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Paul B. Henry Chair for the Study of Christianity and Politics

Professor Corwin Smidt, Political Science, director, Henry Institute - Chair announcement

Background. The Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics was created in 1997 to continue the work of integrating Christian faith and politics advanced by its namesake, educator and public servant Paul B. Henry.

Paul Henry was a leader of Christian vision and action. After earning his undergraduate degree at Wheaton College and his Ph.D. at Duke University, Henry taught political science at Calvin College from 1970 to 1978.

While at Calvin, Henry served as a member of the Michigan Board of Education. Leaving Calvin in 1978 to pursue public office full-time, Henry was elected to the Michigan State House and, later, State Senate. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1984, where he served until his untimely death in July 1993.

Henry was known as a person of conviction, credibility and courage. His book, Politics for Evangelicals, provides a blueprint for his own involvement in public service. His academic and political careers were characterized by a constant search for justice, providing powerful evidence that politicians can be principled and effective. Serving the Claims of Justice: the Thoughts of Paul B. Henry celebrates the life and work of Paul Henry in the words of people who knew him well.

Purpose. The Henry Institute continues Paul Henry's quest to promote serious reflection on the interplay between Christianity and public life, by becoming a national forum for research, dialogue, and information on their interaction.

Despite the importance of Christianity and politics and the growing public discussion of their effects on each other, there is much room for serious study of how these two fields interact. The rise of religiously-based political movements in the United States, the growing legal controversy on the proper role of church and state, and the manifest religious basis for many international political regimes and movements, show that the interplay between religious faith and political practice is increasing, not diminishing. With these developments, the study of Christianity and politics presents many exciting opportunities.

The Henry Institute fosters the study of Christianity and politics by providing resources for scholarship, structuring opportunities to disseminate scholarly work, seeking avenues to communicate and promote such efforts to the larger public, and motivating and training future scholars to engage in such study. The Institute is particularly dedicated to creating a new generation of scholars and public servants who are engaged, active and aware of the importance of the interplay between these two fields of inquiry.

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