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Title: How Firm a Foundation: "The Methodist Building" and Constructions of Public Protestantism, 1916-1936
Authors: Adams, Kurt F.
Advisors: Weisenfeld, Judith L
Contributors: Religion Department
Subjects: American history
Religious history
American studies
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the history of the Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., in order to understand how the building exhibited aspirations for public Protestantism during the Prohibition era. Over four chronological chapters, this dissertation examines how the Methodist Building was a contested site, revealing the tensions of race, nation, religion, and politics in twentieth-century American Methodist identity. The project focuses on how the Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals of the Methodist Episcopal Church wanted to construct the Methodist Building to announce the national ambitions of Methodism and counter perceived influences of Catholicism in Washington; how the Board employed material culture and public ceremonies to position the new Methodist Building as a platform for public Protestantism that would reform the nation; how the public Protestantism that the Board sought to embody in the Methodist Building sparked a debate over whether it was a lobby; and the campaign to make the Methodist Building the headquarters of the new national Methodist Church once the Northern and Southern branches reunited in 1939. Close examination of the Methodist Building illustrates how the Board used the building to argue for the moral and cultural authority of Methodism and Protestantism in society, and how others challenged that public role. This study of the Methodist Building invites a reconsideration of the early twentieth-century era of Methodist and mainline Protestant institution building. This thematic research challenges the view that Methodist institution building during this period was an afterthought or even a declension to the nineteenth-century revivals and itinerant preaching. A deeper appreciation of the institutions and physical structures Methodists built during the early twentieth century helps to explain how this religious tradition transitioned from a revivalist movement into a settled denomination, and finally to become a part of the Protestant mainline establishment. Instead of a clandestine network of Protestant influence in seemingly secular institutions, the Methodist Building and the Board leaders who built it reveals the aspirational role for Protestantism in American public life and culture.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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