Faith & Freedom in the Lone Star State: Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion Hosts Lecture Series

Sept. 16, 2013

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Contact: Terry Goodrich,(254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Sept. 16, 2013) -- Religion played a key role in the revolution that brought an independent Texas republic into existence, and today, religion thrives in the State of Texas, with perhaps a greater diversity of faiths than in any other state.

Scholars of religion will offer a look at Texas' religious history through a three-part lecture series in Waco called "Faith and Freedom in the Lone Star State: Exploring the Religious History of Texas." The Thursday lectures, which are free, will be hosted by Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion on Sept. 19, Oct. 10 and Nov. 14.

"Texas has a very different religious history from the rest of the country, and part of that is that it spent 10 years as an independent country," said J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of American Religious History in Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion.

When Texas became a republic, a variety of churches - among them Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian - appeared, and the Roman Catholic Church found a new start, he said. Through the decades, new denominations found homes in the state, among them Episcopalians, Lutherans and Eastern Orthodox. African-Americans, meanwhile, organized African Methodist and National Baptist churches. Adding to the diversity were Jewish families, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists and Swedenborgians.

Throughout the 20th century, the number of Christian denominations grew into the hundreds, while members of almost all of the world's religions -- including Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims -- also established places of worship, Melton said.

Scholars of religion estimate more than 2,300 denominations exist in the United States, with Texas having representatives of at least 500 of those, said Melton, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, which publishes Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions.

The series will be held Thursday, Sept. 19, at Lee Lockwood Library and Museum, 2801 W. Waco Drive; , Thursday, Oct. 10, at Congregation Agudath Jacob, 4925 Hillcrest Drive; and Thursday, Nov. 14, at The Palladium, 729 Austin Ave.

All sessions from will be from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is free, but those who wish to attend are requested to register online at

Topics and speakers will include:

SEPT. 19

� "There's Something Different about Texas Religion: Religious Diversity in the Lone Star State" -- J. Gordon Melton, Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion.

� "Native and Newcomers: Ethnic Mexican Religious Convergences in 1920s San Antonio" -- Timothy Matovina, professor of theology and the executive director of the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame University

OCT. 10

� "Baptists and the Separation of Church and State, or Not?" -- Blake Ellis, associate professor of history at Lone Star College-CyFair

� "Corralling Faith: The Cowboy Church in Texas" -- Marie W. Dallam, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma Honors College

NOV. 14

� "The Fight Is On in Texas: African-Americans in the Church of Christ" -- Edward Robinson, assistant professor of Bible and history at Abilene Christian University

� "Slavery, Civil War, and Freedom: Texas Baptists in the Civil War Era, focusing on Baylor University and Waco University" -- Michael Parrish, Linden G. Bowers Professor of American Church History at Baylor


Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute's mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict. While always striving for appropriate scientific objectivity, ISR scholars treat religion with the respect that sacred matters require and deserve.

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