In the decades following World War II, a movement of clergy and laity sought to restore liberal Protestantism to the center of American urban life. Chastened by their failure to avert war and the Holocaust, and troubled by missionaries’ complicity with colonial regimes, they redirected their energies back home.
Renewal explores the rise and fall of this movement, which began as an effort to restore the church’s standing but wound up as nothing less than an openhearted crusade to remake our nation’s cities. These campaigns reached beyond church walls to build or lend a hand to scores of organizations fighting for welfare, social justice, and community empowerment among the increasingly nonwhite urban working class. Church leaders extended their efforts far beyond traditional evangelicalism, often dovetailing with many of the contemporaneous social currents coursing through the nation, including black freedom movements and the War on Poverty.
Renewal illuminates the overlooked story of how religious institutions both shaped and were shaped by postwar urban America.