Melton, J(ohn) Gordon (1942– )
Religious studies scholar and director of the Institute for
the Study of American Religion, Santa Barbara, California.
Born September 19, 1942, in Birmingham, Alabama, he attended
Birmingham Southern College (A.B. in geology, 1964),
Garrett Theological Seminary (M.Div. with distinction, 1968),
and Northwestern University (Ph.D. in history and literature of
religion, 1975).
Melton was ordained a United Methodist minister in 1968.
In 1969, while in graduate school, he founded the Institute for
the Study of American Religion to focus research on the many
new and small religious groups that were emerging in late
twentieth-century America. Melton served as the national field
director of the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship (1971–74), and
was one of the founders of the Academy of Religion and Psychical
Research. In 1975 he transferred from the North Alabama
Conference to the Northern Illinois Conference of the
United Methodist Church and was appointed pastor of the Emmanuel
United Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois. In
1980 he left the pastorate and was appointed director of the Institute
for the Study of American Religion, a post he has retained
to the present. In 1985 the institute relocated to Santa
Barbara, California. Melton is also a research specialist with the
department of religious studies at the University of California–Santa
Barbara. In 1990 he co-founded the Society for the
Study of Metaphysical Religion and sits on its board.
Melton achieved prominence after publishing his Encyclopedia
of American Religions (1979; 6th ed., 1999), tracking the
many different religions as well as the small religious and psychicoccult
organizations in the United States and Canada. The
encyclopedia documents their origins, interrelationships, and
beliefs. He has taken a special interest in the problems of religious
pluralism and the growth of many divergent religions in
the Christian West. Melton ardently supports religious freedom
and actively opposes the efforts of the anticult movement
to stigmatize new religions as ‘‘destructive cults.’’
The Institute for the Study of American Religion maintains
a unique and comprehensive collection of research materials
on religious groups and organizations in North America. The
collection is located at the Davidson Library of the University
of California–Santa Barbara. For information, address correspondence
to the American Religions Collection, co Special
Collections Department, Davidson Library, University of California–Santa
Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106.
Melton has authored or co-authored more than 25 books
since his first in 1967, The History of the Bowling Green Yoked
Charge (1967). He was an associate editor and contributor to
the Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1968) and senior editor of
several book series, including ‘‘The Garland Bibliographies on
Sects and Cults’’ (1982–present); ‘‘The Churches Speak’’
(1989–90); ‘‘Cults and New Religions’’ (1990–91); ‘‘Cults and
Noncoventional Religious Groups A Collection of Outstanding
Dissertations and Monographs’’ (1992–94); and ‘‘Religious
Information Systems’’ (1992–94). He also works on the editorial
board of Theosophical History. In 1996 he became the senior
editor of the multi-volume International Directory of the World’s
Religions.
Melton’s avocational study of vampires manifested in 1983
when he served as editor for Vampires Unearthed by Martin Riccardo,
the first comprehensive bibliography of Englishlanguage
vampire literature. In 1994 he authored The Vampire
Book An Encyclopedia of the Undead (2nd edition, 1999), Video
Hound’s Vampires on Video (1996), and The Vampire Gallery
(1998).
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Melton, J(ohn) Gordon
1021
Sources
Melton, J. Gordon. A Directory of Religious Bodies in the United
States. New York Garland Publishing, 1977.
———. Directory of Religious Organizations. Detroit Gale Research,
1992.
———. Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America. New York
Garland Publishing, 1986. Rev. ed. 1992.
———. ‘‘A History of the New Age Movement.’’ In Not Necessarily
the New Age. Edited by Robert Basil. Buffalo, N.Y. Prometheus
Press, 1988.
———. Paganism, Magic, and Witchcraft. New York Garland
Publishing, 1982.
———. ‘‘Paschal Beverly Randolph America’s Pioneer Occultist.’’
In Le Défi Magique. Edited by Jean-Baptiste Martin and
Franciose LaPlantine. Lyon, France Presses Universitaires de
Lyon, 1994.
———. ‘‘The Revival of Astrology in the United States.’’ In
Religious Movements Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers. Edited by
Rodney Stark. New York Paragon House Publishers, 1985.
———. ‘‘Toward a History of Magical Religion in the United
States.’’ Listening 9, no. 3 (autumn 1974) 112–33.
Melton, J. Gordon, Jerome Clark, and Aidan Kelly. New Age
Encyclopedia. Detroit Gale Research, 1990.
Melton, J. Gordon, and James R. Lewis, eds. Perspectives on
the New Age. Albany, N.Y. State Unversity of New York Press,
1992.
Murphy, Larry, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward, eds.
Encyclopedia of African American Religion. New York Garland
Publishing, 1993