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James Hudnut-Beumler - Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN, US

James Hudnut-Beumler

Anne Potter Wilson Distinguished Professor of American Religious History | Vanderbilt University


Expert in the history of religion in the American South.


Hudnut-Beumler served as Dean of the Divinity School from 2000 until 2013. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt in 2000, he was dean of the faculty at Columbia Theological Seminary, a program associate for Lilly Endowment, and director of the undergraduate program in Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Hudnut-Beumler is the author of Looking for God in the Suburbs: The Religion of the American Dream and Its Critics, 1945-1965 (Rutgers, 1994) and Generous Saints: Congregations Rethinking Money and Ethics (Alban, 1999), and is co-author of The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York (NYU, 2005). He is also the author of an economic history of American Protestantism from 1750 to the present, entitled, In Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar: A History of Money and American Protestantism (University of North Carolina, 2007) and Strangers and Friends at the Welcome Table: Contemporary Christianities in the American South (University of North Carolina, 2018) and co-editor of The Future of Mainline Protestantism (Columbia, 2018) Professor Hudnut-Beumler and his wife, Heidi, are both Presbyterian ministers and make their home in Nashville.

Areas of Expertise (4)

Religion and philanthropy

History of religion in the U.S.

Religion in the American South

Religious symbolism in the U.S.

Accomplishments (3)

Vanderbilt Distinguished Faculty Member (professional)


Awarded Vanderbilt Distinguished Faculty Member in 2003

Associated Church Press, Best Professional Article (professional)


Awarded Best Professional Article by Associated Church Press in 1991

Princeton University Fellowship (professional)


Held Princeton University Fellowship from 1984-87

Education (3)

The College of Wooster: B.A.

Union Theological Seminary: M.Div.

Princeton University: M.A., Ph.D.

Affiliations (3)

  • American Academy of Religion
  • American Society of Church History
  • Organization of American Historians

Selected Media Appearances (8)

Religious liberty has a long and messy history – and there is a reason Americans feel strongly about it

The Conversation  online


At the close of its recent term the Supreme Court ruled on the cases of Carson v. Makin and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, rekindling controversy over one of the most enduring issues in American history: religious liberty. Another of this term’s blockbuster decisions, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, underlines the fact that religious beliefs and actions in the public realm matter. Whether the issue concerns religion and education, prayer or reproduction, Americans feel strongly about their religious liberties.

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Despite Supreme Court rulings, religious liberty has always been a contentious issue | Opinion

Tennessean  online


Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the cases of Carson v. Makin and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, giving the justices yet another occasion to wrestle with one of the most difficult issues in American history: religious liberty.

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A year after Gwen Shamblin Lara's death, her presence looms large at Remnant Fellowship

USA Today  online


The sudden passing of several church leaders itself caused disbelief and trauma among the congregation, but that was further complicated by the fact that Lara ran a personality-based ministry, said James Hudnut-Beumler, a professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

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Symbols brought to Capitol raise questions about role of Christian belief in riot

Tennessean  online


It is easy to find Christian symbolism in the movement supporting Trump's reelection and the sense of embattlement that accompanies it, said James Hudnut-Beumler, a Vanderbilt University professor of American religious history. Adversity is a trope of Christian life, he said.

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Masks keep churches from being superspreaders. But they make sermons tough

Religion News Service  online


As congregations reopen, often with social distancing and masks, preachers have faced new challenges, said Jim Hudnut-Beumler, professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville.

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'Regular' mom builds a million followers by posting a simple prayer on Facebook each night

Tennessean  online


That's no surprise to Vanderbilt religion professor James Hudnut-Beumler, who said that Thompson is speaking for many moms. "Most people struggle with prayer," he said, "and here’s a woman just like them who’s got it down."

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The Methodist Church will probably split in two over homosexuality, and that's bad for all of us

CNN  online


"The mainline Protestants are like the shock troops," said James Hudnut-Beumler, a professor of religious history at Vanderbilt University. "They absorb the first body blows. But as the mainline goes, so more conservative and evangelical will go eventually."

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Suicide of prominent pastor Jarrid Wilson forces church leaders to confront mental health

USA Today  online


For a long time, that was the teaching, according to James Hudnut-Beumler, a professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt University’s divinity school in Nashville, Tennessee.

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