Global Christian Studies

“The more we understand religion and the better able we are as a result to be able to engage religious actors, the more effective our diplomacy will be in advancing the interests and values of our people.”
– Former Secretary of State John Kerry



Donate to make a tax deductible gift to support the University of Washington’s Initiative for Global Christian Studies.  Gifts are made through the University of Washington Foundation. Gifts exceeding $1,000 will have a 5% assessment per the University’s gift acceptance policy.

How to give:

1) Contact UW Arts & Sciences Advancement:
Box 354882
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 543-5340

2) Contact Damian Peterson:

3) Write a check:
Write a check to UW Foundation | Global Christian Studies / Comparative Religion Program

Mail to:
Comparative Religion Program
The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington, Box 353650
Seattle, WA 98195-3650

4) Give online:
Donate to the Initiative for Global Christianity

Initiative for Global Christianity

Christianity today is the most populous religion in the world, with more than two and a half billion followers across Europe, North and South America, Africa, and many parts of Asia. In an initiative led by James Wellman, Chair of the University of Washington’s Comparative Religion Program, the University of Washington seeks to develop a robust program of teaching and research focused on the study of Christianity in its global context.

With this goal, Robert Stacey, Dean of the UW’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Reşat Kasaba, former Director of the Henry M. Jackson School for International Studies, authorized the Comparative Religion Program to seek funding for the creation of a new Center for Global Christian Studies. Central to this vision is the goal of endowing 6 new faculty positions exploring the history, culture, and spirituality of Christianity in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America, and the Orthodox world. There is also strong interest in raising funds for a chair in the field of Catholic studies. With its focus on modern and contemporary forms of Christianity, the Center would vastly enhance the University of Washington’s capacity to foster teaching and research on the full spectrum of global Christian communities.

Interested in learning more about this exciting initiative at the University of Washington? Please contact Jim Wellman here.

Key faculty

James K. Wellman 

Associate Professor and Chair, Comparative Religion Program; Term Professor, Global Christianity 

James Wellman is Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion Program in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. In 2017, he received a Five-Year Term Professorship in Global Christianity; this professorship supports his recent initiative to create a Center of Global Christian Studies in the Jackson School. He is also the director the new Carnegie grant on Cross Cultural Religious Literacy. His areas of expertise are in American religious culture, history, and politics. He also works on and teaches in religion and global issues, particularly related to religious violence, human security and US foreign policy.

He has received numerous nominations for the Distinguished Teaching Award. Wellman’s publications include an award-winning book, The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism (Illinois, 1999); edited volumes: Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Tradition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), and Religion and Human Security: A Global Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2012). His 2008 monograph, Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford University Press), received Honorable Mention for the Distinguished Book Award by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. In 2012, he published a biography on the megachurch pastor, Rob Bell and the New American Christianity. His forthcoming book, High on God: How the Megachurch Conquered America, will be published with Oxford University Press in 2019.

Wellman can be followed on twitter at wellman4444. He is a regular blogger for and can be read at:

Hajin Jun

Assistant Professor; James B. Palais Professor of Korean History;

Joint Appointment: Jackson School of International Studies

Hajin Jun specializes in the history of modern Korea, the Japanese empire, and Christianity in East Asia. Her current book project examines the politics of ritual reform in early twentieth-century Korea. She explores how marriage, funerary, and ancestral rites became heated sites of contestation as Protestant leaders, Korean cultural nationalists, and Japanese colonial officials sought to realize disparate visions for the Korean people, as well as for the proper place of religion in modern society.

James Felak

Professor, History; Newman Center Professor in Catholic Christianity

My research interest is in the intersection of religion, politics, and nationalism within the region, especially during the interwar, wartime, and Communist periods.My first book, ‘At the Price of the Republic’: Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party, 1929-1938 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995) is a study of the Catholic nationalist party that spearheaded the Slovak national movement in the decade before Czechoslovakia was crippled by the Munich Agreement. My second book, After Hitler, Before Stalin: Catholics, Communists, and Democrats in Slovakia, 1945-1948(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009) examines the complex relationship between Catholics, Protestants, and Communists in Slovakia during the period preceding the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia.

My current book project is a study of the visits of Pope John Paul II to his native Poland between 1979 and 1991. Spanning a period of dramatic change in which the Pope was a major player, my study will emphasize how John Paul spoke to his countrymen about their problematic historical and ethnic relationships (with Russians, Germans, Jews, Ukrainians), how he used the events and personalities of Poland’s religious, political, and cultural past to shape Polish attitudes in the present, and how he challenged Poland’s Communist regime before 1989 and its citizens and voters after 1989 from a Catholic, papal perspective. The book draws from Polish archival sources (state and personal), Catholic and secular media, contemporary Polish scholarship, and above all from the hundreds of homilies and speeches the Pope gave while in Poland.

Christopher Tounsel 

Associate Professor, History; Interim Director, African Studies Program

I am an historian of modern Sudan, with special focus on race and religion as political technologies. My first book, Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan, was published by Duke University Press in 2021. Chosen Peoples explores the ways that Southern Sudanese intellectuals used Judeo-Christian Scriptures to frame their revolutionary work against the Sudanese state. Chosen Peoples was named a Finalist for the 2022 Christianity Today Book Award (History/Biography).

My second book, Bounds of Blackness: African Americans, Sudan, and the Politics of Solidarity, is under contract with Cornell University Press. Expanding on my work on the Tuskegee Institute’s cotton-cultivation work in early twentieth-century Sudan, Bounds of Blackness aims to chart a new intellectual history of black America’s relationship with Africa from colonialism to the twenty-first century.

My articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Religious History, Journal of African American History, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Journal of Africana Religions, and Social Sciences and Missions. My words have also appeared in outlets Vox and The Conversation. Support for my research has come from institutions and organizations including the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Council of Overseas American Research Centers, and Doris G. Quinn Foundation.

Selected events sponsored by the Initiative for Global Christian Studies

Community and Solidarity on the Frontlines: A Case Study of Seattle, WA

September 30, 2020

Watch a video recording of the panel.

2020 presented extraordinary challenges and possibilities, from a pandemic to a mass movement against anti-Black racism and police violence. In order to move forward, each of us must have the skills to build solidarity and community with others without dismissing our important differences.

The city of Seattle provides a unique opportunity to examine how these ideas are playing out in the current moment. Seattle is the largest city in Washington state, the first epicenter of Covid-19 in the U.S. Additionally, Seattle has witnessed some of the most high-profile Black Lives Matter protests in the country. Seattle is one of the least-religious cities in the country, located in the sixth-least-religious state, and some would say there is a general distrust of organized religion that pervades the region. Despite this, many faith leaders in Seattle have been operating at the frontlines of the pandemic and protests, providing support to those in need. At the same time, there have been instances of religious gatherings in the Seattle area violating Covid-19 restrictions, and some religious leaders have spoken against the Black Lives Matter movement. Given these tensions, how can people of all faiths and none in Seattle collaborate on our most pressing challenges—from Covid-19 to racial justice? And can these lessons be applied to other cities and regions across America?

As part of a larger, invitation-only program on religious literacy, the Aspen Institute’s Inclusive America Project in partnership with the University of Washington’s Comparative Religion Program hosted a webinar open to the public, featuring faith and community leaders from the Seattle area.

This panel was moderated by Dr. James Wellman, Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion Program at the University of Washington, and included participation from:

– Nikhil Mandalaparthy (Inclusive America Project)

– Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum (Kavana Cooperative)

– Andre Taylor (Not This Time)

– Rev. Angela Ying (Bethany United Church of Christ)

Religion & Secular Transformation in Pacific Northwest Christianities

May 28, 2019

Themes on Evangelical Entrepreneurs, Catholic Founders, and Secular Traditions were discussed by the following speakers:

James Wellman – Professor, Chair, Comparative Religion Program, UW Jackson School of International Studies

Patricia Killen – Professor of Religious Studies, Senior University Fellow, Gonzaga University

Lynne Marks – Professor of History, University of Victoria

Talk by Farah Pandith, diplomatic entrepreneur, foreign policy strategist, and former diplomat.

April 4, 2019 | Free and open to the public

PDF download

Book Talk: How We Win: how cutting-edge entrepreneurs, political visionaries, enlightened business leaders and social media mavens can defeat the extremist threat

“A new approach to countering global extremism. … With great passion and
commitment, Pandith, a perceptive observer and strategic thinker, argues that the fight must encompass elements of government, business, private sector organizations, and local communities and philanthropists, all working together with like-minded individuals to stem the extremist tide. … An inspired, intensively focused examination of issues of and solutions about extremist ideology, sure to inspire spirited debate.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Drawing on her decades of experience, Pandith unweaves the tangled web of
extremism and demonstrates how government officials, tech CEOs, and concerned citizens alike can do their part to defeat it.”
– Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright

Find out more about the new book, How We Win, and read a conversation with Farah Pandith here.

Farah Pandith is a diplomatic entrepreneur, foreign policy strategist and former diplomat. Ms. Pandith, a pioneer in the field of countering violent extremism (CVE), has been a political appointee in the George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama administrations. She left government in early 2014 for Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where she maintains an affiliation. She served on the Secretary of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) from 2015 to 2017, where she also chaired the HSAC subcommittee on countering violent extremism (CVE). Her book, How We Win (HarperCollins), will be released in early 2019. She is a public speaker and global advisor, driving efforts to counter extremism through new organizations, programs, and initiatives. She was a senior advisor and commissioner on the CSIS CVE Commission Report and is a member of the FDD Commission on US-Saudi Relations.

Talk | Muslim Immigration & Christian Politics

March 5, 2019  | Free and open to the public

Muslim Immigration and Christian Politics

In an age of political fear and fragmentation, we invite you to join us for an important discussion of religion, immigration, and political hospitality. Millions of Muslims have migrated into Europe and North America over the past 50 years. Their arrival has ignited a series of fierce public debates on religious freedom and pluralism, tolerance and free speech, headscarves and airports, gender and race, and so much more. With each passing year the debates only seem to become more heated, complex, and fearful. Western Christians are debating amongst themselves about how they should respond to their new Muslim neighbors.

Dr. Matthew Kaemingk is the author of a new book Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear. He serves as an assistant professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. In this public lecture, Dr. Kaemingk will not only examine how Western Christians are currently responding to Muslim immigration, he will develop and discuss his alternative political ethic of Christian hospitality and pluralism. Responding to Dr. Kaemingk will be Dr. David Leong,  Associate Professor of Missiology at Seattle Pacific University & Seminary.

Talk | How Intellectual Dishonesty Has Improved Christianity and Islam 

February 22, 2019

Join Mark Alan Smith, Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of Communication and Comparative Religion at the University of Washington, as he discusses his current book project –

To any person holding modern values, the Christian and/or Muslim holy books contain horrifying provisions that condemn homosexuality and support slavery, jihad, patriarchy, genocide, collective punishment, wife beating, child marriage, and capital punishment for minor offenses.  Apologists working within both traditions have developed many strategies to handle the problematic verses and passages.  On the one hand, these apologetic practices are a form of intellectual dishonesty that involves human beings essentially rewriting what is supposed to be the Word of God.  On the other hand, apologists have succeeded in reforming their religions from within, and religious ideas and leaders have contributed to the movement for universal human rights in recent centuries.  This talk will examine both the promise and the pitfalls of intellectual dishonesty in the world’s two largest religions.

Mark Alan Smith is Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of Communication and Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. Smith’s research and teaching focuses on American domestic politics. His most recent book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, won the Morris D. Forkosch Award from the Council for Secular Humanism.

UW Comparative Religion Program Co-Sponsors Public Dialogue on Faith-Based Responses to Homelessness in Seattle

Earlier this month, the Comparative Religion Program at the University of Washington Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies partnered with the Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs to sponsor a presentation and discussion entitled “Wounds of Love: Faith-Based Responses to Homelessness in Seattle.”

The event was moderated by James Wellman, Chair of the Jackson School’s Comparative Religion Program and Global Christianity project, and featured a presentation by Center scholar Paul Blankenship, followed by reflections from a panel of community partners, and concluding remarks from Center Director Manuel Mejido, who also led a general discussion with attendees.

The Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs, which seeks to integrate the scholarly examination of pressing social problems with solution-oriented responses initiated by communities of faith and their organizations, was pleased to co-sponsor this opportunity for a public dialogue with scholars, faith-based practitioners, students, and community partners.

Talk | Wounds of Love: Faith-Based Responses to Homelessness in Seattle

Tuesday, January 22, 2019  //   6:30 p.m.  //  Thomson 101

What difference do housed Christians in Seattle make for people who are homeless?

What difference does homelessness make in the spiritual lives of housed Christians?

Can people of faith, some faith and no faith come together to end homelessness?

Paul Houston Blankenship and others will discuss these questions and ways all of us can try to solve the social problem of homelessness in Seattle. He will be joined by panelists Ben Curtis of Operation Nightwatch, Kae Eaton of Mental Health Chaplaincy, and Kelle Brown of Plymouth Church, with additional concluding remarks by Manuel Mejido of Seattle University’s Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs, and moderation by James Wellman of the University of Washington, Jackson School for International Studies.

Talk | Foreign Policy & Religion – A Framework for Policymakers

October 16, 2018

John Rees Talk Oct 16

The inclusion of religion as a factor in the making of foreign policy is now as contested as it was once ignored. John A. Rees (Notre Dame Australia) identifies important fault-lines in the debate and argues that scholars and policymakers must first understand the landscape of power where religion readily resides before deciding how (or whether) to prioritize religion in foreign policy formulation. He proposes a framework intended to enhance religious literacy among policymakers and increase the value of religion as a vital resource for policy development. The framework is comparatively applied to the foreign policy orientations of the United States and Australia, allies that share common strategic interests but with strongly contrasting approaches toward religion as a policy resource.​

John A. Rees, PhD, is Associate Professor in International Relations and Director (Acting) of the Institute for Ethics and Society at The University of Notre Dame Australia. He is an award-winning university educator and a recognized scholar in the study of religion and global politics. He holds a PhD in International Relations (University of New South Wales) and Masters degrees in theology, ancient history and international relations.

Talk | Over the Rainbow: Critical Reflections on Mandela’s ‘Politics of Grace’

October 2, 2018

Robin Petersen Talk Oct. 2nd ver 5 CR web

Dr. Petersen is coming to share with us on the ‘Politics of Grace’ of Nelson Mandela and his fight against apartheid and for democracy in South Africa. Robin was jailed resisting apartheid; he holds a PhD in Theology from the UC Divinity School; a former professor of Religion and Theology; published author; and more recently the president of SAFA (South African Football Association) –an amazing speaker with deep knowledge on the struggle for democracy and equality in South Africa.