Article in Church-State Journal Honors James E. WoodJuly 11, 1995
WACO, Texas-The recent edition of the Journal of Church and State pays tribute to Dr. James E. Wood Jr. as the leading authority in the world today on subjects of church-state relations and religious liberty. Wood is professor and The Simon and Ethel Bunn Professor of Church-State studies at Baylor University.
In his editorial, Dr. Derek H. Davis, director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and associate professor of political science at Baylor, said the honor is due as much to Wood's prolific scholarship as to his work as a consultant to nations around the globe.
Davis reflects on Wood's record of achievement, a record that spans his life as a Baptist missionary, as executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, as a professor of the history of religions and church-state studies at Baylor, and as editor of the world's only scholarly journal devoted exclusively to the subject of church and state, the Journal of Church and State.
Wood's retirement on May 31 as director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor culminated a distinguished career as director of the institute. In his article, Davis writes that as an associate professor of the history of religions in 1955, Wood immediately became one of Baylor's most active and respected faculty members. He created four new courses and became the first director of the university's program of Studies in Missions and Comparative Religions.
In his first year as director of Baylor's Studies in Church and State program in 1958, Wood launched the publication of the Journal of Church and State, which served as an opportunity to publish articles, case studies, monographs, and book reviews on matters related to religious liberty and church and state. In the first issue, Wood wrote that "diverse points of view will be welcomed, and it is hoped that prevailing attitudes of various denominations will be presented." From 1959 to 1994, Wood authored 81 editorials for the JCS. Wood currently continues his work as professor and researcher at the institute.
Davis writes that Wood realized his dream of creating a repository for church-state materials in 1968 when Baylor created the J.M. Dawson Church-State Research Center. The Research Center has grown to include more than 12,500 items.
Davis highlights one of Wood's most distinctive achievements following the anticommunist
revolution of 1989. While serving as president of the International Academy for Freedom of Religion and Belief, Wood assisted the Soviet Union and Eastern European democracies, including Romania and Hungary, to implement protections for religious liberty in their new constitutions.
Davis summarizes two themes as dominant in Wood's church-state thought: religious liberty is a basic right to which all human beings should be entitled, and this religious liberty cannot be fully realized without governmental commitment to an institutional separation of church and state, which itself can be guaranteed only through the mechanism of a secular, or neutral, state.
Other articles in the Journal's spring issue are "Capital Punishment as the Unconstitutional Establishment of Religion: A Girardian Reading of the Death Penalty," by James McBride; "Unrealistic Expectations: Contesting the Usefulness of Weber's Protestant Ethic for the Study of Latin American Protestantism," by H.B. Cavalcanti; "Recent Theories of Religion and Politics in Nigeria," by Simeon O. Ilesanmi; "Israeli Democracy and Jewish History," by Ira Sharkansky; "John Wesley and the Rights of Conscience," by John C. English; "Far Short of Bigotry: Edmund Burke on Church Establishments and Confessional States," by Norman Ravitch; and "The Constitutionality of Religious Symbols on Government Property: A Suggested Approach," by M. Colleen Connor.