Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Portland Seminary of George Fox University
Website URL
twentieth century, nineteenth century, religion and pop culture history, celebrity culture and American history, Pentecostal history, religion and politics, televangelism, gender history, women and American religion, Paula White, Aimee Semple McPherson
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Leah Payne (PhD, Vanderbilt University) is associate professor of American Religious History at 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, God Gave Rock and Roll to You: A History of Contemporary Christian Music (Oxford University Press, 2024), 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.

Recent Publications


“President Trump’s Hidden Religious Base: Pentecostal-Charismatic Celebrities,” co-authored with Erica Ramirez, Religion News Service, August, 2020.

“Paula White-Cain’s Evangelical Support Squad Isn’t as Surprising as It Seems,” co- authored with Aaron Griffith, Christianity Today, October, 2019.

“Why Foursquare’s Female Leaders Have It Harder Today: The Pentecostal denomination was founded by a woman nearly a century ago, but it has failed to elect another female president since,” Christianity Today, May, 2019.

“The Christian Conspiracies that Keep Evangelicals on Trump’s Side,” co-authored with Brian Doak, The Washington Post, October, 2018.

Wild Wild Country Hits Close to Home,” Christianity Today, May, 2018.

“The Christian Sect that Has Always Cheered on Donald Trump,” co-authored with Erica Ramirez, The Washington Post, March 21, 2018.


“Kim Davis and Paula White: Pentecostal Women and Attire,” in Marie Dallam and Benjamin Zeller (eds.), Religion, Attire, and Adornment in North America. Columbia University Press, 2020.

“Bobs and the ‘Character of Our Citizenship’: Early Pentecostals, Women, and Public Life in the United States of America,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, forthcoming.

Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism: Making a Female Ministry in the Early Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Media Coverage
Politics & Pentecostalism; Politics & evangelicalism; Gender and American religion
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
North America
Expertise by Chronology
5, 8, 9
Expertise by Topic
Family, Gender, Material Culture, Politics, Technology, Women