Defining the Christian college : the Council of Church Boards of Education and American religious higher education, 1911–1950.


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This thesis explores competing definitions of the “Christian” college in the early twentieth-century United States, particularly as articulated by mainline Protestants in two national organizations: the ecumenical Council of Church Boards of Education (CCBE) and the related Liberal Arts College Movement (LACM). It identifies two lines of thinking on Christian higher education, which it calls the “inclusive” and “distinctive” impulses. On the one hand, “inclusive” educators—many of them trained in modern universities—saw little spiritual difference between church-related and other forms of higher education, and so discounted any “secular” threat. On the other hand, “distinctive” educators defined the religiosity of intentionally “Christian” institutions against that of “secular” colleges and universities. These two perspectives came into conflict during the 1930s, and the latter won the day within the CCBE. In the post-World War Two era, however, both impulses persisted in fragile tension within the ecumenical project of mainline Protestantism.



Christian higher education. Christian colleges. Educational associations.