The Historical Society of the United Methodist Church annually announces its “Saddlebag Selection,” a recognition of the best book in United Methodist history, biography, theology, or polity published during the preceding calendar year. Among the criteria for the award are that the winner would be “respectable and readable, serious and accessible,” achieving a balance between the scholarly and the popular.
The Society is pleased to announce that the award for works published in 2011 is given to "The Poisoned Chalice" by Dr. Jennifer Woodruff Tait, and published by the University of Alabama Press. The award will be presented at the annual meeting of the Society in Gettysburg PA on May 15, 2012. Dr. Tait lives in Huntington, Indiana and is adjunct professor at Huntington University, Asbury Seminary, and United Theological Seminary.
Organizers say this year’s competition was one of the tightest in the history of the award. Each of the four judges submitted a preliminary choice and each named a different entry. After some discussion, however, all four agreed on Dr. Tait’s book, a discussion of how “common-sense realism” effected a change from the eucharistic use of wine to unfermented grape juice in late nineteenth century American Methodism.
Previous winners of the award represent some of the most distinguished recent works on the story of the United Methodist Church and its ecclesiastical antecedents. They include Robert Bray’s "Peter Cartwright: Legendary Frontier Preacher"; Rex Matthews' "Timetables of History for Students of Methodism"; John Wigger’s "Francis Asbury and the Methodists"; and last year’s winner, "The Methodist Experience in America: A History" by Russell E. Richey, Kenneth E. Rowe, and Jean Miller Schmidt.
The same judges have evaluated the entries since the award’s inception in 2005. They are Linda Schramm of Michigan, Lyle Johnston of Arizona, Charles Yrigoyen Jr. of Pennsylvania, and Rob Sledge of Texas, coordinator.