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Laney Graduate School

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SEEKING A GLOBAL VISION: THE EVOLUTION OF WORLD VISION AND AMERICAN EVANGELICALISM

King, David Patrick (2012)
Dissertation (425 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Holifield, Brooks
Committee Members: Bounds, Elizabeth M ; Strom, Jonathan ; Wacker, Grant (Duke University );
Research Fields: Religion, History of; Religion, General; History, United States
Keywords: World Vision; evangelicalism; religious philanthropy ; development ; missions
Program: Laney Graduate School, Religion (Historical Studies in Theology and Religion)
Permanent url: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/bsn39

Abstract

Abstract
Seeking a Global Vision: The Evolution of World Vision and American Evangelicalism

The past and present suggest two distinct pictures of World Vision. The organization began in 1950 as an American organization to support evangelical missionaries. Today it is the world's largest Christian humanitarian organization undertaking relief, community development, justice, and advocacy work. While it has remained decidedly Christian, it has earned the reputation as an elite international non-governmental organization (INGO) managed efficiently by professional experts fluent in the language of both marketing and development. I argue that World Vision's transformation was not simply another example of an organization encountering modernity, subduing its religious identity, and succumbing to secular methods in order to succeed. Instead, it is precisely the tensions and re-articulation of its religious identity that have helped to define the organization through its engagement with evangelical missiology and ecumenical theology; mainstream media, technology, and professional management, as well as its relationships with secular INGOs and cooperation with the global church.

Using historical and ethnographic methods, I trace World Vision's history as a lens through which to explore both shifts within post-World War II American evangelicalism and the complexities of religious identity within faith-based humanitarianism. While numerous scholars have examined American evangelicalism by emphasizing its American features, which have indeed permeated the nation's politics, religion, and popular culture, they have understated the effect of global forces on American evangelicals. Attending to the evolution and interplay of World Vision's practices, theology, rhetoric, and organizational structure, I hope to show how the organization rearticulated and retained its Christian identity even as it expanded beyond a narrow American evangelical subculture, how the ethos of evangelical missions more generally has shifted from traditional modes of evangelism to humanitarianism, and how exposure to the wider world has influenced the identity of countless American evangelicals. These tensions and patterns of change make possible a distinctive angle of vision on the history and evolution of religious humanitarianism.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ………………………………………………………………………1

CHAPTER 1: The Emergence of a New Evangelicalism: Bob Pierce, Youth for Christ, and World Vision ……………………………………………14

CHAPTER 2: Seeing the World Through American Eyes: World Vision's Evangelical Message, 1950s ………………………………………..52

CHAPTER 3: Opening Their Eyes to a New World: World Vision and the Evolving Identity of American Evangelicalism, 1950s ……..88

CHAPTER 4: World Vision's Growing Pains: Evangelical Reassessment in a Decade of Crisis, 1960s …………………………………………………….122

CHAPTER 5: World Vision, "In Between," 1970-1976 ………………………….174

CHAPTER 6: Development and Internationalization: Organizational Change and Religious Identity in World Vision, 1974-1983 ……...…220

CHAPTER 7: A Changing World Vision. A Changing Evangelicalism? 1983-1995 ….………………………………………………………261

CHAPTER 8: World Vision and the New Internationalists, 1995-Present………...319

CONCLUSION ……………………………………………………………………...369

BIBLIOGRAPHY ……………………………………………………………………...379

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