed over time. This study, by one of the most prominent scholars of American theology and church history, elucidates these changes with remarkable clarity and insight. I highly recommend the book to all who wish to understand the history of clerical authority and influence in this country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Marc Axelrod VINE VOICE on October 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a general overview of clergy roles and practices in American life. It discusses clergy attitudes toward their jobs, their diverse responsibilities, and their perception by others in America through the centuries.

The book begins at the time of the Pilgrims and concludes in the year 2005. I wish more attention would have been given to the towering figures in clergy history, as well as more attention to the preaching styles of prominent clergy, but this is a minor quibble. It can be read in conjunction with books on the history of preaching, like David Larsen's outstanding  tome.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hollifield's magisterial knowledge of the terrain provides the reader with far more than just a history of Christian clergy in America. This book is in effect a history of America's religious history written from the vantage of the ecclesiastical leaders who shaped and/or misshaped it. Hollifield gets inside their stained glass world to provide not only an intellectual tour of the theological/cultural shifts of the American religious experience but more particularly what congregational leadership felt like to the "called" in each successive period. And, aside from the wealth of historical detail within each chapter, Hollifield's introductory analysis of the dilemma of American clergy is a gem of clarity and insight. jdd
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