Religion: The Collector

He wanted to list everyone

Some people collect coins, others butterflies. Arthur C. Piepkorn collected religious denominations, large and small, and if there were contests in such things, he would have been world champion. It all began when he taught a survey course on religious bodies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and ripened into an obsession when the book house of his own denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, asked him to redo its standard reference work in the field.

That book surveyed 50 categories of denominations; another described 231 U.S. groups. The current Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches lists 328. The meticulous...

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