Shiloh: Nonprofit, Church, and the Unserved City

No Thumbnail Available
Roseberry, Jessica Joy
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Especially since the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, scholars have attempted to understand white evangelicals in American society. Of particular interest is evangelicals’ understanding of race and the role it plays in their worldview. Scholars have studied white evangelicals’ theology as well as their movements to gain power and social acceptance as these relate to race. However, in conversation with scholars’ studies of white evangelical theology and power, this dissertation looks at evangelicals’ view of race through the lens of two of their most important social structures: the nonprofit and the church. By studying a particular nonprofit, Shiloh, and its relationship to a number of churches, including its larger, more generalized support structure of churches of Christ in the South, this text examines how both the nonprofit structure and the church structure allowed or did not allow believers to come into direct contact with the underserved population in New York City and the surrounding areas. That direct contact, or lack thereof, affected the theological worldview of and the ability for activism from evangelical Christians in a number of ways, which this dissertation also explores. The dissertation examines Shiloh, a churches of Christ nonprofit begun as a summer camp in 1951 to evangelize the entire Northeastern United States. The chapters in the dissertation chronologically follow the nonprofit through the latter decades of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. As Shiloh progressed over time, evangelical participants realized the need for more intensive relationships with Black and Brown residents of New York City beyond the scope of a summer camp. Using 100 oral history interviews and approximately 2000 photographs and scanned documents from the history of the nonprofit, this dissertation intimately examines how white evangelicals entered into contact with Black and Brown residents of New York City and how this contact changed them. The dissertation also examines multiple churches associated with Shiloh over time and the structural inability of those churches to enter into relational contact with city residents, a conundrum that negatively affected Shiloh workers over time and that also kept church members’ theology from being less activist. That the churches were unable to address the needs of city residents but that a nonprofit was structurally able to do so provides the central argument of this dissertation: one significant barrier for evangelical understanding of racial inequity may be the historically wrought structure of church, a structure from which the majority of their worldview originates.
African Americans, Evangelicals, New York City, Nonprofits, Religion, Urbanization, Religious history, African American studies