Leading Religious Scholar Named Distinguished Senior Fellow at Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion

June 19, 2009
News Photo 4725Dr. Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Institute for Studies of Religion (Photo courtesy of www.psu.edu)

Philip Jenkins to Co-direct Institute's Initiative on Historical Studies of Religion

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Dr. Philip Jenkins, one of the world's leading religion scholars, has agreed to be a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and to co-direct ISR's Initiative on Historical Studies of Religion. Jenkins also will offer seminars in Baylor's Department of History. He will split his time between Baylor and Pennsylvania State University where he is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities.

Jenkins will collaborate with ISR on a number of different research initiatives and will partner with ISR scholars on future studies of religion around the globe as well as ongoing historical studies of religion.

An historian by training, Jenkins' work has been lauded in many different disciplines including sociology, criminology and religious studies, and his interdisciplinary approach will be a benefit throughout the university. Dr. Jeffrey Hamilton, chair of the history department, said, "Philip Jenkins' presence in the history department will not only serve as a catalyst for new research initiatives, but will also serve as a lynchpin in drawing together ongoing work in both the history of religion and global studies."

Dr. Martin Medhurst, Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication, concurs: "Philip Jenkins is truly a rare academic in that his work not only appeals to such a wide range of scholars, but is equally appreciated among popular audiences." Dr. Rodney Stark, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences and ISR co-director, notes that the connection of Jenkins to Baylor is an obvious one: "Jenkins is a world-class scholar who really appreciates Baylor University's 2012 vision and it makes a great deal of sense for us to be identified with each other."

"The connection with Baylor represents a wonderful professional opportunity," Jenkins said. "I don't know any other university where you have so much exciting, cutting-edge research in religion as you have going on right now at ISR. Baylor is out to make history, and it's such an honor to be involved in all this."

The Economist magazine has called Jenkins "one of America's best scholars of religion." His major current interests include the study of global Christianity; of new and emerging religious movements; and of twentieth century U.S. history, chiefly post-1970. He has published 22 books which have been translated into 10 languages. Some recent titles include Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History (2000), The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity (2002), Decade of Nightmares: The End of the 1960s and the Making of Eighties America (2006), The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (2006), and God's Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis (2007).

Jenkins holds a Ph.D. in History from Cambridge University, where he spent an additional three years working with Sir Leon Radzinowicz, noted as the pioneer of criminology at Cambridge. In fact, Jenkins has an enduring interest in issues of crime and deviance and the construction of social problems. He is considered an international expert on the subject of terrorism. He has been on the faculty of Penn State since 1980.

In his most recent book The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia - and How It Died (2008), Jenkins reveals a vast Christian world to the east of the Roman Empire and how the earliest, most influential churches of the East - those that had the closest link to Jesus and the early church - died. In this paradigm-shifting book, Jenkins recovers a lost history, showing how the center of Christianity for centuries used to be the Middle East, Asia and Africa, extending as far as China.

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