University of Southern California

Center for Religion & Civic Culture

About CRCC

The Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC was founded in 1996 to create, translate, and disseminate scholarship on the civic role of religion in a globalizing world. CRCC engages scholars and builds communities in Los Angeles and around the globe. Its innovative partnerships link academics and the faith community to empower emerging leaders through programs like the Passing the Mantle Clergy and Lay Leadership Institute, for African American church leaders, and the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute.

Since its inception, the Center has managed over $25 million in grant-funded research from corporations, foundations, and government agencies. In 2002, CRCC was recognized as a Pew Center of Excellence, one of ten university-based research centers. Currently, the Center houses more than 20 research initiatives on topics such as Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity, the transmission of religious values across generations, faith-based non-governmental organizations, and the connection between spirituality and social transformation. The CRCC Interdisciplinary Research Group funds and organizes research on religions at USC. CRCC is also involved in the creation of scholarly resources, including the International Mission Photography Archive, the largest online repository of missionary photographs that document social change in non-Western cultures. The Center for Religion and Civic Culture is a research unit of the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

Historical Background

John Orr and Donald Miller co-founded the Center for Religion and Civic Culture in 1996 with a grant from The James Irvine Foundation. Initially, we focused almost exclusively on documenting the civic role of religion in Los Angeles. As the fires cooled from the civil unrest in 1992, a number of coalitions, partnerships, and organizing efforts developed to assist the process of reweaving the moral fabric of a deeply divided Los Angeles. CRCC was on the street observing this civic activity, especially where congregations took a leading role. As relationships developed, we also started to make creative connections between people and among various groups.

The university was engaging the community by doing something other than making it an object of study. In fact, the Center played a catalytic role in helping to found organizations such as Churches United for Economic Development. We also began to understand the important role of community organizing as practiced by the Industrial Areas Foundation and groups such as Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches, a network of African American congregations who were tackling the issue of literacy among incarcerated men and women. With some pride we practiced "action research," a mode of scholarly investigation that seeks to make a difference in the lives of those who are studied.

In 2002, when CRCC was named a Pew Center of Excellence, we were able to balance our community work with a strong commitment to spurring research on religion by USC faculty members. To this end, we convened faculty working groups around the issues of religion and immigration, faith-based community organizing and development, and religion and culture. The working groups provided opportunities for scholars from diverse disciplines to discover common vocabularies and pursue common research interests. We also established the CRCC Academic Advisory Council, chaired by Jon Miller. In 2009 this body was recently renamed the Interdisciplinary Research Group and is now chaired by Professor Lisa Bitel. The Pew initiative also provided funding for postdoctoral fellows and faculty members.

In recent years, CRCC has expanded the geographical focus of its research to include other countries. We received grants to pursue projects in other countries, such as Armenia, China, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori conducted their study of Pentecostal churches with active social ministries in 20 countries. Finally, the Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Initiative, funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, has allowed CRCC to establish a truly global project.

Now, CRCC is working on all fronts. We remain committed to research in Los Angeles, but we promote scholarship across disciplinary boundaries, create resources for researchers, policy-makers, communities and thought-leaders, and explore religion's global reach.

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