William L. Pitts, Ph.D.

William L. Pitts, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
High Res Photo

Professor Emeritus

  • Vanderbilt University, Ph.D. in Religion (Church History) -Dissertation: "World Christianity: The Church History Writing of Kenneth Scott Latourette."
  • Vanderbilt Divinity School, M.Div., Church History concentration
  • Baylor University, B.A., Double Major: History and Religion

Bill Pitts grew up in Duncan, Oklahoma. He earned his BA at Baylor University in history and religion, and took his Master of Divinity and his Doctor of Philosophy degrees at Vanderbilt University. He taught at Mercer, Houston Baptist and Dallas Baptist before coming to Baylor, where he teaches courses in church history. Pitts has worked extensively with undergraduate and graduate students on travel-study programs to Britain, and has read papers at international academic conferences.

Pitts is a proud husband, father and grandfather and has long enjoyed working with many extra-professional activities including youth soccer and the Salvation Army. He is active in First Baptist Church. His hobbies include travel, sports and reading.

Professor Pitts has served two terms as director of The Graduate Program in Religion, 1988-1991 and 2006-2010. He serves as editor of the Baptist History and Heritage journal. He is currently working on a book on Walter Rauschenbusch, early twentieth-century Baptist pastor, professor and proponent of the social gospel (scheduled for publication in 2018). 

Academic Interests and Research:

American Christianity, (19th-20th centuries), Baptist History and Identity (17th century England and modern American Baptist trends), Historiography, Spirituality, New Religious Movements, Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel.

Professional Awards and Activities:

2017-2019, Editor of Baptist History and Heritage.

2013-2015, President, Baptist History and Heritage Society.

2014, A Festschrift in Honor of Bill Pitts, Baptist History and Heritage Society, Vol. XLIV, No. 1.

2014, Leader for Mercer Baptist Classics Seminar.                           

2010, The Norman W. Cox Award for the outstanding article published by the Baptist History and Heritage Society.

2009, Baptist Studies Committee: visit to libraries at Regents' Park, Oxford, to explore Cooperative ventures, May 2009.

2009, Convener "Missions in America and American Missions", American Society of Church History, Montreal, Canada, April 2009.

2009, Convener and Respondent "On Dissent among Dissenters", AAR/SWCRS, Dallas, March 2009.

2008, Chairman, Bylaws Revision Committee, Baptist History and Heritage Society

2005-2007, Served as Secretary/Treasurer for Southwest Commission on Religious Studies. Organized annual regional meeting of AAR/SBL/ASOR/ASSR, with 240-300 participants, 2005-2007.

2006, Baptist History and Heritage Distinguished Service Award.

2004, Outstanding Graduate Professor, Baylor University (Graduate Student Association Award).

1995, 2003, 2005, Phi Kappa Chi Professor.

1981-2001, Professor, 1992-2001 Director, Baylor in the British Isles; renamed Baylor in Great Britain (five-week summer travel-study program) 1999: 172 participants

1999, Religion consultant for World History, a Prentice Hall high school textbook

1995-, Coordinator of 8 professors of World Cultures II (freshman) course in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core program

1981-2000, Editor of Journal of Texas Baptist History1993-94, Mortar Board Distinguished Professor.

1983-1984, Book Review Editor for Journal of Church State.

Regular presenter at academic conferences

Article reviewer for Journal of Church and State (1979-) and Perspectives (1994-)

Grants and Fellowships:

University Research Grant 2007

University Sabbatical, 1982; 1997

Faculty Teaching Grant, 1995, 2001, 2003, 2007

Selected Research Articles:

"Walter Rauschenbusch and the Reformation,” Baptist History and Heritage, LII, No. 3 (Fall 2017).

"Baptists Seeking Justice: Walter Rauschenbusch’s Legacy,” Baptist History and     Heritage, L, No. 2 (Summer 2015): 33-51.

“Shaping a German Immigrant Church,” American Baptist Quarterly, XXXIII, No. 2               (Summer 2014): 194-214.

“Rauschenbusch and Döllinger as ‘Other’: Historians and the Protestant-Catholic Divide,” Baptist History and Heritage, XLIX, No. 2 (Summer 2014): 38-51.

“SHEkinah: Lois Roden’s Quest for Gender Equality,” Nova Religio,Vol. XVII, No. 4 (May 2014): 37-60.

“Leadership in the Youth-Led Revival Movement,” Texas Baptist History, Vol. XXXII (2012): 39-68.

“Conscience and Compromise: Strategies of Dissent in Late Tudor England,” Journal of Church and State, vol. 54, No. 4 (Autumn 2012), 581-602.

“Debating the True Church on the Grounds of Believer’s Baptism: The Ecclesiology of Hanserd Knollys,” Baptist History and Heritage, XLVII, No. 2 (Summer 2012): 55-67.           

“Why Baptist History Matters: Rauschenbusch and Latourette,” American             Baptist Quarterly, XXIX, No. 3 (Fall 2010): 149-171.

“The Popular Reception of Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis,1907-1910,” American Baptist Quarterly, XXVIII, No. 2 (Summer 2009): 162-179.

"Baptist Origins, 1609: The John Smyth/Richard Clifton Literary Debate," Perspectives in Religious Studies, fall, 2009.

"Women Leaders in the Davidian and Branch Davidian Traditions," Nova Religio, Vol. 12, No.4 (May 2009), 50-71.

"Arguing Regenerate Church membership: Baptist Identity during Its First Decade, 1610-1620," Baptist History and Heritage, XLIV, No. 1 (Winter 2009), 20-39.

"Recruiting for Missions: the Baylor Volunteer Foreign Mission Band, 1900-1916," Baptist History and Heritage, Vol. XLIII, No. 1 (Winter 2008), 94-110.

"Personal and Social Christianity in Rauschenbusch's Thought," American Baptist Quarterly, Vol. XXVI, No. 2 (Summer 2007), 138-160.

"Christianity and the Social Crisis: Rauschenbusch's Legacy After a Century." Baptist History and Heritage, XLI (Summer/Fall 2006), No. 3, 35-48.

"Current Trends in Texas Baptist Ordination." Perspectives in Religious Studies, 29, No. 3 (Fall 2002), 259-267.

"Kenneth Scott Latourette, Church Historian." Baptist History and Heritage, 37, No. 1 (Winter 2002): 52-70.

"Changing Views of the Millennium in the Davidian Tradition." Journal of Religious History, 24, No. 1 (February 2000): 87-102.

"The Mount Carmel Davidians: Adventist Reformers, 1935-1959." Syzygy 2, (Winter/Spring 1993): 39-54.

Books Edited

Early English Baptist Texts: The Collected Works of Hanserd Knollys: Volume I: Pamphlets on Religion, Edited  and annotated by William L. Pitts and Rady Roldan Figueroa. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2017.

Baptists and Revival, edited by William L. Pitts.  Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, Forthcoming.

Selected Contributions to Books and Encyclopedias:

"The Life of Hanserd Knollys,” Early English Baptist Texts: The Collected Works of Hanserd Knollys, Vol. I: Pamphlets on Religion, ed. by William Pitts and Rady Roldan-Figueroa. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Forthcoming.

“The Historiography of  Hanserd Knollys,” Early English Baptist Texts: The Collected Works of Hanserd Knollys, Vol. I: Pamphlets on Religion, ed. by William Pitts and Rady Roldan-Figueroa. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Forthcoming.

“Introduction,” Baptists and Revival, edited by William L. Pitts.  Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Scheduled for 2017.

“The University and Revival: The Baylor Youth-Led Revival, 1945-46,” Baptists   and Revival, edited by William L. Pitts.  Macon, GA: Mercer University      Press. Scheduled for 2017.

“Bates, Miner Searle,” The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States, ed. Mark Lamport, Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.

“The Branch Davidians.”  Religions of the World, 4 vols. ed. Gordon Melton, Denver, Colorado: ABC CLIO, Vol. 1:160-162; 2nd edition, 2009.

 “Recruiting for Missions: The Baylor Volunteer Foreign Mission Band,1900-1906,” Baptists and Mission. Vol. 29 of International Studies in Baptist History and Thought, ed. Ian M. Randall and Anthony R. Cross, with Foreward by David Bebbington. London: Paternoster Press, 2007. Pages 164-177.

"Women, Ministry and Identity: Establishing Female Deacons at First Baptist Church, Waco, 1996." Baptist History and Thought: Baptist Identities. Vol. 19 of International Studies from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Centuries, ed. By Ian M. Randall, Toivo Pilli and Anthony R. Cross, with Foreword by David Bebbington. London: Paternoster Press, 2006. Pages 99-110.

"Davidians and Branch Davidians," New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 19 Supplement 1989-1995. Edited by Berard L. Marthaler, Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1995, 96-98. Selected in 1999 for the new edition of NCE.

"Davidians and Branch Davidians: 1929-1987," in Armageddon in Waco. Ed. Stuart Wright, 20-42, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

"The Davidian Tradition," in From the Ashes: Making Sense of Waco. Ed. James R. Lewis, 33-39. Lanham, Maryland: Rowland and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1994.

"The Spirituality of A.B. Simpson." Modern Christian Spirituality: Methodological and Historical Essays. Ed. Bradley Hanson, 223-248. Atlanta: Georgia: Scholars Press, 1991.

Ph.D Dissertations Directed:


  • Michael Clawson
  • James Gorman                                                  
  • Craig Clarkson                                              
  • Kyle Welty                                                    
  • Bracy Hill                                      
  • Christopher Rios                                             
  • Michael Sciretti                                              
  • Matt Cook                                                               
  • John Inscore Essick
  • Kristian Pratt
  • Brian Pendleton
  • Jim Usery
  • Kendra Irons
  • Jeffrey Taylor
  • Eiko Kanamura
  • Carol Crawford Holcomb
  • Deirdre LaNoue
  • Edwin B. Stepp
  • Moises Rodriguez
  • Jerry L. Faught, II
  • Milton L. Perry
  • Maxie B. Burch
  • John Marion Adams
  • Merrill M. Hawkins, Jr.
  • Pamela Robinson-Durso
  • Jeffrey Warren Scott
  • Kenneth Vaughn Weatherford
  • William Glenn Jonas, Jr.
  • Roger A. Marsh
  • Donald Vernon Dowless
  • Michael Lynn Kirkindoll
  • Donald L. Martin, Jr.
  • Robert H. Krapohl
  • Ricky Paris
  • Clyde M. DeLoach
  • Rosalie Beck
  • Myer Phillips
  • Richard E. Lessner
  • Steven Houston Simpler
  • Robert Doyle Smith
  • Jimmy Gene Cobb

Masters Theses:

  • Amy Kaunaoa Butler
  • William Ingle Gillis
  • Flavio Marconi Lemos Monteiro
  • Mauritta C. Bowden
  • Charles C. Carroll
  • Margaret R. Morgan
  • L. Katherine Cook

Dissertations in progress:

  • Susan Moudry
Courses Taught at Baylor:
  • REL 1350 The Christian Heritage
  • REL 3330 Introduction to Church History
  • REL 4333 History of Protestantism
  • REL 4336 Introduction to Religion in America
  • REL 5131 History Area Colloquium
  • REL 5335 Modern European Christianity
  • REL 5336 History of American Christianity I (to 1865) and II (since 1865)
  • BIC 1324 World Cultures II (Europe, China, Islam, Meso-America)
View Dr. Pitts' CV.