James Wellman

Professor, Chair - Comparative Religion
James Wellman


James Wellman is working on multiple new projects: First, he is leading a new Initiative for Global Christian Studies. We are seeking to build a unique study of Global Christianity at the heart of the Jackson School of International Studies. This does not exist anywhere else. Over the last three years we have made great strides: Prof. James Felak as a Term Professor in Global Catholic Studies. Felak studies major figures in European Catholic thought in the twentieth century. Prof. Hajin Jun joined us three years ago to do path breaking research in Asian Christianity. And most recently, Prof. Chris Tounsel arrived to teach African Christianity. We have plans to develop our work and research on Christianity in the Global South. If you are interested in GCS or in contributing to this Initiative, please get in touch with: jwellman@uw.edu. And, if you want to discover more about it, please listen here. Or, if you would like to give directly, please press this link.

Second, Wellman is working on expanding, developing, and publishing on his popular course: A Life Worth Living. In this course he uses religious, philosophical, sociological, and psychological resources to help students move to the next level in their lives–not just vocationally, but in every dimension of the self in its social, psychological, spiritual, and political life. He believes that A Life Worth Living enables a person to become fully alive to all dimensions of the self in the world. In 2021, an outside team of sociologists studied the course, and verified that students found the course to be overwhelmingly successful in moving them forward in their lives. The course is offered each Spring quarter.

Third, Wellman, in partnership with Senior Fellow Chris Seiple, helped to develop a new field of Cross Cultural Religious Literacy in International Studies. This is a program sponsored and funded by the Carnegie Bridging the Gap initiative. In partnership with multiple colleagues, we have developed an interdisciplinary group of scholars and global practitioners—from diplomats and military to NGOs and businesspeople—who use and teach skill sets at the intersection of religion and realpolitik. An edited volume on CCRL is coming out in January 2022. If you are interested in further information, please see our website. As a precursor to this work, Wellman edited a volume with his colleague Clark Lombardi, called Religion and Human Security: A Global Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2012). This volume examines case studies of the impact of religious groups on the human security of states in every region of the world.

Fourth, Wellman is developing a new project on A Global Biography of Jesus. This project is based on his own long-term work in the person and figure of Jesus. Wellman is creating a series of questions to interviews with significant multi-religious figures across the globe on the meaning, power, and dynamics of Jesus Christ as a human, God, and hero. This will be a cross-religious as well as spiritually grounded in the way Jesus impacts regular people as well as famous leaders, Christian and otherwise. Wellman will pursuing an open-source dialogue and podcast, allowing people of all backgrounds, religions, and cultures to share who Jesus is to them. As these proceed, Wellman wants to write a monograph, using his interviews, to give a montage of one of the great and complex figures in religious history and in world history.

Wellman’s most recent book is the most up to date and comprehensive study of American megachurches on the market: High on God: How Megachurches Won a Nation was published by Oxford University Press in February 2020. In this book he explores Durkheim’s concept of homo duplex, explaining how megachurches make meaning possible for humans by simultaneously meeting their personal and communal needs. Along with his co-authors, Katie Corcoran and Kate Stockly, we use a large data set on megachurches to show a six-step process that megachurches engage to give humans the “high” of knowing that their lives have meaning in relation to a larger community.

Wellman’s other publications include an award-winning book, The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism (Illinois, 1999); two edited volumes: The Power of Religious Publics: Staking Claims in American Society, with Bill Swatos (Praegers, 1999), and Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Tradition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007). His 2008 monograph, Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford University Press), received Honorable Mention for the 2009 Distinguished Book Award by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. In 2012, Wellman’s book, Rob Bell and a New American Christianity (Abingdon Press), explored one of the most well-known and controversial evangelical ministers in America, explaining his success and the sources of his charisma, including his decision to step aside from his ministry.

Wellman is married to Brooke Wellman and lives in the Seattle area. He has four daughters, Constance, and Georgia, both of whom attended and graduated from the University of Washington, who now work at Google. Recently, Constance married Eli Chin, a fellow Husky. Even more recently Jim and Brooke welcomed a third and fourth daughter into their family: Simone James Wellman and Blaise Brooke Wellman. Each of these amazing women and men are his “bright and shining morning stars.”


  • University of Chicago, PhD , Religion and the Human Sciences, 1995
  • Princeton Theological Seminary, MDiv, Practical Theology, 1984
  • University of Washington, BA, With Distinction, English, Honors Program, 1981

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