God's Ambassadors: A History of the Christian Clergy in America  -     By: E. Brooks Holifield
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God's Ambassadors: A History of the Christian Clergy in America

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. / 2007 / Hardcover

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Has the status of clergy in America declined; what are the variables? Are pastors considered professionals or fellow believers with obvious gifts? How has "calling" and the practice of ministry been understood during different eras? Holifield presents all manner of penetrating observations on both the Protestant and Catholic experience. 359 pages, hardcover. Eerdmans.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 408
Vendor: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Publication Date: 2007
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0802803814
ISBN-13: 9780802803818
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

In God's Ambassadors E. Brooks Holifield masterfully traces the history of America's Christian clergy from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, analyzing the changes in practice and authority that have transformed the clerical profession.

Challenging one-sided depictions of decline in clerical authority, Holifield locates the complex story of the clergy within the context not only of changing theologies but also of transitions in American culture and society. The result is a thorough social history of the profession that also takes seriously the theological presuppositions that have informed clerical activity. With alternating chapters on Protestant and Catholic clergy, the book permits sustained comparisons between the two dominant Christian traditions in American history.

At the same time, God's Ambassadors depicts a vocation that has remained deeply ambivalent regarding the professional status marking the other traditional learned callings in the American workplace. Changing expectations about clerical education, as well as enduring theological questions, have engendered a debate about the professional ideal that has distinguished the clerical vocation from such fields as law and medicine.

The American clergy from the past four centuries constitute a colorful, diverse cast of characters who have, in ways both obvious and obscure, helped to shape the tone of American culture. For a well-rounded narrative of their story told by a master historian, God's Ambassadors is the book to read.

Publisher's 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.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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