Studying Church History

Austin Childress Researched Separation of Church and State as Undergraduate Scholar

Studying Church History

The topic Austin Childress chose to study for his Undergraduate Research Scholars project has been debated for hundreds of years across the globe—the separation of church and state. Childress received his bachelor’s degree in 2019 in discipleship studies with a minor in biblical studies from Gardner-Webb University. He is a student in the GWU Accelerated Pastoral Ministries Program (APMP) and is currently pursuing his Master of Divinity in Christian education. Students in APMP finish their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years.

“I chose to look into this topic because of my own frustrations with the lack of teaching regarding the issue in our local churches,” Childress observed. “I mostly spent my time looking at the history of the relationship of church and state. I was trying to draw a sort of ‘roadmap’ of what has happened, with the hope of using that information to make a case for Christians supporting separation of church and state, as well as seeing it as a good thing.”

Childress was one of 15 students who received a grant in 2019 from the GWU Undergraduate Research Program. Scholars spend five weeks working on their topics for 40 hours a week. At the same time, students are mentored by a faculty member, who provides information and guidance.

Dr. Eddie Stepp, professor of religious studies, was Childress’ mentor. “Dr. Stepp helped me stay on task, as well as recommended good sources for me to look into,” he noted. “I especially appreciated him just listening to me talk about the project, because many of my best insights came from those conversations.”

Childress’ goal is to pursue his doctorate and teach Christian history. “I think that by understanding the past, we can learn and prepare in the present and for the future,” he asserted. “My project supported me in this endeavor by adding more to my knowledge and picture of history.”