David R. Bains
Howard College of Arts and Sciences
Biblical and Religious Studies
228 Chapman Hall

David Bains teaches courses that examine the interaction between theology, culture and religious life. They include Race, Ethnicity and Religion in America, Christian Worship, Introduction to World Religions and History of Christianity. He received the Outstanding Teacher Award from Howard College of Arts & Sciences in 2024. In many of his courses, students research religion in Birmingham. Their findings are published on www.MagicCityReligion.org, a digital humanities project Bains founded and edits. He also enjoys participating in the work of Samford’s Center for Worship and the Arts, including its summer Animate program.

Bains’s worship, theology, and architecture research has appeared in over a dozen books and journals. His recent publications include “Christian Sacred Architecture” and “Secularization and Sacred Space” in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, “Protestant Spaces in North America” in the Oxford Handbook of Religious Space, a chapter in Understanding Religions of the World  (Wiley-Blackwell), and discussions of worship and architecture in The Future of Mainline Protestantism in AmericaThe Encyclopedia of Religion in America, and the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Christianity.

He leads tours of religious sites at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the American Society of Church History. His current research examines the intersection of denominationalism, architecture, nationalism and urban development in Washington, D.C. He shares insights about religion in the United States on his blog, https://chasingchurches.com.

A concern for Christian unity animates much of Bains’s life and work. His early research examined Protestants’ engagement with historic traditions of Christian worship. More recently he co-edited The Development of the Church, a collection of the writings of Philip Schaff, an American pioneer in church history and ecumenism. Since arriving at Samford in 1999, Bains has actively supported Baptist, Episcopal, Roman Catholic and United Methodist campus ministries. Throughout his life, he has been involved in both the United Methodist and the Episcopal churches. Locally, he is affiliated with Trinity United Methodist and All Saints’ Episcopal.

He enjoys bicycling, photography, hiking, kayaking and waterskiing. He and his wife, Martha, especially enjoy entertaining students at their home.

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Degrees and Certifications

  • BA, University of Virginia
  • MA, Harvard University
  • PhD, Harvard University

Honors and Awards

  • Outstanding Teacher, Howard College of Arts & Sciences, 2024
  • Honorary Geographer of the Year, Samford University, 2021
  • S. Louis and Ann W. Armstrong Professor of Religion, Samford University, 2016-18
  • Phi Beta Kappa, University of Virginia, 1992


  • Christian Sacred Architecture” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, article published September 30, 2023.
  • Protestant Spaces in North America.” In Oxford Handbook of Religious Space, edited by Jeanne Halgren Kilde. New York: Oxford University Press, 2022.
  • Secularization and Sacred Space.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, article published March 25, 2021
  • “Beliefs and Practices.” In Future of Mainline Protestantism in America, edited by James Hudnut-Beumler and Mark Silk, 59–82. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.
  • The Development of the Church: “The Principle of Protestantism” and Other Historical Writings of Philip Schaff, ed. with Theodore Louis Trost. Mercersburg Theology Study Series. Vol. 3. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf and Stock, 2017.
  • “Church Architecture Worldwide since 1800.” In The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Christianity, edited by Lamin Sanneh and Michael McClymond, 386-98. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.
  • “Christianity.” In Understanding the Religions of the World: An Introduction, edited by Will Deming, 325-88. Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
  • “Philip Schaff: The Flow of Church History and the Development of Protestantism.” (With Theodore Louis Trost.) Theology Today 71, no. 4 (January 2015): 416-28.
  • "Architecture, Protestant, From the Nineteenth Century to the Present," "Religious Thought," "Worship, Catholic," "Worship, Contemporary Currents," and "Worship, Protestant." In Encyclopedia of Religion in America, edited by Charles H. Lippy and Peter W. Williams. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2010.
  • "Contemporary Worship: Trends and Patterns in Christian America." In Faith in America: Changes, Challenges, New Perspectives, Vol. 3, Personal Spirituality Today, edited by Charles H. Lippy, 1-23. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2006.
  • "Conduits of Faith: Reinhold Niebuhr's Liturgical Thought." Church History 73 (March 2004): 168-194.


  • Religious Capital: Representing Religion in Washington, D.C.
  • Christian Worship in North America


  • American Society of Church History
  • American Academy of Religion
  • Historical Society of the Episcopal Church
  • North American Academy of Liturgy