Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1871-1953) Church researcher. Graduate courses in sociology at the University of Chicago and Columbia University; several pastorates (Congregational); psychology and philosophy instructor; missions administrator; journal editor. His church research appointments included the Interchurch World Movement (1919-1921), Research Director of the Institute of Social and Religious Research (1921-1933) and of the Committee for Cooperative Field Research (CCFR, 1944-1950).

Douglass had broad interests and abilities; was an indefatigable researcher and writer, sociologically perceptive, always looking for new ways to categorize and generalize; used massive hand-manipulated statistical data sets; was driven by an overarching commitment to use empirical data as a basis for recommended actions to strengthen churches and promote interchurch cooperation.

His work, mostly focused on the local church, ranged from town and country to urban and suburban, to factors that relate to antipathy and affinity between churches. He is best known for the study of city churches, based on the hypothesis that city churches evolved from rural predecessors through adaptation. The degree of adaptation was measured by the number and scope of their programs. This provided the basis for a typology. He recognized multiple factors—particularly financial, theological/historical, ethnic, and environmental—to be of importance in adaptation. Parish areas were usually analyzed by compactness and balance on a four-segment circular grid (see 1,000 City Churches , Doran 1926; The Church in the Changing City , Doran 1927).

During the 13 years of the existence of the Institute of Social and Religious Research, it published 78 volumes of applied religious research. An inventory of the Harlan Paul Douglass Collection of Religious Research Reports, housed in the Department of Research, Office of Planning and Program, National Council of Churches in New York, contains several thousand "fugitive" studies, primarily from the 1950s to the present, that rarely found their way into published format. A microfiche edition of 2,270 of those produced before 1970 is now available under the title Social Problems and the Churches (Brewer and Johnson 1970).

For the Committee for Cooperative Field Research, Douglass coordinated work of denominational researchers, under the sponsorship of local councils of churches, to make metropolitan and local/regional studies. These were aimed at adaptation to change, consolidation, and application of comity principles to guide new church development. The urban church studies made by the CCFR were summarized by Douglass in an article titled "Some Protestant Churches in Urban America" (Information Service , vol. 29, no. 3, January 21, 1950). As a pioneer church researcher, he contributed greatly to the early literature and stimulated denominations and metropolitan- and state-level church councils to develop research capabilities. He brought together a group of the next-generation researchers who later established the Religious Research Association, developed closer involvement with academically based sociologists of religion, and used more sophisticated research methods. The H. Paul Douglass Lecture of the Religious Research Association is given biennially and published in the Review of Religious Research as a continuing reminder of his legacy to religious research. (A complete list of the Douglass lecturers appears annually in the September issue of the Review .)

Everett L. Perry


E. D. C. Brewer and W. D. Johnson, An Inventory of the Harlan Paul Douglass Collection  . . . (Woodbridge, Conn.: Research Publications, 1970

microfiche edition, complete holdings titled Social Problems and the Churches )

E. deS. Brunner, "Harlan Paul Douglass," Review of Religious Research 1(1959):3-16, 63-75

H. P. Douglass and E. deS. Brunner, The Protestant Church as a Social Institution (New York: Harper, 1935).

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