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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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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"This volume is a masterful performance. . . Writing an integrated narrative involving many streams of Christianity over a four hundred year period is no small achievement. Holifield accomplishes this with excellence and grace. He has created a readable account from a vast array of material, both primary and secondary. In my judgment, this volume will become a classic. It will be of interest to all who practice ministry as well as those who are preparing to enter its ranks."
Reviews in Religion & Theology
"Brooks Holifield has undertaken the significant task of chronicling the story of America's clergy. He does so with grace and eloquence, making God's Ambassadors must reading for any one, clergy or scholar, interested in the place of Christian ministry, Protestant or Catholic, in American life. A book that is not just readable, interesting, challenging, but that is also a book to which clergy and scholars should give close attention. (Starred Review)."
Stephen J. Stein
— Indiana University, Bloomington
"E. Brooks Holifield has framed the social and ecclesiastical contexts and the historical development of the Christian ministry in America in its denominational complexities with fresh clarity and insight. His work on the diverse and changing challenges to clerical authority will be of great interest to social and religious historians, to the general religious public, and especially to members of the clerical profession or those in training for it. This volume will immediately become the standard historical account of the topic for many years to come."
— Duke University
"Brooks Holifield has synthesized a vast amount of scholarship into a compelling story, gracefully written. God's Ambassadors will stand for a long time as the authoritative history of Christian clergy in America, but this remarkable book is more than that. It is a new history of religion in America, one with the clergy at center stage."
"While the roles of American clergy have changed over the past 400 years, this thorough account argues that the 'narrative of decline' is unwarranted. . . 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."
Katarina Schuth, O.S.F.
— University of St. Thomas
"In this extraordinarily well-documented historical account of the ministry in the United States from its early stages, Brooks Holifield captures a sense of the soul of the minister. His engaging descriptions of the varied missions of 'God's ambassadors' are threaded with just the right combination of fascinating details and serious theological reflection. The reader comes away with a balanced understanding of the achievements and disappointments of these ministers, both Protestant and Catholic. Through the centuries their work has left a deep impression on American culture, and Holifield's unique history brings to life the significance of their contribution."
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
I was particularly intrigued in the data that addressed the state of the clergy throughout the civil rights movement. In a time when racism is taking the modern discussion once again, the findings were extremely helpful to see. Many of the clerical struggles of the 1960s and 70s are still happening – or happening in new ways – today. However, I found myself more and more inspired of the clergy during this time, who took much criticism for the ways they did (or did not) speak out to the horrendous atrocities. I hope to look more into the era that Holifield’s research skims over.
Holifield’s research grounded me closer to earth and help me locate myself on the historical clerical trajectory. Modern Christian media and sentiments can quite easily lead to a alarmist, panicked tone in the clergy. When I see the clergy of yesterday struggling with much of the same issues, I find a strange sense of peace. The church is the church, and our God will remain faithful until the day of New Creation.