The Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals (ISAE), a center for research and programming at Wheaton College, recently produced a six-episode DVD series on the 400-year history of American Christianity.
People of Faith: Christianity in America examines key themes, controversies, and people in the history of the American church.
Dr. Larry Eskridge, Associate Director of the ISAE, says the three-hour series is designed for church-based adult and teen education classes and small groups in an effort to promote general knowledge about church history and discussion about the historic, contemporary and future role of the church in American culture and society.
"We have found that generally there’s been a big effort to educate people on early church history. And, depending on the particular church tradition a person or group is associated with, they tend to know about different aspects of their own history," Eskridge says. "For example, Anglicans might be more familiar with the Reformation, or Catholics with the mediaeval church. But most people are a little short when it comes to American history. This documentary provides a lot of background for the contemporary scene we find ourselves in, and approaches topics from evangelical, as well as mainline Protestant and Catholic perspectives."
The six programs include "Faith in the New World: From Monarchs to the Marketplace" (a basic historical overview); "Many Mansions" (a look at the diversity within American Christianity); "Rebels With a Cause" (a look at some of the ways in which the church has been involved in social and political reform and disputes); "The Challenges of Change" (the role of innovation in shaping the historic and contemporary church); "Homegrown Saints" (stories of 10 important and representative figures in the sweep of American church history); and "The Future of Faith" (A discussion of current issues and future directions).
Funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. grant, the series features interviews with more than 30 scholars and church figures, including civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery; Martin Marty and Jean Bethke Elshtain, both of the University of Chicago; ISAE co-founder Mark Noll and Philip Gleason, both of the University of Notre Dame; Joel Carpenter of Calvin College; Thomas Kidd of Baylor University; Darren Dochuck of Purdue University; and Kathryn Long of Wheaton College. The series was written by veteran author Steve Rabey, and was produced and directed by Tim Frakes, with assistance from documentarian Paul Butler.
"The real merit of the whole series is that it presents some pretty important themes in American church history and does it within a pretty short time span," Eskridge says. "We hope it inspires people to read and study on their own."
A trailer of the documentary can be seen on the website of distributor Vision Video. The ISAE website is isae.wheaton.edu. For more information or purchasing details, contact either website.