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The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism Paperback – September 14, 1999

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Editorial Reviews


"This is an important book, because the Fourth Presbyterian Church is important. Maybe not important in the way it once was, when the congregation included many of the controlling business and social elite of the city and there was no problem that couldn't be worked out over lunch at the Chicago Club. But important in the sense of understanding Chicago in the 20th Century... [Wellman] is not setting out to tell us the big story, but he can't help it. His story ... is the change in Protestantism's attitude toward the poor: from saving their souls, while letting them starve to death, to serving their earthly needs but playing down the evangelism... Fascinating stuff." - Paul McGrath, Chicago Tribune "The history of mainline faith is often told in terms of decline, but Wellman prefers a more complex narrative - an ethnographic tale of transition, accommodation, and negotiated social boundaries... A story well told that mixes critical reflection with careful description. Throughout the book, matters of race, class, and gender receive special attention, and the concept of 'lay liberalism' plays an important role in the analysis of the most recent years." - Choice Wellman astutely describes many of the challenges that confront the church of the twenty-first century -- comprehending the depths of people's needs, their desire for spiritual experience, the complexity of our cultural and religious diversity, and the like. The value of his research for mainline Protestantism, however, may transcend his conclusions. His method of using congregational history as a prism through which to understand and interpret the complexity of modern political, sociological, economic, and theological forces is an important model for students of religious, cultural, and social history." -- Frederick J. Heuser, Journal of Presbyterian History "Presents an intriguing systematic approach to issues affecting an affluent church adjacent to a slowly decaying fabric of humanity -- the public housing area named 'Cabrini-Green.' ... Wellman, through historical lenses, brings the interest of the reader from the beginning of the establishment of the church through its present minister, demonstrating how, with each succeeding pastor, there is a shift in the ideology of the church and its focus on the purpose of the church and its ministry." -- Interpretation "This engaging, richly detailed volume tells the story of one of the nation's best known churches, Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian, and offers a plausible challenge to the 'strict-church thesis,' according to which liberal values have led to mainline church decline." -- William P. George, Theological Studies "Explores the much overlooked topic of mainline or mainstream American Protestantism... Well written and researched." -- Theological Book Review "An insightful account of the travail and the opportunity of the Protestant mainline under the impact -- if not a the source -- of cultural transformation." -- Lowell W. Livezey, The Princeton Seminary Bulletin


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press (September 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252068041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252068041
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #552,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Allen E. Mosiman on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church bucks several trends: it is a successful church in an urban setting; its affluent members are involved in hands-on help with people in a nearby ghetto; it espouses a decidedly liberal theology. Wellman seeks to explain how Fourth Presbyterian has both accommodated to and transformed culture.
Wellman studies the ministries of Fourth Church's four 20th century pastors. Each pastor ministered to an affluent congregation and addressed the social issues that kept near neighbors of the church in poverty. Each pastor was able to rally the members of the congregation to take action on behalf of the less-privileged.
Wellman combines historical investigation and sociological analysis to explain Fourth Presbyterian's success. The book is a revised Ph.D. dissertation but doesn't read like one. Wellman writes in a fluid, engaging style and keeps the academic excursions into sociological theory to a minimum.
This book will be a welcome read for a) folks who love Chicago; b) people who worship in urban churches; c) liberal Christians who wonder if they are any others left on the planet; d) cultural historians; e) folks who wonder if the church still cares for others.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This 1999 publication is an excellent historical interpretation of this Protestant church amidst the affluent neighborhood of the near-north stretches of
Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Although over fifteen years since Dr.Wellman's thesis, it remains an insightful account.
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