Leah Payne, PhD

Associate Professor of American Religious History

Research and teaching interests

  • American religious innovation
  • Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianties
  • Religion, politics, and popular culture
  • Gender, race and class construction
  • Ritual and performance theory
Leah Payne

Leah Payne (PhD, Vanderbilt University) is an associate professor of American religious history at George Fox University and Portland Seminary. She is also the principal investigator for two Lilly Endowment, Inc. initiatives: the Institute for Pastoral and Congregational Thriving at Portland Seminary and Theologia: the George Fox University Summer Theology Institute.

Her first book, Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism: Making a Female Ministry in the Early Twentieth Century (Palgrave, 2015), won the 2016 Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies Book Award. Payne's second book, The Rise and Fall of Contemporary Christian Music (Oxford University Press, 2023), explores how Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) shaped American evangelical theology and politics. Payne's peer-reviewed research includes articles in the Journal of Ritual Studies, Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, and Political Theology.

Her research and teaching have been supported by the Louisville Institute and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology & Religion. Payne's analysis of the intersection of American Charismatics and Pentecostals, politics, and popular culture has appeared in op-eds in The Washington Post, NBC News, Religion News Service, and Christianity Today. As a public-facing scholar, she is cited as an expert on matters of Pentecostal and Charismatic media, political theology, and practice in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Religion and Politics, and in Christianity TodayPayne appears regularly on podcasts like Saved by the City from Religion News Service, Christianity Today’s Quick to Listen, and Things Not Seen Radio to explain the influence of Pentecostals and Charismatics on American public life. As co-creator and co-host of Weird Religion, Payne enjoys teaching listeners about religious studies through engagement with popular culture.

Academic Background

PhD, Vanderbilt University; MA, Vanderbilt University; MTS, Vanderbilt University; BA, George Fox University

Expertise and Research Interests

American religious innovation; Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianities; religion, politics, and popular culture; gender, race, and class construction, ritual and performance theory

Curriculum Vitae