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Mark Noll, Cochair, Editorial Board


Stranger in a Strange Land

During the last weeks of 1998, finance was integral to most of the season's big news stories. Many pundits joined most Americans in appearing to conclude that, since work was plentiful, paychecks were up, and investments were going gangbusters, President Clinton should be let off the hook this time. In Europe, 11 countries, whose collective histories contained an awful lot of bloody economic competition, were getting ready to give their bankers a common currency, the Euro. Meanwhile, back on Wall Street, the Dow Jones, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 averages soared.

As if to match the salience of finance in national and international consciousness, my local world was also preoccupied with money. Our church faced a huge year-end challenge both to balance its operating budget and to garner enough money to finish the construction of a new church building. The challenge would not have been huge if our congregation was made up of NBA players (even locked-out NBAers). But to the schoolteachers, retirees, editors, unemployed, maintenance personnel, and midlevel managers of our congregation, it was daunting.

At the same time that my church family was sweating the results of its weekly collections, I was privileged to take part in a conference on "The Financing of American Evangelicalism." This venture was funded by the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis, which over the past decade has enabled many church and religious organizations to study historical patterns and contemporary issues related to fundraising, the use of money, and the moral significance of economic decisions. Wheaton College's Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals sponsored this particular conference on how American evangelicals have put money to use.

The conference was attended by about 45 participants. Half were historians, while the others came from a variety of venues—economists, sociologists, theologians, lawyers, editors, and financial officers of evangelical institutions. The papers presented and the talk ...

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