Baylor Conference To Draw Prominent Christian Leaders To Discuss Role Of Baptist Education

April 12, 2005

by Judy Long

Educators, scholars, and Baptist leaders from across the country will gather April 18-19 on the Baylor University campus to discuss current issues facing Baptist colleges and universities. Prominent speakers for the conference, "The Future of Baptist Higher Education," will include Dr. Martin Marty, author and American religious historian. Convening at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, the talks will address the role of Baptists in higher education within a Christian culture that questions the relevance of denominations.

Baylor's Provost Emeritus Donald D. Schmeltekopf, who planned the meeting, said Baptist schools face a host of challenges from student enrollment to denominational accountability. "Since most Baptist state conventions are decreasing their support every year, a crucial topic is one of purpose: exactly what is distinctive about Baptist colleges and universities that make them both worthy of support and integral to the Christian faith itself?"

Speakers will discuss numerous issues, including the secularization of denominational colleges and universities. "Church-related schools have found it hard to resist the onslaught of secularization, and this powerful fact has prompted a loss of serious Christian identity," said Schmeltekopf.

Marty, who will speak on "Baptist Higher Education: A Secular or Religious Future," said Baptist-related higher education allows for probing of a longer, larger Baptist, Christian and humanist history.

"When a religious tradition helps keep the deep things in range and treats them freely, they are not non-descript, as so many institutions are, but, in a word I am inventing, they are 'descript,' and we need more descript higher education. I strongly reject the idea that Baptist or other churches-related higher education has to be cramping, crimping or limiting," Marty said.

Keynote speakers Dr. William Hull, Samford University provost emeritus, and Dr. David Gushee, the Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University, will open the discussion with the topic, "The Purpose of Baptist Higher Education." Gushee will assess the conversation among those in Christian higher education regarding their intellectual identity and theological vision.

Other speakers include Dr. Bill J. Leonard, Divinity School dean and professor of Church history at Wake Forest University; Dr. Albert Reyes, Baptist University of the Americas President, who in October was elected the first minority president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas; Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance; and Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of Baylor's Graduate School and a sociologist who has conducted research on the attitudes of students entering college.

Schmeltekopf said the conference will discuss whether the notion of faith and learning is more than Christian culture and activities. "Students can find Christian activities in organizations at state schools, so we must define the place for denominationally-related Christian higher education," Schmeltekopf said.

A registration fee of $125, with $50 for students, will cover three meals and conference costs. Conference times are listed at Future of Baptist Higher Education Conference. For more information, contact Schmeltekopf at (254) 710-7691.

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