An Unpredictable Gospel: American Evangelicals and World Christianity, 1812-1920

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An Unpredictable Gospel: American Evangelicals and World Christianity, 1812-1920. By Jay Riley Case. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2012. Pp. xi, 311. £60 /$99; paperback £15.99 /$24.95.

Jay Riley Case has written an exciting book with an alluring title. His thinking on the topics of American evangelicalism and world Christianity has been informed by the perspectives of Nathan Hatch, George Marsden, Andrew Walls, and Lamin Sanneh, an important group of pioneers in their respective fields. He has taken these new ideas - particularly those he gained from what he calls his "reorientation " about the missionary movement from a seminar Sanneh led, "Christianity as a World Religion" - and has written a history in this new perspective about the missionary programs of selected evangelical groups in the nineteenth century. He chose that era because the "cultural and religious patterns" of the expansive movements of world Christianity in the twentieth century took root then (p. 15).

This is a study of the missionary efforts of four American evangelical groups - the American Baptists, Methodists, AMC Church, and the Holiness movement/ Pentecostals - that sent out missionaries to Africa, Latin America, and Asia, and how the development of Christianity in these various places in turn influenced the development of Christianity in the missionaries' American homeland. The work of American Baptists in Burma, especially with the Karen people and the emergence of the native-ministry model, became an important influence in Baptist missionary work among African Americans in the U.S. South before and after the Civil War. Methodists are represented by William Taylor, who, with his vision of a color-blind ministry and democratized missionary work based on his experiences in South Africa, had a profound impact on the Holiness movement in America and was important in the emergence of Pentecostalism. …