Joel Alvis focuses on the relationships and tensions in the American Presbyterian Church, whose ecclesiastical boundaries never expanded significantly beyond its original territory in the Confederacy and border South. By the time of the civil rights movement, the church was actively involved in ecumenical activities despite its regional isolation; that involvement created unease in some quarters of the denomination. This institutional history describes how the church shaped and was shaped by its regional culture and explores the denomination's own culture as it struggled to determine what role racial issues and realities would have in the definition of being ""Presbyterian"".
Joel L. Alvis Jr. is pastor of the St. Pauls Presbyterian Church, St. Pauls, North Carolina. He received the M.Div. from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the Ph.D. in American History from Auburn University. A former staff member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Department of History, he participated in the Presbyterian Presence study conducted through Louisville Seminary.