Saturday, January 4, 2014

Conference on Faith and History Session at the AHA: Reimagining the Practice of History

CFH Biennial Conference Call for Papers
I started Day 3 of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association with a breakfast reception sponsored by the Conference on Faith and History (CFH).  I have found the CFH to be an important part of my growth and development as a Christian and a historian, so it was good to see old friends and make some new ones.  I was so pleased to see a large number of graduate students in attendance at the breakfast.

Following the breakfast, I chaired the annual CFH-sponsored session.  This year's title was "Reimagining the Practice of History."  The panel included two presenters.  Glenn Sanders of Oklahoma Baptist University, a guru on the subject of teaching and faith, presented "Christian Practices and the Vocation of History Teaching."  Glenn introduced us to his "Afternoon Conferences," weekly seminars in which he challenges his Western Civilization students to think deeply about the connections between Christianity and the practice of historical thinking.

The second presenter was Robert Tracy McKenzie of Wheaton College.  Tracy's paper was entitled "The Moral of the Story: Writing for Audiences Outside the Ivory Tower."  In this paper he returned to some of the themes of his 2012 CFH presidential address on writing history for the church, and expanded more fully on these themes in the context of his new book The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History.

I also commented on the session.  Most of my thoughts centered around how the approaches to doing history put forth by Sanders and McKenzie reflect approaches to doing history that seem to be shaping the entire historical profession at the moment.  Drawing on William Cronon's 2013 AHA presidential address, I suggested that the approach to the historian's vocation presented in Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian's Vocation fits very well with the attempt of the AHA and the historical profession as a whole to expand the traditional understanding of historical work to include public historians, digital historians, K-12 teachers, and others.  Sanders and McKenzie offered models for how these larger professional changes can (and in some cases cannot) be embraced by historians of faith.

I hope everyone who attended today's session comes to Malibu in September for the Biennial Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History.  For more details click here.