Research

Minutes of Indiana Presbytery, Historical Foundation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Memphis.

My dissertation, “No Northern or Southern Religion: Cumberland Presbyterians and the Christian Nation, 1800–1906,” is about the largest Protestant denomination not to split along North–South lines during the Civil War era. I tell the story of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church’s origins in the Revival of 1800 and a resultant schism among Presbyterians in Kentucky and Tennessee; its expansion throughout the trans-Appalachian South and Midwest; its nominal unification throughout the Civil War, only to lose its black membership soon thereafter; and its partial merger with the northern Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 1906, leaving behind a stubborn southern rump church. Throughout the story I focus on how Cumberland Presbyterians used the ideology of Christian nationalism (believing that America had a special mission to purify Christianity and evangelize the globe, and that Cumberland Presbyterians were uniquely positioned to lead that mission) to resolve some of the challenges a Protestant denomination faced in the United States: namely, how to forge an identity in the denominational marketplace created by the disestablishment of religion, and how to grapple with the realities and legacies of slavery. But ultimately Christian nationalism was undermined by the very forces it was meant to address.