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Religion dept. to expand curriculum

Jan. 31, 2001

Chairman leads the way toward Baptist studies



At the largest Baptist university in the world, Dr. William Brackney holds an important title. He has been the chairman of the religion department at Baylor for a year now and is busy setting his vision into action here.

'I want nothing less than for Baylor's religion department to be the premier in its class,' he said.

So far his efforts within the department are aimed toward that goal. Under Brackney's supervision, the department is scheduled to offer courses covering modern Baptist theology and Baptist history. By taking these courses, a student at the graduate level can major in religion with an emphasis on Baptist studies, Brackney said.

Changes will also be made for undergraduate courses.

'At the undergraduate level we're heading in the direction of teaching one survey of the Bible class and one class on the history of Christian thought,' distinguished professor of religion Bob Patterson said. Traditionally, Old and New Testament survey classes are taught individually.

For junior and senior religion majors, the department is expanding the curriculum to include more Biblical, historical and theological areas, Patterson said.

'We'd like to see our students introduced to the wider world of Christian thinking, including doctrine, missions and how you would interact with the 21st century world,' Patterson said.

About 2,000 Baylor students are planning for church-related careers and, every semester, about 2,500 freshmen and sophomores take required religion courses, Patterson said. With over 25 faculty members, the religion department is one of the largest on campus, and adjustments are necessary to accommodate the increasing numbers of students studying religion at Baylor.

Several of Brackney's ideas for new courses include broad topics or broad approaches. For instance, he is proposing an idea for a course on death and dying to be taught from different perspectives by professors from the biology, sociology and religion departments. Another possible course would cover the problem of 'discrimination and violence in the name of religion,' Brackney said. 'Dr. Brackney has a lot of new and innovative ideas,' Patterson said.

Brackney was formerly the Principal of the Divinity School at McMaster University in Canada, which he contrasts to working at Baylor.

'A lot of my time was spent building bricks without straw. I moved from somewhere with challenges to a place with nothing but opportunity.'

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