Ellingsen, Mark 1949–

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ELLINGSEN, Mark 1949–


Born June 18, 1949, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Emil (a technical glassblower) and Edna (a homemaker) Ellingsen; married Helen Betsey Shaw (a teacher), August 18, 1973; children: Patrick John, Elizabeth Ann, Peter. Ethnicity: "Norwegian." Education: Gettysburg College, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1971; Yale University, M.Div. (magna cum laude), 1974, M.A., 1975, M.Phil., 1976, Ph.D., 1980. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Politics, sports, playing the guitar, family activities.


Home—Smyrna, GA. Office—Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, GA 30314; fax: 404-527-0901.


Ordained minister of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1976; Luther-Northwestern Lutheran Seminaries, St. Paul, MN, assistant professor, 1979-82; Institute for Ecumenical Research, Strasbourg, France, associate professor, 1982-88; Randolph Community College, Asheboro, NC, instructor, 1992-94; Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, GA, associate professor of church history, 1993—. Emory University, instructor, 2003-04. Asheboro Pastors Group, secretary; Good News Prison Ministry, volunteer chaplain at Atlanta Detention Center, 1996—. Presenter of workshops; guest on media programs.


American Academy of Religion, American Society of Church History, Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, Phi Beta Kappa.


Doctrine and Word, John Knox Press (Atlanta, GA), 1983.

The Evangelical Movement: Growth, Impact, Controversy, Dialog, Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN), 1988.

The Integrity of Biblical Narrative: Story in Theology and Proclamation, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1990.

Preparation and Manifestation: Reflections on Lent and Easter, C.S.S. Publishing (Lima, OH), 1992.

The Cutting-Edge: How Churches Speak on Social Issues, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1993.

A Common Sense Theology: The Bible, Faith, and American Society, Mercer University Press (Macon, GA), 1995.

Reclaiming Our Roots: An Inclusive Introduction to Church History, two volumes, Trinity Press International (Harrisburg, PA), 1999.

A Word that Sets Free: First Lesson Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost (last third) Cycle C, C.S.S. Publishing (Lima, OH), 2000.

Blessed Are the Cynical: How Original Sin Can Make America a Better Place, Brazos Press (Grand Rapids, MI), 2003.

The Richness of Augustine: His Contextual and Pastoral Theology, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 2005.

When Did Jesus Become a Republican?, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), in press.

(With Kenneth Henry) Making Black Ecumenism Happen: A History of the Interdenominational Theological Center as a Paradigm for Christian Unity, ITC Press (Atlanta, GA), in press.

Contributor to books, including Creation and Method, University Press of America (Washington, DC), 1982; Creation and Culture, Lutheran World Ministries (New York, NY), 1987; The Variety of American Evangelicalism, Inter-Varsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 1991; Reforming the Center: American Protestantism from 1900 to the Present, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1998; and Methodologies in Approaching Social and Ethnical Issues, World Council of Churches (Geneva, Switzerland), 2004. Contributor of more than 200 articles and reviews to professional journals and newspapers, including Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Faith and Mission, Christian Century, Lutheran, Theology Today, Biblical Preaching Journal, Mid-Stream, Emphasis, and Earth Ethics Report.


Mark Ellingsen once told CA: "I have different motives for writing different books, but what they all have in common is my love for the church and for the intellectual stimulation and meaning that the study of theology has given my life. I write to try to share those passions and my excitement about these matters with others. One particular book, Reclaiming Our Roots: An Inclusive Introduction to Church History, and its companion volume, which continues the narrative of the church's history from the first century to the present, emerged from my lectures in 'Introduction to Church History' courses at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, where I teach. The center is the largest, predominantly black seminary in the world, and teaching in that environment provides an exciting challenge for a son of Norwegian immigrants like myself. This intellectual environment has stretched me, moved me to investigate regions and episodes of the church's history that I (and historians like me) have typically overlooked. Such an inclusive perspective is reflected in my book, rendering it the most inclusive introduction to the church's history currently on the market.

"This book and its companion are not just volumes which detail facts. They raise questions for readers about the material covered in such a way as to facilitate the reader's ability to think along with the great theologians of the past, to re-experience their challenges, and even to apply their insights in our own context.

"Other influences on my writing include most of the figures about whom I have written (especially Augustine, Athanasius, and Anselm), the Protestant reformers (Luther and Calvin), my own family (especially my wife Betsey), and some of my teachers at Yale. The ancient figures inspire me; the richness of their lives and theological insight must never be forgotten by the church or by Western society which is so indebted to them, but I am no less inspired by the love, encouragement, and example of the contemporary persons I have noted.

"Reclaiming Our Roots: An Inclusive Introduction to Church History and its companion were written in a way not quite typical of my other books. To some extent they were already written by my lecture notes, which I needed only to revise with a lot of hard work. Most of my books were first written from scratch in longhand, in my bedroom, with my feet up on the bed and an open door to invite conversations with my wife and children, interspersed with a lot of pacing. I cannot write without a little chaos, sort of like I first experienced in my alma mater's freshman dormitory and in the fun, animated environment of my birth family. To some extent I have not outgrown the formative influence of these environments.

"I continue to write in order to help people find meaning in life and to provide them with tools to think about life's meaning. I am not finished writing about the past which has formed both church and society, and I plan to investigate other eras, regions, persons, and problems as institutional responsibilities and contemporary events seem to direct me. (My intellectual interests have always been eclectic and sensitive to present social and scholarly needs.) Some of my previous books (especially Blessed Are the Cynical: How Original Sin Can Make America a Better Place, and The Cutting-Edge: How Churches Speak on Social Issues,) expressly addressed our contemporary situation. The first of these two brought my findings together in a socio-cultural analysis of our present social malaise, producing a vision for justice and meaning in the midst of the injustice and meaninglessness of our times, informed by my previous historical research. This vision is communicated at least implicitly in every one of my books, but I continue to learn how to do this better in preparing the sermons that I regularly write for publication and from the writing that I do about the past."

Ellingsen later commented: "In my next projects, I am trying to understand the origins of the source of our present social malaise and how to find fresh, promising ways out of this dead end to a vision of social and personal wellbeing that moves us beyond present options of the 'Christian America' of neo-conservatives and the purpose-driven vision of Rick Warren or his free-market, prosperity-infatuated counterparts."



Christian Century, October 19, 1983, review of Doctrine and Word, p. 944.

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