Jacob Randolph wins the 2022 Julian Gwyn Essay Prize

in ACBAS, Front Page

Jacob Randolph

Jacob Randolph has been awarded the 2022 Julian Gwyn prize in Baptist and Anabaptist History and Thought for his article “Tough and Tender’: Theology and Masculinity in the 1991 Baptist Hymnal.” The Gwyn prize recognizes the best article approved for publication in a peer-reviewed journal by a doctoral or masters-level student in the field of Baptist or Anabaptist history and thought. It is sponsored by the Acadia Centre for Baptist and Anabaptist Studies (ACBAS) and named in honor of Dr. Julian Gwyn, a distinguished historian and former member of ACBAS.

Randolph is a cultural and religious historian and a 2022-23 Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Baylor University. His research focuses on gender, imagination, and identity formation in religious communities, with a special interest in early modern Anabaptism. His article, which appeared in the Spring 2021 edition of Baptist History and Heritage, explores this intriguing question: to what extent did modifications to the Southern Baptist Convention’s denomination hymnal in 1991 reflect and register the church’s efforts to wrestle with the biggest social questions that emerged out the 1960s.

Specifically, Randolph explores how issues of gender and masculinity played out in the revisions to a hymnal that routinely foregrounded a very dualistic vision of gender. Even while the authors of the hymnal set out to recapitulate existing doctrinal commitments and shore up gender hierarchies challenged by the women’s movement and other liberation impulses, their choice of hymns reflected a more nuanced vision of masculinity, one in which men were given license to embrace more conventionally feminine expressions of Christianity. Far from undermining male authority, these adjustments subtly reinforced men’s leadership of the family and the church by legitimizing “paternal care, emotional expressiveness, and the cultivation of close familial bonds” (p. 55). Randolph argues that the revision to the hymnal provides compelling evidence that the Southern Baptist Convention met what constituted a crisis over questions of gender and masculinity by accommodating a vision of male worship that embraced “spiritual sensitivity and emotional vulnerability” (p. 56), thus acknowledging the real challenge presented by feminism while also solidifying male leadership of the family and the church. If anything, this modernized vision of male worship bolstered the church in a period of advanced secularization.

Randolph is “delighted and honored to receive this award.” As he wrote on learning of the decision, “Thanks to you and the committee for investing in early career Baptist historians.” For more information about the Julian Gwyn prize and the Acadia Centre for Baptist and Anabaptist Studies, visit our website.