Transatlantic evangelical missions culture and the rise of the Campbell Movement

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Institution: Baylor University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Stone-Campbell Movement. Restoration movement. Thomas Campbell. Alexander Campbell. Evangelical. Transatlantic. Missions. Missionary society. Protestant missionary movement. Ecumenism. Primitivism. Restoration. Millennialism. Religious culture. Anthropology of religion. American Christianity. Democratization.
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2068196
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2104/9556


Historical accounts of the Stone-Campbell Movement (SCM) have often envisioned it as a uniquely American movement. This dissertation utilizes the perspectives of transnational history and evangelicalism to demonstrate that transatlantic evangelical currents inextricably shaped Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander Campbell, the two leading figures of the Campbell tradition of the SCM. Using the work of Clifford Geertz on religion as culture, this dissertation explains the rise and solidification of the 'transatlantic evangelical missions culture' and argues that scholars should understand the origins of the Campbell movement, as expressed in the Christian Association of Washington (CAW) and its Declaration and Address (1809), as emerging from the missions culture. First, historians have missed the missions context for a number of reasons including inquiry focused on the nation-state, Alexander Campbell’s vehement opposition to missionary societies in the 1820s, and historical focus on the missionary society as a source of division in the late nineteenth century. Therefore, historians of SCM missions have started narratives in the 1820s with an anti-missionary-society Campbell and sought to explain why he changed later in the 1840s. This study shows that the Campbells supported missions for two decades before the 1820s. Second, historians have focused on restoration of New Testament Christianity and Christian unity as major ideals that constituted the ingenuity of the Campbell movement, often looking for one or the other ideal in early influences. Although these emphases were central to the Campbell movement, they were not unique to it; the ideals constituted foundational parts of the missions culture. In fact, the Christian vision articulated in the CAW and Declaration and Address was one of many similar expressions of the evangelical missions culture that solidified in the 1790s. Although later historical accounts have missed it, the Campbells' earliest writings demonstrate that they viewed their CAW as part of the missions culture. The democratic American frontier, their developing hermeneutic, and developments within the missions culture led the Campbell movement, ironically, to oppose missionary societies by the 1820s. Nonetheless, the Campbells’ CAW and Declaration and Address had origins in the transatlantic evangelical missions culture. Advisors/Committee Members: Pitts, William Lee, 1937- (advisor).