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Free Churches and the Limits of Reform

Free Churches and the Limits of Reform

(p.145) Chapter Five Free Churches and the Limits of Reform
Evangelical Gotham
Kyle B. Roberts
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on the work of evangelicals Charles Grandison Finney, Lewis Tappan, and David Hale. Through his liberating message and personal example, Finney appealed to middle-class evangelical businessmen like Lewis Tappan and David Hale, a successful newspaper editor. Finney's linkage of reform with new understandings of individualism provided the city's laity with a justification for their benevolent efforts, which had begun with the sponsorship of local urban missions and expanded into making New York a national center for a broad range of reforms. Finney, Tappan, and Hale were born in New England, converted to evangelicalism in adulthood, and held worldviews shaped by their participation in the expanding market culture. This extensive experience informed (and funded) their efforts. Finney, in turn, relied on their financial, administrative, and organizational talents to ensure himself a venue. Together they would spread evangelicalism by reforming it. In the process, they learned the limits of what their fellow evangelicals and the larger city would accept.

Keywords:   Charles Grandison Finney, Lewis Tappan, David Hale, New York City, urban evangelicalism, evangelicals, evangelical reform

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