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Theology professor manages history project on Christian laity

Loyola press release - July 17, 2007

(New Orleans)— Loyola University New Orleans Provost Distinguished Professor of the History of Christianity Denis Janz, Ph.D., is the general editor of a nearly-completed collection of books, The People's History of Christianity. The project is a seven-volume series that looks at Christianity’s past from the vantage point of a “people’s” history, the laity, the ordinary faithful such as women, foreign outsiders, and slaves.

The seven-volume project is a collaboration between nearly a hundred experts in various areas. According to Janz, the subject of this series is relatively new territory, as most experts in the field write about the leaders of Christianity and the agenda of research into church history has been dominated by exploration of theology, dogma, institutions, and ecclesio-political relations. Writing about the laity is controversial, as it explores questions such as, to what extent did the laity listen to the leaders who have mostly led the study of the history of Christianity? Janz writes in his forward, “It must be conceded that the field is in its infancy….what we offer here is a preliminary attempt at a new and more adequate version of the Christian story.”

Fortress Press, the publisher of the series, asked Janz to be the general editor of the project based on work he had done on the subject in the past. Though the topic is not Janz’s sole interest in theology, it has been his main focus in recent years. Janz has the final word as to what gets in the series, deciding what fits and how to arrange the numerous contributions from varying experts. The books get his stamp of approval before they go to press. The first volume of the series came out in November, 2005, and the final book will be out in 2008.

Since joining to Loyola in 1979, Janz has served as department chair and director of graduate studies. He is the author of several books and edits the history of Christianity section of the Religious Studies Review journal. His research and lecturing have taken him to Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, Albania, the former U.S.S.R., and China. Janz received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1979.