Baylor’s Department of Religion Will Welcome Church Historian for Lecture on Conversion

Oct. 12, 2015
Bill LeonardBill Leonard courtesy photo.

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Media contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Oct. 12, 2015) – Baylor University’s department of religion in the College of Arts & Sciences will welcome renowned church historian Bill Leonard, Ph.D., for a lecture at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Marrs McLean Science Room 301.

Leonard is a professor of church history and the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies at the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University.

“Dr. Leonard is one of the most preeminent Baptist historians working today,” said Bill Bellinger, Ph.D., chair of the department of religion and The W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Chairholder in Bible. “Though he is the founding dean of the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University, he is now focusing his time on the classroom and research.”

Leonard’s lecture, titled “Dull Habit or Acute Fever? William James and the Protestant Conversion Crisis,” will explore issues of conversion in the Protestant church using philosophies of theologian William James.

“He will try to relate the history of Christianity to current issues in churches, particularly Protestant ones,” Bellinger said. “There are many questions regarding what conversion is supposed to be about and what the church is really asking for in conversion. He will examine the philosophies of William James to try to bring some clarity to those questions and perhaps make some suggestions for the future.”

Leonard has held positions at Southern Baptist Seminary, Samford University and Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka, Japan. His research focuses on American religion, Baptist studies and Appalachian religion. He has written and edited 24 books, including “Christianity in Appalachia” and “The Challenge of Being Baptist.” He received his B.A. from Texas Wesleyan University, his M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. from Boston University.

“People should attend this event if they have questions about what it means theologically to invite people to church,” Bellinger said. “Leonard will explore what history can tell us about relating with those who are ‘unchurched.’”

This lecture is free and open to the public.

Marrs McLean Science is located at 1214 S. Fourth St.

For more information, contact the department of religion at 254-710-3735.

by Ashton Brown, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


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 16,000 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 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 24 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit

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