Professor explores history of the church in new book

Photo by Josh Morris

Butler University professor Paul Valliere’s book is finally published after two years of research and four years of “sweating out each sentence.”

The book, “Conciliarism: A History of Decision-Making in the Church,” looks at how church leaders make decisions about controversial issues.

The first part of the book delves deep into history, outlining the beginning of church councils and their evolution through time.

The second part of the book is an analysis of the contemporary conflicts in churches today.

While Valliere has been working at Butler for three decades, he said the idea of writing a book about conciliarism entered his mind long before he came to Butler.

He first became interested in the topic as a young scholar, and after writing several short articles about the topic, he began contemplating the production of a larger work.

“I’ve always had an interest in church councils, that is to say, assemblies of church leaders that make decisions about controversial issues,” Valliere said, “how a community that is pledged to peace and harmony deals with conflict and disharmony.”

Valliere’s idea entered the realm of reality when he was contacted by the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University.  The university was taking on the project of publishing 15 works about some aspect of religion by 15 different scholars.

Valliere accepted the challenge.

With the support of The Alonzo McDonald Family Agape Foundation, Valliere began his writing endeavor.

“It was about six years ago that I made that commitment,” Valliere said. “Of course, then I actually had to sit down and write the book.”

While books on the topic of conciliarism exist, Valliere said his goal in writing the book was to make it completely different from the others available.  Instead of catering to scholars, Valliere wanted his book to be a clear, general introduction to conciliarism that could be read by an educated audience as well as scholarly individuals.

“You don’t have to be an expert on conciliarism to be able to appreciate my book,” Valliere said.

In addition to being a newly published author, Valliere also has the honor of being published by the prestigious Cambridge University Press.

“Cambridge is the top of the heap,” Dean of Libraries Lewis Miller said. “If you  get published by Cambridge, you’ve already won the race.  They’ve been in business for 500 years, and they set the standard for literature.”

Valliere earned the contract with Cambridge University Press through words of recommendation from notable scholars and a polished manuscript.

He said a publishing company like Cambridge University Press offers books worldwide recognition.

“Cambridge books are guaranteed to find their way into libraries all around the world,” Valliere said.

As a full-time professor teaching religion courses and freshman and sophomore core curriculum courses, Valliere found the hustle and bustle of the school year didn’t afford him much time to write.

The summer hiatus provided him the perfect opportunity to devote his full attention to the project.

“For five straight summers, I did nothing else but work on this book,” Valliere said.  “So my tan is in pretty bad shape.”


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