Fertilizing Faith Religion and Rural Reform in the Deep South, 1908-1945


Greene, Alison C.

Committee Member

Giesen, James C.

Committee Member

Ward, Jason M.

Committee Member

Hersey, Mark

Date of Degree


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Visible to MSU only for 1 Year

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


This dissertation is about the project of southern rural church reform in the Deep South that developed during the Progressive Era. It follows the development of that movement through the end of World War II when northern interdenominational agencies began to make concerted efforts in the Deep South. The focus is particularly on rural church leaders within the major southern denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Presbyterian Church (PCUS). Because of the nature of the southern rural church movement, the dissertation focuses on individuals working within denominational agencies. It argues that the rural church movement floundered in the Deep South for several reasons. Southern denominational leaders failed to reckon with the economic and racial systems that created the dire rural conditions they perceived. In addition, the failed to adequately engage with rural people in order to understand what the people they hoped to helped wanted out of rural communities and churches. Southern rural church reformers failed to create structures that could sustain and enhance rural church work. However, those reformers worked closely with agricultural reformers and colleges in the Deep South. Despite the rural church movement’s failure, that collaboration provided for an enduring significance to their efforts.



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