From the Affiliated Societies column of the March 2010 issue of Perspectives on History
Conference on Faith and History
Rick Kennedy, March 2010
The Christian concern for historical authenticity, although having its ups and downs, has long been a boon to the discipline of history. Modern historiographers such as Arnoldo Momigliano and Anthony Grafton have explored the complex role of Christian faith in the long-term construction of our modern discipline. We in the Conference on Faith and History (CFH) are chartered to uphold, study, and improve this relationship. We are not a church history society, although we are often interested in church and religious history. Our members come from all the various fields of the modern profession. We are also not a historical theory society, although we are often interested in theory. Our members are practitioners of the art of history who keep an eye on the influence of Christian faith. We are also interested in how Christian faith has a role in our lives as professionals, as writers, as teachers, and as colleagues. Our members work at large, public universities and small, Christian liberal arts colleges. At every level of the modern knowledge industry, and in all the diverse duties within the industry, we believe our Christian perspective has a place at the table.
The roots of our organization go back into the mid 1960s when some young professors decided to organize. The leaders were Richard Millett (Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville), Robert Clouse (Indiana State Univ.), Robert Linder (Kansas State Univ.) and Richard Pierard (Indiana State Univ.). On December 29, 1966, at the AHA annual meeting in New York City, an informal caucus took place in the hotel room of Harry Rosenberg (Colorado State Univ.). By the fall of 1968 Robert Linder had become the founding editor of our journal, Fides et Historia, and Richard Pierard had begun his more than three decades of service as secretary-treasurer. In 1969 the CFH rolls included 212 charter members.
In September 1970 the first official election named Robert Frykenberg (Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison) president of CFH. He wanted to do two things: (1) establish formal affiliation with the American Historical Association; and (2) “determine whether CFH was to be a smaller, more elite research-oriented society for advanced Christian studies or a more broadly based society reaching out to any and all.” As for the first, the AHA did, in due course, welcome CFH as an affiliated society, but only after Frykenberg calmed some rough waters created by one of our members who wrote “a scathing and somewhat insultingly phrased letter to AHA officers.” As for the second, the determination of direction was never made. CFH has supported the work of influential member-researchers such as Frykenberg, Edwin Yamauchi, George Marsden, Nathan Hatch, and Mark Noll, while, at the same time, it has embraced members focused on teaching at small liberal arts colleges along with offering supportive programs for graduate students and undergraduates.
Forty-some years later, the Conference on Faith and History is thriving. Many books are being published by a younger generation of members. Our journal, Fides et Historia, is in its 42nd volume and is collected in 269 libraries including 48 international libraries. The journal is included in all the appropriate indexes. Electronic, full-text access has begun with Gale and will be expanded soon by other companies providing electronic access. Over the years, the journal has published much that fulfills President Frykenberg’s hope for excellent research. On the other hand, it has also served as a forum for pedagogical support, book reviews, and review essays.
Every year the CFH offers a breakfast reception and session at the AHA annual meeting. This year in San Diego, five of our newest members, who have each written recent books, offered a panel discussing methodological issues in the study of “Community, Identity, and Vocation of Laity in Medieval and Early Modern Christianity.” On even-numbered years, CFH offers a fall meeting usually attended by a couple of hundred members and another hundred undergraduates who present papers at a parallel student conference. October 6–9, 2010 we will meet at George Fox University in Oregon. The theme is “The Search for Peace, Justice, and Equality.” Last summer, representatives of CFH were in San Jose, Costa Rica, negotiating partnerships with Latin American organizations for the purpose of creating long-term relationships and promoting a conference at the University of Mexico in 2011.
Huntington University in Indiana houses our home office. Wheaton College in Illinois holds our archives. Membership is just $30 a year. The dues for undergraduates is only $20. Graduate student memberships are free. Contact us at www.huntington.edu/cfh. Graduate student members can also visit http://cfhgradstudents.com/default.aspx.
Rick Kennedy, professor of history at Point Loma Nazarene University, is president of the Conference on Faith and History. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.