As we turn the page next week, I think it appropriate to review the year’s literature in the broad field of Stone-Campbell studies. Though the publishers seem to have scaled back the volume of new titles, several significant studies came our way this year. I make no claims for thoroughness here; no doubt I’m overlooking something. If you think so, please chime in with a comment. I’m concentrating here on Restoration history and theology that engages our history. The list below is in no particular order.
I think it safe to say the volume we have waited for the longest is the third installment of Eva Jean Wrather’s biography on Alexander Campbell. Alexander Campbell: Adenturer in Freedom, A Literary Biography Volume 3 completes the set which was to have been published in the late 1940’s. The manuscript, numbering 850 pages with 800,000 words, took her about 70 years to write. Through a series of ups and downs (see the preface to volume 1 for the details) the mss did not to see the light of day until after Wrather died. D. Duane Cummins edited with Eva Jean’s oversight the entirety of what is volume 1. Her declining health prohibited her from assisting with the remainder. Volume 1 appeared in 2005, volume 2 in 2007 and volume 3 in 2009. Issued in three nicely done hardcovers by Texas Christian University Press, Wrather’s set will take its place beside Robert Richardson’s Memoirs of Alexander Campbell as required reading for AC. We wish Eva Jean used footnotes, but she did not. Nonetheless, the set is a significant achievement.
And the Word Became Flesh: Studies in History, Communication, and Scripture in Memory of Michael W. Casey edited by Thomas H. Olbricht and David Fleer (Pickwick Publications) was presented to the public at the 2009 Christian Scholars Conference at Lipscomb University in July. It contains a number of first class essays on Restoration history as well as several other engaging essays in a wide range of areas such as Biblical studies, Biblical theology, rhetoric, communication and peace studies. Mike made a significant contribution to Stone-Campbell studies, particularly Churches of Christ. This collection is a fitting tribute to Mike and his work; they fill several previously empty niches in Restoration history.
W. Dennis Helsabeck, Jr., History prof at Milligan College, has added to the work of Gary Holloway and Doug Foster in producing Renewal for Mission: A Concise History of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (ACU Press). The first several chapters appeared some years ago under the title Renewing God’s People: A Concise History of Churches of Christ (2001; with Study Guide in 2006). Helsabeck picks up where Holloway and Foster leave off in 1907 and takes the reader through the particular history of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (sometimes called Independent Christian Churches or 4-C’s). I suggest it as a first-read for 4-C’s, followed by longer works such as those by James B. North and Henry Webb.
Lawrence A. Q. Burnley has rendered a needed service in situating the agency of African Americans in the Christian Church in denominational, historical, educational and racial contexts. The Cost of Unity: African-American Agency and Education in the Christian Church, 1865-1914 (Mercer University Press) breaks new ground by contextualizing African American educational initiatives in this way. In other words, Larry does here what hasn’t been done before. He brings needed attention and analysis to what has largely been glossed over, footnoted or ignored in Stone-Campbell history.
Earl Kimbrough’s massive biography of F. B. Srygley is another welcome addition to our literature. The Warrior from Rock Creek: Life, Times, and Thoughts of F. B. Sryley, 1859-1940 (Religious Supply Center, Louisville, KY) nears 650 pages and touches upon every issue or controversy in Churches of Christ during Srygley’s lifetime. One cannot hardly read an issue of the Gospel Advocate from the later 1880’s until 1940 and miss a Srygley. I have not yet completed a close reading of Kimbrough’s book, but I have read much in it. From what I have read, I commend it as a thorough and well-researched biography.
Lastly, The Disciples: A Struggle for Reformation (Chalice Press) from D. Duane Cummins is especially welcome for its emphasis on recent Disciples history (recent as in mid-twentieth century until now). As with Earl’s biography of Srygley, I intend to give Duane’s latest book a careful read. From what portions I have read, I expect to learn much.