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Encyclopedia of Religion in the South.

By Samuel S. Hill, Editor. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1997. 864 pp.

The Encyclopedia is an absolute necessity for students of American religion and Southern culture. This new paperback edition should encourage a larger readership.

The articles can be divided in two major categories: institutional histories and religious themes. The institutional histories articles explore the religious development in the sixteen Southern states, seventy-one denominational histories, numerous sacred places, and biographies of persons who became cultural institutions. The denominational histories are excellent; they allow the reader to grasp quickly the issues that birthed the various denominations.

The religious themes articles cover doctrinal concerns, theological issues, religious practices, and "special feature" articles. The discussion of theological terms functions as an important tool for seminarians and pastors who are attempting to delineate specific issues that separate the multiplicity of Southern congregations. The doctrinal information highlights a denomination's uniqueness and acknowledges the common ground among Christian groups. The "special feature" articles are the diamonds that sparkle the brightest in this mound of jewels; these special items display the rich variety in Southern religiosity whether it be roadside signs, Caribbean immigration, Graveyard Day, santeria, or curse of Noah.

I look forward to a revised edition of the Encyclopedia. Standardization of some institutional articles would help. For instance, the content of the state histories was well composed; yet, one finds the statistical data easier to peruse in tables (p. 299) versus paragraphs (p. 486). One also needs more information on politics and Southern religion (i.e., the recent emergence of Southerners in higher offices). Furthermore, the Encyclopedia must include updated information on the numerous denominations like the new SBC and the moderate groups that have grown in response to the changing dynamics in ecclesiastical life.

Overall, the Encyclopedia is an excellent and indispensable tool for the libraries of academicians, seminarians, pastors, and journalists who are attempting to understand the variegated terrain of religion in the South.--Reviewed by David G. Kitts, Louisville, Kentucky.
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kitts, David G.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1999
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