Ostrander Among 12 Chosen to Study American Christianity

Siloam Springs, Ark (November 20, 2001) — Dr. Rick Ostrander, chair of John Brown University’s division of social and behavioral sciences, has been invited to participate in the History of American Christian Practice project funded by the Lily Endowment.

Ostrander, working with 11 other historians from across the country, will attend the launch of the three-year study in June 2002. Under the administration of Kathryn Lofton in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and Anita Kline in the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, the team intends to conduct a multifaceted historical inquiry into the devotional habits, moral disciplines, liturgical enactments and spiritual traditions of American Christians from the 18th through the middle of the 20th century.

This working group of historians will work together to produce richer, more complex historical accounts to enhance the growing interest in current religious practice among sociologists and theologians. The project administrators also hope to stimulate a conversation with pastors and practical theologians about the ways in which the historical study of practices may (or may not) shed light on communities of faith today.

The 36-month project includes a series of conferences and collaborative scholarship that will culminate in a major conference in the fall of 2004. A collection of essays to which each associate will contribute a chapter is also scheduled to be released.

“We generally know what Christians in the past believed,” Ostrander said. “But how Christians have actually practiced their faith in the past is a question that historians have not really studied.” Ostrander’s participation in the project will connect him with other scholars in the field and give direction and support to his own research.

Dr. Jim Worthington, JBU’s vice-president of academic affairs, says Ostrander’s appointment brings national visibility to JBU. “Dr. Ostrander’s exemplary scholarship earned him this invitation, and the university is extremely proud of his scholarship record.” Collaborative scholarship is becoming the norm for important study efforts. Worthington says, “This group process creates a stimulating intellectual climate (‘iron sharpens iron’) that will ultimately provide JBU students with enriched opportunities for learning in the classroom.”

John Brown University is a private university with an enrollment of more than 1,600 students from 46 states and 30 countries. JBU is a member of the Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.