From Library Journal
Following the general pattern of previous volumes in the "Columbia Contemporary American Religion" series (e.g., Jane I. Smith's Islam in America), this volume provides a brief historical overview, case studies of churches, and essays on significant issues facing Protestant congregations today. Balmer (American religion, Barnard Coll.) and Winner, a doctoral candidate at Columbia, do an admirable job of synthesizing recent scholarship and have created an engaging, if occasionally irreverent, account. While always acknowledging the diversity and complexity of Protestant denominations, this book basically divides Protestants into two camps evangelical and liberal with both camps receiving equally critical evaluations. In exploring the challenges of feminism, homosexuality, and social justice, the authors consider both how the issues have affected the churches and how the churches have affected the broader culture. The work also contains brief profiles of significant individuals, a time line, and a glossary. While the book could have used tighter editing virtually identical sentences explaining various terms appear multiple times the amount of information presented and the quality of the analysis make this a useful work for academic and public libraries. Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC
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Balmer and Winner begin this volume of Columbia's Contemporary American Religion series by observing that Protestantism is no longer an organizing principle for American religious historiography. Thereafter, they informatively struggle to separate Protestantism from American culture. Proceeding in loose chronology, they consider Lutheranism (the first Protestantism, though not the first in America), moving on to Calvinism, Zwinglism, and the sects of the radical Reformation; and they introduce the distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism as a more useful organizing principle for American religious historiography. At the heart of their account is the shift from mainstream to evangelical Protestantism, which they argue is more properly regarded as a reassertion of evangelicalism. That shift has proved effective in leading Protestantism from the secular city and recasting it in opposition to secularism. The shift also colored the recent discussions of homosexuality, feminism, and social justice that preoccupy the third part of the book, which, despite distracting asides on feminist language and Episcopal bishop John Spong, is a useful starting point for reflection on the future of Protestantism. Steven SchroederCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved